You probably remember the early days of your then-brand-new computer. It started up really fast, programs like word processors and Internet browsers were quick up on their feet, and there were very little or no system lockups or “hangs”. After some time, you probably noticed your computer slowing down and crashes became more frequent (If you want to create your own computer, learn how to build a computer).
There are a lot of things that may cause your computer to slow down: fragmentation, computer viruses, or corrupted or malformed registries. If you regularly defragment your computer and have updated antivirus software running 24/7, then the root of such slowdowns may be adware.
Adware is a type of malware, under which category spyware, worms, and trojans fall. Though not as dangerous as the other types of malware, it can be quite risky because your privacy is at stake. Adware has the capability to monitor your behavior on the Internet, not to mention the slowing down of your computer.
What is Adware?
Adware is a type of functional software that has advertisement functions bundled with it. This is common with “free” software. In order to provide software for free, the developer of the software may wotk with an online advertisement company to display ads on the program. The money that the developer makes from the ads on the program help recover the expenses from developing the program and will sponsor future development.
Adware can also come from online advertisements by exploiting the operating system or the Internet browser doing “drive-by downloads,” which is basically installing software without your permission or knowledge.
The problem is, many developers abuse ad-supported software by monitoring internet users’ activities to deliver targeted products or services to the user. For example: you love shoes, and most of the websites you visit are those of shoe brands. Adware may intercept this data and relay advertisements of shoes to you. If you want a secure computer, you must get rid of adware.
Getting Rid of Adware
To completely do away with adware, you must get rid of the programs first. Uninstall the software and make sure it does not leave parts of the program behind. The most common adware programs are free games, peer-to-peer clients like KaZaa, BearShare, iMesh and LimeWire. Basically, any software you have that is “free” and that displays advertisement banners is adware. Uninstalling these programs is the first step to ridding your computer of adware.
You do not have to worry if you use those programs a lot. There are tons of software programs out there that are 100 percent free – no strings attached. Open source programs are surely trustworthy. A good alternative to peer-to-peer software like KaZaa and Limewire, for example, is Ares Galaxy, an open source P2P program.
Once you are sure that you have removed every program that has adware from your computer, you can move on to the next step.
Sweeping for Adware: Anti-Adware Software
Even when you have removed every program that has adware from your computer, there will surely be remnants left behind, buried deep inside your hard drive. It is almost impossible to find and manually delete this adware from your computer unless you are a computer expert. To make sure that nothing is left behind, you must use anti-adware programs to sweep your hard drive clean of this malware.
You do not have to spend money to buy anti-adware programs since there are quite a number of good and free programs that can help you completely remove adware from your machine. Most anti-adware programs are anti-spyware, too. Some notable software you can try are Ad-Aware, Spybot Search and Destroy, and Hijackthis.
After you download your anti-adware software, install it and scan for adware. Before you scan for adware, make sure you update the definition files first so that the software can detect the newer malware on your computer. Be patient, for it may take some time to completely scan for adware; the scanning speed depends on the size of your hard drive and the amount of malware that is present on your hard drive. After the scanning is completed, you may be overwhelmed with the number of threats that the program has found. Before you delete or make any changes, you’ll usually be asked to make a backup of the settings so that if ever something goes wrong, you can revert to the previous state.
Adware-proofing your Computer
After deleting every single trace of adware from your computer, you still can’t celebrate, not just yet. Anytime, adware can come back without you knowing what put misery back onto your computer. To make sure none of these uninvited guests will be making it through your computer, you will have to install defenses against them.
You must have the “three-way tandem” – Antivirus, anti-spyware/adware, and a firewall to ensure protection not just from adware, but also from spyware, adware, viruses, and other forms of malware.
Likewise, never open spam messages in your email or click on online ads that look dubious. Spam may contain spyware, adware, or even viruses. Pop-ups that say your computer is infected with spyware or your computer is “not secure” are often adware, too. Avoid downloading software that claims to “fix” problems in your computer through these advertisments.
If you don’t have the budget for commercial software, you can go for the free stuff. For antivirus, you can use AVG Antivirus Free Edition, Avast Antivirus Free Edition, or ClamWin Antivirus to prevent viruses invading your PC (More tips on how to get rid of computer viruses).
You already know what anti-spyware/adware does, so just make sure it is updated regularly. Often times, you don’t have to manually check for updates since the majority of these programs automatically connect to the Internet and download program updates if available. Just make sure they have access to the Internet (Learn how to use the internet).
Lastly: the firewall. This computer software prevents threats from the outside, like hackers and malicious programs, from connecting to your computer. It also prevents unauthorized programs (think spyware, adware, viruses) from accessing the Internet, too. There are quite a number of good and free firewall software out there. Comodo, Zonealarm, and Ashampoo are some of the popular and good free firewalls around. Install any of these to ensure your protection.
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