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Dealing with Spyware

This page provides the basic steps I take when removing spyware from computers.

They are always the first steps I take when encountering a computer that is obviously infected with spyware.

This is not necessarily everything I have ever done in order to remove all spyware.

It is also not intended as a detailed guide on how to configure every piece of software you might use to get rid of spyware. The manufacturer should have that information on their web site.

General Definition

Spyware generally refers to programs installed on your computer, usually without your knowledge. It can transmit personal information to companies. These companies use this data in a number of ways including selling it to others, using it for marketing data, or tracking browsing habits.

This is getting to be a big reason why people are getting so much spam e-mail.

Spyware can also install other software at the same time or make your computer vulnerable to other programs being installed.

General Symptoms

While not inclusive of everything. there are several general symptoms that your computer is infected with spyware.
1. The computer recently has poor performance and is crashing frequently.
2. There are a lot of pop-up windows.
3. There are icons being added to your Desktop or Favorites that you didn't put there.
4. Home Page and Search Pages changing
5. Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware programs will not run

Preventing Getting Spyware

1. Do not install any software from the Internet unless you are absolutely sure it will not infect your computer. This includes freeware, greeting cards, screensavers, music, on-line games, extra toolbars, cutsie little add-ons,  etc.

Even if the file comes from a friend, you still must be sure what the file is before opening it.
2. Do not click on any links in an E-mail with unless you are absolutely sure that the web site will not infect your computer.
3. Be very careful of music or peer-to-peer file sharing web sites.

So you are infected with Spyware,
what can you do about it.

First, download several good spyware removal programs.

The reason I recommend several is that I always like to be thorough when it comes to removing spyware. They can be very difficult to get rid of.

While there are many available, these are the programs I have used with great success:

1. Pest Patrol
2. SpySweeper
3. Ad-Aware (Free and Pro). Although it does cost, the Pro Version has some definite advantages over the free version.
4. Spyware Blaster (Does not remove but helps inoculate)
4. Spybot Search and Destroy (Free)
5. Microsoft's Anti-Spyware (Free)
6. KazaaBeGone (Free)
7. HijackThis (Free)

For each program you install, download the latest updates.
Note, there are no updates necessary for
KazaaBeGone and HijackThis.

1. Run the programs you installed and updated to scan for and remove spyware.
2. After they have all been run, reboot the computer and run the same scans again.
3. If spyware is still found or can't be removed, I recommend booting to Safe Mode and running the same programs.

To boot to Safe Mode, press and hold the F8 key before Windows starts to load.

Select Safe Mode from the menu

4. This loads a minimal set of drivers (which is why the screen display is not as clear) as well as not start most of the items that are selected to start automatically. This is why a scan from Safe Mode can be more effective, since hopefully the spyware hasn't loaded yet and can mores easily removed.
5. Then start your scan again with all programs.
6. Basically I keep running through this process until all spyware is removed.
7. For badly infected computers, it is not unusual to require 9-12 scans using the various programs to remove them all.

General Program Configuration Recommendations
(See program help file for the details)

1. Configure the program to start with Windows and run in the background.
2. Configure the program to either automatically download updates or update when it is run.
3. Configure the program to warn you when it detects some form of spyware intrusion.
4. Configure the program to automatically check any spyware it finds for deletion. This can save a lot of time if you have a thousand instances of spyware and would otherwise need to manually check off each one.
5. Immunize when possible (e.g. Spybot and Spyware Blaster)
6. Only use Hijack This if you are an experience computer user. It is very good for disabling programs that are starting automatically. But you also need to be knowledgeable for what to remove

SCAN FREQUENTLY !!!

It is amazing how even the most careful user can get infected.

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