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PC Doctor+ Guide 3 Spyware

Written By: Steve Latimer

Get Some Protection: Part 3 Spyware

We’ve put Spyware and Adware together because in many ways they are inextricably linked. They are certainly are both intrusive and extremely annoying. Left to accumulate, both types will have a detrimental affect on the performance of your PC. Let’s deal with Spyware first.

What Is Spyware?

Spyware often appears as cookies or small pieces of program code which are transferred to your computer from the internet or from installed software without your knowing. It’s purpose is simple enough – to make a note of what you are doing as you browse the web and then feed the information back to it’s originator – all of this while the user remains completely unaware of what is going on. Now why would anyone want to know this, you might ask.

Well that answer is simple enough too. Supposing you spend a lot of time looking at gardening sites. You might find that you soon begin to receive a lot of e-mails advertising seed catalogues. The Spyware has sent back information that suggests that you are a keen gardener and more importantly – a potential customer. Likewise, you may find that you start to get a lot of pop-up ads while you are browsing the Internet – some related to gardening and some related to the kind of other interests gardeners are expected to have.

If you’re still not sure what Spyware is all about then take a look at this new video from Microsoft (requires Macromedia Flash Player 7.0.)

What Is adware?

Although just as irritating, adware does, at least sometimes. tend to be a little more up front about itself. Some free software, Kazaa is a good example, fund themselves by displaying pop-up and static advertisements while you are using the software. When you install the Kazaa software other software is also installed which takes care of the advertisement maintenance. In fact, Kazaa will refuse to run if you uninstall the advertisement software.

Now it’s arguable that funding software this way is perfectly legitimate. After all, commercial television has been funding itself this way for many years. You, as the user, have to make a decision as to whether or not you are prepared to put up with the advertisements. The problem with a lot of adware is that you don’t get that choice. Sometimes the software you are installing doesn’t tell you that it comes with adware and you only find out after you have installed it when pop-ups begin to appear from nowhere.

As a user, you can install additional software which will search your hard drive for both Spyware and Adware and allow you to remove it. We currently recommend three packages all of which are free in at least their basic versions.

Microsoft Anti-Spyware Beta
Although still in its beta version, Microsoft have done a good job with this software and for the moment at least it is available for free download. Unfortunately, it will only work with Windows XP, 2000 or 2003 Server along with Internet Explorer 6. The software is easy to install, has an automated update feature, scheduling and also comes with some useful advanced tools such as Hijacker removal and a start-up editor. Typically of Microsoft, the Hijacker removal tool resets your settings to the Microsoft preferred settings i.e. MSN as your home page, MSN search as your preferred search engine and Internet Explorer as your browser but lets not be churlish. The software does a good job of seeking out both Spyware and Adware and will painlessly remove them.

Spybot Search and Destroy 1.3

Spybot is another free program and will work with all versions of windows and also does an excellent job of finding both Spyware and Adware on your hard drive. Free updates are available for download. We advise users to read through the on-line tutorial provided. This gives good guidance as to using the program but also is quite educational for those new to Spyware and Adware.

Lavasoft Ad-Aware Personal SE

Ad-Aware comes in both a free version (Personal SE) and a Pro version. It is well thought of in computer circles and seems to be a little quicker at scanning hard drives than both Microsoft Anti-Spyware and Spybot. Not all of the programs that Ad-Aware finds are malicious in nature and it provides a grading structure of any likely threats that it finds.

In practice, it is probably wise to to use two of the above programs to make sure that you have covered all possibilities. We would strongly advise that you make the scanning of your hard drive for both Spyware and Adware part of your routine PC maintenance. The impact of either on PC performance can be quite marked and as the build-up of this type of software on your hard drive usually occurs over a period of time the the loss of performance is not always immediately apparent.

PC Doctor+ Guides are intended for those relatively new to computing. They may be reproduced or included as content within other web sites provided acknowledement to the author is given and a live link to http://www.thedriversite.co.uk is displayed

About the Author

Steve Latimer is Web Administrator for the Driver Site http://www.thedriversite.co.uk

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