Readers reveal their adware battles

My article in the Jan. 27newsletter on anti-adware and antispyware generated a wave of responses from our readers.

The conventional wisdom — reported by many computer magazines until quite recently — had been that two free programs, Ad-Aware and SpyBot Search & Destroy, were able to remove most malware when both were used.

In reality, I reported last issue that these two programs have not kept up with the growth of the adware threat. I compiled raw data provided by researcher Eric Howes, who exhaustively tested 20 applications in October 2004.

The results showed that only one anti-adware program, Giant AntiSpyware, was capable of removing more than 50% of the little buggers. Every other program removed fewer than half of the problem cases.

The best two-program combination to root out adware, the study indicated, was Giant AntiSpyware — which deleted 63% of the unwanted components by itself — plus Webroot Spy Sweeper, which brought the figure up to 70%. (For links, see the Security Baseline section, below.)

Ironically, Microsoft purchased the little-known Giant Software Company in December 2004. This has created a different sort of problem, but we’ll get to that later.

After the article appeared, the newsletter received literally hundreds of reports from readers. They related the pain they’ve experienced from adware and the relief they’ve gotten from using some of the newer, more accurate anti-adware utilities.

Here’s just one brief example of the many success stories readers sent us (this one from Mike Butler):

  • “You guys have hit a home run with this edition.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2005-02-10: