Adware: What It Is and How to Remove It
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You’ve likely encountered adware before, and it was hardly a pleasant experience. Once day you were browsing the Internet as usual, but the next day your browser homepage is different and every time you try to navigate to a website you’re redirected to an untrustworthy website full of ads. Or, even worse, you’ve found applications installed on your computer that you don’t recall installing.
Adware, or advertising-supported software, is both of these scenarios. It fills your computer with programs that will hijack your PC for the purposes of profit. Hidden within “free” downloads and pop-up ads, these malicious applications forcibly install themselves on your computer either when you visit the website or try to install a different application with adware bundled into the install.
The history of adware
Adware was initially designed back in the age of the dot com booms when many Internet businesses were on the rise. Internet service providers viewed adware as the ideal advertising vehicle to reach end users, and thus offered this as a feature in return for free Internet services. However, Internet users did not warm to the idea, which caused many dot com companies to fail and Internet service providers to revert back to a paid service option.
Hackers continued on the tradition of creating adware with the purpose of generating advertising revenue for their own software development costs. As such, adware is now a term of ill-repute due to its malicious usage throughout the Internet for forcibly directing users to advertisements.
What is adware?
As a type of malware, adware is generally a program that feeds advertising to your Internet browsing experience, typically in the form of pop-ups or a browser toolbar. Some adware software hijack your browser homepage and constantly redirect you to websites other than where you intend to go. Oftentimes, the programming of the adware conflicts with your operating system as well as other programs on it, causing system errors and even preventing your computer from running.
A hijacked home page or browser toolbar can oftentimes be difficult to fix because of how adware integrates itself with your browser. Even more frustrating is the fact that the anomalies caused by adware can prevent users from even accessing the system controls needed to delete the application.
Sometimes malware contains more insidious purposes than others. For example, to provide more targeted banner ads, adware sometimes contains a hidden component that tracks your Web usage. When this occurs, the program is no longer just adware, but also contains spyware elements. [Video: Ad-Aware Total Security Review]
Adware isn’t commonly difficult to remove, though some applications may be trickier than others. Simply uninstalling the adware may be the same process as uninstalling any other application. Other adware may hide uninstall features in your browser’s settings or under a different program function.
Here is how to uninstall the software:
- Click on your Start menu.
- Choose Computer from the menu.
- Click on the Uninstall option.
- Find the software on the list and click on the Remove or Uninstall button.
While removing adware may seem like an easy solution, if it was installed on your computer as part of another application’s “free” offering, that may cause the initial program to no longer work. The end user licensing agreement you accepted when installing the free application may include terms that require the installation of said adware application in order to function. Removing the adware violates the licensing agreement and may cause the program you initially installed to no longer work.
One of the simplest ways to remove adware and keep your computer protected from additional installations is to install anti-virus software that specializes in removing adware. This approach will clean up the ads and destroy any spyware that may have hitched a ride on the software, as long as the security application also specializes in the removal of spyware. Do some research before you purchase security software. Not all packages remove both spyware and adware.
Adware can be found on many free software applications, but some are more malicious than others. Not every free application out there contains malware. But that doesn’t mean every reputable application is safe for use.