Spyware Removal: How to Remove Spyware

Now that you know what spyware is, how it gets onto your computer, and the security issues it can create, you probably want to remove this dangerous pest. You can do this in two ways: manually, or by using an anti-spyware program .


Manual Spyware Removal

Sometimes you may know a certain program is spyware. In this case, you can try to remove it manually. This is done by using the uninstall function of your computer. For Windows users, you can remove specific applications by going to your control panel (in "Settings") and selecting the "Add/Remove Programs" function. Once there, you will see a list of programs. Click on the program you believe to be spyware and select "Remove". Make sure to restart your computer after the removal to be sure all changes required for the spyware to be removed are complete.

Unfortunately, most of the time removing spyware is not this easy. For example, how can you know for sure that a certain program is spyware? If you uninstall the program the spyware came with, it doesn't mean that the spyware will be uninstalled too. Also, many spyware programs are invisible, meaning that they won't show up in your program list. Sometimes spyware programs can disguise themselves as programs important to your computer by using official sounding names like "winstartup". Spyware can also disguise itself by using dozens of different file names in different locations, or even by generating random names so it's not as easily detected. Even if a spyware program appears on your program list and you can uninstall it, not all traces of the program are always removed. In this case, you should use an anti-spyware program.


Spyware Removal Using an Anti-Spyware Program

The first rule of removing spyware by using a specialized program is to not rely on anti-virus programs. Because spyware is different from viruses, you need a different program to remove it. Check out our section on anti-spyware program reviews to pick one that's right for you.

Start by downloading the latest updates for the program you're using. This ensures the program is up to date on what spyware to look for and how to find it. Most spyware removers will have an "Update" button you can click on to download the latest information.

Next, exit all browser windows and programs that you have running. This includes email. You should also disconnect your computer from the internet. These functions impede the functionality of the spyware remover because it can't scan files that are in use for spyware. The more activity you have going on in your computer, the more likely it is that spyware is open and working too.

Once everything is exited and you are disconnected from the internet, run a scan using your spyware cleaner. Do this by pressing the "Scan" button. This means that your anti-spyware program will look for suspicious files on your computer and report back to you, and you will be given a choice of what to do with any suspicious files it finds.

After the scan, turn on immunization options to help protect your computer against the spyware programs your scan has found in the future. Immunization options can be turned on by a button called "Immunize." Next allow your spyware cleaner to remove any spyware it finds.

After you run a scan using your anti-spyware program for the first time, restart your computer and run a scan again. This ensures nothing was missed the first time. Let the program remove any additional spyware files. If suspicious files were found during the second scan, restart your computer and run the spyware remover again. Keep repeating the scan-restart-scan process until your anti-spyware program cannot find any more spyware.

If you repeat this process three times and your spyware remover keeps finding spyware, or if your program can't find any more spyware but you think there's still some left, you may want to try running a scan in your computer's "safe mode." When you start up your computer in "safe mode," only the most essential processes can activate. This will prevent spyware from activating in the background and trying to hide itself while your spyware remover scans for it.

When you have finally removed all spyware your computer, you can start undoing any damage or setting changes the spyware may have caused.


Other Options

Sometimes spyware programs can become so embedded in your system that you can't deal with it yourself. For example, your computer may not be able to start up or open its internet browser anymore. In these cases, you may want to contact a local computer technician who knows how to fix the problem.

Remember, the prevention of spyware is the best method of keeping your computer safe. Learn about spyware prevention so you can protect your computer from spyware in the future and avoid going through the complicated removal process.  And using any program such as Lifelock.com ID theft protection can be a great resource to continually check if any personal data has been stolen while preventing identity cloning in cases such as these.


Spyware Removal Complications

Because of the nature of the connection between spyware and freeware, namely that spyware producers pay freeware producers to include the spyware in their product, the removal of spyware may affect the freeware program it was installed with (if that's the way the spyware got onto your computer). Spyware is a form of revenue to the company that produced the freeware, so if you remove the spyware sponsoring it, the freeware may no longer work. This is a small price to pay to remove such a security threat from your computer, but removal is your choice, you just have to decide where your priorities lie.

You may not know for sure if a freeware program will stop working until you remove its spyware. But there is a way to test whether removing spyware will affect the performance of your freeware. Most spyware removers give you an option called "Quarantine." This means the spyware cleaner will disable spyware files and put them in a folder to be deleted later rather than deleting them permanently right away. This allows you to run programs after the spyware quarantine and make sure everything still works with the suspicious files removed. You can then go back into your spyware cleaner and delete the suspicious files permanently. If something is not working properly with the spyware files quarantined, you can restore them. This lets you test the effects of spyware removal on your programs without actually removing it.

If you choose the quarantine option and everything on your computer seems to be working well after cleaning, remember to go back into your anti-spyware program and delete the spyware files permanently.

It does need to be stressed that spyware can be a major threat to the security of your computer. If your choose the quarantine option and find that one of your freeware programs doesn't work properly with its spyware removed, think carefully before restoring the spyware. Evaluate how important this program is to you and whether you can install another program without spyware that would work just as well. Restoring the spyware should only be a last resort.


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Spyware has many ways of getting onto your computer, such as:

When you download programs - particularly freeware, or peer-to-peer sharing programs.

More covertly, spyware can install itself just by you visiting certain sites, by prompting you to download an application to see the site properly.

ActiveX controls. These pesky spyware makers will prompt you to install themselves while using your Internet browser