I’ve been asked this question about a googilian times, and so thought it worth a blog post.
So how exactly do you get rid of annoying (browser) popups on your computer?
h3. Turn off windows messenger service.
This is typically disabled by default, but it’s worth checking. I believe some ISP’s will even filter this traffic out – some don’t The windows messenger service allows computers on a network to send each other messages, however it doesn’t stop spammers sending you messages. Turning it off though is quite easy, as “this article(itc – How to Disable Windows Messenger Service)”:http://www.itc.virginia.edu/desktop/docs/messagepopup/ shows.
h3. Download a Spyware finder
Many nasty programs that for unknown reasons aren’t caught by virus checkers can be responsible for causing popups. Lukcily the two best programs for finding and removing them are free. “AdAware personal”:http://www.lavasoft.de/software/adaware/ and “SpyBot”:http://www.spybot.de/ both do a great job. AdAware is my current favorite purely because it has a slightly nicer interface.
No matter which one you download, make sure you update it, then run a scan, and remove anything it finds. I’d suggest running this once or twice a week
h3. Make sure you run Windows Update.
Assuming you’re running Windows XP the latest service pack 2 includes a firewall which may help things. The updates will also fix security holes in applications like Internet Explorer which will allow spyware to be installed in the first place. If you don’t have Windows XP, consider a free personal firewall like “ZoneAlarm(Free, Personal Firewall)”:http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/catalog/products/sku_list_za.jsp?dc=12bms&ctry=US&lang=en&lid=nav_za
h3. Stop using Internet Explorer.
IE has some security holes which can allow dodgy programs (likely to cause popups) to run on your machine. Instead consider getting “Firefox”:http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/ or perhaps “Opera”:http://www.opera.com/ and using those instead (both are
free). These browsers also have code to stop websites from trying to open new windows when you browse to their sites.
h3 Get an up to date anti-virus program
If you don’t want to buy something, grab “AVG Free”:http://free.grisoft.com/doc/1. If you want a commercial one, I can recommend “Panda anti virus”:http://www.pandasoftware.com/. Make sure which ever program you’ve got is set up to scan often and automatically download updates.
h3. Change your OS
An extreme measure! I run both Windows and OSX – I’ve taken the steps above and don’t get any popups on my Windows machine, but I’ve never had to worry about popups at all on OSX. Moving to OSX probably isn’t an option for most people, but if you are looking for a change you might want to consider it. As an aside there has yet to be a single documented example of a virus in the wild affecting a computer running OSX. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but compared to the number of Windows viruii out there it can be considered the safer option.