ZoneAlarm is known for its award-winning personal firewalls, but it also makes a killer antispyware application. After starting from scratch a few years ago, ZoneAlarm has steadily improved its scanning and detection capabilities so that the latest version of ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware now provides top-notch antispyware protection and as an added bonus also includes its award-winning personal firewall protection. We also like its automatic updates and gaming option, allowing you to temporarily turn off those nettlesome alerts while in the middle of gameplay. In short, ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware delivers the most features for the least cost. But we recommend spending a little bit more and getting our Editors' Choice ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 7.0, which also includes the award-winning Kaspersky antivirus engine and real-world identity theft protection as well.
We downloaded ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware's 15MB file and, after opening the file, let the program wizard step us through the installation. We then rebooted. Within 10 minutes, we were up and running. Upon reboot, ZoneAlarm invited us to view a Flash-based tutorial--none of the other antispyware products we tested were this user-friendly. And at $19, ZoneAlarm is a steal, roughly 10 dollars less than its paid competition.
Should you want to remove ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware, there's an uninstall icon provided in the All Programs list. After our program uninstall, we found no traces of ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware remaining on our system. Most of the antispyware apps we tested had clean uninstalls.
Other vendors could learn a thing or two about information design from ZoneAlarm. In general, its clean interface packs in a lot of valuable information, yet never feels overcrowded. Left-hand navigation provides access to features, while tabs across the top reveal more advanced configuration options. The design is consistent and modular across all the products within the ZoneAlarm family, so if you've ever used one product, you'll be familiar with the interface in another.
ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware is not only the most user-friendly but perhaps the most feature-packed antispyware application we reviewed this year. ZoneAlarm is the only standalone antispyware application to include a personal firewall. It does not, however, feature an antivirus app, but that doesn't seem to hurt its test results. In fact, by providing personal firewall protection at the perimeter, on the desktop, and in the system kernel, ZoneAlarm does a better job than most antivirus apps at preventing infection.
We like ZoneAlarm's game mode feature, which temporarily suppresses most security alerts and prevents them from interrupting your play. That doesn't mean you aren't protected, you are; it's just that you don't have to swat away pop-up messages in addition to playing your game. And we like the firewall's ability to automatically change security settings from a protected LAN network to a wireless and alert you whenever your wireless network changes. None of the other standalone antispyware applications we tested had these features.
We also like ZoneAlarm's automatic update process; some of the other products we tested asked that we remember to update the product, or displayed notices that the signature files were out of date. ZoneAlarm updates include new signature-file definitions and additions to its spy site blocking lists. The latter means ZoneAlarm will prevent your browser from accidentally visiting sites known to host spyware, further limiting your chances of exposure.
ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware is very fast, scanning our entire laptop within several minutes as compared to Webroot Spy Sweeper with Antivirus, which required more than one hour to complete. To achieve that result, ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware at times used up to fifty percent of our system's resources, but did so for a significantly shorter amount of time than other products we tested. But speed doesn't always ensure accuracy. In this case, it does. For the second year in a row, ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware remains one of our top two antispyware apps.
In exclusive testing by CNET Labs, ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware's active shields identified and blocked six out of eight spyware samples we attempted to install, missing only Clickpix and When U Save Now. For scanning and removing existing spyware samples, ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware caught seven out of eight, missing only Clickpix. As for the removal itself, ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware removed spyware residue in six out of eight cases, placing it among the highest for removal.
And, for the record, we were able to run ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware alongside other antispyware packages, including Spy Sweeper with Antivirus, with no trouble.
Included within the setup for ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware is a Flash-based tutorial, something that none of the other antispyware apps provided. The built-in Help file is also excellent, thorough, and very specific, effectively balancing detail and clarity. And the ZoneAlarm online forums are active, with users worldwide eager and willing to answer your questions--something that none of the other antispyware vendors offer. Unfortunately, support by phone from Check Point is only available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, Monday through Friday (excluding major holidays), and costs a hefty $2.95 per minute--about the same as what McAfee and Symantec charge for their phone support.
At $20, ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware is the least expensive of the paid antispyware apps we tested, and still one of the best. ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware includes an award-winning personal firewall that makes up for its lack of antivirus protection. But why stop with just antispyware and firewall protection? We recommend getting our Editors' Choice ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 7.0, which includes everything here plus the Kaspersky antivirus engine and identity theft protection as well.