Here we rate some of the various anti-spyware programs available on the market today. While there is no possible way for us to rate every single application available, we have reviewed some of the more popular utilities currently in use.

Anti-Spyware programs can be broken into two separate types:
– Free (downloadable)
– Paid

The difference between the two types of programs are varied, however the biggest difference is that the majority of free versions let an unlimited amount of spyware on your system, where it is free to corrupt your programs, data, and steal your identity, whereas the paid versions attempt to block spyware as it tries to install itself on your system.

Another major difference between the two types of programs is that the paid versions allow you to schedule scans of your system at a time of your choosing, whereas with the free versions, you have to run the program to remove any of the spyware that it has allowed on your system.

A big misconception of both anti-spyware and anti-virus programs is that you are protected from threats simply because you have the programs on your system.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Having a bottle of sunscreen with you at the beach does not protect you unless you apply it.  Similarly, the programs cannot protect you unless you actually use them.

To effectively use these programs, the first priority is having the most current and updated version of the program working for you. For the free programs, this means that you must start the program, and then use the built in update utility to download and install the most current updates prior to scanning your system. The paid versions allow you to have the programs automatically update themselves, as well as scan at a preset time and date.

The anti-spyware programs that we have reviewed below are all recommended for use on your system.  Unlike anti-virus programs, it is safe to run more than one type of anti-spyware program.  It is actually recommended to have several different programs working on your system since they all look for different types of spyware.

As mentioned earlier, the programs above are all recommended for use on your system. But what about some of the other programs on the market? Many ISP’s such as AOL, Earthlink, SBC, and others have recently been advertising that they are including anti-spyware programs for free when you use their services.  We have evaluated the various programs that these service providers use, and our review of these programs are less than glowing.  The programs that the various ISP’s use are somewhat effective, however we feel that by advertising that they are protecting you from the most dangerous threat to your system today is misleading.  They lure the consumer into a false sense of security by making them believe that they are fully protected against viruses and spyware.  Some protection is better than none, however we recommend that you stick with the programs reviewed above.

Another great way to keep spyware off your system is combining anti-spyware with the use of a web browser other than Internet Explorer.