Safer Networking's Spybot Search & Destroy has been credited as the first antispyware program, supplying free real-time protection to a loyal user base. But our recent tests show that the program no longer provides good spyware protection.

  • Operating system tested on: Windows Vista
  • Adware: 2.5 out of 5
  • Spyware: 3 out of 5
  • Behaviour-based tests: 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 2.5 out of 5

Spybot Search & Destroy 1.4 passed all of our false-positive tests, correctly detecting legitimate toolbars and 6285 other sample files. Its Resident Teatimer feature provides solid behaviour-based protection, too. Spybot Search & Destroy 1.4 correctly detected additions to the HKCU and HKLM 'Run' keys, and alterations of the default Internet Explorer home and search pages and the Hosts file. (It did not detect additions to the Startup folder.)

However, Spybot Search & Destroy 1.4 detected fewer than 2 percent of inactive adware and spyware threats, indicating that its signature data-base of threats is insufficient. In response to threats actively installed on the PC, it ignored three of 10 active adware threats and four of 10 active spyware threats. Finally, it disinfected a paltry 8 percent of active threats.

Spybot is easy to install and use, but its interface, with its multitude of tick boxes and line items, is geared toward relatively tech-savvy users. If you fall into this category of user you'll appreciate the fact that Spybot Search & Destroy 1.4 lists BHS (browser helper objects) and ActiveX controls installed on your PC and that it can securely delete files. You won't be pleased, however, with the lack of automatic software updates. You have to acquire those manually.

Safer Networking does not offer telephone support, but we were impressed with the quality of web-based support on the company's forums, where dedicated fans answer questions on everything from false positives to the complexities in the software's feature set.

Spybot Search & Destroy: Specs

  • Windows 98/Me/NT/2000/XP/Vista
  • Windows 98/Me/NT/2000/XP/Vista


For many years the freeware Spybot Search & Destroy 1.4 was the antispyware standard, but, regrettably, it is no longer competitive.