If you have been on a personal a computer any time in the past decade or so, you’ve likely heard the term “adware” used in the news or seen it in, ironically, online ads.
The term “adware” is derived from the phrase “advertising-supported software” – much like the free videos we have instant access to online through YouTube and other software services offered in the cloud.
Essentially, adware offsets the cost of a piece of software while still allowing software makers to make profits – thanks to the ads, of course. But, for many users, adware is an annoyance at best. At worst, it can be an intrusive experience and a potential security threat.
Some adware works as a collector of your surfing history – collecting information about your internet usage habits in an effort to display “custom” ads that are more likely to appeal to you based on your browsing history.
While this type of ad delivery can be really annoying, it gets worse. Some adware programs may contain additional software, called spyware, which is intended to capture more personal information beyond your browsing history and send it back to criminals and/or hackers.
Simple adware, that does not contain spyware, does not capture or transmit this data. However, both adware and spyware are a drain on your computer’s resources and, if enough adware is present, can cause your computer to run very slow.
You’ve got it. Now, how do you get rid of adware
Reputable adware-supported programs make it easy for you to uninstall them. Adware-based programs that are not as reputable do not make it easy for you to remove them. They often run like viruses in your computer and, because you agreed to let them run by accepting the software’s terms, anti-virus programs are often unable to detect and/or remove many adware programs.
But some anti-virus makers are improving their offerings by giving you the option to detect adware regardless of how it got on your computer in the first place.
If your anti-virus software detects adware on your computer, there’s a good chance that it can be removed or, at the very least, quarantined away from the rest of your software and data. If you have anti-virus software that allows you to detect adware, it’s important that you enable it. As your anti-virus software detects these programs, you can choose to ignore adware programs you trust while tackling and removing the adware that you think may pose a threat to your system.
Consider upgrading to avoid adware
Because many adware-supported programs offer paid versions that are ad-free, you may want to consider upgrading to these versions to avoid the ads and any security or annoyance issues they may cause down the road. Your best bet is to know as much as you can about adware-supported software before you download and agree to its terms.
Often, third parties are responsible for the ads in adware and agreeing to their terms may not be the best thing in terms of your user experience. For example, even if you delete an adware-based piece of software, the third-party ad-serving software may remain on your computer undetected. This may also be the case even if you upgrade and purchase the version of a program that is not ad-supported.
The bottom line on adware: protect and educate yourself
The best protection against the possibility of malicious adware and spyware is a combination of anti-virus software and education. Knowing what programs are, and are not, trustworthy is the first step in reducing the threat. And even if you do manage to download a malicious adware program, a good anti-virus solution will alert you and allow you to remove adware almost immediately.
Click here for a more comprehensive guide on getting rid of adware.