When was the last time you scanned your PC for spyware? Many of us are well aware of the existence of spyware and the high odds of it being active on our own PCs right now, but we still try to ignore it as much as we can. Sure, we know it is much better to do something about it, because it will make our computers work much faster and much safer too. But removing spyware can be a drag, especially if you don’t really know how to deal with it. Well, removing is one thing, but we first need to know how to find it!

Here’s a quick glance at some of the indicators of spyware on your PC:

  • slow computer
  • strange search results
  • toolbars
  • default homepage change
  • popups and ads

Make sure you read the full article on how you can detect spyware for more details.

Spyware detected, now what?

First of all: relax. Removing spyware is not the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. It’s not rocket science, you just have to know how to deal with it. And that’s exactly what article sets out to teach you.

Spyware creators are inspired by the challenge to make it as hard as possible for PC users to remove spyware. Not just that, sometimes spyware is even designed to download and install additional components that make it harder for Windows to discover and remove the malware. Precisely the reason why nowadays, ‘running anti-spyware software has become a widely recognized element of computer security practices’ (source: Wikipedia.org), especially for computers equipped with a Microsoft Windows operating system. Although it seems that Mac OS X is becoming increasingly vulnerable to malware threats as well.

The tools used for the removal of spyware are not necessarily difficult to use, but it is advised to follow strict procedures to avoid your PC becoming inoperable due to improper use of a spyware removal tool. Don’t be afraid to ask a knowledgable friend or an acquainted expert to help guide you through the process. ‘Better safe then sorry’ really is a good motto in this case. Also, back up your important files and create a system restore point. If needed, you can go back to the state of the PC as it was before you got wild with the spyware countermeasures.

Alarm bells are ringing, but you still need confirmation that spyware has nested itself on your computer. Windows Defender will do this for you. Download he latest version, install and run a full scan. If Windows Defender does not come up with any spyware issues, which is unlikely but not impossible, then run a full scan with an internet security or antivirus program.

Check installed software manually

Go to the Windows Control Panel and scroll through the list of programs that are installed. Look for items that you don’t remember installing, or even using. It’s a bit of a long shot, because most of us install a lot of stuff over the years thinking it will come in useful at some point. Those programs may very well be useful, but in many cases we never find out, because we end up not using the program, or forget about it completely. So, it is possible that the spyware on your PC is listed in the software overview, and if you see it you should uninstall it in the same way you delete other software, via the control panel. Don’t get your hopes up about getting rid of all spyware that easily – you might need…

…Anti-spyware to do the hard work for you

The most famous (and free) anti-spyware tool is Windows Defender. Installing and running this program will detect and delete spyware on your machine, and (assuming you will keep running Windows Defender) the program will also detect and delete any new cases trying to infect your PC. You don’t necessarily need Windows Defender: your installed antivirus software can do the trick too. Running a full scan should find and delete any malicious software. Usually, system scans are scheduled to run an on a regular basis, so with good security software installed, you should be automatically protected against most common spyware.

Good antivirus software will keep you safe

In our opinion, it is better to prevent the occurrence of spyware as much as possible, which is actually pretty easy these days. There is an abundance of good tools available that will keep your PC safe – for the most part at least. Among the best antivirus software available to PC users in 2016 are products from some of the biggest internet security providers around, like McAfee, Norton and AVG. Most of these products come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, which is a pretty decent period to try it out and decide if it works well for you. A good antivirus program can make a world of difference to your computer’s performance!

Still didn’t manage to fully remove spyware?

It is possible that antivirus software, even the very best ones, might fail to catch all the spyware on your PC. In that case, additional measures need to be taken. Many of these involve installing tools to (help) detect security issues and remove spyware that is not detected by the more conventional security tools. It can get rather complicated, and there are many methods that you can try, which are pretty easy to find when searching the internet. However, installing tool after tool to get rid of malicious software can also be a bit counterproductive. We would like to offer a few tips you should keep in mind while working on your computer:

  • Avoid downloading ‘.exe’ files. These are files that launch a program or application, as much as you can. Sometimes this type of file is disguised as a different file type, but still works as an executable and once you click it, it will do its work and install spyware on your machine.
  • If you can, opt for a custom installation when you have the option. Spyware can come from anywhere, even from the most respected and popular websites. With custom installations, you can see exactly what you’re about to install.
  • Protect your PC with a firewall. With a firewall active, programs need authorization to use the internet. Even if you accidentally install spyware, your personal information cannot be submitted by it. Most antivirus software packs come with a firewall, like the McAfee Total Protection pack.

If none of these measures are effective, we’d advise you to do a clean install of your Windows system. It is a drag, and you will have to install everything, but at least it will give you a brand new start, at the very least temporarily without spyware! But make sure to reinstall your antivirus software straight away after you reinstall Windows – play it safe from the start!

Paul Weaver
Paul came to us straight from sunny California. He’s an MBA graduate from Stanford University, specializing in computer and network security. Nowadays he spends his working hours designing and developing secure, safety-critical systems. His most enthused when sharing tips on antiviruses.
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