Spybot Review: Quick Expert Summary
Spybot Search & Destroy is a Windows antivirus program that’s pretty bad at detecting most malware and phishing threats, has a confusing user interface, and requires multiple downloads of separate components to work. It also lacks many features you’d expect in a premium antivirus — such as a firewall, a VPN, and a password manager — which are included in the best antiviruses of 2023, like Norton and Bitdefender.
Spybot Search & Destroy does include a few security features — like web protections and dark web monitoring — but they’re nowhere near as good as the same features offered by top competitors. For example, to provide web and anti-phishing protection, Spybot edits your Windows hosts file, but this is an inefficient approach and fails to detect and block many threats.
There are so many better antiviruses on the market in 2023 — including Norton, Bitdefender, and McAfee — that Spybot offers little value. Each of these brands provides perfect malware detection and a better selection of additional security features to keep you safe online. Also, they all offer free trials and/or money-back guarantees. On the other hand, Spybot Search & Destroy offers no money-back guarantees or free trials on its paid plans.
|Overall Rank||#66 out of 68 antiviruses|
|🎁 Free Plan||✅|
|💵 Pricing||$18.99 / year|
|💰 Money-Back Guarantee||❌|
|💻 Operating Systems||Windows|
Spybot Search & Destroy Full Review
Spybot Search & Destroy’s malware-detecting capabilities and internet security features are very disappointing, especially compared to other top antiviruses.
Its malware scanner performed poorly in all my tests, missing most of my malware samples (in comparison, brands like Norton and Bitdefender consistently catch 100% of malware in testing). Spybot also doesn’t use machine learning to detect zero-day threats — a standard feature in most modern antiviruses. And it lacks many features I expect to see in a premium antivirus, such as a firewall, a VPN, parental controls, and a password manager.
Spybot’s free version doesn’t include an antivirus engine or real-time protection, so it won’t actually protect you from malware or detect any malware that’s already on your device. There are 4 paid plans that add on some security features — including a malware scanner and real-time protection, but most of its features don’t work well, and the ones that do work well will only interest a few users.
Spybot doesn’t offer any free trials or money-back guarantees on any of its paid plans. So, if you just want to test it out, you have no choice but to pay. Instead, I suggest going with the best antiviruses that offer free trials and money-back guarantees — including industry leaders like Norton and Bitdefender.
Spybot Search & Destroy Security Features
Spybot Search & Destroy includes several security features:
- Malware scanner.
- Real-time protection.
- Rootkit scanner.
- Web protection.
- Dark web monitoring.
- Password monitor.
- Anti-tracking tools.
While it might seem that Spybot’s antivirus offers a lot of great features, this isn’t the case. Most of the features listed above don’t work very well, are difficult to use, and pale in comparison to similar tools offered by the best antivirus programs on the market.
I was seriously unimpressed by Spybot’s malware scanner, which failed to detect most of the malware samples on my test device. To test the scanner, I downloaded an archive containing 1,000s of malware samples onto my Windows 11 computer and ran Spybot’s full system scan.
Aside from failing to detect most of the malware samples, the scan also took several hours to complete. On the other hand, Norton’s scanner had a 100% malware detection rate and only took 40 minutes to complete.
I was also disappointed to find that Spybot doesn’t have a quick scan option — it only lets you run a full scan (which takes too long) or a custom scan. Many competitors, including Bitdefender, Avira, and McAfee, let you run quick scans that check critical system folders on your computer for malware.
The type of threats Spybot looks for also depends on which plan you choose. If you’re using the free version, it uses a smaller malware database and only looks for spyware and rootkit programs. If you’re on a premium plan, Spybot uses a larger malware database and scans for viruses, too. This is incredibly disappointing when you consider competitors such as Avira have much better malware detection rates and offer free and premium users the same malware engine (which is one of the best on the market).
Spybot offers real-time protection for paid users, but it doesn’t work very well. You have to install it separately, and when I tried downloading the same malware sample archive I used to test the malware scanner, Spybot let most of the samples through. This included samples that other antiviruses, like Norton and Bitdefender, blocked.
Spybot’s rootkit scanner is another unimpressive feature — I hid multiple rootkit samples on my PC, and Spybot failed to find any of them. It also issued a warning telling me I shouldn’t open or close any applications while the scanner was running. Bitdefender and McAfee’s malware scanners both include rootkit detection, and I was able to use my computer as usual during their scans.
I tested Spybot’s web protection tool next, and like every other feature so far, it didn’t work. I went on PhishTank — a database of verified phishing websites we use to test antiviruses — and tried to access 50 malicious websites. Spybot failed to block a single one. In contrast, the best antiviruses, such as Norton and Bitdefender, have web protection tools that not only stop you from visiting suspicious websites, but go way further, with features that prevent spying, screen grabbing, and much more.
Spybot’s web protection tool works very differently than most antivirus web protection tools on the market, which may explain its ineffectiveness. Most antiviruses maintain massive cloud directories of malicious and suspicious websites and block your browser from accessing them — usually accompanied by a warning and explanation.
Instead of using a cloud directory, Spybot’s “immunization tool” edits your Windows hosts file and adds a list of malicious websites to it. If you try to connect to a website listed in your hosts file, your computer refuses the connection. This is nowhere near as good as using an online cloud directory. It’s overly complicated and inflexible, and when I opened my hosts file to look at the websites Spybot blocked, many of the domains listed weren’t even active in 2023.
Dark Web Monitor
Spybot also includes a dark web monitor — which it calls Identity Monitor — as a separate download, but it’s not great. It monitors data breaches on the dark web for your email addresses and usernames, and while it’s good at detecting breaches, it doesn’t offer actionable advice on how to respond and protect yourself.
There is a Take action button you can press, but it just gives generic instructions that aren’t specific to a particular breach. The third step in the instructions doesn’t even make sense!
Spybot doesn’t contact you via email to alert you to breaches (like competitors such as Norton and McAfee do) and there’s no real benefit to using Identity Monitor. Most breaches were sourced from Have I Been Pwned — a free database you can use to monitor your accounts anyway. In contrast, Norton actually hires real agents who infiltrate the dark web, find breaches with your personal details and private data, and give you one-on-one support on how to respond.
Identity Monitor also lets you enter a password into its database to see how many times it’s been used in breaches worldwide, in case it’s not as secure as you hoped. For example, I tested “password” and learned people had used it 9,545,824 times in data breaches across the internet.
It’s a cool inclusion, but if you want secure passwords, you’re better off using a password manager like 1Password. I entered one of 1Password’s generated passwords into Spybot’s password checker and found it had never been used before. 1Password also secures your passwords using AES 256-bit encryption — the same type of encryption banks use — so you never have to worry about your passwords being stolen.
If you don’t want to use a standalone password manager, there are plenty of excellent antivirus-password manager bundles that include password generators, including those from Norton, Avira, and Bitdefender.
Finally, I tested Spybot’s anti-tracking tool, Spybot Anti-Beacon, one of the few features that worked well in my tests. It lets you restrict the amount of information and tracking data your computer transmits to companies like Microsoft, Adobe, and Mozilla. It stopped my computer from transmitting personally identifiable information and feedback to these companies.
Spybot Anti-Beacon also provides several customization options that advanced users will appreciate. For example, you can block or permit tracking on individual programs, apps, and services — including Google Analytics and Apple products — or choose from 3 presets: Minimal, Recommended, or Full. This is great if you want to boost your privacy on your Windows computer, but it can also stop some applications from working, so you should only use this feature if you’re experienced with app tracking, or you’re quite tech-savvy in general.
However, the best way to maintain privacy on your computer is to use a VPN. A good VPN (such as ExpressVPN) masks your IP address behind a virtual one, stops trackers from harvesting your data, and prevents your internet service provider from spying on you. You can also sign up for a top antivirus that provides a built-in VPN, such as Norton and Bitdefender.
Spybot offers a number of additional tools that aim to boost your overall security and improve the performance of your Windows computer. These include:
- Script editor: create rules for detecting malware on your computer.
- OpenSBI editor: create rules for detecting unwanted applications on your computer.
- FileAlyzer: access information about your installed applications, such as their hex code and security permissions.
- RegAlyzer: browse your computer’s registry (includes extra features not offered in Windows’s built-in registry editing tool).
- Start-up tools: control which applications and programs launch when you turn on your computer.
- System registry repair: improve your computer’s performance by fixing broken registry files, tidying their organization, and removing anything unnecessary.
- Secure shredder: safely and completely remove files from your hard drive, so they can never be retrieved or restored.
- Repair environment: create a separate, self-contained environment outside your computer’s OS to conduct any scans or repairs needed.
However, while this list may seem comprehensive, most of these features will only appeal to a tiny number of highly technical PC users. They’re also just not very good. You can find far superior tools that fulfill the same basic functions and are way easier to use on much better antiviruses.
Spybot Search & Destroy Plans & Pricing
Spybot Search & Destroy offers a free version and 4 different paid plans. Each plan is only available on 1 device, lacks a free trial, and doesn’t include a money-back guarantee.
|Free Edition||Home Edition||Professional Edition||Corporate Edition||Technicians Edition|
|Price||Free||$18.99 / year||$30.48 / year||$46.00 / year||$69.00 / year|
|Number of device licenses||1||1||1||1||1|
|Malware scanning & removal||❌||✅||✅||✅||✅|
Spybot’s free version is really bad — it lacks an antivirus engine and real-time protection, so there’s nothing to stop malware from infecting your computer. There are much better free antiviruses, such as Avira — which includes 100% malware detection rates, real-time protection, a password manager, and more.
The paid plans aren’t much better. While they include more features, I’ve outlined throughout this review how badly most of them work. And the ones that work well only solve very specific issues most people won’t care about. Norton’s 360 plans, for example, start from just $19.99 / year and include everything you need to stay safe online: perfect malware detection, real-time protection, a powerful VPN, dark web monitoring, and so much more.
Really, there’s no reason to spend money on Spybot’s antivirus. There are so many superior alternatives to choose from that don’t cost a lot, provide reliable protection, and are way easier to use.
Spybot Search & Destroy Ease of Use & Setup
Spybot Search & Destroy isn’t the easiest antivirus to use in 2023. It’s made up of several components you need to download and install separately, and it tries to install additional unnecessary programs on your computer when you first set it up.
It took me about 10 minutes to install Spybot Search & Destroy. After installing it, the program minimizes to your system tray instead of showing you the app. You have to right-click on Spybot’s icon, then click Start Center to open the app. This is much less intuitive than competitors like Norton, which just require a double click on their icon to open.
Once you’ve opened Spybot’s app, you can run a system scan, install the web protections, or update your virus database. To access the rest of Spybot’s features, you have to click a small Show details button in the bottom right corner of the interface.
When you click this, each additional feature is shown clearly and with its own icon — which is pretty cool. You can also click a button to hide advanced features, which beginner users will appreciate.
That said, Spybot isn’t very beginner-friendly, and it makes certain tasks difficult. For example, scheduling a virus scan is complicated and requires several steps. Many competitors, such as Avira, let you schedule scans simply by clicking a calendar icon and choosing a date and time.
Overall, I wasn’t impressed with Spybot Search & Destroy’s ease of use — it tries to sneak additional applications onto your computer, and you need to download and install multiple programs to access every feature necessary for robust security. It’s also annoying how simple processes like scheduling virus scans are overly complicated. You’re better off picking an easier-to-use alternative like Norton, Bitdefender, or TotalAV.
Spybot Search & Destroy Customer Support
Spybot Search & Destroy offers email support, a community forum, frequently asked questions, and malware removal guides. However, it lacks live chat and phone support — something many competitor antiviruses include.
I tested Spybot’s email support by filling in a support form on its website, but I never received a reply. I received an automatic response saying Spybot would be in touch with me as soon as possible. However, after a week of waiting, I still hadn’t received a reply to my email. I tried emailing Spybot again, and it once again failed to respond. This is disappointing when you consider competitors like Norton, Bitdefender, and TotalAV all have multiple support channels and reasonable response times (within a couple of hours sometimes).
Next, I visited Spybot’s support forum, which is surprisingly good. When I posted an issue, I quickly got a response from a forum moderator, and they were friendly and helpful. However, if the moderator didn’t know the answer to a question, they referred me to Spybot’s support email, which was unresponsive in my tests.
Finally, I wasn’t a big fan of Spybot’s FAQ and virus removal guides. The text is clunky, hard to follow, and badly written.
Overall, Spybot’s customer support is pretty bad. The email support failed to respond to multiple email attempts, and the knowledge base and FAQs are hard to follow. Although I like the support forum, it isn’t enough to redeem the other poor customer support options — especially when there are plenty of better antiviruses with excellent support.
Does Spybot Search & Destroy Offer Good Protection In 2023?
Spybot Search & Destroy doesn’t offer good protection in 2023. The malware scanner underperformed in my tests, missing most malware samples, and the majority of additional features are disappointing. For example, Spybot’s web protection tool fails to block dangerous websites.
Spybot also lacks essential features like a VPN and a firewall, which many competitors include. Even worse, Spybot’s free version doesn’t actually stop viruses — which is a bit ridiculous.
In addition, I found Spybot to be overly complicated to set up and use, with many features installed separately from the main app, and basic functions like scheduling a virus scan frustrating to initiate.
Finally, Spybot offers few customer support options, and its support team is unresponsive.
Honestly, Spybot Search & Destroy is not good value for money — especially when competitors like Avira have free versions far superior to Spybot’s premium plans. However, if you want to pay for good antivirus protection (which I recommend doing), check out our list of the best antiviruses in 2023 and choose an alternative. Norton and Bitdefender are both excellent choices.
Spybot Search & Destroy — Frequently Asked Questions
Can I uninstall Spybot Search & Destroy?
Yes, Spybot Search & Destroy is really easy to uninstall. If you’re using the latest version of Windows, navigate to your computer’s control panel and click Uninstall a program. Scroll down your list of installed programs until you see Spybot Search & Destroy. Click on it, and click Uninstall. Once you’ve followed the uninstallation wizard, repeat this step for Spybot Anti-Beacon and other Spybot programs you’ve installed.
Once you’ve fully removed Spybot Search & Destroy and all related programs, you should choose an alternative antivirus to protect your computer from the latest malware threats in 2023. Norton is a great choice with excellent features, including a firewall, anti-phishing protection, and more. You can check out our full review to learn more.
Is Spybot Search & Destroy compatible with Windows 10?
Spybot Search & Destroy works with the latest version of Windows 10. I also tested Spybot Search & Destroy on a Windows 11 computer and had no problems running it. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean Spybot is a good choice. It lacks many features you’d expect in an antivirus in 2023, including good malware detection rates and decent additional security features.
If you want a good antivirus that’s compatible with both Windows 10 and 11, you should check out our list of best Windows antiviruses in 2023. Every antivirus on this list works better than Spybot Search & Destroy. I particularly like Norton, Bitdefender, and TotalAV.
Is Spybot Search & Destroy safe?
Spybot Search & Destroy is a program developed by a trustworthy company — Safer-Networking — so the application is safe. However, Spybot underperformed in my tests and failed to capture most malware samples, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you want to stay safe from the latest malware threats. Instead, choose an antivirus that can protect you from all kinds of malware, including trojans, worms, rootkits, and more, and that offers decent additional features like multi-device protection, reliable real-time protection, and a VPN. Unfortunately, Spybot lacks all of these features.