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What is adware?

According to Statista, adware is the most common form of malicious software distributed globally, which means that most of us are bound to encounter it at some point. While not as sinister as system-destroying viruses or data-harvesting spyware, adware can be highly invasive and frustrating to deal with. Luckily, Clario's powerful antivirus scanner can swiftly identify and remove any threats, including unwelcome adware, from your device.

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What is adware? Adware definition

Adware is software that automatically presents online advertisements, which may include pop-ups, banners, and videos, within an application, browser, or operating system. Generally, software that's ostensibly free to use is the most likely to contain excessive advertising. When developers don't charge directly for products, using adware is an alternative way to earn revenue.

Adware on mobile devices

Adware could arrive on your mobile device through a downloaded application or browser extension. While some legitimate apps do display ads, advertising shouldn't leak into other parts of your OS. Both Apple and Google have strict guidelines surrounding applications offered on their respective online stores, which means that downloading authorized software is usually the safest route to avoiding any unwelcome surprises.

Adware on computer

Adware on your computer could relate to a specific app, or you may see unwanted advertisements appear in your browser and other parts of the OS. In most cases, adware that infects your PC, Mac, or web browser will have come from an item downloaded from the internet.


Applications, extensions, plugins, and other types of software could potentially contain unwanted advertising elements, which is why researching anything you want to install on your computer is important. Learning to avoid adware means you won't have to waste time dealing with an infection.

Malware vs. Adware vs. Spyware

Malware, Adware, and Spyware are different types of malicious software. While, technically, certain examples of software could earn all three titles, many fall into one distinct category. However, adware can spy; spyware can damage your system, and malware could be capable of almost anything.


Malware may refer to any type of malicious software but usually relates to computer viruses. Technically, you could label any app that breaches your privacy or security malware, but more refined definitions for specialized varieties, such as adware and spyware, do exist.


Adware, as we know, can be malicious but usually just seeks to show unsolicited advertising rather than cause damage. If you permitted the software to install and it isn't breaching your security or privacy, the adware likely isn't illegal. However, sometimes applications and extras get installed accidentally, and seeing unexpected ads appear on your phone or computer can cause frustration.


Spyware is a form of malware that focuses on monitoring your activity and stealing private information. Evidently, a device infected with this type of software is a huge security risk, and you should take steps to identify and remove any problem items if you suspect an infection.

How does adware work?

Typical adware seeks to present you with advertising in order to generate revenue. Generally, ads connected to an extension or plugin will appear in your web browser and may redirect you to different pages or present pop-ups. Additionally, fee-to-use software may display advertising within the application itself, and some adware could show ads elsewhere that are difficult to trace back to their source.


Viewing online advertisements is a good way to support developers that offer products for free. However, unsolicited adware may be unwelcome — and dangerous — if ads connect to malicious websites or malware. Before clicking any pop-up ad, you should first verify the source.

How do you get adware?

Typically, adware will infect your device or browser through several common sources:

  • Applications or other software
  • Browser extensions
  • Plugins
  • Other add-ons and extras

As you can see, almost anything you download from the internet could contain adware. Therefore, you should always take steps to verify sources and ensure that you utilize strong device security.

How to tell if your device is infected with adware

If you're seeing abnormal amounts of advertising in odd places, especially within your browser, adware may have infected your device. In which case, you should inspect any software you installed right before the issue first began.


If you can't identify a problem application, you should check your browser for suspicious extensions and add-ons. The process for accessing the relevant section differs between applications and operating systems, but generally you'll find what you're looking for in the main menu of your browser or within the settings.

How to remove adware?

When it comes to removing adware or any other form of malicious software from your Mac or Android device, you have a couple of options. If you have a lot of time and patience, you may opt for manual removal. If, however, you prefer to do things the easy way, the automatic solution may be best.

Manually remove adware

Manually removing adware involves identifying the source of the unwanted ads and eliminating it from your device. When performing this process, you really have to understand your browser and operating system so you know where to look.


Generally, removing the application, extension, or other software that contains the adware should resolve the issue. But positive identification may not be easy. In most cases, using security software to identify and remove the culprit is much simpler.

Automatically remove adware

Clario's anti-malware scanner will identify and remove any threats from your device. Available in both the Mac and Android versions of the app, the tool can help you eliminate any rogue software that isn't playing by the rules. The process is simple:

  1. Download and install Clario
  2. Launch the app and sign in or create an account
Clario sign in screen

    3. On Mac, tap Quick scan or Scan on Android

Clario dashboard with Quick scan highlighted

    4. Grant Clario access to your files if prompted

Clario asking for full disk access with Next highlighted

    5. Complete the scan and remove any threats

Clario scan complete

While the anti-malware scanner isn’t available on all devices, Clario also provides instant ad blocking for Mac and iOS, which helps thwart not only adware but regular online advertising as well.

How to avoid adware

If you follow good security practices  — don't download sketchy software, always verify links before clicking, and use good anti-malware tools — avoiding adware is easy enough. However, accidents do happen. When adware does infect your device, the right security software will help you swiftly identify any threats and keep your system secure.

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