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Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
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Anti-Spyware Strategies, Part 1:
Clean Out Your System

Do you suspect that your system is infected with adware, spyware, or other malware? Here's how to get rid of it.

Step Two: Look Around
The first and easiest cleanup step is to go into Add/Remove Programs and take a look around. There are several reasons for dong this. First, this is especially important when diagnosing problems on an unfamiliar computer. The list of Add/Remove entries will tell you how the computer is being used and identify important programs that may require backup.

Anti-Spyware Strategies, Part 1

•  Introduction

•  Step One: Back Up Your Data

•  Step Two: Look Around

•  Step Three: Choose An Anti-Spyware App

•  Step Four: If All Else Fails

•  Image Gallery: Clearing Restore Points

It can also identify common spyware and virus vectors like LimeWire or Kazaa — file-sharing applications that you may want to keep off your clients' machines, since they could be used for downloading dangerous software. There is no use in spending time to clean up a computer if the user is going to continue the behavior that got them into trouble in the first place.

Finally, by examining the Add/Remove Programs list, you can find programs that were installed surreptitiously, either during the install of another application or when your client clicked on a Web link and/or ad.

The following is a list of items you may find on the Add/Remove list that you can safely remove. These represent programs that are unwanted visitors on 99 percent of the systems where they are installed. Most of them display ads and/or change browser behavior in undesirable ways.

  • GAIN
  • Media Access
  • Media Gateway
  • My Web Search
  • MySearch
  • Search Assistant - My Search
  • Secure Delivery
  • Select CashBack
  • Surf Accuracy
  • The Best Offers
  • WebRebates
  • Web Savings from eBates
  • WhenU Save
  • YourSiteBar
  • Zango
When some of these programs are removed, they may require a reboot to clear them fully. If the uninstaller asks whether you want to reboot, answer "No" and finish removing any other programs you find on the Add/Remove list. Then reboot as the final step.

Google can be a useful tool for determining whether something on the Add/Remove list should be removed. A search for the name of the entry will usually turn up some good information. If you know the name of a running program that is part of the software, for example from Task Manager, you can look it up on PC Pitstop's known software database. If you have any doubts about whether something should be removed, leave it alone for now. You'll have several chances to clean it up in later steps.

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