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Ridding Your Computer of Unwanted Software

Spyware is one form of unwanted software that secretly finds its way onto your computer. The term spyware generally refers to any software that performs certain functions such as advertising, changing the configuration of your computer, or collecting personal information. Spyware may track sensitive information, keep track of your browsing habits, or steal information from you.

Other types of unwanted software may reconfigure your hard drive in such a way that it slows down or crashes, change your browser settings or homepage, add components to your browser that you do not need or do not want, and make it nearly impossible to restore your browser back to its original settings.

Adware is a version of spyware designed to display advertisements. Certain free software programs come bundled with adware as a means for the developer to recover the cost of the program. Innocuous adware is only visible when parts of the program are running, and are displayed on the peripheral of the computer display. Harmful adware fills your computer screen with annoying pop-ups and interferes with the use of your programs.

Signs of Infection from Unwanted Software

If you notice your computer exhibiting any of the following behaviors, there is a good chance it has been infected with unwanted software:

  • Your browser home page has changed.
  • Unusual items appear on your browser.
  • Your system is running slowly or crashes.
  • You receive excessive pop-ups, even at times when your web browser is not running.
  • You notice activity on your computer, such as your modem light flashing or programs being downloaded, even when you are not on your computer.
  • You notice extensive long distance charges on your telephone bill to numbers that you did not call.

The unauthorized installation of prying spyware not only can be annoying and harmful to your computer, it can be detrimental to your financial well-being if your personal information is stolen and used illegally. It can also constitute an invasion of privacy.

Do Not Give Them Permission

Many forms of unwanted software piggyback wanted software, such as video downloads or music downloads. Shareware programs also can have unwanted software – particularly adware – bundled as part of the download.

Many of these software programs have license agreements or privacy statements which you must agree to prior to being able to download the software. Be sure to read these statements in detail – many times the inclusion of a spyware program is documented towards the end of the agreement. The software programmers realize that most people fail to thoroughly read these statements, and by agreeing to their disclosure you may be inadvertently allowing spyware to be installed on your computer.

Protecting Your System

The best defense against spyware or other unwanted computer programs is to first be very careful about the programs you are installing. If you are unsure about a program, take the safe route and do not install it on your computer. Secondly, make sure you install and use a reputable anti-spyware program. 2 such programs that has received favorable user feedback is XoftSpySE from Paretologic, Spyware Doctor from PC Tools and Adaware 2007 which will track down and eliminate any unwanted software or malware quickly.

Beware of any “freeware” or any type of Internet helper tools, since that is how spyware users commonly install their programs. Pop-up windows warning of a security threat are many times ploys to get you to install their programs, which include spyware, and anything telling you that you are a winner of a free prize should be ignored completely. If in doubt, delay installation of the program until you have the time to research its authenticity properly.