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Merjin HijackThis V1.99
- Can remove anything, Free
- Complicated, Poor aesthetics
As the most powerful anti-spyware program available online HijackThis is also the most complicated. It is extremely useful for removing problems other programs just can’t crack.
Whilst you may have used Lavasoft's Ad-Aware Personal Edition or Safer Networking's Spybot Search and Destroy to cleanse your system of online nasties, one program you have probably not heard of is HijackThis; and we assure you have been missing out. A tiny, fairly basic piece of software, HijackThis was created by a Norwegian College student in his spare time, and has since gone on to become one of the most powerful anti-spyware tools available.
The downside is that HijackThis is unsuitable for the novice user. The power of this program lies in its ability to reveal everything on your system. Rather than running a pretty interface with a list of definitions it checks against, HijackThis simply scans your system and gives you a readout of everything that is, has been or will be running on your system during that session. This includes things like extra buttons that have been added to your browser windows, files that execute on startup, outgoing connections (things like automatic updaters), changes that have been made to your Internet settings (startup page etc) and processes that are currently running. It is an exhaustive list.
HijackThis then gives you the option to remove any of these processes, but as every system is different, it gives you no advice as to what should go. This is where beginners can get in to trouble. Removing registry entries and files that merely look suspect is a sure fire way to wind up reaching for your Windows XP CD; believe us, we've tried. Unless you are an experienced user, your best bet is to ask for help on one of the many online forums dedicated to the program. It generates a log file from your scan, which can easily be posted and read by people who understand the results. Whilst we cannot guarantee the quality of their information our experience has been that they respond quickly and professionally and we have never heard of a case of erroneous advice causing problems. Choose your site carefully and you will be spyware free in no time.
Aesthetically the software is nothing special. A basic grey and white design, it is made to function rather than to look pretty. However everything is simple and intuitive, so whilst new users may struggle with the program's output, they will have no trouble at all getting to that stage.
HijackThis also has a few other functions besides simply scanning. It can backup files that you remove, which helps somewhat when you delete something critical, but restoring a file after deletion won't always fix your problem, so use this feature with care. It also offers several Windows functions, such as 'uninstall manager' and 'process manager', which perform very similarly to their Microsoft counterparts, but in a more streamlined manner. Rounding out the package is a very nifty 'delete files on reboot' function, which helps cleanse those spyware files already running during that session.
Overall HijackThis is great if you've got a few problems you just cannot get rid of. For the average user Ad-Aware Personal Edition will be more than enough but we've encountered more than one scenario in our time online that has required something heftier and if you can get around the inaccessibility, HijackThis is the solution.
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