Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
Anonymizer Private Surfing 2.1 consists of a 3MB toolbar app and a 1MB secure-tunneling app. Unfortunately, each has to be downloaded and installed separately. Anonymizer places a plug-in toolbar within your Web browser's toolbar and a separate icon in your Windows system tray for the secure-tunneling software. Configuring the separate Anonymizer Secure Tunneling software is complex, but help screens walk you through setting up your online apps to be routed through Anonymizer's proxy servers.
The Anonymizer toolbar plug-in hosts seven tools that basically switch your originating Web address to the Anonymizer proxy server, thus concealing your identity. The toolbar plug-in is just an on/off switch. To configure its contents, click the Set Custom link on the toolbar, which brings up a separate page to adjust each tool's settings.
We found Anonymizer frustrating at times. The toolbar plug-in is turned off by default, and it must be turned on again with every new browser window. We also experienced occasional problems keeping our custom settings from session to session. For example, we turned off all but one tool, then chose the Save Settings > Lifetime option to make the settings permanent. However, the next time we opened our browser and checked our customized Toolbar settings, only some of the tools remained in their custom settings.
The Secure Tunneling app lets you run an anonymous browser, e-mail client, chat program, and newsgroup program through Anonymizer's proxy server. This goes beyond Steganos Internet Anonym 5.0, which hides only your originating location.
The Toolbar and Secure Tunneling software work as promised, however, we did encounter severe, periodic slowdowns. That's because all operations occur through Anonymizer's proxy servers. Even filters such as the cookie blocker are routed through an encrypted connection to the company.
Unfortunately, Anonymizer is as inflexible as Steganos Internet Anonym: it blocks either all or nothing. For example, Anonymizer's cookies tool deletes all your cookies as soon as your browser closes. You can't set up a list of cookies you don't want to block, such as those you might need to return to a frequently accessed retail Web site. The same problem applies to the Anonymizer pop-up window blocker.
Anonymizer's help is terse but effective. Help for Secure Tunneling (including thorough, step-by-step guides to setting up the e-mail client, chat client, and so on) is available directly from Anonymizer's Web site. The Anonymizer Toolbar also contains a hotlink to a series of online help screens. Clicking a question mark alongside each tool launches a new window containing a brief but informative statement of what that tool does.
Anonymizer provides e-mail support, and we got a response within 48 hours. Phone support is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.