Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the Internet, you find out about this! Although it sounds very 007, and is pretty sinister in nature, it can also be very bad news for your computer. Spyware and adware can sneak in from regular web surfing or piggy back on downloads. Those cute little cursors you installed, the funky wallpaper you got off the web, and especially those file sharing programs all come with a price that you might not even realize you're paying. These behind-the-scenes programs can monitor what web sites you frequent to customize the ads they throw at you. They can generate those annoying pop-up screens that just won't go away at times, and enough of it on your computer can cause conflicts with other programs and result in more serious problems.
Now you're probably wondering how to rid yourself of this junk. Well, there are some very good free programs out there to help you. How often you run them is up to you, but if you're online frequently, you'll want to do a little housekeeping at least once a week. Spybot Search and Destroy (free but requesting donations) and AdAware are great tools to use. They're easy to install and run, and they'll give you some information about what they find on your system. Remember that once you use them to clean off the spyware/adware, the program they came with may not run well or at all after the removal. For more information on the tools that are out there, check out the Spyware Warrior's blog for reviews.
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