Spy Sweeper installs in much the same way as any Windows executable, but there is one important thing to keep in mind with it, or indeed any spyware software, and that's making sure that you've got the latest version and the latest spyware definitions. The version of Spy Sweeper provided to us was the boxed CD version, although it's also available for download. If you do go the boxed copy route (AU$59.95) you'll need to hit the download route regardless, as it's highly likely the version you get will be behind the times, at least in terms of spyware definitions, if not version numbers. Thankfully, after a little initial confusion we were able to update to the latest version and latest definitions.
By default, Spysweeper installs itself to run on Windows startup, providing defences against common Windows hijacks and spyware installs, in much the same way that many anti-virus packages do. The main application can then be launched from the system tray or a menu selection. The main application screen is relatively straightforward, with the main option to sweep for spyware at the very top, followed by options to view previous test results and the applications and settings that have been "quarantined" in previous sweeps. While it's not what you could call an aesthetically pleasing application, it certainly gets the job done from an interface perspective.
We tested Spysweeper on a two different systems; one that had no previous spyware removal tools running on it, and one that had been cleaned by an updated version of SpyBot Search & Destroy. Both tests ran essentially identically. Interestingly -- or potentially worryingly -- the theoretically "clean" SpyBot system -- which had previously been used for testing a variety of P2P applications -- still had some spyware traces on it that SpyBot had failed to detect. The clean system had a few cookies detected, but beyond that came back with a clean bill of health.
Once you've identified a spyware threat, Spysweeper gives you a small information dialog box that should help you work out whether it's something that should be removed, or simply left alone. Detected items are thrown into a quarantine zone, allowing you to check whether any applications that required them have suddenly stopped working. From the quarantine zone it's simple enough to eradicate threats entirely.
Spysweeper is quite thorough, but it's also quite slow, and on both tested machines we noticed a solid performance hit while sweeping for Spyware. It's acceptable if all you need to do is a little light e-mail checking, or simple Web surfing, but if you've got more taxing tasks in mind, you'll need to set aside separate times to periodically check for Spyware.
Ultimately, Spysweeper is a good choice if you're concerned about spyware on your PC, especially if you run a lot of ad-supported software, or programs you're not too sure about. If you've got solid confidence in what's running on your PC, you could get by with free utilities such as SpyBot, however.
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