Unlike baby dogs, PUPs aren’t cute and cuddly. On the contrary, they can be rather annoying and sometimes even harmful. PUPs, short for Potentially Unwanted Programs, are exactly like their name describes —they’re unwanted and, at times, stubborn programs that negatively impact your computer.
Are PUPs viruses or malware?
PUPs aren’t computer viruses, nor are they malware. It’s important to understand that malware is an umbrella term for malicious software. Computer viruses are a type of malware that corrupt data and interfere with a computer’s operations.
The difference between PUPs and typical malware is that PUPs can be harmful to a system but aren’t malicious. Additionally, PUPs are usually bundled with other pieces of software, like a web browser, antivirus, multimedia player, or optimization utility package. Developers add PUPs to their software packages to generate revenue in various sneaky ways.
Examples of PUPs
- Low-level adware
- Browser hijackers
Signs of PUPs
The most obvious sign of a PUP is that your computer performs slower than usual for no apparent reason. Programs crashing can also be a sign of an unwanted program creating software conflicts.
Some PUPs, like adware, can also throw up pop-up ads on your screen. Others may change your browser’s home page or add toolbars, extensions, and other apps without your consent. If you notice that your search engine results are odd or promoting products, then you may have a potentially unwanted program manipulating your browser.
Some PUPs can also spy on your browsing activity to raise advertising revenue for marketers. But programs that do more than snoop on your browsing activity are malware. For example, spyware, keyloggers, and stalkerware can steal your confidential information for threat actors.
How to get rid of PUPs
Getting rid of PUPs can be challenging because some unwanted programs are stubborn. Your best bet is to start with a utility like AdwCleaner that aggressively targets PUPs like adware, toolbars, bloatware, and even some malware such as spyware. After using the utility, try uninstalling unwanted programs manually.
On Windows, use the search box to find your Settings apps. Now, open Apps and look under Apps and features. Uninstall unwanted programs to free up your computer’s resources.
Removing programs manually can sometimes be the only way to eliminate bloatware. As you probably know, bloatware is an incredibly persistent type of PUP usually installed by your computer’s manufacturer. Bloatware is typically trial-run software that expires quickly and offers little value. Moreover, bloatware can slow your system down and track your activity.
How to avoid PUPs
The best way to avoid PUPs is to avoid software bundles and third-party website downloads. For example, instead of downloading your Nvidia video card’s drivers from a website like download.com, use Nvidia directly. Or better yet, use Windows updates.
When installing software, please read all terms and conditions. Please also ensure that you don’t install any optional and needless extras. Many software packages take advantage of your trust to drop some unwanted files on your computer.
Although PUPs generally don’t attack your security and privacy, they must be avoided as they can negatively impact your computer’s performance and stability.