While working on my computer at work online advertisement files will save to my desktop. I have my pop up blocker on and it seems to be working but I keep having items on my desktop for advertisements how do I stop this?
Oh man, I can’t think of anything that would drive me bonkers faster than the situation you’re describing, honestly. If there’s one thing that drives me crazy about working within the Windows environment, it’s how there are thousands of sites lurking, poised, ready to infect my computer, and once infected, tons of different spyware programs to ruin my computing experience.
First off, though, let’s define spyware. Spyware is any software that’s actually running on your computer without you explicitly granting it permission, installing it or wanting it there. Most typically, spyware tracks what you’re doing and reports salient data to a remote server, for example capturing keystrokes and trying to report email addresses or credit card numbers. Very bad stuff!
Some spyware does the opposite, though, just acting as a conduit for third parties to drop information on your computer, and I think that’s what you’re seeing with these online advertisements showing up on your desktop. This category of spyware is called adware, by the way, but it’s still the same insidious type of program running without permission on your computer.
To deal with the scourge of spyware, you need to install an anti-spyware tool (why does this remind me of the old Mad Magazine’s Spy Vs. Spy comics?). There are a number of choices, ranging from free to fairly expensive, so let me run down a couple that I feel are the best options.
First off, the single most popular solution to avoiding spyware is LavaSoft’s Ad-Aware. This is a great little program that you install and then it promptly scares the daylights out of you by reporting all this spyware that’s probably already running on your computer without you knowing. Zap everything, then you’ll be able to run your Windows system with just a bit more safety and comfort. Ad-Aware is what I run on my WinXP computers.
Microsoft has also been putting considerable effort into figuring out how to eradicate spyware from Windows XP computers, and while it’s rumored that the upcoming Windows Vista will have a much smarter backend to minimize the risk of spyware, in the meantime it’s worth checking out Windows AntiSpyware. However, this application is still in “beta” so there’s a slight chance it’ll do something bad to your computer, I suppose. My experience is that Microsoft doesn’t release something into beta until it’s pretty darn stable, so unless you have an exceptional or unusual configuration, you’re probably a perfect customer for this application.
A third strong solution is from a German developer, called Spybot Search & Destroy, and it’s very highly rated by publications like PC World in this category. To be candid, though, I do know of people who have had problems with this program, especially when they try to switch to another app and delete this one. Buyer beware.
Finally, my favorite choice, and the program that I’ve installed on the PCs of various family members, is Webroot’s Spy Sweeper, a program that costs a few dollars but has an excellent reputation in the industry and frequently wins computer magazine awards as best anti-spyware application on the market. Also nice is that the company offers a free spyware scan right on their Web site, if you’re not sure whether you’ve any spyware installed on your computer or not.
When you’re deciding what anti-spyware to install, remember that one critical factor is how trustworthy the company is. It’d be terrible to install an anti-spyware program just to find out that it’s actually sponsored, secretly, by a spyware group and that it flags and deletes all spyware except from that group. Not too likely, but I would certainly counsel you choose from one of the top four or five solutions in this space, not test out something from a company you’ve never heard of before.
Once you have one of these programs installed, you should be able to both eliminate the adware that appears to have infected your computer and avoid a reinfection in the future.