What Is Adware and How to Remove It from Your Computer
No matter the device you use - be it a Mac, PC, iOS or Android - getting infected with adware is annoying. But sometimes, this can also put your personal data at risk.
In this guide, we’ll arm you with the knowledge you need to stay safe from adware. Let’s learn:
- what is adware
- what does adware do to your computer
- how to get rid of adware
- the most frequently asked questions about adware
What is adware
Adware is a type of unwanted software. Once it has infected your device, adware exposes you to unwanted pop-ups and ads, redirects your searches to advertising sites, and collects your data for marketing purposes.
Adware developers make revenue from the number of times users see or click their content. This is why adware is so intrusive; the more eyes see their ads, the more money they pocket.
Perhaps the most annoying thing about adware is how it’s usually loaded to your computer without your permission. You’re likely to have agreed to this in the EULA (End User License Agreement) when downloading something else.
What does adware do to your computer
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between legitimate pop-up ads and adware. Here are some telltale signs you’ve got an adware problem on your hands.
1. Your web browser’s homepage has changed
There are various browser extensions you can use to automatically change your browser’s homepage to photos of beautiful landscapes or motivational quotes. However, if instead of a beautiful seaview you see a redirect to an unknown address, then you could have been targeted by adware.
2. Your web browser is much slower than usual
Seeing the spinning beach ball of death may be irritating - but there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just a sign that your computer is engaged in processor-heavy activity. However, if something similar often happens to your browser, then don’t rush into installing a new one - it could be a sign of adware infection.
3. Your web browser frequently crashes
If your browser is so slow it makes any high-load activity almost impossible, it is just “throw-the-laptop-out-the-window” annoying! But things get even worse when your browser crashes in the middle of your favorite series or game. While this could indicate more serious problems or issues with a software update, it is still worth checking your computer for adware.
4. Banners appear in unusual places
We’re so used to seeing banners at the top or on the side of online content that we hardly even notice them. It’s a common phenomenon called banner blindness - the ability of our brains to ignore any banner-like information. However, if you notice how an ad looks suspicious and is in the wrong place - it could be a sign of adware.
5. You see text advertisements throughout any web pages you read
While banners commonly stay unnoticed, native text ads remain both popular and effective. Businesses often use them to give their ads an organic look and feel. However, if that online game ad keeps following you across all the websites you visit, then there’s nothing organic about it - it’s highly likely to be a sign that your computer is infected with adware.
6. The ads you see promote shady brands
Pumpkin pie shower gel, a Game of Thrones-esque online game, and a creepy toy for kids with a 50% off discount ... It all looks like a true shopaholic's heaven! The truth is, items you never googled may actually get shown to you in ads. Even worse, they may convince you to buy the products of shady brands. So the price for one click on such an ad may be way too high - even if you aren’t on a budget.
7. Website links direct you to unintended pages
If instead of opening a search engine’s homepage you get redirected to an unknown news website - it could once again be a telltale sign of adware. If redirects are common and suspicious (because, well, most of them are) - it is highly likely that you have adware infection on your computer.
8. Suspicious error messages appear out of nowhere
Seeing frequent error messages is both irritating and creepy. If numerous errors start to ruin your online experience - it is time to get rid of them by removing adware. Rest assured that you’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone if you follow this advice!
9. Software starts installing without your permission
Seeing unknown software installed on your computer is a nightmare - even if you’re not a control freak. It is also one of the most common signs of adware, which you installed - intentionally or not - by skipping one of the licenses you agreed to.
If some of the signs above seem familiar - and present in your day-to-day life - then it is likely you have adware installed on your PC or Mac. So, here’s how to find it on your own.
How do I find adware on my computer?
The simplest way to root out adware is to find an internet security software, then run through the following steps:
- Download reputable internet security software
- Follow the prompts to install
- Run a scan
If your suspicions are confirmed and your scan finds adware, then all that’s left to do is promptly remove it.
How to remove adware from your computer
The only way to completely stay clear from adware is to block off your day and read all licence agreements in full before downloading any applications. But that is probably not the answer you expected to see here. So below are a few ways to manually remove adware.
How do I remove adware from my PC
As mentioned above, by far the simplest way is to use a trusted antivirus software. However, if you want to do a manual exploration, try the following for Windows 10:
- Close all browsers and software
- Open the Windows Task Manager
- Click Processes
- Look out for anything suspicious, right click, and End Task
- Open the Windows Control Panel
- Hit Programs and Features > Uninstall A Program
- Identify the suspicious program, then uninstall it
How do I remove adware from Chrome
Even if you manage to uninstall the adware from your PC, it may have interfered with the settings on your browser so you might still need to fix this problem.
Run through the following steps in Chrome to resolve your adware issues:
- Backup your files. This is just a precaution, but it’s always a good idea to back up when you’re dealing with a potential cyberthreat. You can use an external hard drive or cloud storage
- Open Chrome
- Navigate through the Main Menu to More Tools > Extensions
- Look for extensions labeled Installed by enterprise policy
- Remove them
- Go back to Chrome’s Main Menu, then to Advanced Settings
- Click Reset settings to their original defaults
- Click Confirm, then Reset
How do I remove adware from my Mac
Similarly for Mac, you can scan and remove adware very simply with the help of a good antivirus software. Alternatively, you can try to remove adware manually by following these steps:
- Open Activity Monitor located on the LaunchPad
- Click on Force Quit if you see any suspicious applications. You’ll find this in the top left corner of the window. Any unfamiliar applications added recently without your knowledge might be deemed suspicious.
- Drag the app into Trash
- Restart your machine, then empty the Trash icon
Is adware the same as a virus?
The short answer is no, it is not. A virus is typically more dangerous and illegal malware. Adware is a PUP (potentially unwanted program).
However, if we’re honest, the term “potentially unwanted” is generous. A PUP is pretty much always unwanted! They do very little beyond cluttering your browser, tracking your online behavior, slowing your user experience and bombarding you with advertisements.
Is adware against the law?
By definition, adware is not a malicious program, but a PUP. For this reason, it is not considered illegal.
However, unknowingly installing adware on your computer is one thing - while getting it installed on someone else’s device is another. The latter is deemed to infringe the law because the data obtained from this can be used for nefarious purposes such as identity theft.
Can adware steal my passwords?
No. Adware is generally unmalicious and its purpose is to spam you with advertising. It doesn’t feature keyloggers that can interpret your keystrokes to reveal your credit card or password details. Threats such as these are associated with malware known as spyware.
Can adware steal information?
Adware doesn’t go as far as stealing personal information such as passwords. However, adware can and does gather other details such as your browsing habits. It then sells this valuable data to third-party advertisers.
Can adware slow down my computer?
Absolutely. However, this is just a side effect of its real purpose (to advertise,) not the end goal.
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Before you delve deep into the process of removing adware from your device, there are a few more things to be aware of.
These are some essential adware prevention steps to follow:
- Keep your operating systems up to date
- Install trusted antivirus software
- Only download and install trusted programs and software
- Opt for custom installation to ensure you’re not being lumbered with additional and unwanted software
- Be aware of what you’re clicking (i.e. so you’re not absentmindedly agreeing to adware!)
Now you know how to remove adware from your device - and how to reduce the likelihood of infections happening in the first place - rest assured those shady ads won’t be following you any longer.
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