Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Essential Freeware: Ad-Aware

Not so long ago, when we mentioned "spyware" to students, they didn't know what you meant. Now, they do -- it's software that takes over your computer, usually changing your home page of adding popups.

Ad-Aware is software to help fix that. It scans your computer and fixes and spyware problems you might have. It's an essential cleaning tool.

Ad-Aware is made by Lavasoft and comes in both a free and paid version. Obviously, I'm partial to the free one. It does a nice job of cleaning the computer. You can download it from Download.com. Download the file, update it, and run the scan.

The program lists both critical and non-critical spyware that it finds on your computer. Its defintion of spyware is pretty restrictive, so it catches a lot of things. If you run a scan, the most common thing you'll find will be tracking cookies. Those are a minor threat (and Ad-Aware identifies them as such). What that means is that a website is keeping track of your browsing. While there are privacy concerns, they will not affect how your computer operates.

If you run an Ad-Aware scan weekly, it'll go far to prevent spyware problems. In addition, the software can fix things if you're infected with spyware.