PC Tools Spyware Doctor 4 review

22 Sep 2006

A great product, but it falls slightly behind its main competitor when it comes to updates

Price when reviewed: 
20(£23 inc VAT)
5

It's no bad thing to say that not a great deal has changed since Spyware Doctor 3.8. It's certainly true when it comes to performance: our tests expose programs to 20 carefully selected keylogger, rootkit, spyware and malware threats, a few at a time, to reflect real-world infection patterns. Detecting, removing and blocking all 20 successfully, Spyware Doctor isn't only a top performer, but a speedy one too: 40% quicker than Spy Sweeper (see above). The downside is that it ties up more processing cycles, without the option of throttling back resource usage.

New to this version is an enhanced ignore list that uses integrity checks to prevent malware escaping detection, as well as an improvement to the browser activity scanner, which now detects malicious cookies stored by Firefox as well as IE. PC Tools has added an option of creating a System Restore point prior to threat removal, in addition to the built-in quarantine and restore feature - the first anti-spyware application to do this. Like Spy Sweeper, it can detect the new breed of malware that installs as a driver, and has an equivalent to Webroot's real-time protection shields in the form of guards. These include a site guard to warn of potentially dangerous websites, a keylogger guard and a process guard that not only kills spyware processes and stops them launching, but does so at kernel level.

Unfortunately, the IM guard was taken out of service when we reviewed the product due to support issues. Unlike Spy Sweeper, Alternate Data Streams (ADS) detection is toggled off by default, apparently because there are no known threats in the wild and it affects scanning times - an error of judgement in our opinion. The automatic search for updates is toggled off by default too, and the update process is far from automatic or silent.

We're assured many of these rough edges will be smoothed off when version 5 is released. But the fact that version 4, despite performing as well in the Labs as Spy Sweeper, has those rough edges ruins its A List chances.