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I was being a cheapskate and decided to protect my computer with the free Avast! Antivirus protection software. Unfortunately, I must have (completely accidentally, of course) gone onto a dodgy site which downloaded some evil Trojan virus onto my computer which kept flashing up constant disturbing messages saying that my computer was infected with all kind of nasty things and I simply must purchase their virus protection software. A somewhat self fulfilling prophecy methinks.
Well, with the Avast! Software clearly offering no protection whatsoever I decided that I would have to cough up some dough to return my computer to harmony and pretty much went for the first decent one I could find on account of the stream of irritating messages blocking up my system. This happened to be in the guise of PC Tools Spyware Doctor for an annual fee of £39.95 which covered 3 licenses.
After a quick perusal of their website www.pctools.com I could see glowing reviews and piles of accolades bestowed upon them by reviewers such as PCMag.com which filled me with confidence and their product description won me over:
"Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus is a top-rated malware, antispyware and antivirus removal utility that detects, removes and protects your PC from thousands of potential spyware, adware, Trojans, viruses, keyloggers, spybots and tracking threats."
This sounded like it would fix my computer and keep it nice and safe so I went for it (figuring I could also recoup some of the losses by "selling" my other two licenses to unsuspecting family members).
Downloading the Product
You can buy this product much cheaper from somewhere like Amazon (currently at £17.97) but this comes in a CD format (and obviously you need to wait for it to arrive) but I needed it urgently so was willing to pay the extra price and purchase it directly from their website so I could download it electronically.
To download it from the website you simply click the 'Start Download Now' button which covers Windows 7, Windows XP and Windows Vista and then allows you to save and run the setup file and then it's just a case of following the setup instructions. You then have a working program that will block any new spyware threats, but will not offer threat removal services. To do this you must purchase and register your product.
It is quite an easy process to purchase it from their website. Select the number of 1 year licenses you want to purchase (although it looks like 3 may only be available for a limited time) from 3 up to 50 so it is also suitable for small to medium businesses, you have the option to then extend this to 2 years with a 20% reduction offer from the original twice the price charge, and you also have the option for a backup CD at £9.95, then hit Proceed to Checkout.
Step 1 involves filling out your billing details and Step 2 involves filling out your Payment Details. You also get enrolled on their Automatic Renewal Service which allows you to maintain your annual subscription and get vital updates whenever you are online. They use a 128 bit encryption and your information is transmitted over Secure Socket Layer so it is pretty safe. You then get an email confirming your purchase and providing you with your license information. To register your product simply open up the newly installed Spyware Doctor and there should be a Register button which will allow you to enter your license and change the software from trial mode to fully functioning.
How does it work?
Spyware Doctor is a very compact looking piece of software which is very intuitive and aesthetically pleasing. When you first open it you will be taken to a Status tab which lets you know exactly how the Spyware Doctor is operating, from what protection is currently running, the version you are using, last update information and when your subscription will run out.
The best thing about this particular software in my opinion is the IntelliGuard Real-Time Protection which as the name suggests runs in the background all the time to block malware before they can deviously install themselves on your system. This protection will cover a wide range of threats:
* Zero-day viruses, spyware, worms, Trojans etc
* Changes to your browser settings and malicious add-ons/adware
* Malicious cookies
* Unsafe email attachments and files
* Active-X based threats
* Malicious changes to network settings such as registry network settings, DNS settings, LSPs
* Malicious hidden processes including rootkits which hide threats
* Suspicious, phishing, spyware sites
* Malicious applications configured to automatically start
You also have the option to run your own scans as and when you please which can be just an Intelli-Scan which covers all the basics where the most likely infections will occur, a Full Scan which will be much slower than the Intelli-Scan but covers all drives, running applications and finally a Custom scan where you can specify particular locations and what type of scans to run, perhaps if you suspect a specific problem. If a problem comes up you can review it and then decide to remove it if it is really a threat or leave it if you know what it is.
You can download an extra tool in the form of Malware Detective which allows you to review areas of your system that are most at risk from malware and make adjustments to best protect them. You can also check your General Settings which will allow you to check your history of scans, check your scheduled tasks, check what is Quarantined and remove them manually if you want and add your own website URLs to block among many other things.
If you like what you see with Spyware Doctor, PC Tools also offer a range of other products which can be found at http://www.pctools.com/consumer/products/.
There is also the PC Tools Antivirus Free which will simply provide virus protection at a much more basic level than this purchased version, so if you don't want to purchase straight away you can give this one a trial run first to see if it works for you.
Is it any good?
From all my own personal experiences this software is one of the best pieces of anti-virus software I've come across to date. It solved my Trojan.FakeAlert problem instantly, locating it and quarantining it on the very first scan and I've not been bothered by a fake message since, so before it had even really begun I felt I'd got my money's worth! After my first scan, despite having been using a free protection, I discovered a lot of low and medium level threat files on my computer which I kicked into touch immediately. Since then, any scan that has followed has only produced the occasional low threat so I feel very confident in this Spyware Doctor software. I don't know what Avast! thought it was doing, but virus protection it wasn't.
I guess it is dependent on the size of your files, but I found the Intelli-Scan to be pretty quick at around 7 minutes if you want quick reassurance that all is well, although at 1hr 38 mins for a Full Scan it does take quite a bit longer. But at the end of it all you get a nice, simple to read report and a warm, fuzzy feeling when your computer is given a clean bill of health. If you are unlucky enough to uncover something untoward it is also extremely easy to remove any threats with the chance to review them first and then with a click of a button it is bye bye nasty virus.
You also get regular updates which, if you are still using the default settings, happen automatically to keep your protection as up-to-date as possible. Occasionally you may have to shut down your Spyware Doctor for these updates to successfully complete so may lose real-time protection for a couple of minutes, but as long as you don't do anything silly in this time period you will be fine!
I guess the only downside it is that is seems to only be compatible with Windows and not any other operating system. I would thoroughly recommend this software as it is extremely easy to use and I feel it gives complete and reassuring protection, but it is probably worth not buying it directly off the PC Tools website unless like me it is an emergency since you can get it much cheaper elsewhere!
I downloaded a free version of this anti-Spyware program after a friend reccommended it to me. Although available as a download for free this version has limited functions. To access the full program you must register the product at a cost of £29.95. However, as a user who has relied on the free version I can testify that this free program functions exceptionally well without the fully paid for features. There are no constant pop ups telling you to buy the full product either. This anti-Spyware has a anti-virus counterpart (available as a plugin from the company's website at £39.95 for one year's protection) which is one of the things not included in the freeware. There are also added features like a 'browser and network guard' which is not included in the free version.
The program protects your computer from spyware and adware as well as tracking cookies which are downloaded to your computer whilst browsing the internet. The program also detects keylogging, active-x objects which pose a threat and dialers.
After installation the program displays a logo at the right hand side of your taskbar. Clicking the logo twice (with the left mouse button) opens up the small control panel. You can also right click which opens up a quick menu from which you can choose to perform a scan or disable the program. The program is otherwise constantly active and provides real-time protection whilst you are online.
You may use the program to scan your computer for threats. Opening the main screen shows you program options and settings:
Scan Computer; Computer Imunization Status and Intelliguard (real-time protection) status.
The program also shows the status of you computer an highlights any areas where you need to take action. For example, the date of your last scan is displayed and the program will reccommend if another scan should be undertaken. The program also details whether your software should be updated, when the last automatic software update was in addition to the status of the Anti-virus Engine, should you have this installed. It is easy to see anything that needs attention as they are highlighted with bold red lettering and a yellow exclamation sign logo!
There are two types of scan you can perform: a full scan and an intelli-scan. The second option is a shorter scan which targets areas that are most at risk such as browser cookies, windows host files, the registry and active-x objects. Both scans take a considerable amount of time to complete but you can continue working whilst the program works although you might run a little slower than normal. You can also pause the scan if you need to.
The other features of the program include:
File Guard: This monitors and blocks any attempt to open 'unsafe' email attachments (works with Outlook Express and other email programs). It also does the same thing for any malicious files on your computer.
Startup-Guard: This is a feature which prevents applications from automatically configuring themselves to open when you start your computer up( ie. in your start-up folder).
Immunizer Guard: This stops threats from active-x objects.
After scanning your computer for threats any problems are classified into three categories according to the level of harm they pose. The program alerts you to the results of the scan with a honking noise! The threats are grouped into Low, Medium or High. You have the option to 'fix' whichever threats you like. If you want to leave a tracking cookie on your computer, for instance, you simply uncheck the box next to it's listing. The program deals with the threats very quickly and then resets the status levels to normal.
The program is very easy to use generally. There is a quick start help guide and also more detailed information on the website but there is nothing complicated about using it. I do find that during the automatic updates - when a box flashed up in the right hand corner of your computer - that my computer will freeze up for a moment. The update box remains static on the screen for a long time too and can impede website views. Otherwise this is an anti-spyware program I'd heartily recommend.
You can find the latest version of the software at the website:
This is an excellent efficient and very handy piece of software which is currently available free as part of the Google pack. PC Tools is becoming a much more efficient and reliable company name in my experience and opinion. Spyware and adware are everywhere these days and it's an even bigger problem than viruses, which is why you need to have an efficient reliable and stable spyware remover to deal with it effectively.
I'm pretty sure that PC Tools used to offer a free and a paid version of this program and I think that the free download as part of the Google pack is actually the paid version with limitations, such as the active protection shield being limited in spyware that it blocks but is upgradable at a fee.
With Spyware Doctor you can choose to do either a quick scan, called an Intelli-scan or a full scan on your computer. The Intelli-scan is pretty quick usually taking about two and a half minutes and tends to pick out most infected files. The full scan does take a considerably longer amount of time to complete but is a lot more thorough and weaves out infections like the Trojan.Popuper whereas the quick scan doesn't.
Spyware Doctor is also very configurable and has some impressive advanced security features such as the ability to scan alternative data streams, rootkit detection and blocks changes to the Windows hosts file, layered service providers, DNS settings and network registry settings.
Even out of all the brand name Spyware security products that I have tried, and amongst all the free ones I have tried, I would have to say that personally I think that Spyware Doctor is the best.