From the Kenosha News on 12-19-04

Two ways to fight those paralyzing pop-ups

      One of the single-most common complaints among computer owners is pop-ups.  If you get enough of them, they can virtually paralyze your internet use.  There are two ways to fight pop-ups: eliminate the cause and/or suppress the symptoms.  Here are ways to do both. 

      Pop-ups are usually caused by spyware – programs that may track your online activity and transmit those findings to a third party.  Spyware has other negative side-effects which are less visible, including possible identity theft, and should be taken seriously.  Note that many pop-ups will warn you that you have spyware and prompt you to load their cleaner.  If their ad came from spyware, how reputable can their product be?  In general, there are two reputable anti-spyware products:  Ad-Aware (by LavaSoft) and SpyBot Search and Destroy.  Both products are freeware and can be downloaded from one of my favorite web sites: tucows.com.  Just enter the name of the product in the tucows.com search box.  Click on the product, and follow the prompts to download and install the program.

      Many people recommend loading both of the above since one may detect items the other does not.  Once you load either of these programs, update the definitions periodically.  Scan your computer every week or each time the pop-ups come back, since spyware can creep into your computer just about any time you’re using the internet.

      For more information on how you may have gotten some of your spyware, consult this on-line article from Wired magazine: http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,65906,00.html

      Since some viruses can cause pop-ups, take time to check your anti-virus.  You should have definitions that are no more than one week old.  If you’re out-of-date, update immediately and scan your computer.  If your subscription has expired, renew it or install a new product and update those definitions.  If a virus is reported that cannot be deleted, cleaned, or quarantined, Windows users will need to scan again in Safe Mode.  I do not recommend on-line virus scanning software since it cannot be used in safe mode.

      If you’re confident that your machine is “clean” from spyware, then it’s time to fight the symptoms – that is, the pop-ups themselves.  There are a number of free or shareware pop-up blockers, but one of the easiest to use is the Google toolbar.  To get it, go to google.com, click on more, then scroll down to the Tools section.  Follow the instructions to install it.  It loads automatically as a toolbar whenever Internet Explorer is launched.

      Some pop-ups may be specifically targeted at Internet Explorer, so using an alternate internet browser could help.  Mozilla Firefox is a basic browser that can be downloaded from mozilla.org.  For a browser with a built-in web page editor, e-mail client, and more, get Netscape Navigator from netscape.com.  Mac OSX includes its own browser – Safari.  Even if you’ve resolved your pop-ups, having an alternate browser is a wise idea in case something incapacitates IE on your computer.

      Finally, a program that has several functions, including a spyware checker, anti-virus, and registry cleaner, is System Mechanic Professional from iolo.com.  You can download a free 30-day trial or purchase the software on-line for about $50.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 12-19-04