Most antispyware software packages have relatively clean interfaces; for the most part non-integrated packages don't need fancy visual bells and whistles in order to scan your system. That being said, we were impressed with Spyware Doctor's clean and pleasant looking interface, which is both logically laid out and easy on the eyes. Whether you're using the free or paid versions of Spyware Doctor, you're faced with three choices -- a quick scan of the most commonly infected areas, a full (and slower) system scan, or a custom user-defined scan. Users of the registered version also gain real-time protection against spyware nasties, from keyloggers to pop-up advertising. How many of these you hit may depend on your choice of browser and the types of sites you regularly visit. Still, anything that improves Internet Explorer's woeful security has to be good. It'll also delete cookies -- by default it just kills any cookies that it considers spyware dead, which could be interesting if you rely on cookies for login details to sites that Spyware Doctor doesn't like. Not all of Spyware Doctor's features are offered on every browser -- its "Site Guard" function to stop malicious phishing sites only detected Internet Explorer on our test system, even though Firefox was set as the default browser.
The registered version also includes the ominous sounding "Malware Detective", a deeper level spyware scanning program that comes with a warning not to run it unless instructed to by Spyware Doctor's own support team. Given many user's reluctance to read product manuals, or even simple warnings like this, we're not sure its inclusion in the package is a good thing -- wouldn't it make more sense to make a potentially destructive scanner like this only accessible if, say, a support person sent through an activation code?
We installed the downloadable version of Spyware Doctor, and it ran much as any other Windows executable would. Upon conclusion of its installation, it immediately launched into a full system scan -- and the free downloadable version will do this and work regardless of whether you then proceed to purchase it or not, making it a useful tool for spyware analysis regardless of whether you then go on to purchase the full program. Once that initial scan is done, it'd be a wise step to update the Spyware database; we did so and found that the version we'd downloaded needed a raft of updates. Thankfully, rather like the scan itself, these downloaded quickly and with a minimum of fuss.
We've reviewed Spyware Doctor previously, and in that instance noted how quick it was to scan test systems. It seems that it hasn't lost a beat in this new version, as it took less than five minutes for the initial system scan, and we noticed no system slowdown whatsoever while it went about its tasks. If you followed that full scan up with a quick system scan on a regular basis -- remembering that regular updates of spyware identification signatures is a must for effective spyware removal -- you'd be sure of a relatively clean machine with only a minimal effect on your system performance. We say relatively clean here not as a reflection on Spyware Doctor's level of performance, but simply because any spyware solution is by definition a step behind the spyware programmers, and a new threat could always sneak under the radar -- this is exactly why keeping your spyware detection signatures as up to date as possible is so very important.
Our only caveat with Spyware Doctor is that it does rather take control of what happens when it finds infections; you're given no choice but to reboot and when you do another scan starts in order to make sure your system is truly clean. On the one hand, that's a great security initiative; on the other hand it could be irritating if you're right at the end of your 50,000 page thesis and haven't gotten around to hitting the save button quite yet when it does so.
A one-year subscription will set you back US$29.95, which includes unlimited upgrades and e-mail support within that period.