An antivirus product that literally protected against viruses and nothing else would be useless, as other types of malware vastly outnumber actual viruses. Luckily, antivirus is just the common term for tools that detect and remove all kinds of malware. By the same token, SuperAntiSpyware Professional X Edition doesn’t limit its protection to spyware. Per the product’s website, it “blocks Malware, Spyware, Adware, Trojans, Worms, Ransomware, Hijackers, Parasites, Rootkits, KeyLoggers, and many more.” This product has improved greatly since my last review, but it still lacks many expected antivirus features.
At $39.95 per year, SuperAntiSpyware is in good company, price-wise. Bitdefender, G Data, Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security, Webroot, and others cost the same, or nearly the same. Kaspersky jumps right into multiple licenses, starting at $59.99 per year for three. With SuperAntiSpyware, you pay $14.95 for each additional license.
As with Kaspersky, a basic McAfee AntiVirus Plus subscription costs $59.99 per year. Unlike most competitors, however, McAfee doesn’t put any limit on the number of licenses. You can install its protection on every Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS device in your household. SuperAntiSpyware just sticks with Windows—admittedly a massive malware target.
The free edition of SuperAntiSpyware omits real-time scanning, automatic updates, “AI-Powered Detection,” and several other features. Given that the paid edition starts off with a significant feature deficit compared to most competing products, I can’t recommend the free versions.
Many modern antivirus products take a minimalist approach to user interface design, with calm backgrounds and just a few colors. Not SuperAntiSpyware. A colorful icon and title appear at the top of its main window, with a red-yellow-red gradient color bar below. Six large buttons offer quick access to important program features. The sky-blue and grass-green color scheme of the buttons gave me the feeling of looking out a window.
Scanning and Scheduling
Tested on a malware-free virtual machine, SuperAntiSpyware finished a full scan in 19 minutes. That’s fast—the average for current products is over an hour. Many antivirus tools use that first scan to optimize for subsequent scans. For example, Vipre Antivirus Plus took an hour and eight minutes the first time, but just eight minutes the second. An optimized repeat scan with SuperAntiSpyware on that same test system took just four and a half minutes.
A quick scan ran in just one minute. Finally, there’s the Critical Point Scan, which just looks for active malware. It took less than a minute. With the full scan being so fast, though, you may not feel the need for these speedier scans.
Out of the box, SuperAntiSpyware schedules a full scan for 2 a.m. every day. You can modify this schedule, or create additional schedules for a complete, quick, critical, or custom scan. You can also schedule the System Investigator, which I’ll describe below.
Improved Test Scores
Normally I like to reference results from independent antivirus testing labs around the world. These labs have research teams and dozens of computers; my hands-on testing just has me. If a product aces the independent lab tests, I give that success more weight than my own tests.
Unfortunately, SuperAntiSpyware doesn’t participate in testing with any of the four large testing labs that I follow. That means the only results I have come from my own hands-on malware protection tests. When last tested, SuperAntiSpyware achieved record scores in all my tests—record lows, that is. This time around it proved much more effective.
Most antivirus products that include real-time protection will scan a file when any kind of access occurs. Sometimes just displaying the file’s details in Windows Explorer is enough to trigger a scan. Other times the antivirus waits until you click on the file. At the other end of the spectrum, some antivirus tools don’t invoke the real-time scan until the program is about to launch. SuperAntiSpyware falls between these extremes. I found that copying my samples from one folder to another was sufficient to trigger a scan.
Rather than stack multiple pop-up notifications on top of each other, SuperAntiSpyware uses a single notification with a list of all current blocked items. The real-time protection alert includes a button to run a full scan, which makes sense. Where you find one malware program, there may well be more.
Real-time protection caught 85 percent of my samples, including all the ransomware samples. I proceeded to launch the survivors, most of which ran to completion without interference from the antivirus. Still, its overall score of 8.6 points and 87 percent detection is vastly better than the 2.4 points and 31% detection it scored before.
Some products that earn stellar scores from the labs don’t do so well in my hands-on tests. For example, my aggregate lab score for Bitdefender is 9.9 of 10 possible points, but in my hands-on test it scored 8.6, the same as SuperAntiSpyware. Kaspersky Anti-Virus scored 9.3 in my test, and its four lab scores come to 9.7 points. I give high scores from the labs more weight than my own tests, naturally.
Blocking Malware Downloads
Most modern antivirus programs include a module to help their users avoid malicious and fraudulent websites. Some rely on a browser extension, while others perform their filtering below the browser level. Typically, the antivirus replaces a dangerous page with a warning that tells you the page hosts malware, or that it’s a phishing fraud trying to steal your credentials. SuperAntiSpyware doesn’t include any kind of web protection, so you’ll have to rely on phishing protection built into your browser, or hone your phishing-detection skills.
SuperAntiSpyware doesn’t attempt to steer your browser away from web pages containing malware, but it does scan every downloaded file, so you have a degree of protection. In my malicious URL blocking test, I give equal credit for blocking access to a dangerous URL and for wiping out the malware payload.
This test starts with a feed of malware-hosting URLs recently discovered by the experts at London-based MRG-Effitas. These are typically just a day or two old. I launch each one, discard those that are already broken, and note whether the antivirus prevented the malware download. When I have about 100 data points, I run the numbers.
When last tested, SuperAntiSpyware only managed to catch 12 percent of the malware downloads, which is among the lowest scores for this test. In the latest test, it brought that score up to 79 percent, a significant improvement.
That score is still in the bottom half for current products. At the top we find Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus, with 100 percent protection. Sophos and Vipre also managed 100 percent, while Bitdefender, Trend Micro, and G Data came in at 99 percent.
See How We Test Security Software
System Tools and Program Settings
Clicking the System Tools button on the main window brings up a page with a mixed bag of tools and settings. Here you can do things like set the product to run a quick scan, complete scan, or other scan at startup. You can fine-tune scan behaviors (but don’t, unless you know what you’re doing). You can also register an email address to receive notifications about important program events.
Among the bonus tools are a removal tool for hard-to-delete files, a repair tool for malware-caused Registry damage, and a tool for uninstalling unwanted programs. You can also submit suspected malware files, or put the antivirus into no-interruptions game mode. Where many modern antivirus tools can automatically flip into game mode on detecting a full-screen program, SuperAntiSpyware requires you to engage it manually.
For those who like to get their hands dirty, the System Investigator tool scans your system and reports on the files it found in eleven critical areas: Windows User Startup; Registry Load Points; Internet Browser Plugins; Installed Applications; Services & Drivers; Classes (CLSIDs); Desktop, Start & Taskbar; Application Data Folders; Temporary Folders; Windows Task Scheduler; and Running Processes.
You step through these critical areas one page at a time. Each page lists files that are good, dangerous, or unknown. You can click for details on any found item. For unknowns, you can click thumbs up or thumbs down to offer your opinion. And some pages include a link with each item to uninstall it.
In testing, the results seemed haphazard. It correctly flagged my numerous hand-coded utilities as unknown. But it also flagged may well-known items. For example, on the browser plugins page it warned about Google Sheets and Slides, and under installed applications, it listed Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Firefox as unknown.
After working through the list from the first scan carefully, you can set System Investigator to show only changes on subsequent scans. That gives you a chance to spot new unknowns that might be malicious. But in practical terms, I don’t think many users want to take on a job that properly belongs to the antivirus itself.
What’s Not Here
As noted, SuperAntiSpyware doesn’t include any kind of web-based protection. It won’t steer your browser away from malware-hosting pages or phishing sites. Not surprisingly, it also doesn’t mark unsafe links in search results, the way Norton AntiVirus Plus and others do.
Someone has to be the first victim of a brand-new malware attack. Most antivirus products will update to take care of that zero-day attack within days, or even hours. But if it’s a zero-day ransomware attack that encrypted all your files, that ex post facto detection does nothing for you.
As a buffer against this kind of attack, many antivirus tools provide ransomware protection of some kind. This typically takes the form of a behavioral detection module or a system that prevents file changes by unauthorized programs. SuperAntiVirus doesn’t offer protection specific to ransomware, though it did eliminate all my ransomware samples in testing.
Many antivirus products pile on bonus features. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, for example, includes a password manager, protection against exploit attacks, a hardened browser for online transactions, a secure deletion file shredder, and more. Other products add antivirus, spam filtering, even analysis of your social networking security. With SuperAntiSpyware you get the labor-intensive System Investigator plus a few lower-level bonuses.
Decent, But You Can Do Better
There’s no question, SuperAntiSpyware Professional X Edition proved much more capable than the edition we last reviewed. Its scores in our hands-on tests soared from dismal to decent. However, its price has risen, too. It now costs just as much as products that receive high marks from independent testing labs and offer significant features that this product lacks. You can do better.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus cost the same as SuperAntiSpyware, and offer much more. Bitdefender gets top lab scores and absolutely brims with features. Webroot is the smallest antivirus around, with an unusual journal-and-rollback system that can even undo ransomware damage. Kaspersky Anti-Virus also gets top marks and boasts a wide range of features. McAfee AntiVirus Plus doesn’t score quite as high with the labs, but a singles subscription protects every device in your household. You won’t go wrong choosing one of these Editors’ Choice antivirus tools.