unintended software

Unintended Software Installs (BloatWare) and Getting Rid of It

Have you ever been in a hurry to download software and blast by all the prompts clicking ‘yes’ or ‘accept’ without reading them? It’s so frustrating to miss one of these and end up with software on your computer or on your web toolbars that you didn’t want. This is called unintended software and we’ll look at what to watch for and how to get rid of it.

We’ll look at Java and Adobe as two pieces of software that bundle BloatWare.

Java from Oracle

You may not even realize you have unintended software on your computer, so take a minute and look at the menu bar in your browser imagewindow. If it’s taken over 2” of your browser window, you could have extra tool bars you didn’t want. If you see ‘Ask’ in your browser window, you probably got it while updating Oracle’s Java. The Ask Toolbar is installed by default – meaning you have to uncheck the box so you won’t get it.

To fix this, don’t uninstall Java, you need to uninstall this toolbar. You’ll need to go to your Add/Remove Programs (get there from Control Panel). Then look for a program with Ask in the title. There may be more than one. Remove it, but you’re not done yet. You should go to any browser you’re using and check the add-ons or extensions to see if any remnants of Ask are in there. If so, disable or remove them. For some detailed instructions, check this article on PC News. Be careful when you’re in PC News as it has a lot of ads and things to click on. Just look at the information and follow their steps if you’re not sure how to get to your browser add-ons.

Adobe Reader and Flash from Adobe

Nearly all of us use Adobe products. When you install or update Reader or Flash (and maybe other Adobe products, I’m not sure), look for the checked box thimageat you want a free scan, courtesy of Adobe and McAfee. Be sure to look for and uncheck this box, otherwise you’ll get more than a free scan, you’ll get a trial program of McAfee downloaded to your computer. It downloads and then attempts to do a scan right away.

This has been a ‘gotcha’ to so many people that Adobe actually has in it’s knowledge base, detailed instructions on how to remove it! When working on clients computers and checking for spyware, etc. I look at the toolbar, then I look at the Add/Remove Programs and also in the system tray to check for multiple spyware programs running. The Add/Remove Programs area also gives the date something was installed, so that is very helpful when looking for ‘unintended software’ installs.

These are the two main culprits that many of us run into every day. However, there are many more. These types of installs can not only slow down your computer, but can cause conflicts on your system. They can hijack your browser and switch your start page. They can take up real estate on your web page, track your movements and more.

Be Cautious When Downloading Software

There are lots of free tools and software out there for download – many of them include spyware or they just don’t work as advertised. Before downloading anything, put your mouse over the download link, then look to the lower left of your screen. You’ll see the actual internet address the link will take you to. You can do this in your email or anywhere there’s a hyperlink.

Even if you’re at a safe site, make sure you’re clicking on the right link. For example, when I go to http://download.cnet.com/windows/, (a safe place for downloading),but they have a lot of ads in between paragraphs and on the sidebar and other places. Focus on what you came there for, hover your mouse over the link to make sure it’s the right download. When installing, make sure you’re installing only what you wanted and not any ‘unintended’ software.

So where should you go for downloads? Here’s a brief list:

  • CNET.com
  • Sourceforge.net
  • Tucows.com

Even when you’re there, download and choose with care. Read reviews, do your own independent internet search of a program to verify your choice.

To be really geeky-safe, make a restore point on your computer before you install any new software. If things go wonky, then do a System Restore to get you back where you were before. This has saved me more than once!

Use common sense, do your research and you should be fine when installing web-based software.

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