Spyware is a generally unwelcome type of software that records information about you from your computer usage. This can be as simple as the shopping sites you visit to the keys you press when entering a password. This presents a serious security risk. Machines infected with spyware may become sluggish and "hang" when performing tasks as the spyware saps processing power. Removing spyware is often straightforward, though really malicious spyware may require specialist help or reformatting your hard drive.
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Check your current anti-virus or PC security software. Many security software packages come with integrated spyware scanners or similar tools. If yours has one, run a spyware scan. Ensure the software is updated with the latest list of spyware types by clicking the update button.
Download reputable anti-spyware software on your computer if you don't have any already installed. Ad-aware, Malwarebytes, Spybot Search and Destroy or Microsoft Security Essentials are examples of trusted free programs.
Close all programs before running your anti-spyware software. Allow the scan to complete before opening any other program.
Approve or decline the repair actions listed by your anti-spyware software. The software may suggest deleting tracking cookies or known spyware software. Some will automatically remove suspect software.
Remove any known malicious programs manually. Go to the "Control panel" from the Windows Start menu. Click "Uninstall a program" or select the "add/remove program" icon, depending on your Windows version.
Scroll down the list of programs to find any suspected spyware. An Internet search for unfamiliar names may confirm whether software is malicious. Uninstall any confirmed malware. If the software reappears after restarting your machine, try running a spyware scan immediately.
Tips and warnings
- To prevent spyware in future, try running live security software programs, such as a firewall, and avoiding unfamiliar sites.
- Beware of fake anti-spyware software, according to the University of Oregon. Avoid unfamiliar programs or look for trusted references online. A quick Internet search should confirm if the software is reliable before downloading.
- Remember that removing spyware that came with another program may make the software inoperable, according to the Microsoft Security website.
- Take your computer to a specialist or try a full system restore if the above steps don't work.
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