Why Buy Antispyware Software?
Editor’s Note: Top Ten Reviews uses test results from the independent laboratory AV-Test as part of our review process for the best antispyware software. AV-Test looks specifically at protection, performance and usability on multiple versions of Windows operating systems, and it performs these evaluations several times throughout the year. We use the most current AV-Test scores available at the time of our review. It is possible that new AV-Test scores will be released after our review goes live on the site. We will consider these scores during our next review of the best antispyware software.
The top performers in our review are Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, the Gold Award winner; Norton Security Standard, the Silver Award winner; and Kaspersky Anti-Virus, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 12 applications.
Of all the ways hackers attack your computer, spyware can be the most personally damaging. Spyware is exactly what it sounds like – a piece of malware that tracks your computer activity to harvest your important information. This puts you at risk of identity theft, banking fraud, and even having your personal email and social media accounts hijacked.
There are many ways a piece of spyware can infect your computer. Sometimes it's hidden in applications you install or in free browser toolbars. Other times it comes via a USB device like a thumb drive or external hard drive. Unscrupulous websites start downloads to your computer automatically, without you knowing.
Responsible internet usage can keep most spyware off your computer, but not all of it. And since it can take a lot of time, hassle and money to recover from a hack attack, it's very important to keep your computer free of spyware. Anti-spyware software combats this threat by searching your computer for malicious code and removing it when possible. It also continually scans your system for threats that could infect your system with spyware.
Reviewing & Ranking Antispyware Software
We've rated and ranked the best antispyware software on the market today. Part of that evaluation was incorporating the results from AV-Test into our scores. AV-Test is an independent, impartial organization that tests the most popular spyware removal software. The AV-Test lab subjects each program to a battery of tests to measure its protection, performance and usability. For our review, we used the most recent results of tests performed on Windows 10 machines and released in April 2016.
- Protection: This evaluation, conducted by AV-Test, puts antispyware up against more than 14,000 threats. From that test, AV-Test determined an industry average for protection, which, at the time of this writing, stands at 97 percent. The scores in our review are based on the results of these tests. The antispyware software in the top tier of our side-by-side comparison chart all scored 100 percent in protection.
- Performance: AV-Test also tests antispyware programs' ability to protect your computer without slowing it down or disrupting your experience. Software that uses a lot of your system resources can bog it down, which can cause lag in other applications and games you're using. It can also cause downloads and uploads to drag as well as interrupt communication with other computers. The best spyware removal software uses as little processing power as possible, providing you protection without disturbing your other activity.
- Usability: Not only is it important for antispyware software to protect against threats, but also to keep false positives to a minimum. Sometimes antispyware software identifies something that is not a threat as spyware. AV-Test tracks how often this happens and assigns each program a score. The products in our lineup scored an average of 83 percent in this test. The top-ranked programs all scored 100 percent, meaning they had no false positives.
Detection & Removal
- These days, it's not just your personal computer you need to worry about becoming infected with spyware. Our digital lives span multiple devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops. The best antispyware software protects multiple devices. Unfortunately, most of the programs we reviewed only protect a single computer. Some, like our Gold Award Winner, Bitdefender, can protect three devices. Only a single program in our review, McAfee, offers protection for an unlimited number of devices.
- The best spyware removers on our lineup also protect your computer from a number of other threats, such as viruses, Trojans, rootkits and ransomware. These are serious threats to your machine. For example, ransomware seizes control of your computer and demands that you pay its makers before they release your system. So it's important for the software to protect against whatever security threat your computer faces.
- One common way for spyware to get on your computer is through an infected USB device like external hard drives. The best spyware removal software automatically scans any USB device as soon as it connects to your machine. The best programs also scan your email for potential threats, such as bad links or attachments. Furthermore, they have the ability to scan your computer or network for vulnerabilities against a hack attack.
- If you play a lot of games on your computer, you'll appreciate the gamer mode. The best spyware removal software allows you to put all the scans, pop-ups and alerts in the background while you play full-screen games or watch videos. This allows you to stay protected without interrupting your gaming experience.
Help & Support
- The makers of the best spyware remover software back up their products with customer and technical support via telephone. Some manufacturers offer round-the-clock support, others only during specific hours of the day. There are even some developers that have support available on the weekend.
- Several companies also offer live chat support on their websites. If you can't reach someone on the phone, you can simply log in and be connected with a customer service representative almost immediately. This is a great option if you need help when phone support is not available.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
These programs ranked the highest in our review of the best antispyware software.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus – This program has earned the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for many years. This program has every tool and feature we look for in the best spyware remover software. It also scored 100 percent in all the AV-Tests that we take into account in our review. It allows you to protect up to three devices from all forms of malware, not just spyware. The only thing the service lacks is weekend phone support.
Norton Security – As it's a well-known name in the computer security industry, it's not a surprise that Norton makes excellent antispyware software. This program scored near perfectly in every test AV-Test put it through. Unfortunately, it doesn't protect your system from ransomware – something Bitdefender does. It also has all the technical and customer support options we look for in this category, including phone support on weekends. But it only allows you to protect a single device from spyware.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus – Rounding out our award winners is another program that scores extremely high with AV-Test. Like with Bitdefender, you can protect up to three devices, but Kaspersky also lacks weekend phone support. In addition to keeping spyware off your computer, Kaspersky Anti-Virus protects you from other threats like viruses and Trojans. The only kind of malware you have to worry about is ransomware.
Keeping your computer free from spyware is important not only for your computer's health but also to protect your most sensitive data. The best antispyware software not only protects you from hackers stealing your information, but also from other threats such as viruses, Trojans and ransomware. For more information on keeping your computer safe, read our articles about antispyware software.