My last post was on Layers of Spam Protection. Reducing spam makes you a more productive person. But Spam isn't the only thing that can get in your way. Spyware, that is installed along side many of the applications you download from the internet.
That's right, you may think you are just getting a disney software screensaver, but in reality, you're getting the screensaver, a handy pop-up opener application, a hard drive crawler designed to slow your system to a crawl and plug in for Outlook that reads your contact list (this is just a nasty example).
How can you clean your system of such horrible applications?
If it's running, it's doing something, stop all the services you don't need, stop programs from running in your registry, start menu, win.ini file. Delete un-neccessary plug-ins from Outlook, IE, etc, scrap the registry for signs of spyware applications and remove them... Pretty tedious *and* you have to know what you're doing in order to be successful.
Luckly, there are other people on the Internet that hate spyware as much as I do. Microsoft helps point these out with Security at Home: Fight Spyware!
I used to do the hardway, but there are so many spyware programs that this could take forever, let alone me being able to detect all the different forms of spyware. I leaned on the website above, and found Lavasoft Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy. I've used both of these applications, and they both do an excellent job for free! I like the name Search & Destroy, so I typically use Spybot as a result of my mindset when I get a pop-up that I wasn't expecting.
But keep in mind, that not all pop-ups come from spyware, some come from the website you're browsing. XP SP2 comes with a free pop-up blocker, and there are other tools out there too like the Google Toolbar or the MSN Toolbar.