How to Remove Spyware in Windows 7

June 2, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Spyware is annoying. Finding its way onto your PC via apparently innocent downloads, it keeps track of your activity and can record the websites you go to, your buying habits, even your keystrokes.

Manual fixes for removal of spyware almost always involve checking the system registry for related keys. This way, the spyware cannot be reloaded or prompted to “phone home” which will allow it to install a new copy. However if you cannot delete spyware registry keys, this can obviously cause problems.

Fortunately there are various methods that can be used to find and remove such malicious software, from using dedicated spyware removal tools to booting your computer in safe mode.

The first thing you should do on the discovery of spyware is to find an automated removal tool. As satisfying as self-removal can be, humans aren’t able to do some of the things that a dedicated removal tool can do, such as intercept any attempts by the spyware to reassert itself during the Windows boot process.

Almost all spyware can be removed with a decent anti-virus product or a good malware and spyware checker such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (available free from www.malwarebytes.org).

Once you have removed the spyware, you should take steps to ensure regular scanning of your system for such malicious software.

How to remove spyware in Windows 7

Recognising Spyware Registry Keys

If you have no alternative but to look for the spyware manually in the registry (after paying attention to the C:\Windows\System32 folder and similar locations for new files and folders with unusual, random or Windows-like names) then you should know what you are looking for.

Note that removing keys from the Windows system registry can be potentially devastating to how your PC runs; as such backup your system registry before proceeding.

Spyware and other malicious registry key types can be identified by the use of apparently random names (a collection of letters and numbers that don’t form a word), anything with “win” or “weather” in the name and anything that seems to pertain to shopping, downloading, toolbars, weather, and other unusual terms that don’t relate to any software that you have. Naturally these suggestions can change over time, so it is worth setting aside one hour a month to look for unusual items. You might start by hitting CTRL+SHIFT+ESC to launch Windows Task Manager and proceed by searching every single running process in Google.

I Cannot Delete Spyware Registry Keys

One particular reason why you may be unable to delete spyware registry keys could be due to the spyware concerned. A permissions–related issue, thanks to some changes made by the spyware, could prevent you from accessing the registry and therefore prevent you following the steps you need to complete in order to remove the malware.

You have three alternatives in this situation:

  • Login as an Administrator
  • In Windows 7 (or Vista) go to Start > Search, type “regedit” and right-click the result regedit.exe, selecting Run as Administrator.
  • Boot your PC into Safe Mode

One or all of these alternatives should give you the opportunity to remove the suspect registry keys, and return your PC to full working order once again!

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