What the heck is Spyware?
Spyware is a generic term for programs that install themselves on your computer without telling you that they are there. They run in the background tracking where you go online and sending the information off to the company that built the program. Hence the term "Spyware" or Spying Software.
The reason for spyware being built originally was to use it as a marketing tool. If you know where a person surfs then you can target advertisements toward that person based on their surfing habits.
Newer spyware programs are becoming more malicious and harder to remove than they were before. This is where the term Malware comes in . . . or Malicious Software. The term "Malware" also refers to Trojans or Virus depending on what it does.
So how do I get it off my computer?
In most cases spyware removal is a fairly simple process. There are some excellent Free Tools available to help keep your system clean.
For best results I suggest using more than one. Also, it is good to plan on doing a cleanup/spyware removal at least once a month to keep your computer in top working order.
The tools I find work best are (in no particular order):
Spybot Search & Destroy
Microsoft Spyware Removal Tool
These are all free tools and work well in conjunction with each other.
(Special Note for the Microsoft Spyware Removal Tool: If you do not have a Valid copy of Windows XP you will NOT be able to install this. Microsoft implemented a Validation Test to check for illegal copies of Windows XP.)
So now, we'll break down the steps to keep your computer spyware free and in excellent running order. If you follow these steps your computer will run much faster. After many years of doing cleanups this is the fastest way I know of to complete this process. You can do it in any order but the time it takes to complete will vary. On a reasonably new machine, a complete cleanup and spyware scan usually only takes about an hour if you follow this order.
1. Create a Folder on your desktop called CLEANUP
2. Open your browser and go to: http://toddarsenault.com/cleanup.html
, or download them directly from the internet.
3. You can download the tools used in this article there.
4. Download a copy of Adaware.
5. Download a copy of Spybot.
6. Download a copy of VoptXP (Only program that is not free.)
7. Download a copy of RegCleanerXP.
8. Download a copy of CrapCleaner (sorry . . . I didn't name it)
9. If you do not currently have an Antivirus program, please feel free to download a copy of Avast from http://www.avast.com
. It is a free and excellent Antivirus tool.
Now . . . what do we do with all this?
1. Open your CLEANUP folder and install VoptXP first.
2. When that is complete install CrapCleaner. (You can leave all the settings default when you install these programs.)
3. Run the CrapCleaner program and click on Analyse. This will take some time depending on how many junk files are on your computer.
4. Once it is done analysing your computer click on the RunCleaner button. This will eliminate all the junk files that windows tends to store.
5. Close the CrapCleaner program now and open VoptXP.
6. Click on the Checkmark to Analyse your hard drive.
7. Once that is complete Click on the button to the left of the checkmark. It looks like a stack of rectangles.
8. Do not run any other programs while this is running. VoptXP is defragging your hard drive.
a. Just a note on why I suggest using VoptXP: You can use the defrag program that comes with XP if you prefer, Vopt is just faster at defragging a drive. This is not a FREE program but will work for 30 days.
9. Once the defrag is complete close VoptXP and reboot the computer.
10. Now install Adaware and Spybot.
11. We are going to run Spybot first for a couple of reasons. It immunises the computer and does a registry backup before making any changes. It will also ask to update the files . . . please do this as you will want the newest definitions to catch all the spyware.
12. Once Spybot has completed scanning it may ask you to reboot or tell you that it could not clean all the spyware. If it asks to do a scan on reboot, say Yes.
13. Now we want to run Adaware. Whew . . . seems like a lot of work when I type it ;-)
14. Adaware is fairly easy to work with. Simply click on Start when it loads. You don't have to change any settings. When the scan is complete you do have to right click on the spyware found and left click on "Select All" - Then simply click the Next or Finish button.
If you followed the steps above your computer will be running faster and your surfing habits won't be being tracked by spyware.