Unwanted software

Unwanted software are programs that alter your Windows experience without your consent or control. The altered experience can be in the form of modified browsing experience, lack of control over downloads and installation, misleading messages, or unauthorized changes to Windows settings.

How do I recognize unwanted software?

Here are some indications that you have unwanted software on your PC:

  • You see programs that you did not install and that may be difficult to uninstall
  • You see that your browser features or settings are changed, and you can’t view or modify them
  • You see excessive messages about your PC’s system health or about files and programs in your PC
  • You see ads that you cannot easily close

Some unwanted behaviors are harder to recognize. Some unwanted software, for example, modify web pages in order to display ads, monitor your browsing activities, or remove the control you must have about how your browser behaves. You need antivirus products, such as Windows Defender Antivirus (Windows Defender AV), to detect these unwanted software. Microsoft uses an extensive evaluation criteria to identify unwanted software.

How do unwanted software get into my PC?

You may get unwanted software when you search for and download applications from the Internet. Some applications are software bundlers, which means that they are packed with other applications. As a result, when you install the application you originally searched for, you may inadvertently install other programs that you may not want or need.

How do I protect my PC against unwanted software?

To prevent unwanted software infection, download software only from official websites, or from the Windows Store. Be wary of downloading software from third-party sites.

Use Microsoft Edge when browsing the Internet. It adds plugins only from the Windows Store, effectively blocking browser modifiers, which are unwanted software that change browser settings. Microsoft Edge also blocks known websites hosting unwanted software using Windows Defender SmartScreen (also used by Internet Explorer).

Enable Windows Defender AV in Windows 10. It provides real-time protection against threats. Windows Defender detects and removes known unwanted software.

If you suspect that you have unwanted software your PC, you can submit files for analysis.

What should I do if my PC is infected?

Some unwanted software add uninstallation entries, which means that you can remove them from your PC using Settings. Select the Start button, then go to Settings > Apps > Apps & features. Select the app you want to uninstall, then click Uninstall. If you only recently noticed symptoms of unwanted software infection, consider sorting the apps by install date, and then uninstall the most recent apps that you did not install.

You may also need to remove browser add-ons in your browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome.

Some unwanted software are harder to remove. Run a full scan using Windows Defender AV to remove unwanted software and other malware and threats.

How prevalent is the threat of unwanted software?

Millions of computers are exposed to the threat of unwanted software. In the first six months of 2017, an average of six million computers encountered unwanted software every month. Browser modifiers make up 66% of all unwanted software encounters. Software bundlers and adware account for 27% and 6%, respectively.

Monthly unwanted software encounters
Monthly unwanted software encounters
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