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How to remove spyware from your computer permanently

Updated on October 5, 2010
This is not what spyware looks like
This is not what spyware looks like

What is spyware and how do I get rid of it?

Although it might spread similar to a virus, spyware has a purpose other than disrupting your life. It's specifically designed to spread advertisements to you and make money for its creator. That can make it so much more frustrating than a simple virus, because you know someone is trying to profit off your misery. Some spyware will infect your computer and then do things like change the advertising displayed on websites you visit with advertisements provided by the spyware creator. Others will steal passwords and even credit card information you enter into websites. They'll gather databases full of this information and then sell it on the black market. That's one way you can get your identity stolen.

I've got spyware, how do I get rid of it?

There are a number of programs that can help you get rid of spyware. The 3 I'm recommending at this time are the following:

  • Malwarebytes - the basic version is free and can scan your computer for spyware. This program detects just about everything and is essential software in the tech support community.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials - Microsoft finally did something to combat spyware. This program is actually quite good and the full version is absolutely free. They need to publicize this program more, because it should be installed on every Windows PC.
  • Superantispyware - A newcomer to the antispyware game, this is one of the best. The great thing about this program is that the file name of the executable file changes every time it's downloaded, so spyware can't target that file.
  • HijackThis - Not a true antispyware program, this program creates a log file that identifies what is happening to your computer. This is essential if you want tech support to quickly figure out what's attacking your computer and how to get rid of it.

So what do I run first?

First, run HijackThis. Save the log file to your desktop or email it to your web-based email account. Then run updates on Microsoft Security Essentials (if you haven't already) and run that program. Delete or quarantine any problems it finds. Do the same with Malwarebytes and then Superantispyware. If you catch something with any of these programs, make sure to go back and run that program again when you're done with this cycle. Some viruses are able to recreate themselves with a different filename, so you may not have actually gotten rid of it until you can run all the programs and get a clean bill of health from each.

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