Spyware Removal - Six Twenty three Months Clean!

It's been six twenty three (!) months since I went through the final steps of spyware removal on my PC. And I'm happy to say that it's been twenty three months of spyware-free computing. Spyware removal and avoidance is a daunting task to the uninitiated. Yet for those who have been through the battles, it's not insurmountable. Heck, it's not even tough (sometimes). To be successful in removing spyware, you must be methodical. Stick to your anti-spyware knitting and you'll whip the nasty stuff, without a doubt.

My spyware-fighting methodology hasn't changed in these six fifteen months. I follow the same formula I set out back in June (2004). Now I don't want to blame all the woes of the world on Microsoft Internet Explorer, but it's easy to point to MSIE as the conduit for spyware infestation.

Without further ado, here's a reprise of my action plan for spyware removal and avoidance:

1. I got the right anti-spyware tools. After trying out StopZilla and Spysweeper (both nice programs in their own right), I went back to Spybot Search and Destroy ... then I added Lavasoft's Ad-Aware to the mix. I've seen many folks rave about the combination of Spybot and Ad-Aware. I'll join that chorus. It's frequently observed that one program catches what the other may have missed. And that was certainly true in my case.

NOTE: Other spyware removal tools may work for you. Look at all you want, but only download spyware removal tools from a trusted source. (There are too many evil-doers masquerading as the real thing!)

2. I stopped using Microsoft Internet Explorer as my web browser. But I didn't just switch back to Mozilla (and Mozilla Firefox). I went into Internet Explorer's Options box and turned everything off. And I mean everything.

After selecting Tools > Internet Options > Security > Custom Level, I went into the checklist and disabled anything related to ActiveX. I disabled file downloads and Java. I disabled the installation of desktop items and the launching of programs and files in an IFRAME. And I disabled every single scripting option.

3. Through it all, I spent much more time on my iMac. I'd switch over to the iMac while in the midst of running Spybot and Ad-Aware. (This happened more frequently than I would have liked. Running Spybot and Ad-Aware multiple times each day was frustrating, to say the least.) And now that I'm not using Microsoft Internet Explorer on my PC, I use it (infrequently) on the Macintosh to check out those few (unfortunate) websites that require the use of MSIE.

The thing that most drove me nuts? Spyware would reinstall itself and spawn popup windows even when MSIE was not running. It was like there was a ghost in the machine. I'd walk away from my desk, thinking that my system was clean, only to find the screen covered in popup windows upon my return. It was then that I realized how important it was to turn off all of those options in MSIE. That action alone takes the remote controls away from the nefarious spyware developers.

While my PC is no longer showing any spyware symptoms, I know that there are still some evil files sitting on the hard drive. But because I have shut down MSIE for good, those evil files can do no harm. (Well ... that's what I hope ... at least!)

My pain and suffering should is not for naught. I'm telling you my story because this story can save you time and heartache. If you want to remove spyware from your computer, you may want to follow these steps:

1. Download and install Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, or Opera.
2. Turn off all of MSIE's options (as above), then close the program and never launch it again.
3. Download and install both Spybot and Ad-Aware.
4. Clean your system with back-to-back runs of Spybot and Ad-Aware.
5. Once the system is clean and everything is cool, run Spybot and Ad-Aware on a periodic basis.

Truth be told, you may have to boot up in safe mode at some point. And you may have to make some edits to your registry. Have faith and remember to back up ... your quest for spyware removal will be successful!