Despite recent advances in neuroimaging, differentiation between cerebral abscesses and necrotic tumors with ring-type contrast enhancement can be puzzling at times. The introduction of advanced imaging techniques, such as diffusion-weighted imaging, has contributed to the identification of cerebral abscesses. However, differentiation may be impossible with imaging only. In this review the authors evaluate the role of proton magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy in differentiating between cerebral abscesses and necrotic tumors and address the spectral characteristics of intracranial abscesses. A large number of metabolites not detected in the normal brain spectra may be detected and give valuable information regarding the nature of the abscesses. Proton MR spectroscopy is a safe, noninvasive diagnostic modality, which could significantly increase the accuracy and specificity of conventional MR imaging in differentiating between malignant tumors and cerebral abscesses and provide valuable information regarding the cause of an abscess, as well as, its response to the chosen treatment.