“Spybot Search and Destroy” is our favorite free program for ferreting out and removing spyware from your computer, and it just came out in a new version. Scans are much faster and the spies lurking in your machine are removed automatically, instead of having to be selected for removal individually. Spybot works with all Windows versions from Windows 95 on up to Vista. It also works with some versions of Linux.

Vista comes with its own built-in anti-spyware program, called “Windows Defender.” But in a recent study done by Webroot (, the “Defender” missed 84 percent of spyware and other malicious code. Webroot is itself the maker of anti-spyware software and related utilities but these are not free. Their “Spy Sweeper” program is sold by subscription, starting at $30 a year.

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