Spyware Doctor is a veteran package, and way back in 2006 it held a place on our A List. These days, though, spyware is just one of a whole host of threats. PC Tools bundled optional antivirus into the package a few years back, and now this latest version focuses on behavioural analysis and system resources.
Spyware Doctor’s simple front end emphasises manual scanning, rather than real-time detection. By default, it runs an automatic scan every week, but the schedule can be customised.
You can run custom scans too, though it’s a pain: you have to navigate through a directory tree to choose the folders to scan. It’s not a package for tinkerers, but the few options you do get are perfectly practical: for example, you can tweak the scan priority, specify websites or files to ignore and optionally create a System Restore point before acting on discovered threats.
Scan-based protection is backed up by real-time “Intelliguard” protection, using ten “Guards”, each providing a distinctive sort of protection. File Guard, for example, blocks known malicious applications, while Network Guard keeps an eye on your network settings. The Guards can be individually toggled on and off, giving you direct control over exactly what the program watches
In practice, it proved a decent guardian. As soon as we clicked on an infected file – even without opening it – a requester leapt up warning us of danger ahead. It scans email as it arrives too, and a free downloadable Browser
Defender add-on brings web protection.
The scanning system is granular, with a choice of 11 different “Scanners”, including a Registry Scanner, Process Scanner and Startup Scanner. It adds up to a pleasing sense of empowerment, though there’s no obvious reason why you’d ever want to turn off any of the Guards or Scanners.
In practise, the Scanners did a solid job, but couldn’t quite keep up with the competition. Spyware Doctor identified most of our malware samples, but it missed the Sobar virus and the Install-Provider Trojan, while the other packages intercepted both.
Spyware Doctor also overlooked a handful of adware or “nuisanceware” samples, and, despite improved behavioural protection, it didn’t intercept some system-monitoring tools that could be used for spying. We were still safe from most major threats, but other programs provide more comprehensive protection.
PC Tools claims the package adds just 15 seconds to boot time, with a RAM footprint of 35MB. Our own tests confirmed the 15-second boot, though in our Vista test system we saw a RAM footprint closer to 55MB – more than Kaspersky, but not so huge as to cause alarm.
Overall, PC Tools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus is a simple package that’ll appeal to those who like to take control without getting bogged down in technical minutiae. Unfortunately, the price is high, especially for protection that’s not quite water-tight.