You turn on your computer and start up Internet Explorer to do a little web surfing and then it hits. The barrage of pop-up ads. They are everywhere. You can't seem to click on anything without seeing advertisements for everything from medicines to online dating services and vacations. Your home page has even changed to some search engine you've never heard of.
Where do all these ads come from? Some web sites you visit generate pop-up ads, but most do not. Most pop-up ads are actually displayed by programs that are installed and running on your computer. These programs are commonly referred to as spyware or adware. No matter what you call them, there are three questions to answer. How did they get here in the first place? How do I avoid them in the future? and How do I get rid of them now?
These annoying programs were probably invited by someone using your computer. Usually it's the users from about age 10 to 17 that are the real culprits. They go to a web site to look up cheat codes for a video game and up pops a message saying how cool this web site will look if they will just install some utility. They click ok and the next thing you know the pop-up ads are starting. Music sharing programs like Kazaa and Morpheus are some of the worst spyware programs available. The really bad thing is that once some of these programs are on your computer, they'll download others all by themselves. Soon, your computer is virtually unusable. That is likely how it happened to you.
Now that we know how it happened, we can avoid it in the future. Simply do not download anything that is not from a well known legitimate source like Macromedia, Adobe, Microsoft, etc. If you are concerned about a program, search Yahoo! or Google and do a little reading about it. If the program is spyware, there will be plenty to read.
Finally, how do I clean this stuff of my computer? There are some nifty utilities available for this. My favorite is Ad-Aware. It is available for free download at LavaSoftUSA.com or under "Free Utilities" at www.PreactiveIT.com. You can download and run this utility to knock out the spyware on your computer. It is not perfect. It will not always get 100% of the spyware, but it will get most of it. They even sell a version that will monitor your computer and prevent you from downloading spyware.
One mistake many users make is to install so called pop-up blockers. The problem with these utilities is that they are fighting a symptom. The symptom is the pop-up ad, but the real problem is the spyware on your computer. These users end up slowing there computer down because the pop-up blocker is constantly doing battle with the ads. All this work slows the computer down.
Now that you know where the pop-ups come from and how to prevent and clean them up, you should be able to surf the web with out being attacked by them in the future.