McAfee AntiSpyware 2006 monitors and detects changes targeted by devious spyware to your PC's system files and Internet security settings. It is one of the few proactive antispyware apps on the market, often prompting you with warnings before potential spyware loads on your system. However, based on testing done by CNET Download.com, McAfee AntiSpyware finished near the middle of our list for removing known spyware but near the bottom overall. McAfee AntiSpyware 2006 costs $19.99 if bought as a download or $29.99 for the boxed version, but these prices are after a $10 rebate, so you'll initially have to plunk down $20 to $30 to purchase the McAfee AntiSpyware product.
Although McAfee AntiSpyware 2006 is marketed as a stand-alone product, we think it works better if you're already using the entire McAfee Internet Security Suite, which includes antivirus and firewall protection. When you install McAfee AntiSpyware, an additional monitoring package, the McAfee SecurityCenter also installs. Without any obvious connection to the AntiSpyware program, the McAfee SecurityCenter seems only to nag you to purchase the other components, such as McAfee Internet Security Suite 2006. Frankly, we can do without this blatant form of advertising.
McAfee AntiSpyware now sports an improved, shiny red interface that is very intuitive to use. With left-hand tabs for Scan, Monitor, Summary, Options, and a big Scan Now button, the app is easy to navigate. Upon launch, McAfee AntiSpyware automatically checks for updates, but in some cases, a system restart is required. In one instance, we experienced cryptic error messages during a failed update.
The AutoProtect feature within McAfee AntiSpyware works in the background; it automatically scans programs for spyware as they launch, reducing the need for manual scans. One major annoyance is that McAfee AntiSpyware seems to assume that Microsoft Internet Explorer will be the only Web browser in use. The Erase My Tracks feature is supposed to remove all Web browsing trails, yet it doesn't clean the history, the cache, or cookies from non-IE browsers. Considering that Firefox has been downloaded more than 100 million times as of this writing and that people who are especially concerned about spyware may be more likely than others to be using Firefox, that lack of functionality is surprising.
In testing performed by CNET Download.com, McAfee AntiSpyware took 30 minutes, 20 seconds to perform a full scan. The list of spyware that shows up after a scan contains abbreviations, making it difficult to identify threats. Nor is information about specific threats is included in the interface, but you can click a link to get tons of details about each component online. Also, the list that AntiSpyware returned in our tests contained several questionable hits that weren't identified in any of our other scans. After scan and removal, McAfee AntiSpyware left Search Exe on our system, in addition to two other more minor threats.
McAfee's online help and technical support options are plentiful. The integrated help system is adequate for simple questions; the online options are much more extensive, including FAQs, a knowledge base, and free chat and e-mail support. For the affluent and impatient among us, telephone support is also available at an additional cost that can be paid for by the minute or by incident.