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I've been always running frequent antivirus scans on my computers, more because I am a security freak than because I really need them (I'm not one of those users that, after a browsing session, manage to fill their PCs with unknown stuff from unknown websites).

However, I almost never run antispyware scans, especially because they tend to consider too many things as malicious even if they are not. Is it really necessary to have an antispyware program beside an antivirus program, or is an antivirus enough?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Well, your question isn't very objective, but I'll answer it anyway.

It really depends. If you are a person that downloads things quite frequently, even from a secure source, then you might still want anti-spyware. Anti-Spyware has different uses than Anti-Virus. Spyware is much harder to detect, as it doesn't really behave like a normal virus. Spyware is meant to hide behind an actual application usually, that is why programs tend to detect it even if it is legitimate.

Also, if you use your computer for storing important documents, then it might be worth the hassle.

However, I would say for average use, it is quite unnecessary. Most anti-virus has some anti-spyware anyway. I will recommend AVG Free, probably the best Security program I have found for that price.

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+1 I agree with everything here, unless OP is running Windows. In which case MSE (as said above, for Windows 7 and lower) or the default Windows Defender (basically MSE now for Windows 8) are really the better programs due to their official source (automatically updated along with windows), and excellent detection rates. (Also still free!) – im so confused Dec 12 '12 at 19:33
Alright. I really found that MSE didn't do a good enough job. I haven't tried Windows Defender though. I have always used AVG on my PC and haven't got a virus yet.(Or at least kept one) – Josiah Dec 12 '12 at 19:37
To each his own, I've also used AVG in the past and it is an excellent program for sure – im so confused Dec 12 '12 at 19:38
I do computer repair for a living and I take viruses off more computers with AVG than any other antivirus. I definitly recommend MSE – MalwareManiac Dec 12 '12 at 19:52
@user1301428, No. Spyware you download tends to act as another application. It might even work as the application, however it uses that app (Or the entire computer) to track what you are doing. Of course, if you download say Chrome from or, you won't have this problem. However, say you download it from some random site, there is a good chance Chrome is either a virus or spyware. – Josiah Dec 13 '12 at 13:32

I believe that an Anti-Virus program is enough or actually anti-spyware is most of the time just built into any anti-virus program. I have never really used an anti-spyware program. If you normally don't get any type of virus or anything after browsing the internet and you know where you are going then I wouldn't worry about anything.

I would recommend Microsoft Security Essentials. It is free and provided directly from Microsoft and have found it to pick up very well and not be too secure on false positives.

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+1 for recommending Security Essentials, I personally find it the easiest to use antivirus program with windows. – nikhil Dec 12 '12 at 19:37
+1 for recommending his recommendation of MSE – MalwareManiac Dec 12 '12 at 19:53
Is MSE still available for Windows 8 users or has it been incorporated into Windows Defender ? – Simon Dec 13 '12 at 12:19
MSE is called Windows Defender in Windows 8. It's now built in. – JustinD Dec 13 '12 at 13:22

To protect your PC from viruses, spyware, rootkits etc it is essential to have some form of antivirus protection installed, and to have a firewall enabled (for alot of people windows firewall will suffice.)

It is not essential to pay for this protection as there are many free alternatives available (which are v.good)

Examples include

Avast Free Antivirus

Avira Free Antivirus

Choosing from one of these two above (or choosing AVG or Microsoft Security Essentials as recommended in other answers) should protect you against all forms of malware inc. spyware.

Additional protection should be sought from an on demand scanner. One of the best in this regard is Malwarebytes AntiMalware Free Edition

They have recently introduced an Antirootkit Tool to complement this scanner.

Choosing either Avast or Avira (or AVG,MSE mentioned in other answers) together with both products from Malwarebytes along with turning your Windows Firewall on will protect you optimally for free.

If you wish to configure your Windows Firewall further, this article entitled "How to Create Advanced Firewall Rules in the Windows Firewall" in How-To Geek will give you further info. (although this is not essential)

Finally how you browse the internet and the sites you visit are up to you.

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Antivirus is much more important then anti-spyware. That said, the two types of programs do not have all that much overlap in what they protect against, although it does seem to be converging somewhat. As mentioned by Simon, MalewareBytes is quite good at removing spyware that Anti-virus software has trouble with.

If you want something that doesn't have many false positives or high resource utilization, install Spybot and run "Immunize", this will block most common bugs from ever getting on your computer without needing a another scanner in the background.

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If you're a self proclaimed 'security freak' AV solutions would be at the bottom of your security checklist. Given the number of zero day attacks and the complexity of modern malware, you really can't rely on AV apps to catch anything other than the harmless tracker cookie.

Yes, install something if not for peace of mind alone but for real security you need to dig deeper. Sandboxing your web browser, Controlling which scripts are allowed to execute and never running as a privileged user are things that will protect you like a turtle shell. AV is more akin to wrapping yourself in a piece of tin foil and praying whilst in the fetal position.

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The AV is there to protect me from other users in the network and from things like email attachments sent to me from users who don't really care about security (or don't even know that the way they are using the PC can be harmful for others) and therefore can be a potential threat. And since I'm more worried about the bad things that other users can cause rather than the bad things I can cause, then the AV is needed :) – user1301428 Dec 13 '12 at 8:27
The AV is NOT NEEDED if you never open suspicious emails under a privileged account in the first place. (Do people STILL open emails as admin..??) Security pros know that Anti Virus is a reactive counter measure to threats rather than a preventative. Why install a resource hogging software package when more robust lower level tactics are at your disposal? Too much work is not an excuse. – Scandalist Dec 13 '12 at 8:43
The AV is indeed needed, even if you don't open anything with a privilege account (which, by the way, I don't use), and it is both a reactive countermeasure and a preventative, since the two things in this case overlap. And a file does not need to be suspicious to be potentially dangerous (security pros know that): suppose that you receive a zip file from a colleague containing the usual Word documents that you receive every day. It could be infected for a thousand reasons and having a running AV helps especially in not losing time solving infection problems, even under a guest account – user1301428 Dec 13 '12 at 8:52
Besides, considering it a reactive countermeasure or a preventative doesn't change anything, the discussion is about whether it is needed or not, and one of the most important best practices in the field is to have a running and always updated AV. What we can talk about is whether an antispyware is really necessary or not, and on this I have my doubts. – user1301428 Dec 13 '12 at 8:55
Framing our perspective around traditional security measures (AV) is of the utmost importance considering most of these companies employ fear tactics to get you to install their bullshit software. Trusting third party apps to do the job of built in OS security measures is a pile of steaming bullshit. – Scandalist Dec 13 '12 at 9:04

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