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Spyware Checkers

This is part of some remarks I've put together for friends
who are stuck with Windows. You should have read this first.

'Spyware' is a class of software that gets installed on your Windows machines in all sorts of ways... including courtesy of whoever sold you your PC. You can delay installing spyware checkers until you have completed your re-install of Windows. Here's the description for one such piece of 'spyware':

Gator tracks the sites that users visit and forwards that data back to the company's servers. Gator sells the use of this information to advertisers who can purchase the opportunity to make ads pop up at certain moments, such as when specific words appear on a screen. It also lets companies launch a pop-up ad when users visit a competitor's Web site."

Running Ad-aware and Spybot is optional. Your machine is 'safe' (not infected) without these being installed. If you are comfortable that someone is tracking what you do on your machine, then you can skip running these two programs. If you don't like this behavior, feel free to install the programs mentioned below and run them regularly (once a month). I ran these on my machines at home and while I have been very very careful, I still found 16 cases of 'low-risk' spyware.

There seem to be at least two freely available versions of spyware checkers that are popular, Ad-aware and Spybot. I'm told that neither finds everything, but together they do a good job. Both work similarly to virus scan programs in that they must get updates for the database of things to search for. Unlike virus scan software, these programs do not run all the time, but rather you must remember to invoke them once in a while.

Ad-aware start


This software is available from Their simplest version of Ad-aware is free for personal use. They offer more automated versions for sale. The install is pretty normal. Once you start the program, you must first click on 'Check for updates'.

Spybot start

SpyBot Search & Destroy

This software is available from The install is pretty normal. Its behavior is much like Ad-aware, but I find the interface less obvious. One nice feature is that it is aware of Ad-aware so it does not trip over things Ad-aware finds (see here).

These two programs will not run themselves automatically. You need to remember to run them every once in a while. You'll have other maintenance things to do regularly and these scans could just be another thing to do.

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Copyright (c) 2004 Terry Gliedt. Direct comments or questions to
Be sure to use a subject of 'Coping with Windows' or your Email will likely be tossed out by my SPAM filters.
Last Revision: Sep 01, 2008