The difference between antispyware and antivirus software can depend a great deal on the particular software in question and how they are designed and developed. Antispyware programs are typically designed to specifically find spyware on a computer and remove it. This is quite similar to antivirus programs, which are developed to find and remove or isolate viruses on a computer. While both antispyware and antivirus software is created to remove malicious software, they may have different resources for finding these types of programs, including the database of different signatures that each type of program can access.
Depending on the type of software in question, the differences between antispyware and antivirus software can be slight or nonexistent. Antispyware programs are developed to find spyware on a computer and then remove it so it no longer poses a risk to the computer user. Spyware typically refers to programs that can end up on a computer, which then monitor activities for a variety of reasons. This can include keyloggers that track keystrokes made by a user and then send a record of those strokes to someone else.
The use of antispyware and antivirus software is typically intended to find and remove these kinds of threats. Antispyware software, specifically, is able to look for spyware programs on a computer. This is often done by utilizing a database of spyware signatures, to which programs on a computer are compared during a scan. When a match is found, the spyware is flagged for removal by the program or the computer user.
An antivirus program typically looks for viruses on a computer, which are programs that are installed onto a computer and cause a wide range of problems. This can range from deleting information on a drive to causing a system to overheat and physically damage computer components. Antivirus programs typically use the same methods used by antispyware software, though they may allow difficult programs to be quarantined rather than just deleted.
The major difference between antispyware and antivirus software is the type of database each program can access. Antispyware programs usually have a record of different spyware signatures used for reference, while antivirus programs have signatures for viruses instead. Many comprehensive programs provide users with multiple tools for dealing with malicious software, often by combining both antispyware and antivirus software. These programs typically access a large database of signatures for many types of malware, and then provide a user with the appropriate tools for dealing with threats found.