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.
Other vendors could learn a thing or two about information design from ZoneAlarm. In general, its clean interface packs in a lot of valuable information, yet never feels overcrowded. Left-hand navigation provides access to features, while tabs across the top reveal more advanced configuration options. The design is consistent and modular across all the products within the ZoneAlarm family, so if you've ever used one product, you'll be familiar with the interface in another.
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.