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Does My Computer Have Spyware?

Man removing and cleaning his mac with antivirus

You need to be concerned about spyware – it's everywhere. Malicious and often downloaded by accident, this type of software will try to collect personal information and even change your device’s configuration.

One of the first things people notice is that their computer is running slower than normal.

A few questions users have when their computer is slow is:

  • Does my computer have spyware?
  • How do I get spyware?
  • How do I find out if spyware is on my computer?

We're going to answer all of these questions so that you know how to help prevent spyware and get rid of it if you have it on your computer.

What is Spyware?

Spyware is a malicious program that is often downloaded by accident or installed with other programs. Your browsing and user data is very important and valuable. This software will try and steal your:

  • Sensitive information
  • Internet browsing data

Users can think of this type of software as a literal spy that is running in the background and taking notes on everything that you do. Depending on the type of spyware that you’re dealing with, you may notice that additional applications are installed.

Settings on your device may be changed to make it easier to access your information.

The most malicious forms of spyware will steal your passwords to your favorite websites, social media, bank accounts and lead to identity theft.

Every computer user that is connected to the Internet – there are 22 billion Internet connected devices – should have some form of spyware protection at the very least. It's easier to prevent this software than it is to get rid of it once it’s installed.

How do you know if you have spyware?

There are a few ways.

How to Know if You Have Spyware on Your Computer

Scanning software, such as an antivirus or anti-spyware scanner, is the best way to know with 100% certainty that you’re infected with spyware. In the next section we’ll discuss this further, but there are other key indicators that you have malicious software on your workstation.

Browser Hijacking

A browser is your access to the Internet, so it’s going to be impacted. Open up your browser and see if there have been any changes to your homepage, if pop-ups show up or if your favorites folder has been modified.

Try and change your browser settings.

If your settings cannot be changed, there’s a good chance that the browser is either corrupt or there’s a virus, malware or spyware on your system.

Computer Performance Decline

The software is running 100% of the time that you’re on your system. Continued usage impacts computer performance and can cause the system to run slow, crash or freeze up. The system’s memory may be low due to the spyware or excessive writing to the hard drive.

You may even notice that your hard drive space is running low or filling up on its own. It's perfectly plausible that you download a lot of music, movies or files, so your drive is filled with your own files. But if you notice a rapid decrease in space, it’s possible that your system is infected.

Random Files or Programs

Did you find random files or programs installed on your system? If you didn’t download any of these files, there’s a chance that there’s a program downloading it in the background.

If you can, shut off your Internet and open up your browser. The browser should open with an error and shouldn’t cause a pop-up. When a pop-up does show up, even if it’s blank, this is a good indicator that there’s spyware on your system.

Removing the spyware should be your next goal.

Scanning and Removing Spyware

Now that you know or think that you have spyware, it’s time to try and remove it. There are a lot of options available to remove the malicious software, but we’re going to cover some of the easier options for anyone that is not extremely tech savvy.

Run MSCONFIG

If you’re on a Windows machine, you can easily run a program called msconfig. Go to start > run and type in “msconfig” and hit enter to open up the program. Look through the programs that are set to load on startup.

Look through all of the entries and search for them on Google to confirm that they should be running on your system.

Tick the malicious items from loading and try forcing them to stop if possible. Delete the file that’s malicious, but keep in mind if you’re not 100% positive it’s spyware, you can damage your system.

Run an Anti-spyware or Anti-virus

You can run a few programs to detect spyware, but the easiest is an anti-virus or anti-spyware option. These options are able to quickly identify and remove spyware. There are a lot of options available, including:

TotalAV is one of our top recommendations because it’s free and can help you not only remove spyware, but also optimize your computer afterward. Since spyware is known to install files and cause your system to run slower, the optimization function of this program makes it one of the most valuable options when removing spyware.

Spyware is one of the most threatening forms of malicious programs that you can have installed on your system. The stealth function of these programs can keep them hidden while revealing your personal information and browsing history to the highest bidder. Using the steps above, you’ll be able to detect spyware and remove it once and for all.

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