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?


8 Answers 8


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.

  • 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. Commented Nov 19, 2009 at 15:41

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/


Install Windows Defender, immediately.

  • Just told him to try this. Microsoft claims it will work wonders, but somehow I doubt it.
    – dsims
    Commented Jul 15, 2009 at 20:31

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.


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.

  • OP already mentioned using AdAware...
    – Eric
    Commented Jul 15, 2009 at 20:35
  • You're right. My bad. I can delete it if someone feels it is necessary.
    – Eugene M
    Commented Jul 16, 2009 at 1:28

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."


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.


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.

  • 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 A
    Commented Oct 30, 2009 at 15:20

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .