How to Remove Adware and How to Protect Yourself

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How to remove adware is a question you may be asking if you’re seeing unexpected pop-up ads or your homepage is changing without explanation.

This article will cover how to remove adware and precisely what it is. We will also explore the warning signs that indicate you have adware and exactly how this intrusive software got on your device.

An Adware Definition

An adware product is a program that displays advertisements on your device. The software exists to generate revenue for its creators by delivering ads to your system. There are many ways adware can display ads, from pop-up ads to banners and in-text ads, among others.

An important note is that an adware program isn’t necessarily a virus. However, you would be forgiven for thinking this as they behave in a similar way. A better term to describe adware is as “potentially unwanted programs,” otherwise known as PUPs.

That said, you also get more aggressive and malicious forms of adware. These programs can track your activity without consent, slow your computer down, and may serve as a conduit for even more harmful malware.

How To Remove Adware

In order to remove adware, you have two options. The first option is a manual removal, and this requires you to know the name of the program you want to remove.

Option 1 — Manual Removal

In Windows, if you know exactly what you’re looking for, simply go to your control panel and click on “Programs,” then click on “Programs and Features.”

Next, look for the name of the software you want to remove and right-click on it. This will give you the option to uninstall the specific program.

remove adware manually

Option 2 — Use Antivirus Software

Alternatively, you can use antivirus solutions to remove adware and more invasive malware. We’ll now explore how to remove adware using TotalAV.

Step 1 — Install TotalAV

Go to TotalAV and click “Free Download.”

TotalAV home page

Step 2 — Set Up Real-Time Protection

Once you’ve successfully installed TotalAV, the next step is to enable real-time protection.

TotalAV real-time protection

Step 3 — Run a System Malware Scan

Go to the menu and click on “Malware Scan.”

TotalAV malware scan

Step 4 — Scan Computer

You should be able to click on “System Scan.” This will check your computer for adware and other forms of malware.

TotalAV full system scan

Step 5 — Go to the Quarantine Folder

Click on the TotalAV logo and then click “Quarantine.”

TotalAV quarantine infected files

Step 6 — Remove Infected File

Select the file in the quarantine folder and click on “Delete Selected.” This will permanently remove the file from your system.

TotalAV delete infected file

How Do You Get Adware?

There are a few ways you can find adware on your computer or mobile device, often without your knowledge or consent. Here are some of the more common ways adware is distributed and installed on computer systems.

  • Software Bundling — Adware is often packaged with legitimate software, especially free software. When you download these programs, you might receive suggestions to install unrelated software. Remain vigilant, as these are cases where you could be unknowingly installing adware.
  • Fake or Misleading Downloads — There are many websites out there that host pirated and cracked software. If you decide to download these programs, you could be misled into thinking you are accessing a specific product when, in reality, you are downloading adware.
  • Drive-By Downloads — When visiting malicious or compromised websites, adware can potentially be downloaded to your system without your knowledge. You are infected simply by visiting the site with adware going to work in the background.
  • Email Attachments — Adware can also be distributed through email attachments. If you open emails with an attachment from an unknown source, there is a risk of downloading adware from these attachments.
  • Outdated Software — Out-of-date software, including your operating system, web browser, and even software plugins, poses security risks that adware distributors can exploit.
  • Deceptive Ads and Clickbait — This has become a common medium for distributing adware. Deceptive ads or malvertising often offer free software, prizes, and other attractive offerings to get you to click on them. This is an easy way for adware to find its way onto your device.

How Does Adware Work?

Adware works by burrowing itself deep into your system in an attempt to hide itself. Once it’s done this, it will start to track your internet activity to send you advertisements in the form of pop-ups in most cases.

In other cases, some websites force you to download adware when you visit them or click on a page. These can be difficult to detect without an antivirus as they are downloaded in the background.

Some developers are also known to include adware in their open-source projects as a way to fund them without taking into account how damaging this can be to the end user.

Types of Adware

There are many forms of adware, but they can be broadly bundled into two main categories – legitimate adware and malicious adware.

Legitimate Adware

This is adware you knowingly downloaded with your express consent, often with the promise of receiving something in return, such as free software or a product discount. To cover their costs, developers often include adware for advertising-supported software.

Some of the top free antivirus solutions are examples of legitimate adware. To receive the benefits of the free antivirus software, the program will display non-intrusive ads within the user interface and encourage you to upgrade to the premium version.

The main difference is that these ads are usually clearly labeled, and you’re made aware that this is the trade-off of using the free software.

Malicious Adware

What is malicious adware? It’s adware that uses deceptive means to get your consent and makes it difficult for you to refuse it. They also exhibit more harmful behaviors that go beyond simply displaying ads.

For example, have you ever tried to click the small X at the top of an ad only for it to redirect you to another potentially untrustworthy page? If the answer is yes, then you’ve come across a malicious form of adware.

Malicious adware and adware malware programs are often intrusive and annoying, but even if they’re not, they may be acting as spyware, logging your data, communications, and preferences and compromising your privacy. That being said, legitimate adware also has the potential to create vulnerabilities that malware can exploit.

What Can Malicious Adware Do? How to Tell If You’re Infected

How to Remove Adware

There are a few ways you can tell if your computer has been infected with malicious adware. Let’s take a look at some of the common signs that indicate your system has adware on it:

  • Changes to Browser — Opening your browser and finding a new search engine as the default homepage could indicate malicious adware at play. In other cases, you may be redirected to advertising websites without your consent.
  • Constant Ads — It’s normal to see ads while browsing, but if you’re experiencing a constant bombardment of ads, it can indicate there’s adware at work.
  • Internet Disruptions — Adware can download a barrage of ads onto your system, resulting in a slower internet connection and frequent disconnections.
  • Impacts Performance — If your device is taking longer to respond than usual, this could be a sign that you’ve got adware running. Adware tends to take up a lot of memory and slows down your processor. If you’ve looked and found no adware and your system is still slow, here’s advice on how you can make your device run faster.
  • Frequent Crashes — If your computer crashes frequently – interrupting your use of the device and potentially corrupting files – it may be a sign you have adware on your system.

More Antivirus Resources

The best way to remove adware and other forms of malware is to use an antivirus solution. If you’d like to learn more about antiviruses, our experts have put together some excellent guides to help you improve your internet security.

Conclusion – Removing Adware and Malware

The presence of adware and malware poses a significant risk to you and your computer. Even though adware programs aren’t necessarily viruses, they can open the door to more malicious malware.

It’s always a good idea to try to remove unwanted adware either manually or using a reputable antivirus program like TotalAV.

It’s also vital to practice safe internet usage by being mindful of anything you download, from email attachments to images and files, as this is an easy way to unknowingly install adware. Performing regular scans is another way you can be proactive and prevent malicious software from infecting your system.

Adware Products FAQs

What is adware?

What is the difference between spyware and adware?

What is the best adware remover?

How do you detect adware?

What does adware do to your computer?

Who do adware authors target?

What is the purpose of spyware and adware products?


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Justin Van Gent
Technology Writer
Justin Van Gent
Technology Writer

With a background in telecommunications and renewable energy, and having studied engineering and web design, Justin’s technical expertise shines through with his content. He has written pieces spanning numerous tech verticals for Techopedia and The Tech Report, but he specializes in VPN, antivirus, and hosting content. His pieces are known for their accuracy and insight and for delivering informative content for Techopedia's audience.