Note:Symantec purchased the PC Tools Security portfolio and retired PC Tools Spyware Doctor, PC Tools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus, and PC Tools Internet Security on May 18, 2013.
Of the six stand-alone products we reviewed for our October 2007
issue’s antispyware feature, “Die, Spyware, Die!” PC Tools’ Spyware
Doctor 5.0 was the clear winner, outperforming the competition at
detecting and removing our test set of adware and spyware samples.
That performance, combined with solid features and support, earned
the program our Best Buy distinction.
In tests performed by AV-Test.org, Spyware Doctor did a better
job of identifying and uprooting adware than spyware. It detected
81 percent of our inactive adware samples and all ten actively
running adware samples, and it successfully removed the files and
Registry entries of almost all of the active adware samples. With
spyware, however, Spyware Doctor spotted only 27 percent of our
inactive banking-related spyware specimens and 43 percent of
password-stealing spyware. It detected all of our active spyware
samples except the password-stealing Trojan PSW.Maran. However, it
cleaned up only 70 percent of spyware files and Registry
Spyware Doctor held up well in behavior-based detection tests,
too, detecting additions to HKCU and HKLM ‘Run’ Registry keys (many
malware threats target these) and preventing adware and spyware
programs from changing Internet Explorer Search and Start pages. On
the other hand, it didn’t detect AV-Test.org’s changes to the Hosts
file, which spyware can manipulate to redirect you to a malicious
Three big buttons let you scan your PC for threats, clean up any
problems the software finds, and activate real-time threat
detection (it’s on by default). The settings could use a little
tweaking, however. By default, Spyware Doctor does not schedule
system scans or turn on antirootkit protection; the latter decision
serves to speed up scanning and to minimize false positives.
(Incidentally, Spyware Doctor found eight of the nine inactive
rootkits in our detection tests.) We also didn’t like Spyware
Doctor’s penchant for flagging innocuous ad-tracking cookies as
“infections;” on our brand-new Windows Vista test machine, the
overzealous Doctor diagnosed 387 “infections” that turned out to be
cookies from Google, The New York Times, and other reputable Web
This program was the only one of the six we examined that
provided basic, blacklist-based antiphishing protection (for
Internet Explorer and for Firefox). Another positive was PC Tools’
around-the-clock toll-free telephone support for U.S. customers
alongside e-mail and Web-based support. For an extra $10, Spyware
Doctor offers antivirus protection, which we did not test for this
If you’re looking for comprehensive, easy-to-use adware and
spyware protection, and you don’t mind paying for it, we recommend
—- Ryan Naraine
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