1. Technology
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

How to Remove Adware and Spyware

By

Getting stubborn adware and spyware off your PC can be frustrating. However, there are steps you can take to make the process easier and more effective. If your system is heavily infested, you'll need access to a clean computer to download the necessary tools. If you don't have a second computer, ask a friend to download the tools for you and burn them to a cd. If you plan to use a USB drive to transfer the downloaded files, make sure both your computer and your friend's computer have autorun disabled.

1. Disconnect from the Internet

Woman looking at screen with a concerned expresion
Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
Close all open browser windows and applications (including email) and then disconnect your PC from the Internet. If you can access the back of the computer, the easiest thing to do is just remove the phone line or cable connecting the PC to the modem or router. If the back of the computer isn't easily accessible, you can remove the ethernet cable or phone line from router or modem.

2. Try a Traditional Uninstall

A suprising number of applications labeled as adware and spyware have fully functioning uninstallers that will cleanly remove the program. Before moving on to more complex steps, start with the easiest route and check the Add/Remove Programs list in the Windows Control Panel. If the unwanted program is listed, simply highlight it and click the Remove button. In Windows Vista, the Add/Remove Programs feature is listed in Control Panel as Programs and Features. After removing the adware or spyware via Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs, reboot the computer. Make sure you reboot after the uninstall, even if you aren't prompted to do so.

3. Scan Your Computer

After you've disconnected from the Internet, removed any adware or spyware listed in Add/Remove Programs, and rebooted the computer, the next step is to run a full system scan using an up-to-date antivirus scanner. If your antivirus will allow it, run the scan in Safe Mode. If you don't have antivirus installed, select from one of these top-rated antivirus scanners or from one of these free antivirus scanners. If prompted, allow the scanner to clean, quarantine, or delete as appropriate.

4. Using SmitFraudFix, MalwareBytes, and Other Tools

Much of today's spyware is delivered via the Zlob family of Trojan downloaders. The free SmitFraudFix tool does a good job of removing many variants of Zlob-related adware and spyware. For the free download and usage instructions, see: SmitFraudFix Removes Zlob and Other Pests. MalwareBytes does a good job of removing scareware, rogue software that hijacks your computer and tries to scare you into purchasing "protection". For the free download and usage instructions, visit: MalwareBytes' Anti-Malware.

.

5. Get Clear Access to the Problem

While scanning the system in Safe Mode is good practice, it may not be enough to thwart some malware. If the adware or spyware persists despite the above efforts, you'll need to get access to the drive without allowing the adware or spyware to load. The most effective means to get clean access to the drive is to use a BartPE Bootable CD. Once you've booted to the BartPE CD, you can access the file manager, locate the installed antivirus and rescan the system. Or, locate the offending files and folders and manually delete them.

6. Undo the Residual Damage

After removing the active infestation, you'll need to make sure the adware or spyware won't simply reintegrate itself when the computer is reconnecting to the Internet.

7. Preventing Adware and Spyware

To avoid future adware and spyware infections, be discriminating about what programs you install on your PC. If you see an offer for a program that seems to good to be true, research it first using your favorite search engine. Make sure your Web browser security is up to snuff, keep your system fully patched, and follow these adware and spyware prevention tips.
Related Video
Remove Grain in Photoshop
  1. About.com
  2. Technology
  3. Antivirus Software
  4. Windows Security Guides
  5. How to Remove Adware and Spyware

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.