What Is Spyware / Adware?

Do-It-Yourself Tech Privacy / Security

Adware and spyware are not necessarily the same thing, though these terms are often used interchangeably. Both, however, can be bothersome, as they tend to slow down computers while increasing pop-ups and advertisements. Here are some suggestions for removing spyware as well as some clarification on the differences between spyware and adware.

Adware refers to software that is supported by advertisements (usually banner ads or pop-up ads). Such sofware is generally free and downloadable from the Internet. While this type of software is not really harmful, too many adware programs (read that as free programs supported by advertisements) installed on the same computer can cause a computer to slow down significantly.

Spyware is a much broader category referring to any malicious software that may partially take over part of a computer without the user’s consent. Thus, there is a fine line between adware and spyware, as many users probably wouldn’t consent to some of the activity caused by certain programs they downloaded innocently. As a preventative measure, if downloading free software, it’s best to read the terms and conditions and/or FAQ (frequently asked questions) to know if adware is involved.

Some spyware, however, is blatantly installed without users’ consent. This spyware often can monitor activity and Internet browsing habits to deliver unsolicited advertisements. And worse yet, certain spyware may try and capture personal information. It can be difficult to determine what kind of spyware your computer may have. Thus, it’s best to avoid all types.

Here are three different free programs designed for the removal of adware / spyware:

1) For Spybot Search & Destroy, click here. Spybot is probably the least intuitive and/or user friendly of the three listed here, though its ability to find and remove adware / spyware is top notch.

2) For Ad-Aware Personal Edition, click here. Ad-Aware is more user friendly than Spybot, though it doesn’t necessarily catch everything Spybot does. In cases where a computer has excessive spyware, it may be advantageous to install both programs.

3) For Microsoft Anti-Spyware Beta (“Beta” meaning that it’s still in testing), click here. Microsoft’s solution is by far the most user friendly and comprehensive. It also has some nice touches, such as a threat meter, which tells you how much of a threat each piece of spyware is as well as gives you a brief description. The only disadvantage to Microsoft’s solution at this point is its intrusiveness. The program likes to run constantly in the background and give you update messages daily. Much of this can be turned off in the advanced settings.

If you need help installing or running any of these applications, each of the links above have more information. It should also be noted that there are other anti-spyware programs available outside of these three, which may also work well.

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