Spybot - Search and Destroy appears to be resting on its past laurels; the version we tested this year, 1.4, is unchanged from previous years. And that has cost Spybot in terms of detection and removal. Spybot, once the apple of our eye, has fallen to almost the bottom of our Top 10 pile. While its shields blocked a majority of samples, and its scanner detected a majority samples, its removal paled among the 10 applications we tested, removing only one sample out of eight. Still, Spybot includes more features than even the paid antispyware products we tested. Since it's free, there's no harm in having it installed (it also plays well with others), but for serious, free antispyware removal, we give the nod to Microsoft Windows Defender.
Spybot - Search and Destroy is freeware, meaning you can use it without paying a dime; however, the author asks you to submit a donation if you like the program. After a quick download and installation, the Spybot setup includes a user-friendly wizard process. Step three creates a registry backup (a good idea if you haven't done one in a while), step five searches for updates, and step six asks whether or not to immunize your system (that is, setup active shield defenses against known spyware).
Should you want to remove Spybot-Search and Destroy 1.4, there's an uninstall icon provided in the All Programs list. However, don't expect Spybot to remove everything. After we uninstalled and rebooted, we found more than one system registry entry and a system file folder with various subfolders remaining. Most of the other antispyware apps we tested had clean uninstalls.
We like that Spybot still warns upon start-up that removing adware and spyware could disable software on our system. It's a small touch, and we'd like it if other vendors reminded us as well. There still are two interfaces within Spybot, the default mode and advanced mode. Default mode consists primarily of large buttons for Check for Problems, Recovery (in case you remove something that's important to a program you want to keep), and Search for Updates, with a left-hand navigation option to immunize your system against future installs of known spyware. The Advanced menu offers more left-hand navigation options, such as language settings, skins, a scheduler, exclusion lists, tools such as a data shredder, Internet Explorer browser tweaks, and a list of applications that have registered an uninstaller with your system (making it easy to remove these applications).
Spybot continues to rival paid antispyware products by offering a number of features not found elsewhere, such as its unparalleled language support. We also like the ability to apply various skins, but it's the tools that impressed the most. Of all the antispyware apps we tested, Spybot is one of the few to include a free file shredder, which means Spybot can overwrite deleted spyware with 1s and 0s, so the deleted file is truly removed from your system.