It is very difficult to distinguish between a computer Virus and Spyware (or Malware). The antivirus software companies and the antispyware companies know the difference. There is no difference to an end user. Both or all of these are programs that are installed on your computer by you that you probably don't want to be installed. They get installed either by tricking you into installing or by taking advantage of some vulnerability on your computer. There are many, many methods of infection and it is nearly impossible to determine the source.

If we have to recommend one software above others, we have had good success with Spybot Search and Destroy. It can be downloaded from the following URL:

Spyware detection software has certain limitations:

  • No spyware detection/removal software available can detect and remove every type of spyware.
  • Spyware removal is difficult and reinfections are frequent for previously infected systems.
  • Reformatting your computer and reinstalling the operating system and all software is the only 100% guaranteed way to eliminate spyware.
  • Most spyware detection software is not free (and doesn't remove all spyware)

The best way to protect yourself from Spyware is to figure out how you are getting it and avoid it. It is 100% certain that you are installing it yourself even if you are doing it unintentionally. Some types of software to be suspicious of are:

  • Download Accelerators
  • Download Managers
  • Toolbar add-ons or any add-on to Internet Explorer or Outlook
  • Instant Messaging software (which often comes with a whole collection of other software).
  • Peer-to-Peer software (Kazaa, Morpheus, BearShare, etc.)
  • Software downloaded from peer-to-peer sites
  • Any network-capable widget is suspect - screensaver downloaders, streaming music players, weather or news ticker programs.

Certainly there are programs that fit in this list which do not infect your computer with spyware, but if you have a recurring spyware problem, you should take a close look at everything you are using.