Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

In an ideal world, we'd prevent malicious software from ever reaching our machines and thus, we'd never need to remove malware.

Is there any way of keeping Adware from getting ON the computer in the first place? I already have several programs that take it OFF, but that still gives it the opportunity to clog up my connection (which it does!). How can I keep it from getting ON the PC in the first place?

I'm going to expand this from just "Adware" to all forms of malicious software or "malware" because the concepts and principles are the same. Even though many forms of adware (advertising software) are not strictly malicious, they can be annoying, as you're currently experiencing.

The answer depends on the specific malicious software or adware that you're having trouble with, but it typically falls into one of three categories.

You are the best defense

A lot of malware - I'll guess perhaps even as much as half these days - is malware that you've explicitly invited onto your computer.

In other words, you may well be doing it to yourself.

"I know it's not intentional - perhaps it's accidental or simply not realizing that this might be happening..."


  • Returning to sites that repeatedly install the software with which you're having problems.

  • Downloading and installing software that includes the malware.

  • Opening email attachments that turn out to include the malware.

There are probably even more ways that simply boil down to your allowing, or even asking, that the malicious software to be installed on your machine. I know it's not intentional - perhaps it's accidental, or simply not realizing that this might be happening - but it's frighteningly common.

That's why I say that you are the best defense.

The next time that you've cleaned something off of your machine and you expect it to return, take care to watch specifically what you're doing that might end up inadvertently inviting malware onto your own machine.

Removal tools are often prevention tools

Many of the tools that we'd consider malware removal tools are actually malware prevention tools as well.

Anti-virus and anti-spyware tools sometimes have options to monitor your computer for incoming malware and stop it in its tracks if they're configured properly.

Firewalls prevent malicious software from entering your machine over the network.

Keeping your machine's software - both OS and applications - up-to-date removes the software vulnerabilities that malicious software often exploits to infect your machine.

Tools like WinPatrol can also alert you to suspicious activity so you can choose to block it should you want to.

The take-away here is to perhaps take an inventory of how you have your machine protected and make sure that it includes all of the basic steps for internet security.

Sometimes, stuff happens

Even with the best of plans and tools, stuff can still happen. It shouldn't be often, and it needn't repeat, but as I've often pointed out, detecting and preventing malware is actually a race. Malware authors are always attempting to exploit unpatched vulnerabilities and devise new ways of avoiding detection. On the other side of the battle, software vendors are patching discovered vulnerabilities and anti-malware tools vendors are devising new techniques to detect all the new ways that malware can be hidden.

In the middle is a window where even a fully protected machine can still remain vulnerable to the latest malicious software.

I'll also remind you that backups are for more than hardware failures - restoring to a full backup taken prior to a malware infection is often the most effective approach to ensure that malware has indeed been completely removed.

Article C4891 - August 1, 2011 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

August 2, 2011 9:59 AM

Thanks Leo, great article.You're so right by saying that security starts with yourself.
In addition to the tools you mentioned ,I'd recommend for people to look into some others mentioned below.
To avoid getting malware on my machine in the first place,
I use either Sandboxie
or BufferZone
Both use the "sandbox" concept, so if your browser is "sandboxed" , any malware picked up by your browser never gets into your "real" system.(Unless you specifically allow it)
Other applications can run sandboxed too ,including email.
Great for trying out new programs as well.
Don't like what the program does or any dubious "extras" it installed? Just empty the sandbox and all will be gone. Don't even have to un-install it.
Acronis TI also has the "Try and Decide" feature ,which is similar.
These are just a few examples how to protect yourself. There are many other similar programs.

August 2, 2011 10:48 AM

You will get burnt unless you're not using a modem.
Leo, you mention backups as being the most effective way to remove malware.
Good solid advice, as always.
BACKUP BACKUP BACKUP. Buying another HD, external USB or internal, and using it for backups only will save your bacon and your sanity. And the prices have dropped signifigantly for tetrabyte HDs.
And thank you, DiggerP, for letting me know about BufferZone.

August 2, 2011 1:59 PM

Spyware Blaster is useful. Remember to manually update regularly if you don't donate.

August 3, 2011 3:35 AM

For Firefox users, there is a nifty little add-on called 'NoScript' which prevents websites from running scripts unless you specifically allow them, be it permanently or temporarily. It seems to be updated on a regular basis and does include websites which are known as being malicious from executing anything.

Takes some getting used to, but well worth it.

I've been recommending that for a while now: NoScript - A Firefox addin that makes browsing safer.

August 3, 2011 7:31 AM

The best way is to buy a A/V router. Products such as Fortinet's Fortigate routers scan for viruses and stop them before they get to the PC's. This is great for businesses but unfortunately a little pricey for home users.

August 3, 2011 8:28 PM

Snert Alert (see below)-and to others:

"backups as being the most effective way to remove malware" NO! It WONT remove malware.

If malware infects, and you can't isolate or remove it, then restoring to a full backup taken prior to a malware infection will be needed. I only hope I've misunderstood or misinterpreted the comment.

I believe what is meant is that having a backup taken prior to the infection to which you can restore to after the infection is the most effective way to remove malware. If you don't have a backup then it's not an option, and only reformat/reinstall can be used to clean off otherwise uncleanable malware.

August 9, 2011 1:16 PM

Where does malware hide? I have application files such as Word or Excel on an old computer. Can I move those tho my new computer without infecting it?
Is Kontera malware, that is, is it on my computer or on the server side?

Malware hides all over. As separate files on your machine, embedded in files you download, or even in word and excel documents. That's why it's important to run up-to-date anti-malware scans - once you do so on the old computer I'd feel safe copying over the documents. Kontera is an advertising company - it resides on the web. They're responsible for the ads that appear as double-underlines here on Ask Leo!.

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