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Spyware: What is it, and how do I get rid of it?

What is Spyware?

Spyware is any program which hides itself on your computer and collects user or computer information. It is usually installed without the user’s knowledge either through installing software or downloading files, often from peer to peer sites.

For this reason all downloads recommended by Startfrom are tested for Spyware.

What does Spyware do?

Spyware as it’s name suggests is software which spies on your activities. This could be fairly harmless such as monitoring the websites you visit for advertising reasons or something much more serious which could be trying to capture passwords and user accounts, transfer personal documents or use your computer as a spam emailer. Often Spyware will also alter your internet settings so that your homepage may change or searches may only return certain sites. Internet security settings may also be altered allowing viruses access to your computer. Gradually, Spyware will build up to the point that your computer will slow down to a crawl and become unstable.

I have anti-virus installed, will this protect me from Spyware?

Antivirus software will detect and protect your computer from viruses, and it is essential that you have up to date antivirus software installed. However anti-virus software will not detect Spyware.

How do I protect myself from Spyware?

Firstly, try to be selective in the software that you install. Do not install anything that you are not comfortable with. You should be particularly wary of any software that offers special deals or free services.
However, that said no matter how careful you are, if you use the internet eventually you will pick up some spyware, and often you’ll have no idea where it come from.

To protect yourself further you need to install a program that can detect and protect your computer from more spyware. There are many products on the market and most are very good. However, I personally like to use SpyBot. Spybot is a free program for removing Spyware and it will also immunize your system from many of the Spyware threats out there.
However, Spybot will not constantly monitor your system for spyware. You do need to run it and update it manually. To compensate for this I like to also install Windows Defender which is another free Spyware detection and removal program which features Real-Time Protection, a Spyware monitoring system that recommends actions when it's detected.
Windows Defender is currently free whilst it is in beta. I have found this software to be very good and stable but it does not detect as much as Spybot. Therefore I would always recommend a combination.

Both applications can be downloaded from the download utilities page on which can be found here (

I would recommend installing Spybot and immunise and scan for Spyware. After fixing any problems found I would then move on and install Windows defender.

Once your computer has been confirmed to be clean of Spyware you should add Spyware checking to your list of monthly maintenance tasks. Please read my guide on PC Maintenance for more about monthly maintenance tasks.


Article written by Alan Morris
October 2006




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