What is spyware or adware and how can I remove it?

What it is

Spyware is Internet jargon for any data collection program that secretly gathers information about you and relays it to advertisers and other interested parties. Adware usually displays banners or unwanted pop-up windows, but often includes spyware as well.

You can unknowingly install spyware when you install new software, most commonly freeware or shareware (e.g., LimeWire, BearShare, KaZaA, iMesh). Many of these programs are intended to track your Internet browsing habits, such as frequented sites and favorite downloads, then provide advertising companies with marketing data.

Some spyware programs, such as CommonName, MarketScore, and Gator, can adversely affect your computer's performance, and may prevent you from accessing secure services at Baylor University.

How to remove it

Unfortunately, you cannot fully remove most spyware and adware programs by using the uninstall option in the Windows Add or Remove Programs control panel. To completely remove spyware from your computer, ITS recommends using Ad-Aware or Spybot - Search & Destroy.

Note: Current versions of Ad-Aware do not work with Windows Vista. For computers running Vista, use Windows Defender to remove spyware.

You can also configure Symantec AntiVirus (SAV) to scan for spyware and adware.

How to avoid it

Ad-Aware and Spybot - Search & Destroy have identified the following as applications that may contain adware or spyware:
  • Applejuice
  • Ares P2P
  • Audiogalaxy
  • BearShare
  • BonziBUDDY
  • CometCursor
  • eDonkey2000
  • Gnucleus
  • Gnutella
  • Go!Zilla
  • Grokster
  • iMesh
  • KaZaA and KaZaA Lite
  • KMD
  • LimeWire
  • Morpheus
  • NeoModus (DirectConnect)
  • Overnet
  • Rapigator
  • Shareaza
  • SwapNut
  • Warez P2P
  • WinMX
These additional steps also help avoid spyware and adware:
  • Reduce your use of cookies.
  • Avoid advertisements.
  • Avoid clicking links in instant messaging (IM) software
  • Frequently scan your computer with spyware detection software.
Some information supplied courtesy of the Indiana University UITS Knowledge Base.