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Differences Between Spyware and Adware

Any Internet user in today’s world has surely heard of and seen many different variations of spyware and adware on their computers. Though both these types of programs can invade your privacy, contain malicious code and serve as a nuisance to even the most patient of Internet surfers, they have their differences as well. What are the differences between spyware and adware programs?

Spyware


Spyware is a program, similar to a Trojan Horse, that is generally installed unknowingly while installing another program, usually a freeware-type program. Once spyware is installed, it monitors your activity on the Internet, such as visited URLs, email addresses and even passwords and credit card numbers and transmits this information to a third party. Spyware programs can even monitor your keystrokes, scan files on your computer’s hard drive, monitor activity on chat rooms and messenger programs, install other spyware programs, read cookies and other invasive activities and relay this information back to the spyware creator. The spyware author then uses this information for advertising and marketing purposes or sells it to another party to use for advertising, marketing or other purposes. Spyware can be added to your computer during the installation of many freeware or other programs, but the most common way to unknowingly obtain spyware on your computer is to download certain peer-to-peer file sharing/swapping programs. User agreements and license agreements that are linked on software installations usually warn users that spyware programs are included and will be installed along with the wanted software. The problem, however, is that most users do not read the user/license agreements thoroughly and, when they do, the spyware disclaimers are often tangled in confusing, complex and lengthy legalese.

Adware


Many programs and applications today are designed and distributed as freeware programs, which means that the user does not pay to download and use these programs. In some instances, mostly in free trial versions, certain features and functions of the program are blocked and unusable until you pay to register the program. As an alternative, many freeware creators are developing and offering their freeware programs as “sponsored” programs to consumers who install these programs and use them, either for the duration of the time it is installed and used, or just until the user pays to register. In most instances of sponsored freeware, all features of the program are useable, but the user will be viewing advertisements while the software is being used. The sponsored advertisements normally run in a small portion of the interface while the program is running or as pop-up windows on your screen. When the program is exited, the sponsored advertisements disappear and stop running as well. In most cases, adware is a legitimate revenue source for developers who offer their programs for no cost to users, unlike spyware, which is much more intrusive, malicious and privacy-invading. Also quite different is the fact that adware usually stops running when the installed programs are exited. With spyware, these malicious programs continually run on your computer and track most of your Internet usage.

As the use of technology rises in the world today, so does the chance of obtaining spyware and adware programs on your computer. It is wise to err on the side of caution and be sure to research user and license agreements, terms of service and privacy policies that accompany all programs you download and install, as well as running anti-spyware software, such as Spybot and Ad-Aware, on your computer. Gaining knowledge of the many differences between spyware and adware can also prove to help you in combating unwanted software from your computer.

 
April 17th, 2007
Protect your self against the many hazards of Computers

Nowadays there are many threats which pose serious hazards to the wellbeing of your computer. You’ve invested hundreds of dollars just to buy one, why not keep it protected?

By following these simple computer security guidelines, you can protect your investment and make sure it remains fully functional for many years to come.

The most common threat to your computer’s health comes in the form of computer viruses.

When viruses first started appearing many years ago, they were usually spread when an infected file was transferred from one computer to another, usually via a floppy disk. Nowadays, with the advent of e-mail, the internet, and new programming languages, viruses have become smarter and more capable of spreading themselves. By installing an anti-virus program, you can make sure your computer is protected from these damaging viruses at all times. Anti-virus programs run silently in the background while you use your computer, scanning new files and e-mails for potentially dangerous viruses. You can also scan your computer regularly to make sure there are no viruses still hanging around from before the anti-virus software was installed.

Symantec (Norton) and Network Associates (McAfee) are two of the most commonly used pieces of software, although they do cost money. Several free anti-virus programs can be found quite easily on the internet with a simple search. Anti-virus software is a must-have for anyone serious about protecting their computer.

Another important aspect of maintaining security is making sure your computer is constantly up to date with the latest security patches. Most popular operating systems such as Windows will automatically download these updates for you. Hackers and other people looking to exploit security holes are constantly devising new ways to get around security features. By downloading these patches, you can make sure that any holes that have been exposed are closed up and inaccessible. Aside from providing additional security measures, patches may also make your system run smoother and you will encounter fewer errors and software crashes. By staying up to date with patches, your computer will remain secure and run smoother than ever.

Aside from software and security patches, there are many other ways to prevent malicious programs and intruders from invading your system. Simple common sense can help you avoid many problems.

When checking your e-mail, never download an attachment from a sender you do not know. Make sure you trust the source of every e-mail, and only open attachments that seem legitimate based on the context in which they were sent. If you’re ever unsure of a files authenticity, you can always open up your anti-virus software to run an exclusive scan of that particular file. If the anti-virus software says its clean, you’re good to go. If the results of the scan are inconclusive, you’re better off safe than sorry. Delete the attachment and don’t take any unnecessary risks. This same common sense policy applies to any file you want to download off the internet. Often times it is difficult to determine the legitimacy of a file. By exercising common sense, knowing reputable sources, and using anti-virus software, you can make sure you’ll never download an infected file.

Another threat comes in the form of the computer hacker. Hackers gain access to your computer in a variety of ways, many involving unsecured ports which are intended to be used for valid purposes. Hackers exploit open ports and use them to connect to your PC, where they basically have access to every file on your computer. Hackers invade your computers to steal documents, information, or to cause unnecessary damage to your files. Blocking these hackers is as simple as installing a firewall on your computer. Firewalls are pieces of software that will allow you to control every connection made to your computer. You can therefore prevent hackers from connecting to you, while allowing legitimate programs to use the ports they need. There are hundreds of different kinds of firewall programs that you can choose from, and many are free. A simple search on the internet should provide you with a popular and functioning piece of software that will keep unwanted intruders from ever being able to connect to your system.

Mistakes and lapses in security can and do happen. No anti-virus software is going to find every single virus, and no firewall is going to be able to stop every single intruder. While these programs will increase the security of your computer exponentially, just as fast as security technology is improved, the intelligence of computer virus programmers and hackers improves as well. For this reason, it is important that you constantly back up your system. Any important files, e-mails, or folders should be backed up regularly. Whether this simply means burning these files to a CD so you can access them again in case they are compromised, or whether it means you search the software market for comprehensive system backup and recovery software, it’s very important that you make some effort to secure important data. This way, in case any one of your security measures fails, you will always have a healthy source of the files you need to restore your system.

Many websites and computer software have built-in security feature, the most common of which is a simple password. A strong password will prevent a hacker from accessing your system or any accounts you access regularly on the internet. A strong password consists of both numbers and letters, and should not be anything that anyone could guess just by knowing basic facts about you. For example, if your hobby is playing sports, any password which involves sports terms would not be a wise decision. Instead, something completely unrelated that would not be able to be guessed is advisable. Remember, use both numbers and letters when picking a password.

By following these simple computer security guidelines, you can rest knowing that your computer is safe from viruses, hackers, and many other threats to your important data. By keeping your layers of protection up to date, you can stay one step ahead of the consistent threats to your PC.

April 17th, 2007
Real-World Cons: Don’t Be the Next Victim

You’re well-versed in Internet fraud by now: the stories and warnings have appeared in just about every news and media source out there. Your friends have told you what they know, and your family is forever warning you to be careful when you go online. You’re covered very well online, so you don’t worry much about what could happen.

But what about real-world cons and scams?


They still exist: in fact, they’re some of the most effective scams out there. It seems like people stop paying attention to these other types of fraud because they’re so absorbed in making sure that their online life is safe.

You can – and should – pay attention to both realms. It will make you a well-informed, savvy citizen who avoids fraud and con games no matter where they appear in your life. It’ll also give you something new and interesting to discuss the next time your friends talk about fraud.

These generalized tips apply to almost any situation that might present itself. When you use them effectively, you’ll be able to spot most scams before you’re at the police station filing a report.

-Anytime something sounds so amazing that you can’t believe it’s real, you should question the person presenting it to you. Keeping your greed in check will make it very difficult for con artists to run their games in your head. It’ll be difficult at first because most people would love to make a quick grand or two for little or no work, but it’s probably not really going to happen no matter how sweet or wonderful the con artist’s plans sound. If you can remember that, you’re much closer to being safe and fraud-free.

-Request official identification and documentation whenever possible. This applies to everything from a guy who knocks on your door because he’s (allegedly) checking your cable to a cold call from someone claiming to be with a charity in need of donations. You should ask for names, telephone numbers, places within the organizations being represented, and any other contact information that might apply in this situation. If the person refuses to identify him/herself, you should move on without any further contact.

-Don’t give out personal information unless it’s necessary – and even then, find a reasonably safe means of doing it. You shouldn’t e-mail your Social Security number, for example: instead, call or mail it in. You should also pay attention to your credit report, which you can get for free once a year if you live in the United States, so that you’ll be aware of any unauthorized charges or activities.

Tip: contact the major credit-reporting agencies and request that a “block” be put on your identity. If anyone tries to open a new line of credit – even if it’s really you doing it – a confirmation process (often a telephone call to your last known number) will be required before it’s activated. You should update the phone number and address in these files any time they change – and still keep up with the credit reports every year to make sure that it’s working.

-Don’t pay to “reserve” or “confirm” any prizes, sweepstakes winnings or cash awards. It’s usually illegal for companies to make you do this, even if it IS for an all-expenses-paid week in Hawaii. You shouldn’t even have to give a credit-card number to reserve or confirm these prizes.

-You should have time to consider offers before you make a decision. If the salesman is putting an extraordinary amount of pressure on you, claiming that the offer is only good for the next ten minutes, thank him or her and get out of there. You can find a legitimate deal elsewhere with less pressure.

-Con artists will play your emotions like rock legends play their guitars. Use your brain along with your heart to avoid being conned. Just because someone calls you in the name of a major charity – and tells you a very sad story about how they just can’t do anything without your help – doesn’t mean that it’s legitimate. You can always call the organization directly to find out how to make a donation.

-Your instincts – those gut feelings your mother always told you to trust – are usually correct. If you feel that something is “off” or wrong about a situation, you should take the time to research and consider it before you make any decisions. You just might save yourself time, hassle, and a lot of stolen money (or even your identity).

-You should also remember that the Better Business Bureau is here to help you make good buying decisions. Call them or visit a local branch for past complaints, praises and other feedback and records before you make any deals with a new company or individual. If you have a complaint, you should file it with the Bureau as soon as possible so that other consumers won’t fall into the same scam.

As your life goes on, you’ll probably encounter quite a few would-be scams. These rip-offs, and their perpetrators, are everywhere. With the tips that you just learned, you’ll be well-equipped to deal with them now and in the future. Your firsthand experiences will also help you become a safer, savvier buyer: the worst target a con artist could possibly have.

All of that helps prevent fraud now and in the future, but it’s too late for many people. If you’ve already been scammed, there are several things that you can do in response. They might not get your bank account back to its pre-con balance, but they’ll help law enforcement catch the bad guys or girls.

-File a police report as soon as possible. This creates an official record of your complaint and gets law enforcement started on your case. The sooner you get things started, the more likely it is that someone will catch the perpetrator.

-Contact anti-fraud agencies, such as the FBI, for guidance. You might be able to do something after all, but you won’t know that if you don’t ask.

-Report to the Better Business Bureau. An official complaint, as well as any responses or results of that claim, will go on file for all other would-be consumers. You’ll feel better knowing that you’ve made it much harder for the scammer to get another victim after you

-Spread the word. Tell your friends and family about what happened to you so that they’ll be prepared to avoid it, or something like it, if necessary. It might be embarrassing to admit that you were fooled, but don’t let that stop you from talking about it. You can’t be the most gullible victim. You can’t be the only victim. You might even be able to laugh about it after you’ve told your closest friends and family about it.

 

April 17th, 2007
10 Cool Computer Facts

The first stored-program computer (like today's PC's) was proposed by Alan Turing, a British mathematician, in 1937.

In the 80's, the test for a computer to be IBM compatible was whether or not it would run Microsoft's Flight Simulator software.

In computer language, 8 bits is called a byte. 4 bits is called a nibble.

In Microsoft Word, the image on the save icon is a floppy disk, with the shutter appearing backwards.

The word "computer" first appeared in the Oxford dictionary in reference to a calculating device in 1897.

When originally released, Microsoft's Windows 98 operating system contained more than 18 million lines of code.

In the 1970's, computer engineers came up with the idea of linking their computers together to create a network, therefore introducing the idea of the internet. This network was called "Arpanet".

"Arpanet" stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency Network.

The iMac is available in 6 colors: the original Bondi Blue, Blueberry, Tangerine, Grape, Lime, and Strawberry.

The invention of e-mail is credited to computer engineer Ray Tomlinson, who sent the first e-mail in 1971.

April 17th, 2008
Picking Secure Passwords

Even if you don’t work for the government or store any personal information on your computer, you should still pick secure passwords for your network, e-mail, Web sites and other computer-related functions. The stronger your password, the harder hackers and crackers will have to work to forge a path into your system.

Here are the most important things to remember when you choose a password.

When you choose a password, pick a combination of letters and numbers. A simple word, like “banana” or “orangutan” can be found in any dictionary: including the ones that password crackers use to force your password. Add numbers to the password to confuse the dictionaries – and the people who are using them.

When you replace letters with numbers, change things up a bit. Instead of replacing every “e” with a “3,” just replace a few of them. “St3wardess3s” is much more difficult to guess than “St3ward3ss3s.”

If the site permits, use a combination of upper- and lower-case letters. Randomness means better security.

Your password should be longer than five or six characters, but not too long for you to easily remember.

Don’t write down your passwords unless you are certain that they will always be stored in a secure place. Putting a sticky note on your monitor might be convenient for you, but it’s also a very easy way for other people to get your password.

Your username and password for each account should not have anything in common. If you’re a Jimi Hendrix fan, you should not use “purple” as your username and “haze” as the password.

Never, ever use your username as your password. It might be easy for you to remember to type “brian” in the username field and then “brian” in the password field, but that takes almost all effort out of guessing your password.

You should also avoid the seemingly-clever trick of using the reversed form of your username as a password. Guessing “nairb” for the password won’t be difficult for most people who know that your username is “brian.”

Your middle name, your date of birth, your spouse’s pet name and other, familiar information all make bad passwords. Choose passwords that don’t relate to anything that other people know about you. Example: if nobody knows that, when you were eight, you had a nightmare about a clown, “ihateclowns” is a great password (with some alterations, of course – like substituting numbers for letters and changing some of the letters to uppercase). But if you have a tattoo on your forehead announcing that you hate clowns, you might want to pick something else.

Don’t recycle the same password for different sites. Your e-mail account and favorite forum should have different passwords. If somebody figures out the password for one account, he or she has access to pretty much everything with the same password.

If your Web browser automatically enters your usernames and passwords for you, enable the master password function. This way, other people who use your computer – whether they’re allowed to or not – will have to enter that password before they can access any of your other accounts.

There are plenty of third-party programs out there that will store, and automatically enter, your usernames and passwords when you revisit the sites. If you use this sort of program, make sure that the stored information is encrypted. This will keep your data more secure – and you’ll have fewer passwords to remember.

For added security, look for software or browser extensions that encrypt your keystrokes. Malicious users often install key loggers on your system. These capturing tools aren’t noticeable in most instances, so you’ll type in your passwords all over the Internet without giving a second thought to security.

If, however, you’re encrypting the passwords, the key loggers don’t work very well, if at all. Use strong encryption to make the task of deciphering even more difficult.

Change your passwords every month or so, even when you don’t have any reason to suspect that anybody has gained access to your accounts.

If you’d like to test a password for strength and security before you create the account, do a Web search for “password test.” You can check the password at any of the given sites, most of which will rate your choice of password and give you tips to make it even stronger.
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Helpful Tips to Help you avoid Spyware, Adware, Hijackers and Trojans

April 15th, 2008
How Am I Getting All This Malware On My System?

Preventing malware – malicious software – from entering your computer is easier and less frustrating than constantly scanning and uninstalling. But even though you’ve carefully monitored your system to make sure that you don’t allow these malicious programs into your hard drive, you’re still deleting tons of unwanted software every month or so.

Where, you wonder, are you picking up the malware? What are you doing wrong? If you could only find the culprit, you could make the necessary changes and close the open doors in your system.

Here’s how to figure out where you’re unintentionally putting out welcome mats for the malware that’s hijacking your browser, spying on your online activities and slowing down your system. When you know how you’re getting these things, you’ll know how to keep them out. With a little bit of work, you can retake your computer and enjoy your online life again.

A lot of malware is secretly bundled with legitimate software. That awesome screen saver you downloaded last week could very well be crammed full of unwanted “guests.” Before you download anything, check the EULA (End User License Agreement). If the fine print states that you’re accepting additional applications, don’t install the file – even if you’re desperate to have that great screen saver.

You also have to realize that the people who write the user agreements and terms of service won’t necessarily call the malware what it really is. They usually use the term “third-party software” when they refer to malware. This sounds innocent, but in many cases you’re actually getting malicious programs bundled with the files that you actually want on your system.

In most cases, you can’t get rid of the unwanted programs  – the spyware, adware, browser hijackers and other such garbage – without also uninstalling the software that you actually wanted. Example: if you use a “free” image viewing program that happens to come with malware, you’ll have to uninstall the image viewer to get rid of the associated “problem programs.” You can remove the latter all that you want, but they’ll keep reinstalling as long as you run the image viewer. The same is true of almost any other type of freebie software that you install: you must get rid of that to get rid of the other stuff that’s packaged with the installation.

After you uninstall the offending program, run your ParetoLogic anti-spyware tools again to clean out whatever remains of the unwanted software. Otherwise, you’ll probably leave some of the bundled malware behind even after you uninstall the “real program.”

Another major source of malware is your Web browser. If your security settings are too low, or if you accept script executions without knowing exactly what they intend to do to your system, you’re opening the door for malicious software. You can combat this by finding a basically secure Web browser and making sure that your security settings are at the default setting (if not higher). You should also refuse to accept any script executions unless you are familiar with the sites that are making the requests.

Another sad fact of life on the Internet is that your Web browser won’t always prompt you to accept or deny script executions, browser-related installations (like toolbars) and other malicious programming. This is particularly true when you surf with Internet Explorer, which is the target of choice for malware programmers.

You can solve this problem by using the latest version of IE with all of the security patches and updates that are currently available. Many people choose to use another browser as much as possible and revert to IE only when they visit a site that refuses to work with any other browser.

You should also be careful when you visit Web sites like online forums. Spammers post all sorts of garbage links but don’t necessarily tell you what these sites really contain. You can pick up all sorts of trash with one wayward mouse click: pay attention to what you do online, especially when you’re dealing with users you don’t know.

Now that you know how malware gets into your system, you can stand guard at these entryways and defend yourself against the harmful programs. Continue running spyware removal software on a regular basis so that, if something sneaks in, you’ll be able to get it out of your system as quickly as possible.

We recommend downloading the free version of ParetoLogic AntiSpyware, and running a scan of your PC. If malicious programs are found they'll show you exactly how to permanently remove them.

 

Computer Clean-up Tips

Removing spyware and adware from your computer is easier than you think

Something to remember is, it is not just about removing, it is about preventing. Programs, such as Spybot Search & Destroy, Ad-Aware, and Spyware Doctor, can help in the process of removing these threats, as well as preventing them. In this section, you will learn how to use these three programs, as well as how to manually clean your computer of unnecessary files.

A quick way to remove unnecessary files from your computer is by using the "Disc Clean Up" feature already installed. To do this, click "Start." Then, go to "All Programs," and "Accessories." Find "System Tools" and then "Disc Clean Up." By clicking this, a box will appear asking you which drive you want to clean. Normally, this is your (C:) drive. Click "Ok." Now, a box has come up explaining which folders can safely be cleaned, and how much space you will free. Click "Ok" at the bottom, and then "Yes" to remove these files.

To manually remove unnecessary files from your computer, as this is often what triggers the collection of even more spyware, follow the steps below.

Start by opening "My Computer"
Double click "Local Disc (C:)"
Double click "Documents and Settings"
Next, double click the folder that you use. This may be "Owner," "Administrator," or it may simply be your name.
Double click "Local Settings." If you do not see "Local Settings" it may be because your computer is set to hide these folders. You can change this setting by clicking "Tools" at the top, then by clicking "Folder Options..." Then, click the "View" tab. Scroll down until you see "Show Hidden Files and Folders." Then, click "Apply." This should show you folders that were not previously shown.

Normally there are three folders here that you can clean. They are History, Temp, and Temporary Internet Files. Since IE7 has been released, there is an option to have History and Temporary Internet Files deleted each time you close your browser. If this is the case, you will only see the "Temp" folder, and an "Applications" folder.

Double click the "Temp" folder and delete anything inside. Note that some of these may not delete right away. The programs that have placed these temp files here may still be using them. It will tell you if they can be deleted or not. Once all of the "Temp" files are deleted, you can click the "Back" button and repeat that process with the "History" and "Temporary Internet Files" folders (if they are there).

Another folder that commonly stores temporary files is called "Prefetch."

This folder can be found in the main Window's folder. It is not recommended that you open any other folders in the Window's folder due to causing damage to your system.

Start by opening "My Computer"
Double click "Local Disc (C:)"
Double click "Windows"
Find the "Prefetch" folder and double click. Delete all files in this folder. If you do not see the "Prefetch" folder, follow the instructions above to "Show Hidden Files and Folders."

As with anything you remove from your computer, the things you delete go directly to the Recycle Bin. To empty, right click on the "Recycle Bin" icon, and click "Empty Recycle Bin."

Using spyware removal software:

If you are using Spybot Search & Destroy, remember to search for updates often, as the program itself does not do this for you. To do this, simply open the program, and click "Search For Updates." Spybot will search for updates online. If there are any updates to be installed, they will be shown in the box. Make sure they are all clicked, indicating you want these updates, and click "Download Updates." When the download is finished, it is recommended that you "Immunize" your computer against known threats. Click "Immunize" on the left. The software will indicate if there is a need to immunize your computer, or if all known products are already blocked. When Immunization is finished, click "Search & Destroy" at the top-left, then click "Check For Problems." Spybot Search & Destroy is now searching your computer for unwanted spyware and/or software. When the scan is finished, indicate which items you want to be fixed (if any).

If you are using Ad-Aware, remember to search for updates often, as the program itself does not do this for you. To do this, simply open the program, and click "Check for updates now." Then, click the "Connect" button to allow the software to connect to the internet and search for definitions. If there are new definitions found, click "Ok" to allow the software to download. When it's finished, click "Finish." To scan your computer with Ad-Aware, click "Start" on the bottom-left. Choose which type of scan you would like to perform, whether it be Smart Scan, Full Scan, Custom Scan or Search Volume for ADS. Then, click "Next" to begin the scan. When the scan is finished, indicate which items you want to be fixed (if any) by clicking each box next to the description of the files found.

If you are using Spyware Doctor, remember to search for updates when it indicates that it is needed. Spyware Doctor has alerts at the bottom, telling you where your attention is needed. If an update is needed, click the red link indicating your update. Follow the prompts by clicking "Next" until Spyware Doctor updates your software. When the update is finished, click "Finish." Spyware Doctor will now reload itself with the new updated version. Once loaded, it is recommended to immunize your computer. Simply click the middle button to "Immunize." The program will indicate whether or not your computer needs to be immunized. If it does, simply click the link "Immunize Now." Once this is finished, you are ready to scan your computer for spyware. Click "Status" on the top-left to return back to the main menu. Click the top button to "Scan Computer Now." When the scan is finished, Spyware Doctor will show a list of threats on your computer that need to be removed. Click the "Fix" button to repair your computer.

These are just a few simple steps that can be taken to assure that your computer stays in great shape. Continue these steps weekly to prevent any further problems associated with Spyware or Adware.

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