PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2010 Review

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  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 5
      • Total Score:
      • 7.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Great interface
    • User-friendly explanations
    • Relatively short scan times
  • Cons

    • Noticeable performance hit
    • Could be more proactive
    • Installs Google toolbar

By: Charles P. Jefferies

PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2010 is as advertised — an antivirus/antispyware suite for home users designed for standard protection and ease of use. What does it offer (or lack) that more well-known security apps don’t? We break it down in this review.

Product Overview

PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus is a $39.95 antispyware and antivirus suite for home users. The company claims the software has been downloaded 140 million times and counting. The suite is advertised to be easy to use and operates automatically in the background. Our testing will reveal how well-rounded this software actually is.

Download & Installation

Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus is a 34MB download from the company’s website. A trial version can be downloaded for free however the full version must be purchased to remove infections. The install, when it actually completes (more on that in a second) is simple and takes about five clicks and five minutes; the software updates itself during the install which can take quite a while depending on the download size (ours was 68MB, which was odd considering the program download was half the size). We did not like how the installer wanted to put the Google toolbar on our system; we have no qualms with the toolbar itself but when bundled with an unrelated program it is essentially a paid advertisement.

The program installer actually froze the first time we attempted to install Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus. We were unable to pinpoint why that happened; while the odds are likely stacked against a failed install for most users it was discomforting nonetheless.

Program Interface

PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2010 interfaceSpyware Doctor with AntiVirus has a clean and welcoming interface. Navigation is handled through buttons on the left. Enough information is displayed on the screen to keep advanced users content while not overwhelming less-experienced users.

My favorite part of the interface was the IntelliGuard section. IntelliGuard is the active protection part of Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus and is responsible for detecting and eliminating/preventing threats. I liked this section because it laid out all the active components of the program and explained them in plain English. In addition it provided three simple links underneath the explanation: Disable, View History, and Manage Exceptions. We found this very simple and very easy to understand.

PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2010 explanations

The tools menu has one component, a “Malware Detective” which does additional scanning for malicious software. It took five minutes to scan our system; if it had found something, it would have prompted us to send a report to PCTools. The Malware Detective is essentially a specific low-level scanner that looks for select types of malicious software — it would be used in the event that a user believes there is something on their system that the standard scanner has not found.

Advanced users can fine-tune the program through the Settings menu.

One last aspect we appreciated about the program interface was how it was absent of any product upsells to the company’s pricier protection suites. Upsells in a paid product are one of my biggest personal pet peeves, so PCTools gets a shout-out for avoiding that software faux pas.

In Use & Effectiveness

PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus stayed out of the way during general usage. Updates were performed automatically in the background. We did notice our system felt slightly sluggish with the program installed, however, most notably when logging into Windows, launching programs, and browsing through Windows Explorer.

To test the effectiveness of Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus I used several virus files from Eicar.org, an IT security website. Please see the test description for extensive information on the tests.

Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus did not detect any of the files while they were downloading however it prevented access to the files and promptly removed them. Overall the software performs as expected but is not particularly proactive.

Performance Impact

We evaluate the performance impact and system resource usage of using antivirus software in three ways:

  • Overall system performance measured before and after installation using PCMark
  • Memory footprint
  • Time it took to perform a full system scan

Our test system is an HP Pavilion dv5t.

Overall System Performance Impact Measured with PCMark Vantage

The PCMark benchmarks as measured before (left) and after (right) the Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus install are shown below.

PCMark rating before PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2010 installPCMark rating after PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2010 install

The performance hit is significant next to competitors at almost 15%; the majority of suites we tested have had a minimal impact on system performance. Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus is an anomaly.

Memory Footprint

PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2010 scanThe software uses between 15 and 20MB of memory according to the Task Manger, which is a nice low number.

Time it took to perform a full system scan

Spyware Doctor plus AntiVirus took 51 minutes to scan our test computer’s hard drive. This is a very reasonable time and is on par with competing solutions such as Norton AntiVirus 2010 and Kaspersky.

Conclusion

PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus is a middle-of-the-road antivirus and antispyware protection suite for home users. Its most attractive feature is the user-friendly interface and general ease of use — we found the plain English explanations very useful. PCTools’ $39.99 MSRP is an expected price for basic protection. The software was not as proactive as some competitors and the performance hit on our test system was noticeable, which again was not something we found with competing software. Overall PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus gets the job done but has a limited value proposition.

PROS

  • Great interface
  • User-friendly explanations
  • Relatively short scan times

CONS

  • Noticeable performance hit
  • Could be more proactive
  • Installs Google toolbar


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