Recently, the anti-spyware software (Spybot Search & Destroy, Spyware Blaster, and Ad-Aware) I use began updating to new versions. I don’t know if it came as a result of the Service Pack 3 for Windows XP or something else. All I know is everyone seemed to be updating.
Since such a mass update is rather time consuming, I decided to take a look at what else was out there. It so happened that PC Magazine has done a review of various anti-spyware software packages. The Editor’s Choice is something called PC Tools Spyware Doctor. They have a version you can download to test its capabilities so I did so.
Before I get into how it worked, a little about my configuration. I’m running a Dell OptiPlex GX260 with an Intel Pentium IV 2.66GHz CPU, 2 GB of RAM, Windows XP Pro SP3, and Trend Micro anti-virus software.
Before installing Spyware Doctor I uninstalled Spybot/Blaster/Ad-Aware. Once Spyware Doctor was installed I rebooted. That’s when I noticed that my PC was taking much longer to come back up. Usually, it takes about two to three minutes to get to a point where I can actually launch a program. But now, it was running past five minutes and my PC was still non-responsive. Even doing a control-alt-delete didn’t seem to be doing anything. After about six minutes, control began to return, but in fits and starts.
For example, minimizing a window took two and a half minutes. Maximizing that same window took three minutes.
I was eventually able to get a task list going and switched to the performance graph view. There I found the CPU pegging at 100% with some intermittent sections were it dropped somewhat. It was during those segments I was actually able to do something. Those segments where two to three minutes apart and lasted sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes longer. Otherwise, the CPU was busy running Spyware Doctor, which was not actively scanning during this time.
This could not stand because I need to use my PC for work, not sit there while Spyware Doctor, at idle, takes 100 percent of the available CPU cycles. I took a look at the PC Tools support forum and found an 11-page thread talking about speed problems exactly like I was experiencing, starting with the introduction early last year of their version 5 software.
Using about all the patience I had, I eventually got Spyware Doctor to actually run a full scan. However, it never completed the scan because my PC would lock up so tight I had to do a hardware reset.
Obviously, the reason you use this kind of software is to keep the bad guys from taking over our PC and keeping you from doing your work. Unfortunately, it seems Spyware Doctor does something similar in that I can’t use my PC. Fortunately, I was eventually able to uninstall it and re-installed the latest versions of Spybot/Blaster/Ad-Aware.
I don’t know why it didn’t work with my configuration but regardless of why, you should be careful about using this software. YMMV. Insert disclaimer here.