My computer was infected with a spyware/adware app a few months ago. Determined not to let another hacker “beat me” I set out to remove it on my own. After a couple hours discovering all the tricks adware use to stay on your computer, I finally got the damn thing off my computer. This thing used just about every thing available in Windows to launch a program at startup, and everytime I discovered one it unlocked another. It had a circular process where one installation method kicked off the next just in case something had failed. I ended up breaking the cycle by locking the files it was writing too.
Since then I’ve removed spyware from two other computers, and every time it was another battle learning the tricks they were using to keep the program the installed.
Well today one of my relatives calls me up with an adware problem, and I’m not there in person to fix things, so I did some research on what tools are available to try against malware. I suggested she try these programs:
1) Try Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal tool (Requires Internet Explorer). It doesn’t sound like the adware she’s got is listed on their site, but it’s free so it’s worth a shot.
2) PC World Magazine has positive things to say about Ad-Aware SE Personal and Spybot Search and Destroy, both free spyware removal tools. They claim these tools stop 65% and 54% of spyware, respectively. They’re both free so you might as well try them.
3) Try McAfee’s Free Online Virus Scanner (Requires Internet Explorer). It doesn’t remove infected files, but it tells you where they are so you can delete them yourself. I’ve only seen a few spyware programs, but so far none of them infect files that are used by Windows. They usually name the files they infect with something that sounds like a critical Windows file but isn’t. If you’re lucky, this might point you to where the malware is operating from. You might not get the malware removed, but at least you won’t have to worry about viruses.
4) The last option is to start paying money. The problem here is you could spend money on a tool that doesn’t work. It’s very difficult (if you don’t know what you’re doing) to determine what malware you have installed on your computer, so then there’s no way to know if the tool you’re thinking about buying will uninstall it. If you’re gonna spend money on a spyware removal tool I would recommend reading PC World’s Spyware Stoppers article for reviews.
If you don’t want to pay money, then the next option for you is to reformat/reinstall Windows. OH BOY is that a fun use of your afternoon!
Actually, there is another option, and this is what I tell all of my relatives that call me with PC computer problems……… GET A MAC. If all you’re doing is word processing and web surfing…. GET A MAC. If you don’t want to deal with malware or viruses….. GET A MAC. Get a mac, get a mac, get a mac…