Spyware, malware, viruses, rootkits; the list of online threats just goes on and on. There are plenty of tools out there that claim to offer protection but, certainly in the realms of free solutions, it is the same names that crop up time and time again.
Spybot Search & Destroy has long been the malware protection tool of choice for numerous Windows users and the newly released version 2 gives the app a much needed reboot which includes a completely new look, faster performance and a handful of new features.
Spybot Search & Destroy is a tool that needs little introduction – it’s an anti-malware tool that has been with us for many years now. Despite the fact that it has long been one of the most widely used security tools in existence, it has been blighted by an outdated looking interface that belies the power of the app.
During the installation of the program you’re asked how much of a hands-on approach you want to take – this enables you to choose between basic and advanced mode, but this is something you can change at any time from within the program when you are up and running.
The best way to ensure your computer is free from malware is to start with a clean installation of Windows and have your protection software installed before you have even connected to the internet. If you find yourself in this position, you can take advantage of Spybot’s new whitelisting feature to indicate that files in certain locations are known to be safe.
New Look Interface
The most immediately obvious change to be found in Spybot Search & Destroy is the new look interface. It does not quite mimic the Metro/modern look of Windows 8 apps, but it is a fairly good approximation.
If, like most people will have done automatically, you have chosen to work in the more advanced mode of the program you’ll uncover a series of additional icons on the main workspace, but the Basic Tools section is populated with the same tools whichever mode you decide to work in.
In use, S&D is very much what you would expect. The full system scan can take a while, but it is checking for both known threats as well as heuristics. It’s slightly disappointing to find that the rootkit scanner is essentially a separate component – it would have made far more sense to integrate this into the full system scan rather than leaving as an option that is only made available to ‘advanced’ users. For scanning at your fingertips, you have the option of right clicking any file and using the context menu to access various Spybot tools – including scanning individual files, file shredding or running a full system scan.
Something Spybot S&D has become famous for is its system immunization, and this is a feature that is still present in the very latest version. This is a simple system which locks down certain areas of your system so that changes cannot be made to them by any malware that may be lurking on your hard drive.
Elsewhere in the program you’ll find a number of extra tools such as a secure file shredder that can be used to delete unwanted files and then overwrite them up to 35 times. The Startup Tools utility may sound like just another startup manager, but in reality it is one of the most comprehensive utilities of its type – you can easily view every item that is configured to start automatically with Window, including many you probably didn’t even know about and choose which should be allowed to run.
For many people, the free edition of the program should suffice as it offers a decent levels of protection, but there are also Home and Professional versions available for anyone willing to part with some money for extra features.
The Home version will set you back $13.99 and this removes the nag screen as well as adding scanning for iPhones – there’s also scheduling support. If you want to go all out, the Professional version of the program costs $24.99 and this adds command line tools as well as the option to create a bootable live CD and access to the Protected Repair Environment.
Spybot is a well-respected name in the world of computer security, and not without good reason. The latest version of the program may not offer much in the way of ground-breaking new features, but it builds on an already solid base to create something that is even more impressive than previous versions. This is an example of a piece of software that should really be installed on every computer as standard – make sure it’s the first thing you install after Windows and you won’t regret it.