Short on time? Here is the best anti-spyware software of 2021:
After testing 61 different anti-spyware engines, I only found a handful of products that were able to detect and remove every piece of spyware from my test devices.
These programs have continuously updated malware databases (with the latest spyware samples) and advanced detection and removal methods (like behavioral analysis and sandboxing). My top picks also have real-time malware and spyware scanning, anti-phishing/suspicious site protection, and additional tools like microphone and webcam protection.
In my testing, I discovered that premium antivirus suites provided the best detection, removal, and protection against all threats — including spyware. I did also find a few dedicated anti-spyware tools that were also able to detect and remove spyware, but it’s important to keep in mind that these simple tools alone can’t replace an antivirus program, so they should only be used to complement existing antivirus software.
Best full-suite antiviruses with anti-spyware capabilities:
- 1.🥇 Norton — Best overall anti-spyware program in 2021.
- 2.🥈 McAfee — Excellent spyware detection and removal rates with good web protections.
- 3.🥉 Bitdefender — Cloud-based spyware detection with extras like banking and webcam protection.
- And 4 more great antiviruses with high-quality spyware protection.
Dedicated anti-spyware tools:
10 Best Anti-Spyware Software for 2021 — Reviewed & Compared
I divided this list into two sections:
- Antivirus software that includes anti-spyware capabilities. Detects and removes spyware as well as a wide range of other cybersecurity threats. Get one of these if you don’t have any antivirus/anti-malware software currently installed.
- Dedicated anti-spyware software. Provides protection against spyware and not much else. Get one of these if you already have antivirus software, but are looking for additional protection against spyware.
Best Full-Suite Antivirus Software That Protects Against Spyware
🥇1. Norton 360 — Best Overall Anti-Spyware Protection in 2021
Norton’s anti-malware scanner uses machine learning to detect 100% of threats, including spyware that most other antivirus engines aren’t able to detect. During my tests, Norton detected and removed all of the spyware samples I placed on my virtual computer. And once Norton’s real-time protection was turned on, I was unable to download a single piece of spyware to my device.
Along with excellent anti-spyware capabilities, Norton 360 comes with a ton of extra features that can protect your data and personal information online, such as:
- Smart firewall.
- Dark web monitoring.
- Data broker scanning.
- Password manager.
- Secure VPN (virtual private network).
- Webcam protection (Windows only).
Norton’s dark web monitoring uses human agents with access to dark web forums to provide live updates and assistance in case of a data breach. And Norton’s Privacy Monitor feature scans almost 30 different data brokers to help keep private data brokers from profiting off of your identity.
I also really like Norton’s webcam protection, which keeps hackers from directly spying on you — Norton’s excellent internet security protections are bundled with all of its 360 plans, with different pricing tiers available for users that want protection on multiple devices and more features like parental controls and identity theft protection (US only).
Norton has the best anti-spyware capabilities out of any other tool on the market — apart from 100% detection and removal rates, its real-time protection immediately blocked all of the spyware samples I tried launching during testing. Norton also provides additional internet privacy features like dark web monitoring, data broker scanning, and webcam protection. US users can also gain access to Norton’s LifeLock identity theft protections, which adds another layer of protection against spyware. There’s a 60-day money-back guarantee on all of Norton’s plans.
🥈2. McAfee Total Protection — Advanced Web-Based Privacy Protections
McAfee Total Protection offers excellent spyware detection and removal rates as well as a variety of useful internet security tools. In my testing, McAfee removed every spyware file from my PC and browser toolbar — McAfee even detected spyware apps and browser extensions on my Android phone (with the mobile app).
McAfee also has a good range of internet security features to keep you safe from spyware and other types of privacy-based malware, including:
- Wi-Fi network scanning.
- Anti-phishing protection.
- Dark web monitoring.
McAfee’s VPN is one of the best antivirus VPNs on the market — VPNs add an extra layer of anonymity to your browsing, and they also help you overcome government surveillance and ISP throttling. And McAfee’s browser extension is also pretty good, as it clearly labels suspicious web pages that are either phishing sites or are otherwise malicious.
McAfee Total Protection provides a huge range of internet security features for 1-10 users, and it’s currently available with a multi-year subscription discount.
McAfee offers really good anti-spyware scanning and a ton of excellent internet security tools. I especially like McAfee’s VPN, which is one of the better antivirus VPNs out there, and McAfee’s web security browser extension, which alerts you when you’re about to visit phishing or malicious sites. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of McAfee’s plans.
🥉3. Bitdefender Total Security — Good Spyware Detection with Banking Protection
Bitdefender’s cloud-based scanner detects and removes every kind of spyware without causing any system slowdown. Bitdefender removed all of the spyware from my PC, including hidden spyware that was bundled with legitimate programs I downloaded from The Pirate Bay. But unlike other antiviruses that slow down systems during scans, Bitdefender’s scanner operates in the cloud, and its full scan didn’t affect my PC’s performance at all.
Bitdefender also includes a good set of additional features, such as:
- Secure browser (Safepay).
- Webcam protection.
- Microphone protection.
- VPN (separate subscription only).
I really like Bitdefender’s secure browser, Safepay. It’s a completely sandboxed, read-only browser window for online transactions — spyware can’t monitor its traffic, gather information through screen capture, or infect its toolbar or search engines. If you regularly visit banking sites or even payment websites like PayPal, then Safepay is an essential internet security tool.
Bitdefender Total Security provides all of Bitdefender’s features for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. Users that are only looking for PC protection can get Bitdefender’s Antivirus Plus or Internet Security plans, which offer similar coverage for either 1 or 3 PCs, respectively.
Bitdefender’s advanced cloud-based scanning engine quickly detects and removes spyware. Bitdefender barely slowed my system down during scans, and its additional security features are really good — I especially like the secure Safepay browser, which secures all online transactions. Bitdefender has a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of its plans.
4. Avira Free Antivirus — Best Free Spyware Protection
Avira Free Antivirus provides better spyware protection than some paid antivirus suites — and it includes some pretty good additional features, as well.
Avira comes bundled with a PUA (potentially unwanted application) Shield — this feature is specifically designed to detect and remove spyware apps that come bundled with legitimate software.
A colleague recently told me that he had accidentally downloaded several adware and spyware programs along with GIMP, an image manipulation program. So, for my tests, I also downloaded GIMP from SourceForge, and Avira flagged all of the spyware ‘.exe’ files that came bundled with my download.
Avira Free Antivirus also includes an excellent internet privacy browser extension, a secure password manager, and a free VPN (limited to 200 MB/day).
Users that want to get a VPN with unlimited browsing data, advanced system tune-up tools, or a password manager with good password security auditing and dark web monitoring will need to upgrade to Avira Prime, which has coverage for multiple devices alongside some excellent mobile apps.
Avira offers the best free spyware protection, and it includes a couple of decent internet privacy protections — including a built-in PUA Shield that detects spyware and adware that comes bundled with software. Avira’s free plan is the best free antivirus plan on the market, but users looking for multi-device coverage, advanced system tune-up tools, and a VPN with no limitations will want to upgrade to Avira Prime, which comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
5. TotalAV — Good Spyware Protection for Beginners
TotalAV has a good antivirus scanner, a decent variety of security features, and it’s very easy to use. TotalAV uses a whitelisted version of Avira’s excellent anti-malware engine, which includes Avira’s PUA Shield feature. In my testing, TotalAV was able to detect 99% of the spyware on my system, including browser extensions like CoolWebSearch and even rootkit/spyware hybrids like Look2Me.
Users that are looking for a simple internet security program that they can install and forget about will really appreciate TotalAV’s simple interface. After I bought and downloaded TotalAV, the program automatically scheduled a system scan and initiated real-time protection. I was able to access and customize all of TotalAV’s features — including the VPN, system optimization tools, and password manager — with just a few clicks on the desktop app.
TotalAV Antivirus Pro provides malware scanning and system tune-up for up to 3 devices, while TotalAV Internet Security adds a VPN and covers up to 5 devices. TotalAV Total Security adds an ad blocker, a password manager, and coverage for up to 6 devices.
TotalAV has good anti-spyware protection and a solid range of additional features inside an attractive interface. Users looking to protect their systems from spyware and malware without dealing with a confusing user interface will love TotalAV’s simplicity. All of TotalAV’s plans are available with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
6. BullGuard — Best Anti-Spyware for Gamers
BullGuard’s antivirus scanner is very good at identifying spyware. For my testing, I downloaded over 1,000 pieces of sample malware, including adware and spyware like Red Shell, the notorious spyware app that is frequently used to harvest gamer metadata for big corporations. While BullGuard detected 100% of my spyware files, including Red Shell, it missed a few malware files that Norton, McAfee, and Bitdefender all caught. That said, BullGuard’s anti-malware scanner is still one of the best.
BullGuard also includes some other really useful features, such as:
- Game booster.
- Home network scanner.
- Secure web browser.
- Identity theft protection.
BullGuard’s game booster reallocates running processes to improve your PC performance while gaming. BullGuard managed to increase my frame rate while playing Destiny 2 on my gaming rig, and it stands out among other internet security products as the best antivirus for gaming.
All of BullGuard’s packages include BullGuard’s anti-malware/spyware scanner and the game booster mode. However, users that upgrade to BullGuard Premium Protection gain coverage on up to 10 devices, plus identity theft protections for users in the US, Canada, and much of Western Europe.
BullGuard’s anti-malware scanner caught most of the spyware files in my testing, including the Red Shell spyware app — but it missed a couple of tricky spyware files that the other antiviruses on this list caught. BullGuard also comes with an excellent game booster for improving gaming performance and identity theft protections for users in the US, Canada, and some parts of Europe. All of BullGuard’s plans are available with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
7. Adaware Antivirus Total — Decent Spyware Protection with File Security Tools
Adaware has grown from a pretty simple adware-blocker to a decent antivirus that offers protection against spyware, ransomware, and other threats. Adaware’s scanner performed well in my spyware tests, detecting most of the test spyware files that I placed on my PC. But Adaware underperformed in my general malware tests, failing to catch a lot of advanced ransomware and cryptojacker files that the other brands on this list successfully detected.
Adaware provides a variety of additional features. Its Digital Lock feature is pretty good — it can encrypt, password protect, and permanently delete sensitive files. However, Adaware’s other features, like web protection, network protection, and parental controls, aren’t as good as the offerings from premium antivirus suites like Norton and Avira.
Adaware Antivirus Free includes real-time malware protection, while Adaware Antivirus Pro adds features like a firewall, anti-phishing protections, and parental controls. Adaware Antivirus Total is Adaware’s top-tier plan, adding system tune-up features and web tracker blocking.
Adaware is a decent anti-spyware program that also offers good file encryption and protection tools. Adaware also has a firewall, web and network protections, and parental controls, but they’re not as good as similar tools from brands like Norton, Avira, or Bitdefender. If you’re curious, you can download Adaware Antivirus Free and decide if you want to upgrade to one of Adaware’s paid plans.
Best Dedicated Anti-Spyware Software
8. SUPERAntiSpyware — Best for Additional Spyware Protection
SUPERAntiSpyware is an excellent anti-spyware program with some additional anti-malware tools. Even though it’s advertised as an anti-spyware tool, SUPERAntiSpyware also offers decent protections against other types of malware, including adware, trojans, rootkits, and ransomware. While SUPERAntiSpyware can’t compete with Norton, McAfee, or Bitdefender in terms of virus detection, this tool was able to detect most of the test spyware on my browser and desktop.
SUPERAntiSpyware doesn’t have any anti-phishing protections or other helpful additional features like a VPN, parental controls, or mobile protections. But SUPERAntiSpyware does provide features such as:
- AI-powered detection engine.
- Real-time threat blocking.
- Automatic updates.
- Email notifications.
SUPERAntiSpyware is designed to complement your existing antivirus setup. It’s a great choice if you’ve already found a good antivirus but want to add extra spyware protection as well.
SUPERAntiSpyware provides both a free and paid version. The free version only performs on-demand scanning. The paid version, SUPERAntiSpyware Pro, continuously monitors your device for spyware infections, and it also includes automatic updates.
SUPERAntiSpyware is an excellent anti-spyware tool, offering good protection against spyware, adware, and ransomware. You can’t expect it to do everything your antivirus software can do — but if you’re looking for an anti-spyware program to complement your existing antivirus software, SUPERAntiSpyware is a pretty good option.
9. SpywareBlaster — Best for Browsing Protection
SpywareBlaster is a good anti-spyware app for browsers that specializes in blocking ActiveX malware. ActiveX is a tool that provides interactive website content. ActiveX controls can be useful — they allow you to play media and fill in forms on websites. But hackers can also use ActiveX controls to gain access to your system. Once inside your system, hackers can install keylogging software, steal your private files, and access your webcam.
SpywareBlaster offers both free and paid versions. The paid version, SpywareBlaster Autoupdate, provides automatic updating, multi-user coverage, and technical support.
SpywareBlaster doesn’t scan your computer like an antivirus software — it only blocks incoming threats. It’s an affordable option for users that are looking to tighten up their browser security, but it should only be used together with a good antivirus program like Norton or McAfee.
SpywareBlaster blocks spyware that hijacks your computer via ActiveX website content. However, it’s not a replacement for antivirus software — or even for other dedicated anti-spyware applications. You’ll need an additional antivirus software like Norton to protect you from other types of malware.
10. Spybot – Search and Destroy — Best for Advanced Users
Spybot – Search and Destroy uses active scanning to prevent spyware and other types of malware from making changes on your computer. And it can also perform full spyware scans of your system. During my tests, Spybot’s scanning engine caught and removed all of the test spyware, adware, and PUPs (potentially unwanted programs) on my PC. But Spybot doesn’t provide a lot of the additional features that the best antivirus programs like Norton and Avira do.
However, Spybot does contain some advanced features to protect your device from spyware and adware, including:
- Real-time spyware scanning.
- Cookies and plugins blocker.
- Usage track eraser.
- Rootkit scan.
Spybot can erase usage tracks that document the files you opened, the applications you launched, and the websites you visited. By removing usage data from system files, Spybot gives users another layer of protection from hackers.
Spybot – Search and Destroy Free comes with anti-spyware tools, the rootkit scan, and the cookies and plugins blocker. Upgrading to one of the paid plans like Spybot – Search and Destroy Professional adds antivirus protection and real-time scanning.
Spybot – Search and Destroy is a surprisingly good anti-spyware and anti-malware app. However, it doesn’t have features like phishing protection, a VPN, or device optimization features like Norton or Avira. Spybot offers free and paid plans, as well as bulk deals for enterprise users.
Comparison of the Best Anti-Spyware Software
|Product||Free Version||Removes Spyware Infections||Anti-Malware Scanning||Mobile Device Compatibility||Blocks Phishing Sites|
|9. SpywareBlaster||Yes||No (active scanning only)||No||No||No|
|10. Spybot — Search and Destroy||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
Anti-Spyware — Frequently Asked Questions
What is spyware and what is anti-spyware software?
Spyware is any malware file designed to steal user data. Some spyware applications are, at most, annoying — they will insert unwanted search results or websites into your browser window, or passively send your metadata to advertisers. But some spyware infections can be devastating — resulting in hackers gaining full control of your computer, accessing your finances, and downloading ransomware or other serious malware onto your system.
Anti-spyware software is a type of software that detects, removes, and protects against spyware. The best anti-spyware software, like Norton 360, provides real-time protection to prevent spyware from infecting your device — Norton also protects against every other type of known malware, including rootkits, ransomware, trojans, and cryptojackers.
Are anti-spyware and antivirus software the same thing?
Not necessarily, but most of the top anti-spyware software is found inside antivirus software. Most antivirus programs offer anti-spyware and anti-malware protection, but most anti-spyware tools only offer protection against spyware and adware.
In my testing, premium anti-malware suites like Norton, Bitdefender, and TotalAV offered the highest detection rates for both spyware and other types of malware. These premium suites cost more, but they also offer internet security tools like anti-phishing protection, VPNs, password managers, dark web monitoring, and mobile device protection.
But there are a few dedicated anti-spyware tools whose sole purpose is to detect and remove spyware. Spybot — Search & Destroy, for instance, has some strong spyware scanning and detection capabilities.
How does anti-spyware software work?
Anti-spyware software scans your files and compares the contents of your disk with a directory of known spyware files. Anti-malware scanners like Norton, McAfee, and Avira also use heuristics and machine learning to detect zero-day threats based on a file’s behavior.
Almost all of the anti-spyware tools on my list can also perform real-time threat detection, analyzing files before they’re downloaded to prevent a spyware infection from occurring.
In addition to malware scanning and real-time protection, full-suite antivirus/anti-spyware software can:
- Encrypt your keystrokes.
- Block access to your camera or microphone.
- Scan the dark web for personal data leaks.
- Hide your files.
- Hide your IP address.
How do I install anti-spyware software?
Installing anti-spyware software is pretty easy. Just follow these steps:
- Pick a program. My #1 anti-spyware choice is Norton 360 — it’s a feature-rich and easy-to-use antivirus application that provides total spyware protection. For users that are looking for a lightweight, specialized anti-spyware tool, SUPERAntiSpyware is a good option.
- Download the program. Whichever software you decide to get, follow one of our links to get the best deals available. Some of these vendors offer free plans, and most of them offer free trials.
- Click “install” & run the installer. All of the anti-spyware programs on this list come with an installer that will walk you through the installation process. Simply accept the EULA (End User License Agreement), accept the program destination, and you will have a high-quality anti-spyware solution running in no time.