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How to prevent spyware

How to prevent spyware

Spyware and other unwanted software can

  • Invade your privacy

  • Bombard you with pop-up windows

  • Slow down your computer

  • Make your computer crash

Here are several ways you can help protect your computer against spyware and other unwanted software.

Step 1: Use a firewall

While most spyware and other unwanted software come bundled with other programs or originate from unscrupulous websites, a small amount of spyware can actually be placed on your computer remotely by hackers. Installing a firewall or using the firewall that's built into Windows Vista and Windows XP provides a helpful defense against these hackers.

To learn more about firewalls, read What is a firewall and get answers to your Frequently Asked Questions about firewalls.

Step 2: Update your software

Visit Microsoft Update to confirm that you have automatic updating turned on and that you've downloaded and installed all the latest critical and security updates.

Step 3: Adjust Internet Explorer security settings

You can adjust your Internet Explorer web browser's security settings to determine how much-or how little-information you want to accept from a website.

Microsoft recommends that you set the security settings for the Internet zone to Medium or higher. (If you use Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and you use Internet Explorer to browse the web, your browser security settings for the Internet zone are set to Medium by default.)

To view your current Internet Explorer security settings:

  1. In Internet Explorer, click Tools (in Internet Explorer 9, click the gear icon) and then click Internet Options.

  2. Select the Security tab

For more information about security in Internet Explorer, see Change Internet Explorer Security Settings.

Internet Explorer also includes a number of features to help protect against spyware and many other kinds of deceptive or unwanted software.

Step 4: Download and install antispyware protection

Microsoft Security Essentials helps protects your computer from spyware and other unwanted software. It's available as a no-cost download for Windows XP SP2 and higher, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. For more information, see Help protect your PC with Microsoft Security Essentials.

Step 5: Surf and download more safely

The best defense against spyware and other unwanted software is not to download it in the first place. Here are a few helpful tips that can protect you from downloading software you don't want:

  • Only download programs from websites you trust. If you're not sure whether to trust a program you are considering downloading, enter the name of the program into your favorite search engine to see if anyone else has reported that it contains spyware.

  • Read all security warnings, license agreements, and privacy statements associated with any software you download.

  • Never click "Agree" or "OK" to close a window. Instead, click the red "x" in the corner of the window or press Alt + F4 on your keyboard to close a window.

  • Be wary of popular "free" music and movie file-sharing programs, and be sure you understand all of the software packaged with those programs.

  • Use a standard user account instead of an administrator account. For more information, see Why use a standard account instead of an administrator account.