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Spyware Resources

Recently, I have done a lot of work for "friends" who have managed to get in a pickle with spyware and browser hijackers - basically they wait until their computer won't boot, or won't access the internet before they do anything about it.  

When they call me and my wife - for most people, we do it just to help them out - for some, we have actually charged them for this. Most offer to pay, some of the worst ones don't.  Given the amount of time it takes to restore most computers to some semblance of order, and even if we were to charge a modestly reasonable rate of $25/hour, most could actually buy a new computer for not much more.

There seems to be some common themes in all the computers we have touched

  • Never had any Windows updates applied
  • No anti-virus software running
  • Multiple spyware and browser hijackers
  • Never had scandisk run
  • Never had DeFrag run

We basically set up the machine on a Friday, and over the course of a weekend, we run various things to clean up the computer and then proceed to install updates, delete temp files, run scandisk, and lastly defrag.

To locate and remove Spyware, we use a program called SpyBot S&D - it's free download, so keep it on your desktop and run it occasionally (like once a week?) - just be sure to let it update it's definition files.

To locate and remove Ad Ware and browser hijackers, we use a program called AdAware SE Personal from LavaSoft USA - another free download that you should keep and run regularly - again, let the software check for updates.

SIDE NOTE: Just because these programs are free doesn't mean the authors don't think they are worth anything. Most authors of "free" software spend hours working on and updating their programs - if you find these products useful, we encourage you to donate to the author, or purchase a copy - help keep these kind of tools available.

It's also a good idea to run a virus scan on your computer - most programs cost about $40/year for virus protection, but if you don't want to spend the money, at least spend a little time (again - on a regular basis please) - we use a free online scanner from Trend Micro - you can access our anti-virus resources page more info and a link to the free scanner.

Free Online Virus Scan FREE Online Virus Scanner

After you get the computer "clean", it's time to get Windows up to date with all the latest patches - to check your Windows system for available updates, you can click

Start | Windows Update

After Windows analyzes the list of available updates and compares them to what is installed on your system, you will see a categorized list of available updates.  All critical updates will be noted in the top section.  You can also check for Windows Updates here.

Next it's time to clean up the hard disk drive.  For every hard disk drive in the system - from the My Computer window, right click on the drive, typically C, and then select properties. On the dialog window that opens, there is a button named "Disk Cleanup" - delete everything it finds.

On the Tools tab of the dialog, click the button "Check Drive for Errors"

When that finishes, click the button to "Defragment Now"

Both of these tasks pretty much require exclusive use of your machine, so don't be talking on AIM/GAIM/ICQ, or surfing the NET - you may also have to unload some programs that run in the background - like the Task Scheduler, and any reminder type programs you have - for example, Microsoft Works comes with a program that is listed in the Task Manager as WeeklyRem or something similar - that program can keep these tasks from completing.