I know this isn't technically a "deal", but it is "hot" in the sense that it will help you to keep your computer running well.
Spyware and adware is annoying. Adware can create those annoying popups that appear when you aren't even surfing the web. Spyware can even track your key strokes, trace your surfing habits, and do other nasty things. (like change your homepage) Those are just some of the annoying problems created by spyware and adware, the list goes on. I'm pretty sure that every computer connected to the internet will encounter some form of spyware or adware at some point. (Unless you're really really careful. So... if you're experiencing similar problems to what I just said, or don't know what might be lurking on your PC, perhaps it's time to scan your hard drives and hunt down them ther' bad guys.
First on the list, and my personal favorite, is Spybot Search & Destroy, put out by a guy in Germany, I believe. It's freeware and it's very well done. The UI is very friendly and has "easy" and "advanced" modes so that a person of any level of computer literacy can use it successfully. The author maintains and updates it's list of spyware and adware frequently and issues downloadable updates that the program will install automatically. SB S&D is very effective at removing nearly every spyware and adware application and gets better at it all the time.
Next up is a program called AdAware. It's a commercial product although they have a free basic version available that has everything you need to compliment Spybot Search & Destroy. AdAware has a nice UI as well and downloading updates is just as easy as in SB S&D.
The combination of those two applications should find anything you throw at them. These programs provide a retroactive solution to having spyware, but a more proactive approach often helps. First, avoid clicking software install boxes that popup on the web unless you're absolutely sure it's from a company you trust. Second, watch what software you install on your computer, and what it comes with, frequently shady "freeware" comes with hidden spyware. (The free version of Kazaa (not Kazaa Lite) is a good example that comes to mind.) If you have a program that's already installed on your computer that came with hidden spyware, be careful about deleting it in SB S&D or AdAware, as removing the spyware often disables the program it's associated with. (Kazaa is apparently an example of this.) Some cookies can also act as spyware, watching your surfing habits and doing other nasty things. That's where the next step comes into play.
JavaCoolSoftware's SpywareBlaster can prevent the installation of any spyware ActiveX controls from a webpage. It does this while not interfering with "friendly" ActiveX controls - so your browser can work correctly and you can have peace of mind. It will even reduce the number of the spyware "yes/no" software installation windows you get while surfing. It is also freeware and inoculates your computer proactively.
Spybot Search & Destroy also has an option to inoculate your computer against spyware, give that a shot too. There is also a SB S&D resident program that will monitor which cookies are being downloaded and will alert you if a webpage wants to make a spyware cookie. (and you can either choose to accept it or block it).The resident program install can be found somewhat buried within the menus of SB S&D. (In "options" if I remember correctly.)
If you also want to block all URLs associated with spyware companies and advertisement pictures on webpages, then try updating your hosts file. I also use Richard the Lion Hearted's host files to block ads and popups. (The host files are put together by a fellow FatWalleter, DragonsLore and are designed to play friendly with FatWallet's CashBack and associate links)
Just be sure that if you're running XP to disable the DNS Client, otherwise your browsing will slow down considerably.
"Administrator Tools > Services" and disable the "DNS Client" service.
Also, I recommend making your host file "read only" to prevent programs from modifying it. (I think Kazaa is famous for this too.)
Yet another thing to be worried about are computer Hijackers. The tool to check for Hijackers is HijackThis. HijackThis can come up with some legitimate programs in it's list of "problems" because it's so through. In order to remove the hijackers you have to know which things are good and which aren't. I don't reccomend you make those decisions without the advice of a good anti-spyware forum. On the forums listed below you'll have to post the log of things HijackThis found. You can do this by opening up the log in the directory where HijackThis is stored. (c:/HJT is reccomended).
WARNING: Just to iterate a point, Hijackthis can be dangerous to your system, be sure to ask for help in one of the forums listed below.
Another forum you could post the log to is the SpywareInfo forum.
Anti-virus is always good, I reccomend Avast or AVG.
These Anti-Virus scanners were suggested by bonkers, I haven't checked them out myself but they look alright:
BitDefender Download - works on demand only, no realtime protection
Anti-Trojan stuff suggested by bonkers
Ewido security suite
It doesn't really deal with spyware and adware, but a good firewall is always a must to have.
If you're looking to block pop-ups in Internet Explorer, I reccomend using the Google Toolbar, which includes a pop-up blocker (and has the added benefit of integrating Google search).
One thing, though: The google toolbar can track your searching if you have "advanced features" turned on, so it could be percieved as spyware. The advanced features include unnesccey things like "PageRank" so it's perfectly safe to turn them off in the toolbar options. (If advanced features are off it's won't track your searching.
Another option to block pop-ups is to use Mozilla FireFox. Not only does it block pop-ups but it blocks nearly all of the spyware that Internet Explorer allow through. I have a thread on FireFox in the Free Stuff forum.
Ah, Windows: Many like it's familiarity but but are unaware of it's problems. Windows has many security problems that could be exploited to gain controll of your computer. Microsoft releases patches very frequently to fix the plethora of security breaches. I reccomend going WindowsUpdate to patch your computer. The security patches are almost always under the "critical updates".
A program that I hadn't heard of until Mav12 posted about it is DiamondCS Registry Prot v2.0. It's a program that alerts you whenever your registry is changed.
If you're looking to see some possible security breaches you may have on your system, try this page by Symantec.
It also has a free online virus scan too!
If you're looking for a second on-line virus scanner, try Panda's.
A good PC maintainence page is PCpitstop.
DragonsLore is another FatWallet member who know's his spyware/adware. Heck, he's an expert on the stuff. He has a thread about it too and gives wonderful advise and instructions for Spyware & Adware removal.
Well, hope this thread helps you to keep your computer running smoothly! <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif" border=0>
Please bump this thread if you find it helpful.
(By the way, "Bump" refers to how a thread is "bumped" to the top of the list in the forum index of a particular section after being replied to.)