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Potentially Unwanted Programs Trick Users into Downloads

What everyone should know about Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUP)


Potentially Unwanted Programs

Ever wonder how Ask.com is suddenly your search engine default? Even though you did not “ask” for a change to your browsing options by physically going to your settings and making the change. Thanks to potentially unwanted programs, or PUPs, it is likely that, at some point during your internet browsing experience, you did, in fact, ask for the change.

Some PUPs are quite useful, and under different circumstances might even be a good addition for your system; however, it is the underhanded manner in which they are introduced that is the unwanted part of the equation. Unfortunately, software developers are using more and more sophisticated ways to dupe even computer savvy users into accepting PUPs.

Here are the top five methods used to introduce PUPs to your system and how to avoid those “potentially” unwanted changes.

Top Five methods of introducing PUPS to your System

Download Portals

1. The preferred method unscrupulous software companies use to introduce PUPs to your computer is through download portals. PUP programmers might place an ad on a site with a legitimate, useful download. They make the ad flashy, with a big green “download now” button in hopes that users will click this button rather than downloading what they came for.

Here is an example. Skype is popular video chat software, available for free to its users. Many people will Google “Skype free download” to find and download the software. “CNET free download portal” is one of the choices on the search engine result page (SERP) which brings users to a page showing two or three green download buttons. Without paying much attention, the logical choice is the biggest green button, which states beside of it: Free Download Manager. What is about to download is not Skype at all, but a download manager. This can be a good feature if desired, but it can change a systems performance in undesirable ways as well.

The safest way to avoid this error is to skip download portals altogether and go directly to the source. Google “Skype” and go directly to their home page. If there is a free download available, and of course there is for Skype, there will be a download page or button.

Express Installations

2. The second most popular method is through an express installation of software or updates. Choosing the express download is the quickest way to get the desired software with a few not necessarily desirable add-ons. The express install is always recommended, at least by those providing the extras, such as changes to your home page, search engine, and other PUPs. A lot of non-savvy computer users will automatically choose the express install thinking that is the quickest and simplest method, but don’t believe it. Avoid express installs and use the custom install instead.

Installation Check Boxes

3. Even with the custom install recommended above, programmers will try to introduce PUPs. There are a series of boxes which are already checked with many program installations. Some examples include “change my home page to Yahoo!” or “change my search engine to Bing”. To avoid more PUPs, simply click off those check marks. Some may also be added at the end of the End User License Agreement (EULA), which most users do not take time to read, yet click “yes” anyway to finish the installation process.

Forced Installations

4. The fourth PUP installation method is by far the worst and at first glance seems unavoidable. When you begin the install, there are two or three choices to change your home page or search engine, but the boxes are not checked. Click next, and the problem appears. There is a dialogue box that states, “To continue with the install you must choose at least one option.” This is what is known as a forced install. It is very clever, but avoidable. To avoid this bit of trickery, click cancel and get your software somewhere else. It isn’t worth proceeding.

Sharing Your System

5. Others may not be as computer savvy and visits to chat, online gaming, and streaming sites with your computer could produce automatic changes to browser settings and shell the system with ads. Even forcing others to use a separate login is not effective, as changes to the system will affect computer performance. The only real way to avoid this is to deny shared usage.

If all else fails and unwanted software begins to plague your system, there are a few tips that can clean up most damage and get the machine back to peak performance in no time.

Top Five Tips to avoid Potentially Unwanted Programs

  • > Always use quality anti-virus software with malware filters
  • > Never use express installs and click off unwanted add-ons
  • > Install a Free Emsisoft Emergency Kit and use it to scan your system frequently
  • > Take your time with all installs, “know before you go!”
  • > Go to the source for downloads whenever possible

If an install looks suspicious, even if it is what you want installed, get the software somewhere else. There are lots of reputable downloads available, particularly from the source!

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