Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Possible Duplicate:
What to do if my computer is infected by a virus or a malware?

I think my brother got a case of adware on his Windows XP PC, since he gets occasional pop-ups out of nowhere (even when the browser is closed). He ran the various removal apps like AdAware but the popups persist. My normal suggestion is to just reformat, because I do not want to spend many painful hours trying to find and remove the cause... but maybe you have a better idea?

I'm pretty sure they are all IE popups, so maybe can he just disable IE somehow?

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by techie007, Nifle, Sathya May 15 '11 at 13:55

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

add comment

8 Answers

The first thing to do is to backup anything he's done himself, wipe the drive, and reinstall an operating system. I'd recommend one of the more user-friendly Linux distros (like Ubuntu) if all he does is email, web surfing, and light word processing (like my mother-in-law), but if he wants to run something not available on Linux (very common), reinstall Windows. Seriously, if he's getting advertising popups out of nowhere, his OS is seriously compromised, and half-measures are unlikely to remove everything.

Assuming this is a halfway recent version of Windows, removing or disabling Internet Explorer will do nothing. IE nowadays is something of a shell program, since Windows includes services like HTML rendering. These are used by applications and other parts of the operating system, and you're not going to get rid of them.

One thing to consider is installing another browser. Firefox is good for this, because it has a lot of defensive plug-ins you can get. NoScript (my favorite) requires a certain very basic grasp of how computers work, which many people don't seem to get, and your brother might be among them. However, AdBlock Plus may stop some of the adware.

There's the usual list of things to recommend to your brother. Like what sites he surfs, although (a) he presumably surfs them because he wants to, and (b) there was a recent adware problem on the New York Times site, and so no site that sells advertising is safe. Or being careful what he clicks on. Have him keep his Windows updated, and make sure he has good AV software.

Unfortunately, the bad guys are increasingly clever, and it's getting increasingly hard to set up a Windows box that's halfway safe for the average surfer. You may have to go through this again.

share|improve this answer
    
To add to this, when re-installing Windows, don't forget to install a good firewall like Zone Alarm and teach him how to use it. Zone Alarm and Avast Anti-virus have kept my wife's computer (and mine in the past) free of pretty much everything malicious under the sun. –  Tom Oct 30 '09 at 15:20
add comment

I recommend bleepingcomputer.com. I know my way around anti-virus/anti-spyware, but a friend's computer was so infected that it needed extra work.

The folks in the forums there were super helpful and, with a couple days' work, got me to a clean machine.

Be sure to read and follow their directions for getting help.

share|improve this answer
add comment

SuperAntiSpyware is also good. Don't forget that no one anti-spyware / anti-virus program will find and remove everything. You need to scan with different programs to be sure the infection is gone.

share|improve this answer
add comment

malwarebytes is the best thing I've found for rooting nasties out, pretty effective against stubborn ones when you run it in safe mode: http://www.malwarebytes.org/

share|improve this answer
add comment

If you think the computer may have been infected with malware then the only real option is to reinstall Windows.

These days malware is pretty sophisticated and you don't know if the adware has invited other malware in, like rootkits.

Source: Steve Gibson, SecurityNow podcast, episode 97, http://www.grc.com/sn/sn-097.htm, near "Well, and so to finish on this sort of explanation, what happens is, one way or another, people get themselves infected."

share|improve this answer
add comment

Ad-aware is also free. I usually use it in conjunction with spybot when cleaning up someone's computer. They both sometimes catch spyware that the other program misses.

share|improve this answer
    
OP already mentioned using AdAware... –  Eric Jul 15 '09 at 20:35
    
You're right. My bad. I can delete it if someone feels it is necessary. –  Eugene M Jul 16 '09 at 1:28
add comment

Install Windows Defender, immediately.

share|improve this answer
    
Just told him to try this. Microsoft claims it will work wonders, but somehow I doubt it. –  dsims Jul 15 '09 at 20:31
add comment

Spybot is fantastic, and free!

And it's using your default browser, so it's not going to matter if you went with Firefox or IE, it will keep opening those windows.

This could also be a virus, in which case, you should look at getting AVG Free, which is again fantastic and free.

share|improve this answer
    
I've never really liked Spybot S&D. TeaTimer is a definite memory hog, and while it does find the spyware, it never gets rid of them. They just keep coming back. –  Jack Marchetti Nov 19 '09 at 15:41
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.