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On install, some anti-malware programs may warn you if issues might result. Occasionally, one of those issues is the presence of a competing product.

I get this message every time I start Spybot which follows: "Spybot-Search&Destroy has detected that you have the following product installed. This may cause incompatibilities; for more information click Yes to visit our website", etc. And then lists: LavaSoft AdAware which I do have installed on my computer. Should I remove one the these two programs or keep them both and live with the message?

I've never seen this message, but its presence doesn't surprise me.

Spybot and AdAware are two programs that do the same thing: they're anti-spyware scanners.

And while it might be easy to think that this is simply one program calling out its competitor, it's much more likely that there's an honest technical reason for the message.

In general it's a bad idea to run two real-time anti-virus or anti-spyware products at the same time. To clarify that a little:

  • You should run both an anti-virus program and an anti-spyware program.

  • Both of those may have "real time" scanning components, and that's ok.

  • You should not have two anti-virus programs running real-time components simultaneously; they are likely to conflict.

  • You should not have two anti-spyware programs running real-time components simultaneously; they are likely to conflict.

  • You certainly can run as many different non-real time scans as you like, as long as they're not run at the same time.

"In general it's a bad idea to run two real-time anti-virus or anti-spyware products at the same time."

So what do I mean by "real time"?

Real time scanning is software that runs in the background and scans for malware while you go about your daily tasks. It might examine your downloads as you're downloading them, or scan your email as it comes in. It happens as you do it, in real time.

The alternative is a stand-alone or "static" scan. You initiate a scan, it scans your system, reports anything it finds, and it exits. Nothing is installed, nothing remains, it simply looks for problems and then goes away.

The problem is that real time scanners need to "hook into" the system to perform their scans. And if more than one scanner attempts to hook in for real time scans, they can conflict with each other.

My guess is that Spybot is noticing that AdAware is hooked in, and warning you of the potential conflict.

There are a few approaches you can take.

You can, of course, simply choose one or the other. In all honesty, this is my suggestion. Both are good products, and there's rarely a case where you really need both.

The alternative is to turn off any real time components in one of the two. Exactly how that's done depends on the product, but look for terms like "resident", "real time" and the like. If I'm not mistaken, I think Spybot has the oddly named "tea timer" as a real time component as well.

That way, only one product will protect you while you use your computer, and you then can use the other periodically "on demand" to perform static scans of your system.

But good for you for using anti-spyware software. You're ahead of many people in this regard.

Article C3530 - October 13, 2008 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

October 13, 2008 10:29 AM

I use both Ad-Aware and Spybot and have not seen this message before. Although, I have seen it prior to downloading other anti-virus apps. I agree with Leo's assessment that the key here is 'real-time'. I use free version of both of these products and use them 'on demand'. By doing so, it has yet to cause a conflict.

October 13, 2008 3:50 PM

I believe the "error" message mentioned includes a prompt that will direct you to more information on - the page states that Ad-Aware may mistakenly identify some of Spybot Search and Destroy's files as malware.

October 14, 2008 8:12 AM

I have have two real time spyware running with no problem or slow down, spyware terminator and windows defender and 1 on demand scanner

October 14, 2008 8:23 AM

I have had this same 'pop-up' screen; many times. I use different op systems and now a new hard drive and I know my utility programs. So while downloading updates I download my utility programs. Just make sure the asked program is not running and go ahead. I've been using both of the above mentioned programs for years and have no programs with them..separately. I consider it a non-issue and move on!!!!!

Pete Ross
October 14, 2008 9:46 AM

I too have used both utilities (free versions) and have seen the message that SBSD provides. Can't recall, but there may have been a "don't show this message again" choice on the popup. I have had no problems with using both programs. Both are passive protection.

John Ellis
October 14, 2008 9:53 AM

While it is not advisable to run 2 real-time anti-virus programs at the same time (they HAVE components that one can almost identify as a "virus", to "recognise" a virus), it is normally NOT a problem to run 2 or more anti-spyware real-time programs! NOTE: Spybot uses the "Tea-timer", which also acts as a "firewall" against spyware. It is imperative, to disable this accessory from Spybot. And, along the lines of firewalls, if one uses a decent firewall, then you should also disable the WINDOWS Firewall! I personally use Jetico for my firewall, Avast! Anti-virus Professional, PC Tools Spyware Doctor AND SUPERAntiSpyware, in real-time configuration!
Also, you should check which version of Spybot you are using, as there was also a version out that had a number of bugs, and unless one is above the average user, NOT the "beta" version!
Using 2 similar programs, although NOT in identical modes, is a good idea! One always "checks" the other one!

Linda Tremaine
October 14, 2008 10:48 AM

Question similar what this person went through. I installed Spybot and did my best to delete/uninstall it. I think it messed up MY registry and iexplorer program (tools options locked, often can't print and can't hear some of flashplayer sound when I run moviesl) Its driving me crazy...I've tried all the usual remedies I've read about, but no good! Can you help?


Charles B. Simpson
October 14, 2008 12:45 PM

I use both Ad Aware and Spybot, both are the free versions and each time I run Spybot I get the message about the program conflict and I ignore the message. as these are passive programs and only check for errors when you issue a scan command. I have found that in the past Spybot will find items Ad aware dose not find and Ad Aware finds items Spybot has missed.

October 15, 2008 12:59 AM

I used to run both AdAaware and Spybot, both occasionally finding different items. However I had to get my local shop to reinstall Windows XP for me when I crashed in the summer and his recommendation was to use (only) Windows Defender for spyware. He put on Avast 4.8 but the reviews seem marginally to favou AVG 8.0

October 17, 2008 4:58 PM

To expand on the comment that AC2 made:
The reason that Spybot recommends not using another antispyware is that spybot replaces some adware files with similar files without a payload aka "dummies". Let's say that a certain adware package is required to use another product on your computer that you still want to use. Spybot will replace the file that serves the ads and violates your privacy and replace it with another file that makes the product still think you are viewing ads, and so it still works. Essentially, uninstalling certain ad software will make the programs that rely on it not work, so Spybot tricks those programs. Hope that wasn't too confusing.

Bearing all that in mind, another antispyware product might think the dummies are the original malware and try to remove them, rendering the programs relying on it inoperable. So, if you do run another program (I run several antispyware and antivirus one after the other) just remember which files Spybot replaced (look atthe logs).

October 18, 2008 10:15 AM

I don't like Spybot or Adaware anymore, they both have become very bloated apps and it seems all they catch are cookies. While I do use 2 antivirus apps (avira - realtime, kaspersky - non realtime), I feel my best protection is Acronis TrueImage. I have partitioned my c: drive to only 10 gigs (only 5 is used) used only for my os (xp sp3) and a d: drive for everything else. It's easy to move your mydocs to d: and a simple registry hack to move your "Program Files"
to d:(google "moving "program files" to d:). So if anything at all happens to my os it's just a few minutes to reinstall my imaged c:. My surfing habits take me to many questionable sites and yet I sleep very well at night.

I agree: having good backups is one of the best sleep-aids I know of. :-)
- Leo

September 21, 2010 10:05 AM

While it's true that most warnings involve anti-malware programs which can actually interfere with each other, I have seen a rare occasion when other programs will detect the installation of a competitor and demand, no less, not simply warn, that the competitor must be removed. Since I know for a fact that the competitor is not running at the time, and will not interfere, I flatly refuse to comply. Or I simply won't use the one being installed. Basically...

Whichever one makes me choose,
Is the one that will lose.

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