AdwCleaner is a compact and portable tool which can help you to remove toolbars, adware and similar browser-based pests.
The program's interface is, well, a little basic. Click "Search" and in a moment or two an in-depth report appears in Notepad, describing any issues you might have. Click "Delete" and AdwCleaner will try to delete everything, displaying another Notepad report on the details. And that's about it.
While this is undoubtedly very simple, our immediate concern is that there's no general way to tell AdwCleaner what you want to keep, and what should go. The only control comes in the Options dialog, where you can instruct AdwCleaner to ignore the Ask toolbar, or not to examine one or more browsers (the program supports IE, Firefox, Chrome and Opera).
Does it work, though? To find out, we installed a few free programs, allowing them to install whatever they liked. And when we ran AdwCleaner, it correctly detected and displayed everything we'd just acquired: the RelevantKnowledge service, Babylon Toolbar, Complitly, Smart Suggestor and more.
We clicked "Delete", and after confirming that yes, we really were sure, AdwCleaner went to work, closing all our programs, removing the various files and Registry keys, and rebooting our PC. You don't get much choice in any of this - there's no "reboot later" option - and, again, we didn't really feel in control. But when our system restarted, the unwanted extras had all disappeared, and that's clearly good news.
AdwCleaner is short on options, then. It's difficult to see or control exactly what it's going to do. And there's no real documentation, which all goes to make us feel just a little on the nervous side.
But, at the same time, the program does appear to do a reasonable job of detecting and removing common browser annoyances. And so, while it wouldn't be our first choice of toolbar remover, it might be worth keeping a copy of AdwCleaner in reserve, just in case you encounter something that your regular tools can't handle.
It's worrying that AdwCleaner provides so little control over what it does. The program seems to work well, though, and if your regular antispyware tool can't remove something then we'd give it a try