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Nolene Asks About Spyware
My computer was hijacked by spyware last week which installed software I didn't want and couldn't uninstall, changed system settings and wouldn't allow me to permanently change them back, and installed bars and another unwanted homepage and search options. It wouldn't even allow me to visit the weather site of my choice but would force me to visit the one they chose. After trying several different approaches to remove the spyware, my computer finally gave up and I experienced the 'screen of blue death' ... leading to me having to totally reformat and reinstall everything. Since I obviously don't want this happening again, I would like to know if there are any good anti-spyware programs that are available for free to home users. Your advice would be appreciated. Regards, Nolene

Our Answer
We can recommend two good freeware programs to prevent the type of thing you experienced last week from happening again.

One is WinPatrol. WinPatrol has a free version and a professional version (we liked the free version so well we bought the pro version). The free version is 100% functional, and will protect you from all sorts of nasties, including browser hijackers, homepage hijackers, as well as prevent Web sites from adding things to your "Favorites". You can get more information about WinPatrol from . We highly recommend this program to everyone, whether or not they have a good arsenal of anti-spyware software installed.

The other program we recommend is called "Spyware Blaster". Its forte is protecting you from installing spyware in the first place. It's a proactive anti-spyware program as opposed to a reactive one that removes spyware after you've become infected with it.  We also have Spyware Blaster installed on all of our computers and highly recommend it for everyone, regardless of other anti-spyware programs installed. You can read more about and/or download Spyware Blaster free by clicking here.

We are concerned because spyware has reached pandemic proportions and it has now become a household word. This means that the most insidious of the spyware makers will need to be even more sneaky and more covert as they develop ways around the various anti-spyware programs now appearing all over the Internet.  More stealthiness by spyware developers means you can expect to see more lies plastered all over their Web sites like "Our software contains no Spyware or Adware". Don't take their word for it. There are two things you can to protect yourself.  If you see a Web site that you suspect is pandering spyware, don't believe their brash "No Spyware" statement. Read their entire privacy policy and End User License Agreement (EULA). If the EULA drones on for page after page, that should be a good indicator that they're trying to obfuscate something; steer clear.  The other thing you can do is search the Internet for references to the program you question. A simple search term like "program name + spyware" should turn up results if the questionable program is spyware.

Finally, we strongly recommend SpySweeper. It is not free, but it is the best. It now recognizes over 100,000 different spyware programs. There are just no free spyware programs that do nearly as good at finding and removing spyware as SpySweeper.  If there were, we'd tell you about them. You can try SpySweeper for 30 days free. It's fully-functional and will remove what it finds even in its trial version. Click here for a free 30-day trial of SpySweeper.  If you just cannot afford to buy a subscription to SpySweeper we do recommend you install Spybot Search & Destroy - available free from . It's always best to have at least two anti-spyware programs standing guard. Anti-spyware has not yet reached a level of sophistication where one program is enough to recognize and remove every possible spyware program.

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