If your computer is having performance issues for no apparent reason, you may be the unwitting victim of spyware or adware. Both spyware and adware are malicious forms of software that basically sneak uninvited onto your computer on the coattails of other programs you choose to install.
Spyware secretly keeps track of your personal information and Web surfing habits and then forwards it to third parties with neither your knowledge nor your consent. Adware is responsible for those nasty pop-up ads that mysteriously appear on your screen even when you're not connected to the Internet.
Spyware and adware are not the same as viruses or worms. Usually they affect the performance of your PC, making it run extremely slowly for no apparent reason or completely preventing a program from working at all. Spyware and adware usually wind up on your computer in one of two different ways:
1 - as a download with freeware that you willingly install, or
2 - covertly, or disguised as something else.
In the past, virus protection was all you needed to protect your computer from unwanted rubbish. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. If spyware and adware happen to sneak onto your PC, the only solution is to install a software program that is specifically designed to detect and remove these nasty programs.
There are many free downloads online that will take care of spyware and adware problems. Here is a list of the most popular:
Ad-Aware is commonly thought to be the most popular software for removing spyware and adware from your computer. The free version allows you to perform manual scans that will find the spyware and adware and then remove it, and they have a new version just released in 2008.
Spybot Search & Destroy doesn't just find and stop the spyware and adware files on your computer. This software also includes a file shredder to see that the damaging programs are totally removed from your system and destroyed.
Spyware Blaster gets great ratings from users. It is effective and easy to use and it also blocks these malevolent programs from being installed in the first place.
Windows Defender is the free spyware and adware protection software offered by Microsoft. It does a good job for a free program, but you have to verify that you are running a licensed version of Windows before you can complete the download.
It doesn't hurt to use more than one of these programs on your computer. One scan may catch something that another doesn't - and they are all free, so you can't lose!
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