Editors' note: On March 5, 2008, CNET revised its antispyware review ratings to emphasize a product's ability to remove spyware. The new ratings are based on the following formula: Installation (20 percent), Features (20 percent), Performance (50 percent), and Support (10 percent). In most cases a product's rating went down, expanding the range between highest and lowest rated.
Webroot Spy Sweeper 5.5 offers little change from our previously reviewed Spy Sweeper 5.3. What is new are the CNET antispyware test results that show SpySweeper rising into the top three, buoyed by strong on-demand detection and removal scores. Lowering the product, however, is the intrusion of a third-party toolbar that may automatically install if you don't pay close attention.
Spy Sweeper 5.5 is available for retail purchase or download, with or without antivirus enabled. We question why Webroot would make antivirus an option--shouldn't it be standard? In light of this, we recommend buying the antispyware version for $29. Current Spy Sweeper customers' apps can add antivirus and firewall protection for $10 more; however, we suggest all Spy Sweeper users wait and purchase the antivirus component in a future release. Webroot has an agreement to use the Sophos antivirus engine, but protection from e-mail and IM viruses is not yet included.
Although Webroot advertises a free trial, the trial is not fully functional; it will only detect, but not remove any spyware found--a fact you'll find out only after you've installed, rebooted your computer, and run a complete scan. We think this is wrong and a crude way to force sales. By comparison, Sunbelt offers a full-function trial of its CounterSpy v2 with no strings attached. Speaking of strings, be aware that during installation Webroot will also try to install the Ask.com toolbar onto your PC, even for the trial version. Removing Spy Sweeper at the end of the trial will not remove the toolbar, so be sure to uncheck the Ask.com box before proceeding with the installation.
Should you decide to uninstall Spy Sweeper, Webroot includes an uninstall icon on the All Programs list. After uninstalling the application, a pop-up window will announce that you can have Spy Spweeper for free if you purchase another trial offer from a company called TrailPay. After rebooting, we found no trace of Spy Sweeper in the Program Files directory or the system registry. However, as mentioned, you will need to remove the Ask.com toolbar separately if you had that installed along with Spy Sweeper
The Spy Sweeper 5.5 with Antivirus interface remains unchanged from that of Spy Sweeper 5, with the exception of a tiny upper-right corner panel informing you whether antivirus protection has been enabled. To tweak antispyware scans for individual files or folders, simply use the various Spy Sweeper configuration screens. With antivirus included, Webroot's integration of Sophos is otherwise invisible; for example, there's no separate configuration page for antivirus scans.
Spy Sweeper's interface remains crisp and intuitive, the result of many hours of user-interface testing. For example, we like that during a scan, the color-coded tabs on the scan page mark your progress: Sweeping, Quarantine, and Summary.