My question, tongue deep in cheek, is this: will I ever be able to buy a Windows system with no pop-up ads of any kind whatsoever? (What I call pop-ups may include other intrusive ads.) I’d be willing to pay extra! What I have is Windows 7 Ultimate with Firefox as my browser, and I am being driven crazy.
Most likely I have add-ons of which I have lost track. I spend hours web surfing, which can, I suppose, lead to inadvertent nefarious acquisitions. Is there a catch-all list of my add-ons? JohnR.
I was just going to say that there are no pop-up ads in Windows 7 – which is true unless you include the ones promoting Windows 10. Otherwise, ads and various pop-ups may come directly from websites or from “nefarious acquisitions”. These include “potentially unwanted programs” (PUPs) and the malware that sometimes infects browsers.
Getting rid of unwanted pop-ups and ads is a two-stage process. First, remove any malware or adware from your PC. Second, use browser extensions to block the unwanted pop-ups and advertisements.
You don’t have to do all the things mentioned below. Just do enough to reduce the problem to an acceptable level.
Cleaning Windows …
You’re already running the AVG anti-virus program, but apparently it hasn’t stopped at least one adware program from being installed. This is why I often recommend running one-off scans with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (MBAM), which is very good at finding and removing PUPs.
After running MBAM, you can run Xplode’s AdwCleaner, which targets adware, toolbars and other browser invaders. As with some other products, there’s a fake version of AdwCleaner that asks for money to remove adware: the genuine version does not. Make sure you only download AdwCleaner from a reliable source such as MajorGeeks or Bleeping Computer.
If you run AdwCleaner, be careful. It has a lot of tabs – for services, folders, files, DLLs, shortcuts, scheduled tasks, the registry, Firefox, Chrome etc – and it marks everything it finds for removal. You have to examine each and every tab to make sure it’s not removing something important.
To check your add-ons and extensions in Firefox, click the hamburger icon (three horizontal lines) at the top right and select Add-ons from the drop-down menu. Each add-on has buttons for Options, Disable and Remove. While you have the page open, check the Plugins section as well.
To do the same in Google’s Chrome browser, click the hamburger icon and select Extensions.
Nowadays, most browsers include a pop-up blocker, though there is plenty they won’t block: many websites have legitimate pop-ups. In Firefox, click the hamburger button, select Options, and then Content. Make sure the entry for “Block pop-up windows” is ticked. In Chrome, click the hamburger button, click Settings, then Show advanced settings. Find the Privacy section, click the button that says “Content settings…” and scroll down to find the option: “Do not allow any site to show pop-ups (recommended)”.
You can greatly reduce the number of ads by installing Raymond Hill’s open source uBlock Origin. This consumes fewer resources than AdBlock Plus, and is more versatile. It comes with some well known filters pre-installed (EasyList, EasyPrivacy etc) but many more are available.
I also recommend Ghostery. This is the best tool for blocking unwanted trackers, and at the moment, it blocks 2,073 of them. These include seven Facebook trackers, including Facebook Connect, and at least 17 of Google’s trackers, including DoubleClick and the Google+ and Google Translate widgets.
With Ghostery, I block everything by default, then use the tagging system to find and uncheck the few things I need. These include the Disqus and Livefyre widgets listed under Commenting Systems.
Clicking the Ghostery icon – which resembles a Pac Man ghost – lets you pause blocking or whitelist a site. You may need to do this if a website doesn’t work properly, but most do.
Of course, free websites need advertising to survive and, unfortunately, advertisers require tracking in order to serve up targeted ads. You can easily whitelist websites that you want to survive, including the Guardian.
Websites that distribute the sort of software you want often make money by bundling in the sort of stuff that, generally, you don’t. This “foistware” includes the Ask, Microsoft Bing and Google toolbars, Google Chrome, and PUPs such as Conduit Search. These are all designed to make money from search advertising.
PUPs will often be installed by default if you choose the Express setting rather than a custom installation, so it is all too easy to end up installing something you really don’t want.
The solution is a very small program called Unchecky. All it does is uncheck the bundled “special offers”, but that can save you lots of clicks and the effort of uninstalling unwanted programs.
Stopping the Windows 10 upgrade
Microsoft is trying to get its new Windows 10 operating system onto as many devices as possible, and has installed a very small GWX (“Get Windows 10”) utility on most PCs that are eligible for the free upgrade. I like Windows 10 myself, and have upgraded several machines, but not everybody wants it on every PC, or at least not yet. Including me.
I’ve previously mentioned Ultimate Outsider’s GWX Control Panel as a way of blocking these promotional notifications. Now Microsoft has published official instructions in how to manage Windows 10 notification and upgrade options. Alternatively, see Ed Bott’s earlier blog post at ZDNet on how to block Windows 10 upgrades.
Stopping ads for Windows 10
Whether Windows 10 contains ads is a matter of semantics. However, Windows 10 – like Windows 8, and unlike Windows 7 – can run secure, sandboxed apps that are similar to the ones available for Google Android and Apple’s iPhone/iPad operating system. Most of these apps are free but ad-supported, and they can all be downloaded from the Windows Store.
To encourage people to use the store, Microsoft now shows “suggested apps” in the Windows 10 Start menu. If you don’t want suggestions, right-click on the tile and select “Turn off all suggestions”. Alternatively, click on Settings, select Personalisation, and then Start. This offers options such as “Occasionally show suggestions in Start,” “Show most used apps” and “Show recently added apps”. You can turn them all off.
This article is originally posted on The Guardian