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Typically, adware is any software that displays advertisements on your computer screen either through banner advertisements within an application, or through pop-up windows. The advertisements are typically unwanted and get in the way of whatever else a user may be trying to accomplish. Adware typically makes its way onto your computer by installing an application that has adware capabilities built into it. The justification for adware is that it helps a software developer to recoup costs. Adware is particularly pervasive in free programs. At best, adware is a distraction and annoyance. At worst, some adware may actually spy on you and track and report information about you.
Spyware, which may also be known as a spybot, or tracking software, is computer technology installed on an individual's PC that gathers information about them and their computer use. It uses the Internet to report information about them without their knowledge or permission. Spyware can unknowingly be installed onto a user's computer:
Even a browser cookie that stores information about you that you do not know about and do not want shared is a form of spyware.
Spyware takes many different forms. It may simply track and report information about your Internet usage. Other forms of spyware include:
Adware and spyware removal software, or anti-spyware software, is software that is installed on your computer to combat the threats of adware and spyware. It will search your computer's memory, file system, system registry, and browser caches for the existence of adware and spyware. It will then remove or quarantine any items that it finds. Adware and spyware removal software may also monitor for and actively block the downloading of spyware applications. Similar to antivirus software, adware and spyware removal software has a database of known threats that must be updated on a regular basis. Most programs have an easy way of automatically updating this database or prompting the user to update it.
Following are listings of free anti-spyware software, free spyware detectors, free trials of anti-spyware software, and listings of charged-for anti-spyware products. For reviews of anti-spyware software see TopTenReviews Anti-Spyware Review
The Anti-Spyware Coalition (ASC) is a group dedicated to building a consensus about definitions and best practices in the debate surrounding spyware and other potentially unwanted technologies.