It may sometimes seem as though the traditional short list of perils one cannot avoid ought to be expanded to: 'death, taxes, and spyware'. But all you need to get rid of spyware are the right free tools, some time, and a little know-how - which is where PC Advisor comes in, with our step-by-step guide to getting spyware and rootkits off your PC.
First a couple of warnings: removing spyware is as much art as it is science. The rogues who create spyware make removing their malicious programs as difficult as they can. In addition, some types of spyware download and install additional components, often hiding pieces of code from Windows to make removal even harder.
The instructions below will wipe out most forms of spyware, but your machine's infestation may resist these measures. If so, you may have to consult a professional PC repair person. Or you can start afresh by reformatting your hard drive and then reloading Windows, your apps, and your data files.
Note too that if you perform certain removal steps improperly, your PC could become inoperable. Our instructions call out these danger spots, but if you don't feel confident about performing them, ask for help from a knowledgeable friend or from the experts on a web forum such as PC Advisor's own Helproom Forum.
- Is it a spyware infection?
- Using free tools to remove spyware
- Manual analysis and spyware removal
- Remove all spyware and rootkits
Is it an infection?
How do you know whether your PC has an active spyware infestation? Slower-than-normal performance is the most common symptom people report, but such behaviour can also be due to any number of factors unrelated to spyware, such as running too many applications with too little system memory, having a full or very fragmented hard drive, or running buggy software that fails to free up the memory it uses after you close the application.
Your first task is to determine whether you have a spyware-related problem or just a slow machine.
Download the latest versions of these tools:
- Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool. This program is updated monthly, so always download the latest version before you use it.
- Microsoft's Windows Defender. Windows Vista has Defender built-in, but if you suspect that you have spyware on your PC, update the program so it can find the newest bad stuff.
- Avira Antivir PersonalEdition Classic. A free antivirus program - get it if you don't already have up-to-date antivirus software.
Since some spyware applications prevent you from downloading these tools, or from visiting the websites that host them, download the programs to another PC that you know is free of spyware. Then copy the installers to a portable USB drive, and plug that drive into the machine you suspect is infected.