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How to Keep your PC Free of Spyware and Malware.
Why is my computer so slow?
You just bought a new computer. It's the latest and greatest with plenty of processor and a ton of RAM. It seems as though nothing can get between you and the internet now as you blaze through your favorite pages effortlessly.
Then, just a few days later, things begin to slow down. Pages aren't loading as fast as they were when you unboxed your computer just briefly before. Programs stop responding, or worse, they don't open at all. So what happened?
One of the primary reasons that computers can slow down so quickly, is the presence of Spyware or Malware. These are little programs that can be installed in the background while you surf the internet. The worst part is, that these programs are usually installed without your knowledge!!!
I work as a desktop support technician for a university, and I see numerous cases of this happening every day. Sometimes it is an easily solvable problem; sometimes not. At any rate, it seems that the infection of computers with spyware and malware is on the rise and there doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
There is something that you can do though. The spyware and malware will always be out there as will be the unethical individuals that create them. However, if you are cautious and follow a few guidelines, you can be virtually spyware free in no time.
Here are a few things that you can do to prevent infections:
1.) Keep your computer software up to date. Spyware, malware, and virus infections often rely on out of date systems that they can exploit. If you have an automatic update feature such as that in Windows, use it. If not, then check for updates at least once a week.
2.) Get a decent antivirus. You don't have to spend a fortune to get a decent antivirus. In-fact, you don't have to spend a penny. One of my favorite antivirus packages, is AVG Free. It's is free for personal use, which means it's great for a home computer. It also has spyware/malware protection as well as a 'surf-shield' which scans pages listed in a search result before you click on them.
3.) Use common sense. I can't count the times that I have seen someone install a 'FREE' screen saver or other such software, and then mysteriously get spyware or malware on their systems. Now I'm not saying that there isn't legitimate free software out there, but make sure that you look it over well before you down;oad and install it. I try to make sure that anything 'FREE' that I download, is certified to be spyware and malware free. It will usually say this somewhere on the site. If it doesn't...BEWARE!!!
4.) If something looks a little different than before....question it! Some malware will actually masquerade as part of Windows. An example of this is 'Antivirus 2009'. It will replace your Windows Security Center with a bogus one that tell you that Antivirus 2009 is unregistered and also conveniently gives you a link to get a licence. If you see this, DO NOT CLICK IT! This has been one of the top pieces of malware that I have removed in the past year!
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to clean your computer of infections. You just need to educate yourself a little before you make the attempt. Get the right tools and know where to look an you will be just fine.
There are a few free tools that I use on a daily basis to remove infections. I'll talk about each one in detail.
The first, is Malwarebytes anti-malware. This is a very nice product, and ofcourse, so is the price tag. This has gotten me out of more jams that I can even count. The Pros: It's a free download, offers internet updates and does a really nice job of cleaning up your computer. The Cons: To get real-time protection and automatic updates from this product, you must purchase it. You can get this product here: http://www.malwarebytes.org
The second piece of software that I regularly use, is Trend Micro Hijack This! This software is not quite as user friendly, but does an amazing job at finding hidden programs that start with your computer. When a scan is done, it will list all of the startup items on your computer which you can selectively delete. Some items are common sense as to whether or not to delete, but some can be a little misleading. If I see something that I am not sure of, I type it into Google and research before taking any action. The Pros: This product is absolutely free and detects a variety of problems. The Cons: Not as easy to use for a novice user. You can get this product here: http://www.trendsecure.com/portal/en-US/tools/security_tools/hijackthis
Another piece of software that I really like is AdAware by Lavasoft. This program is similair to Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, but each seems to detect with slightly different results. Better to scan too much than not enough right? The Pros: Again...free software for personal use and easy to use with internet updates. The Cons: I really see no cons to this product. http://www.lavasoft.com
Last on my list, is a good antivirus. This is the HUB of a clean PC. As I mentioned before, you don't have to spend a ton of money on an antivirus solution. AVG has given very good results for me and even stopped an infection of Antivirus 2009 when other antiviruses failed to do so. Once you have scanned with the other products listed above, do a full scan with the antivirus (sometimes called 'Thorough') This will take some time to complete depending on how much data is on your computer, but well worth it in the end. You can get AVG Free here: http://free.avg.com
Now it's a little tough for me to do a tutorial on how to get rid of a specific infection since there are so many out there, but this will give you an idea of the proper tools to use to get the job done. If you need a specific tutorial, please request a HUB from me and I will write it just for you!
Thanks and good luck!!!