What, really, is the best malware/spyware software?

My damned computer’s infected again, and bad. Using Ad-aware and Spybot S&D in conjunction is not geting rid of it all. They claim to fix many problems and yet the ads and popups continue.

I’m willing to pay money for software - is something like McAfee my best bet? What software do I need to get rid of this shit?

The best one isn’t one at all. Multiple ones are recommended for spyware and the like (only one antivirus program please though). Spyware S&D is a good one so keep it. You probably need 3 or so because none of them catch everything.

I am realizing I am a little out of date on the cutting edge ones. Download.com has many of them and they are rated, generally free or expensive, and have user reviews.


There is no way to make sure your computer is fully clean unless you keep backups and reinstall every time your computer gets infected. Everything else is a stopgap measure, and not a very good one.

Of course, you also have to make sure your data is not somehow infected. This can be very easy or very hard, depending on what kind of data you have.

Sorry for the sort-of hijack, but IMO the best malware/virus defence is to run Windows using a non-administrator account. It can still be a pain, for cultural more than technical reasons, but once you get used to it it’s not so bad. And steadily more and more Windows developers are getting the message.

In a similar vein, IE users can avoid a lot of pain by disabling just about everything in the Security settings and then using Trusted Sites when ActiveX or whatever is required. That stops 99% of spyware right there, at the cost of having to maintain the Trusted Sites list, which IE doesn’t make particularly easy. Or use a non-IE browser except when MS-specific stuff is required.

I was going to come in and snarkily post “Mac OS,” but now I can actually add something to the conversation. The above solution is a good one, but lots of poorly written Windows applications assume that the user is an admin, and simply won’t work otherwise. In addition, IIRC, Windows is not as good as other OS’s at letting you easily escalate privileges for a single task.

So one possibility is to run Windows under a virtual machine. Since the whole Windows install is in a sandbox that can’t touch anything outside of its filesystem, the rest of your system remains secure. And if you have the diskspace, you can easily keep backups that let you wipe and restore your system quickly.

I do the above to run Windows on my MacBook.

That is true, but I have been amazed at how many seasoned Windows users never use simple things like RunAs, which covers many situations where you would use su in a Unix-like OS. However, there are still Windows admin tasks which cannot be performed with RunAs, and for which you need to know various kludgy workarounds in order to perform under a non-admin account.

I’m a big fan of ewido security suite, 14 day free trial, excellent tool IMHO.

Also suprised nobody has mentioned it Microsoft Windows defender from MS works pretty well too.

Getting your hands on a program for making backup images can be a lifesaver.

Wipe, do a clean install, load all drivers and apps fresh, appropriate updates as needed, burn an image to a DVD.

Save all of your personal files to a separate drive or partition so you can smoke the OS drive at will if needed.

I have a couple customers who love free porn…for them, a copy of deep freeze and a small save partition for personal files has made life much easier, and cheaper (I did this the third time they fried an XP install with spyware/virii and paid me to come out and fix it.)

Webroot Spysweeper costs $30 a year and gets good reviews as an anti-spyware package. You need something else for an antivirus package.

I use a fully updated copy of Windows XP along with Firefox (instead of IE) and Windows Defender, Spybot and Ad-Aware, because I’d rather not pay for anti-spyware software.

Since the OP has no “correct” answer, let’s move this to IMHO.

samclem GQ moderator

When my computer seemed infected beyond repair, I found the only thing that really helped was using several altogether, including restarting several times in SafeMode to help the virus and malware programs do their thing.

Try HijackThis, though. Often, if you can google various parts of your HijackThis log, you can learn what MalWare reinstallers are disguising themseves as and delete them manually.

I also had to use ListZap at one point. Literally, keep trying different ones and use them all one after the other until it works. It takes awhile but it’s worth the time.