One day you’re using the computer and it starts messing up. It might shut down without warning, stop running certain programs, slow down your progress, or display random pop-up advertisements when you are surfing the Internet.
You start to suspect that your computer has been infected with spyware, and so your first instinct is to get rid of it so you can return to safely and easily using your computer.
1. What is spyware?
Many computer users do not actually understand what spyware is, and some of the symptoms that were mentioned above can be the result of other causes like running too many programs at once. It’s important to understand what spyware is, what it can do, and if you truly have spyware on your computer so you can deal with it.
Spyware is classified as a software program or application that has been installed on a computer without the knowledge or consent of the user. Depending on the specific spyware that has infected a computer, the effects can be different.
These programs can be really invasive, even going as far as letting a third party login to your account and changing all your passwords.
While some spyware is easily identifiable, there are many more that are hard to pick out. This could be because they work well in the background and are not noticeable, or that they are disguised as legitimate programs.
Lists of spyware can be found on the internet, and if you are ever in doubt on if a program you have installed on your computer or are considering installing, simply try searching the name of the program along with the word spyware into Google.
Some programs that are actually considered spyware include KaZaa, which also comes with a number of other spyware bundled with its installation; CoolWebSearch, found in internet browsers out of nowhere. One of the more surprising bits of spyware out there is the Ask Toolbar. It’s been around for a while, so most would think it’s harmless. Anti-virus programs are only now starting to identify it as spyware.
2. Run an Anti-Virus Scan
After you’ve figured out that your computer has been infected with spyware, the next thing that you should do is run a complete scan on your computer using an anti-virus program. This should allow you to remove almost all of the most common spyware programs, and even some of the harder to remove ones.
If you do not already have an anti-virus program that removes spyware on your computer, you should look at installing one now. Keep in mind however, that you may need to download it on another computer before transferring it by a USB drive. Lots of spyware programs will try their hardest to stop you from installing anti-virus software.
Some popular and effective anti-virus programs that you can install include AVG Anti-virus, Norton Anti-virus, McAfee Anti-virus, Super Anti-Spyware, Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool, and the many programs under IoBit that help with spyware identification and removal.
When you are choosing an anti-virus program to help get rid of your spyware, it’s important to consider that some programs (mostly commercial ones where you have to pay for their use) may actually name other popular anti-virus programs as spyware.
This is normally done in an attempt to reduce the competition. This is also becoming less common, but it does sometimes still happen, so if you are considering downloading more than one anti-virus program you should check and make sure that they will work with each other.
3. Examine Installed Programs
If you have run your computer scans, but your computer still seems to be infected with spyware, you should check the list of installed programs on your computer. Run through the list and identify any programs that you do not recognize. If you didn’t install them yourself, they could very well be spyware and you should make sure that you uninstall them now.
You can also check recently installed programs if your computer has just begun causing you problems, as you could have accidently downloaded spyware onto your computer.
A good tip for uninstalling programs would be to use IoBit’s Uninstaller. Like the basic uninstall tools on every computer regardless of whether it is a PC or a Mac, this uninstall tool comes with a basic uninstall method. However, you can also do batch uninstalls where you select multiple programs to uninstall at the same time.
In addition, the IoBit Uninstaller also performs what it calls a ‘Powerful Uninstall’, where after it does the basic actions, it will rescan your computer to identify any leftover files and extensions that the program may have left behind. It will then ask you which ones you would like to uninstall.
4. Choose a Restore Point
If your computer still isn’t running properly, go to your system’s restore program and pick out a restore point (whether automatically or manually created) from before your computer had the spyware.
All you need to do now is run the system restore function, and your computer will do the rest. However, you should always back up you files before running this program as it will delete all files and programs downloaded after the chosen restore point.
5. Factory Reset
Unfortunately, if you have gone through all of the above steps and none of them have worked, your only other option is really to just do a complete factory reset on your computer. Luckily, it is rare that you will be reduced to doing this, as most spyware can be removed using one or more of the previous steps.
Just like choosing a restoration point, you will want to create a backup of the files you want saved on a USB drive or external hard drive. Make sure that you are 100 percent positive that these files are not compromised by the spyware infecting your computer before you back them up.
6. Regular Checkups
Now that you have successfully removed the spyware infecting your computer, you still have a little bit of work to do. In order to stop spyware from returning to your computer, you need to perform regular checkups on your computer.
Schedule automatic scans from your anti-virus program, even if they only examine the critical areas of your computer. If you only have them examine the critical areas of your computer, you should also be prepared to manually perform a complete scan of your computer.
While you are free to determine your own schedule for scanning and ensuring your computer is free of spyware, it is recommended that you perform scans no more than one week apart from one another. Beyond frequently checking for spyware, this also makes sure that if your computer does get infected with spyware again, you won’t have to lose as much data this time around.
Cleaning your computer happens to be the least physically demanding duty out there, so kick your feet up and relax. Let your computer do the fixing for you!