Best Spyware Detector and Removal Apps 2020: Which Is Right For You?

Best Spyware Detector and Removal Apps 2020: Which Is Right For You?
Graphic: Nathaniel Blum

Best Spyware Detector and Removal Apps 2020: Which Is Right For You?

S.E. Slack
Updated February 12, 2020

A single click of a link on the wrong website could secretly install malicious software onto your computer and make for a browsing session gone wrong. Some of these software programs can silently change settings and monitor everything you do, including capturing passwords, usernames and other sensitive information. Called “spyware,” it’s dangerous and a very real threat to anyone who uses email or the internet.

Learn which spyware detector tools are available to help remove this type of software from your device.

The best secure spyware providers 2020

The reason hackers keep sending out spyware programs is because they work. It sneaks onto your device when you innocently open an email attachment, download a movie or song, or even click on a pop-up ad on a website.

Fortunately, there are ways to try and stop spyware. You can install spyware detector and removal software to fend off scammers before they can take advantage of you. Numerous programs are available to help you spot spyware as soon as it attempts to lodge itself into your system. Many will automatically remove any malicious software spotted during scans of your device, too.

Always check compatibility with your device before you buy because not every program may work with your operating system. Finally, price doesn’t necessarily dictate quality. Some of the best antispyware programs out there are completely free to use, although you need to watch for any limitations or ads they may contain.

Related: What’s the safest internet browser for privacy?

TotalAV Essential Antivirus 2020

Cost: Starts at $100 per year

A new player in the threat detection and removal world, Total AV offers packages at three pricing options that all provide at least some level of spyware protection. All versions include a 30-day money-back guarantee. It’s compatible with Android, Mac, iOS and Windows devices. A bonus: TotalAV includes protection beyond spyware, such as firewall protection, a web browser cleaner and email protection. That makes it a smart choice for the money.

Pros:

  • One-click installation
  • Includes system tune-up tools
  • Finds and removes threats and flags websites as either safe or potentially dangerous

Cons:

  • No tech support
  • Noticeably slows computer when running
  • You must connect to the internet before you can scan for threats, which can further compromise an already at-risk computer

AVG Antivirus FREE

Cost: Free

This free spyware detector and removal program is a bit more robust than some of its competitors, but it’s still a lightweight contender. It offers real-time updates and scans your PC for performance problems, and best of all, updates are automatically pushed out to help ensure your continued protection. A paid version is available for about $90.

Pros:

  • Simple installation
  • Offers website blocking
  • Includes email and web scanning protection with real-time security updates

Cons:

  • Installation not customizable
  • Email scans not available for Microsoft Outlook
  • You must create your own list of blocked websites

Kaspersky Anti-Virus

Cost: $60 per year

Kaspersky is one of the best-known antivirus providers in the world. It has multiple antivirus products that offer an array of options, but you don’t need to spend a ton to block the latest spyware. The basic version can be installed on up to three devices for one inclusive price. It works on only on PCs, but other products include Macs and mobile devices.

Pros:

  • Very easy installation
  • Includes real-time protection
  • Offers email, web scanning and cryptomining protection

Cons:

  • Update downloads are slow
  • Will not install without internet connection to Kaspersky
  • Excessive amount of RAM required during installation

Malwarebytes Premium

Cost: $40 per year

Malwarebytes is fast becoming a major player in the antispyware space despite being relatively new. Its free version is woefully basic and only cleans up spyware; it doesn’t stop it. Plus, it’s compatible only with Windows computers. The premium version, however, covers Windows, Mac, Android and Chrome OS devices. Both versions can detect spyware and clean infected devices fairly well. Even if you decide to use the limited free version, take advantage of the free 14-day trial with the premium version first.

Pros:

  • Can install to any location you want on your device
  • Schedule automatic scans
  • Real-time virus scans run amazingly fast

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • No email protection
  • Will deactivate existing antivirus software until the threat is removed

Spybot Search & Destroy

Cost: Free (with the option to donate an amount from $10 and up)

Compatible with all versions of Windows, Spybot S&D detects and removes both spyware and adware. It’s one of the better programs when it comes to spyware detection because it can detect keyloggers, trojans, browser hijackers and more. It also cleans usage tracks if you don’t want others to see which sites you’ve visited.

Pros:

  • Strong website blocking and threat-removal features
  • Offers automatic updates in the background
  • Lets you review which applications load when starting up your computer

Cons:

  • Confusing installation
  • Full system scan takes a very long time
  • Uses a lot of memory when scanning

Adaware Antivirus 12

Cost: Free

Adaware has long been in the business of spyware removal and is considered reliable. It offers both free and paid antispyware products; the free version is simple to install and requires very little CPU usage to run. It works by protecting the Windows files on your system and is compatible with Windows 10, 8 and 7. It can also be installed alongside other antivirus apps to help you round out protection. You can buy paid versions from $36 to $48.

Pros:

  • Fast, easy installation
  • One-button scanning
  • Multiple scan types are preconfigured

Cons:

  • Installation not customizable
  • Ads, ads, ads
  • The free version only protects files. It does not work with email, internet or network scanning.

Trend Micro Internet Security

Cost: $80 per year

Trend Micro Internet Security protects up to three computers and is a fairly robust tool in the battle against spyware. It also offers social media scanning and parental controls that other programs don’t include. This version also includes a system optimizer to help your device run more efficiently. One caveat: You must purchase the Maximum Security package ($54) to get compatibility beyond Windows devices.

Pros:

  • Includes parental controls
  • Protects email and includes a website blocker
  • Blocks phishing attacks and malicious URLs well

Cons:

  • Slow installation
  • IOS app doesn’t scan for malware
  • Difficult to configure beyond the base installation

SpywareBlaster 5.5

Cost: Free

SpywareBlaster focuses on malware prevention and protection, so if you’re looking for a spyware removal tool, this is not it. It does, however, work particularly well at blocking holes in browser security. It’s only compatible with Microsoft Windows but does integrate well with almost any web browser out there.

Pros:

  • Provides strong ActiveX protection
  • User-friendly interface
  • Offers website blocking

Cons:

  • No automatic scans; you must remember to run the program weekly
  • Does not clean your system to remove threats
  • Does not protect your files; only protects web browsers

Norton Power Eraser

Cost: Free

Compatible only with Windows devices, Norton Power Eraser is a fairly aggressive threat detector and remover. The key difference between Norton’s product and other spyware detectors/removers? The Power Eraser doesn’t offer any protection; it simply cleans up the mess your computer might be in. Still, if you need something fast to remove spyware you’ve unintentionally downloaded, this program could help you remove threats other programs might have missed. Just don’t expect it to protect your device from future threats.

Pros:

  • Quick to install
  • Compatible with other antivirus programs
  • Uses a cloud-based whitelist to identify malware other programs might miss

Cons:

  • No active protection to stop threats
  • Some viruses can stop the program from running
  • Will remove possible threats without permission, which could remove valid files you need

Methodology

We evaluated each spyware detection and removal service on a few key features most consumers care about. The best programs offer easy installation, automatic scans of email and web browsers, and offline capability, and can be configured to block suspicious websites. They also offer continuous real-time protection by blocking malicious programs before they can install on your system, and include removal features to rid your device of any threats that might be hiding somewhere on your system.

Related: What’s the best secure email provider?

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.