Five Easy Tips for Adware and Spyware Removal
Adware and spyware, programs installed on your computer without your knowledge or consent, can significantly disrupt the way your computer functions. This article explains the impact of adware and spyware on your computer and discusses how you can remove these annoying, potentially dangerous, programs.
Be Aware of the Problem
Before you can protect yourself against adware and spyware, it's important to know what each program does. Adware delivers advertising to your computer in the form of annoying pop-ups, banner ads, toolbars, etc. Adware may also "hijack" your browser so that it opens to a new homepage, often having to do with pornography or commercial interests. Spyware is any program that records your keystrokes or online habits and sends that information back to a third party, who then uses it to steal your identity or to send a flurry of customized ads in your direction.
Know the Symptoms
Symptoms that your computer could be infected with adware or spyware include sluggishness (e.g., slower to start and run programs), slow browser, "hijacked" home page, pop-ups that include your name or other identifying information and occur even when you're not web surfing, and items that appear or disappear from your favorite websites, etc.
Select a Good Scanning Program
If you think your computer is infected with adware or spyware, check it out. Download or buy a reputable program that will scan your computer for these annoying programs. Examples of programs you might want to try include Spyware Terminator or Ad-Aware SE Personal from Lavasoft. Beware of spam email that offers you links to an adware or spyware removal program. Chances are excellent that if you click the link, you'll just be downloading more adware or spyware. Spyware Terminator has an excellent section on their webpage where they list free downloads and what programs, if any, those downloads are "bundled" with.
After running the scan, the adware/spyware removal program that you have selected will report the results to you. At that point, you will have the option of either deleting problem programs or quarantining them--moving them to a place on your computer where they can no longer spy on you or influence ad content.
The first time you run the scan, you may be shocked to find yourself with several hundred malware (i.e., malicious software) programs on your computer. Once you have removed the initial programs, set up a schedule to scan your computer at least once a week (some companies recommend as often as once a day).
Careful What You Download in the Future
Adware and spyware programs typically get onto your computer in several ways. They may be the result of "drive by" downloads which attack unprotected computers connected to the internet. If your computer is always connected to the internet, install a personal firewall. Adware and spyware programs may also get onto your computer by being bundled with another program you have downloaded. Vulnerable programs include games, shared files, music and movie videos, screensavers, etc.
Take time to look at the user's agreement before you "sign" it. Some user's agreements say explicitly that they intend to share your personal information, which means the program you are planning to download is almost certainly bundled with adware, spyware, or both. Adware and spyware can be a pain, but with a little time and internet savvy, you can remove these annoying, unwanted programs from your computer for good.