Sam Newman's site, a Consultant at ThoughtWorks

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)”: 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”: and “SpyBot”: 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)”:

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”: or perhaps “Opera”: 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”: If you want a commercial one, I can recommend “Panda anti virus”: 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.

5 Responses to “How to get rid of popups on Windows”

  1. Josh

    I especially like the last option. It makes it so much easier on the family tech support guy (me).

  2. Jez

    I know you avoided mentioning Linux to irritate Linux weenies like me, so let me just say how simple and excellent the new Ubuntu is. It installs in ten minutes with almost no options, boots in seconds, has just what you need and no more installed, and Just Works. And of course you can dual boot Linux and Windows, or just boot the live cd, if you want to give it a go. Try doing that with OSX.

  3. Richard

    I prefer the Mac approach myself, although I’ve yet to find a piece of software for it that will do the work that AdMuncher does on Windows. Seriously, AM works so well at blocking ads and popups that I just don’t notice them any more on Windows. One of the few pieces of shareware I bought enthusiastically within a day of trying it out.

  4. Maren

    I want to get rid of XP POPUPS! I’m not talking about web popups. Every place you pause the mouse on the XP screen you get a darn popup telling you what you looking at, and they get in the way of what you are TRYING to look at…


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