Antispyware vs Antivirus – When to Use What?

Anti-spyware and antivirus are two security measures that users undertake to protect their systems from being attacked by viruses and malwares. Along with the rapid increase in the use of the internet as well as progress in different sectors of the cyber world, lots of dangerous threats have also popped up. The leading risks among them are spyware and virus.

Spyware monitors a user’s activities secretly and stashes away sensitive user data, violating the user’s privacy. It intrudes a system without the user’s consent and covertly attacks the system.


On the other hand, a virus is a piece of code, which when attacks a system, replicates itself quickly and intends to shut down the device from further functioning. It can corrupt files and destroy all data.

To combat with these cyber threats, every user needs countermeasures. Antivirus and anti-spyware software are preferred mostly to bolster a system’s security and safety.

These softwares are designed to detect, block and remove malicious threats like viruses, malwares, etc from a system. They perform timely scans of the devices and check for any risk or attack on the system.

Popular anti-spyware softwares are SpywareBlaster, Adaware, Malwarebytes, SpyBot, Windows Defender, etc. Popular antivirus softwares are McAfee, Kaspersky Lab, Norton antivirus, BullGuard, etc. Some of them offer both anti-spyware and antivirus protection features together.

Though the functions of both anti-spyware and antivirus sound similar, yet they have differences between them. Where do they differ?

But before we discuss anti-spyware, antivirus and their functionalities and differences, let us quickly recap about spyware and virus.

What is spyware?

Spyware is a malware that “spies” your computer, i.e., it invades your system and monitors your activities secretly.

Over 80% of the internet users are victims of spyware, but the majority of them are unaware about the attack.

Hackers use this method to steal sensitive user data like bank account details, login credentials, passwords, etc and may use them in criminal or fraudulent activities.

Most of the time, spyware intrudes a system when users click infected links or open malicious attachments in emails from unknown sources while accepting a prompt without reading the terms and conditions correctly.

Spyware can also make a way by use of backdated software or downloaded from unreliable websites.

Signs of the presence of spyware on your system include the frequent appearance of endless pop-up windows, slow performance of the system, redirection to unwanted websites, shortage of hard-drive storage space, etc.

How can you protect your system? This is where the need and incorporation of anti-spyware software on your device arises.

What is anti-spyware?

Anti-spyware is a security solution, widely used by people, to prevent and detect undesired spyware on a system and remove them when found.

It operates in the background and keeps checking for any suspicious activity or presence of any malicious program on the system which can be a door to spyware.

Once detected, it removes them skillfully.

Anti-spyware performs a hard disk scan by searching all the files with a database of known spyware and checks for a match.

It is also capable of monitoring URLs visited for tracking any malicious websites as well as performing registry and memory scan to check all the processes running on a system.

Anti-spyware software is highly essential to prevent one’s system from being spied by any cyber crook as well as maintaining one’s privacy rights.

It offers real-time protection as well as includes updates to combat even the recently discovered spyware.

Some of the popular anti-spyware are

There are several popular anti-spyware software that helps in fighting, preventing and protecting against spyware. Some of them are SUPERAntiSpyware, Malwarebytes, Adaware, SpywareBlaster, SpyBot, etc.

This software help in scanning the system, block new spyware, remove existing ones, identify rootkits and help to secure your privacy.

What is a virus?

A virus is a program or a piece of code that loads onto the system without the user’s consent and quickly replicates itself with the intention of damaging the entire system. All computer viruses are human-made.

A computer virus goes on running, using all the available memory and shuts down the system from functioning further. It can corrupt files and destroy information.

Indications of a virus attack on your system include missing files or additional files in your device, the appearance of too many error messages, system crashes, slower performance, etc.

How to fight back with them? Here is when you need antivirus software.

What is an antivirus?

Antivirus software is a program which is designed to detect, block and remove viruses from a system.

It uses various methodologies to identify viruses like behavioral scanning, signature-based scanning, and heuristics. Once detected, it provides an option to quarantine, repair or delete it.

They include auto-updates to fight all threats efficiently.

An antivirus may either run continuously in the background (on-access scanner) to check for new threats or it may scan when demanded by the user (on-demand scanner).

Some of the popular antiviruses are

There are several antivirus software available to combat malicious threats in the cyber world.

Popular ones are Avast! Free Antivirus, AVG Antivirus, Microsoft Security Essentials, Comodo Antivirus, Panda Cloud Antivirus, etc.

They offer features like auto-updates, scan the entire system, excellent protection to the devices, detection, and blocking of threats, monitoring of links and emails, etc.

Just a minute. Don’t the functionalities of anti-spyware and antivirus sound similar?

Well, yes, they sound close! Both antivirus and anti-spyware are known to detect, block and remove malicious threats. Both of them can combat malware as well as the virus.

Then, where do they differ? When to use which one? Let us find out.

What are the differences between anti-spyware and antivirus?

Both anti-spyware and antivirus are security solutions for any system. Both incorporate auto-updates, both can fight malwares, viruses, and several other threats, both ensure user privacy and security, etc.

Anti-spyware works proactively and can deal the latest and more dangerous threats, especially spyware and other malwares, very effectively.

But, antivirus mainly deals with the classic types of online threats like trojans, worm, etc (which are already known) in a better way than the newly rising risks.

Also, both the software differ in their pattern of scanning the system to search for the threats. Anti-spyware explores by hard disk scan, monitoring URLs, registry and memory scan, etc.

However, antivirus performs signature-based scans, heuristic-based scan, behavioral based scan, sandbox detection, and data mining methods.

So, though their functionalities are close, there are slight differences! Then, when to opt for the right choice?

Which one should you choose – anti-spyware or antivirus?

Security experts say that one single technology is not sufficient to detect everything.

The best thing could be software built out of the combination of both antivirus and anti-spyware software to combat the malicious threats effectively.

That’s why many people recommend installing both of them on a system to get combined and comprehensive protection. However, both the software must be compatible with each other.

In this way, antivirus can help you catch the classic and already known threats whereas anti-spyware can help you detect and combat more advanced and latest versions of risks.

Though having both of this software does not mean that you are 100% safe, but they do increase your security and protection to a higher level.



Anti-spyware and antivirus software are techniques that offer protection and security to different systems. Anti-spyware helps to fight spyware and various other types of malware as well as viruses. Antivirus combats viruses and certain kinds of malware.

Both have free as well as paid versions. Both offer auto-updates, scanning features, detection and removal of threats and help to bolster the security of a system.

But, they differ in the way they perform the searches and scans in the system, and the category of threats encountered. Antivirus deals old and classic threats effectively whereas anti-spyware deals newer and more advanced threats skillfully.

One single security solution is not enough to fight all threats and dangers. That’s why the combined use of both of these softwares is often recommended to increase the safety of a system.

Though it does not ensure 100% security even after installing both of them, yet it augments the protection of the system to a considerable level.


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