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What is Adware?

written by: Aaron R.•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 7/7/2010

The word 'Adware' is a nasty word for many but it's not always since it's basically a software program that could be useful many a times. Read all about it here.

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    Introduction to Adware

    Adware is basically any software that automatically plays, displays, or downloads ads when it is used or if the software is installed in the computer. Adware can be invasive and is a privacy destroying software. Some adware function as spyware as well.

    However, it has its uses too. Adware can help support freeware and you get the software for free. You only have to put up with the inconvenience of seeing ads. Good adware has unobtrusive ads that are targeted to a specific user. It targets the ads based on the sites that you visit. Adware helps the developer to recover the development costs. The income from the ads is what the developer uses to maintain, upgrade, and develop the software product. Though it inconveniences the user, the user too benefits from the free or low-priced software.

    Apart from the visual inconvenience adware can slow down your PC by using up CPU and RAM cycles. It can also slow down your Internet connection by downloading ads. As many adware programs are not programmed well, they can increase the instability of your computer.

    Apart from the obvious extra ads that pop up when you run your PC, a sluggish computer can also mean that you should check for adware. Other signs that your computer has adware include pop up advertisements when you use your search engine, a new Internet home page, new tool bars, new internet favorites and bookmarks, new programs in the start up program list, and system shutdowns for no apparent reason. Random search results can also be a sign that you have adware on your computer.

    As adware has its uses it is important to distinguish between good adware and bad adware. Good adware installs itself on your computer only with your permission. Bad adware, on the other hand, installs itself without getting permission. Good adware is unobtrusive while bad adware is not. Good adware can easily be uninstalled from your PC, while again bad adware cannot be uninstalled easily. Sometimes it is impossible to uninstall bad adware.

    Many adware producers give the user the option of buying the software to do away with the ads. Many shareware programs are also adware in nature.

    Given below are some examples of freeware that may contain adware. These include advanced search engines, instant news and weather updates, computer games, peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing programs, fun mouse pointers, desktop themes and backgrounds, emoticons and smileys used in email, as well as applications that say they will improve the efficiency of your computer.

    Some adware will even monitor the sites you visit and compile a profile of you. The ads displayed will be based on this profile. Such adware are like spyware and perform much the same functions.

    In case you do not want to have adware on your computer, you can get programs that detect adware and spyware. Once detected, you will have to uninstall it. You will also need to install anti-adware software to prevent any further installations of adware on to your computer.