Spyware is a type of software that is installed on your computer to watch and record your activity. Some types of spyware record your keystrokes and information that you type into websites or other programs and then use that information for targeted advertising or identity theft. These programs can be installed on your computer in many ways, but often they are hidden inside of software such as free games, screen savers, or animated cursors.
Here are some signs that your computer might be infected with spyware:
- You notice new toolbars, links, or favorites that you didn't intentionally add to your web browser.
- Your home page, mouse pointer, or search program changes unexpectedly.
- You type the address of a specific website into your web browser, but you're taken to a completely unrelated website.
- You see pop-up ads, even if your computer isn't connected to the Internet.
- Your computer suddenly starts running slowly. Not all computer performance problems are caused by spyware, but spyware can cause a noticeable change.
- Sometimes, your computer will show no symptoms, even if a spyware program is running.
To help protect your privacy and your computer, we recommend that you run Windows Defender or another antispyware program at all times.
Remove spyware from your computer
If you have spyware or other potentially unwanted software on your computer, you should use an antispyware scanner and removal tool to try to remove it. You can also try to remove spyware manually. You might need to use both of these methods more than once to completely remove the spyware or other potentially unwanted software.
- Use an antispyware scanner and removal tool
Windows Defender is a feature in this version of Windows that helps prevent spyware and other potentially unwanted software from infecting your computer. When Windows Defender is on, you're alerted if spyware and other potentially unwanted software tries to run or install itself on your computer. You choose whether to ignore, quarantine (move to a different location on your computer where it can't run), or remove each item that is detected.
Spyware scanners are also frequently included in antivirus programs. If you have already installed an antivirus program, check to see if that program includes spyware protection features or if you can add them as an update, and then scan your computer regularly. To see a list of other spyware protection programs, go online to the Microsoft Security at Home website.
Remove spyware manually
Spyware can sometimes be hard to remove. If an antispyware program notifies you that it can't remove spyware, follow the instructions provided by the antispyware program. If that doesn't work, try these options:
- Try installing an antivirus or another antispyware program. Many antivirus programs also come with antispyware protection.
- Check Programs and Features for items that don't belong on your computer. Use this method with extreme caution. Control Panel lists many programs, most of which are not spyware. Many spyware programs use special installation methods to avoid showing up in Programs and Features. Occasionally, a spyware program will offer an uninstall option and can be removed with this method. Only remove programs that you can positively identify as spyware, and don't remove programs that you might want to keep, even if you don't use them very often.
- Reinstall Windows. Some spyware can hide itself so well that it can't be removed. If you still see evidence of spyware after trying to remove it with an antispyware program or after trying to uninstall it using Control Panel, you might need to reinstall Windows and your programs.
Reinstalling Windows will remove spyware, but it will also delete your files and programs. If you have to reinstall Windows, make sure that you back up your documents and files, and make sure that you have access to the installation discs you will need to reinstall your programs.