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.
ZoneAlarm is best known for its award-winning personal firewalls, but it also makes its own 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, letting users 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. But for spyware removal alone, we recommend CounterSpy v2 which you can try for free with no strings attached.
At $19, ZoneAlarm is a steal, roughly 10 dollars less than its paid competition. Version 7.0 works with Windows 2000 and Windows XP. For Windows Vista users, you will need to download and install ZoneAlarm with Antispyware 7.1. 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.
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 applications we tested had clean uninstalls.
ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware is not only the most user-friendly but perhaps also the most feature-packed antispyware application we reviewed this year. ZoneAlarm is the only standalone antispyware application to include a personal firewall.
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.
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. 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 one of the least expensive of the paid antispyware applications we tested. ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware includes an award-winning personal firewall that makes up for its lack of antivirus protection. But in terms of antispyware removal, you can do better.