Removing Crapware Manually - Educate me

wgehring

Estimable
Oct 24, 2014
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Hello helpful people, I'm hoping you can educate me on this topic. Important stuff in bold for TL/DR crowd.

I just built a new PC which I am trying to keep as clean and agile as possible. Foolishly, I overlooked a sketchy download and ended up with a nice big bag of crapware unwanted programs to play with. Yay! From what I can tell, they aren't viruses, just bloatware.

So, I'm in Windows 8.1 only running the built-in Windows Defender at the moment. I know I should probably get proper virus protection, but that's not what I need help with. I am trying to manually find and remove the programs that were added to my computer. Here is what I have done so far:

Go into add/remove programs and uninstall anything new.
Look through program files on hard drive and delete folders of new programs.
Look at the task manager to see what is running, hunt it down, and delete it's files.

My question is, by deleting program files, uninstalling from control panel (where possible, sometimes program tries to block this action), and checking to see if it is running in the task manager, am I successfully cleaning my PC of this junk? Are there bits of it still hiding in secret corners of my hard drive I don't know about?

Thanks for your help.
 

Marshall Honorof

Editor
Herald
Aug 1, 2013
1,489
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Uninstalling the crapware programs is a good start, but it's not going to solve all of your problems. A lot of bloatware is extremely persistent, and many programs are close cousins to, or facilitators of, straight-up malware. Luckily, with a little persistence, it's not hard to get rid of those programs or keep them gone.

First off, I cannot overstate the importance of CCleaner (https://www.piriform.com/ccleaner). This is the simplest, easiest way to clean your computer, as it'll get rid of your temporary Internet files, your cookies, and whatever's clogging up your Recycle Bin. If you run CCleaner regularly, it should keep you safe from a solid 90% (or more) of common PC problems.

You might want to check out the Best Free Antivirus page that my coworkers whipped up: http://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-antivirus,review-2588-5.html. Many of these programs are also good at removing adware and cookies that track you from site to site. As you can see, Windows Defender is generally woefully inadequate to the task at hand. I like Malwarebytes and Spybot S&D myself. Although you shouldn't keep two antivirus programs active at the same time, there's nothing wrong with downloading more than one and running scans at different times.

Aside from that, there's always the nuclear option. If your PC is still brand new, just format the whole thing and start fresh. You have to be incredibly careful when downloading new programs, even from "reputable" websites like Download.com. NEVER select "express" installation options, as these are often just codewords for "includes crapware." Instead, always do custom installations, and de-select everything except for the program you want.

Hope this helps.
 

Marshall Honorof

Editor
Herald
Aug 1, 2013
1,489
1
11,240
1
Uninstalling the crapware programs is a good start, but it's not going to solve all of your problems. A lot of bloatware is extremely persistent, and many programs are close cousins to, or facilitators of, straight-up malware. Luckily, with a little persistence, it's not hard to get rid of those programs or keep them gone.

First off, I cannot overstate the importance of CCleaner (https://www.piriform.com/ccleaner). This is the simplest, easiest way to clean your computer, as it'll get rid of your temporary Internet files, your cookies, and whatever's clogging up your Recycle Bin. If you run CCleaner regularly, it should keep you safe from a solid 90% (or more) of common PC problems.

You might want to check out the Best Free Antivirus page that my coworkers whipped up: http://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-antivirus,review-2588-5.html. Many of these programs are also good at removing adware and cookies that track you from site to site. As you can see, Windows Defender is generally woefully inadequate to the task at hand. I like Malwarebytes and Spybot S&D myself. Although you shouldn't keep two antivirus programs active at the same time, there's nothing wrong with downloading more than one and running scans at different times.

Aside from that, there's always the nuclear option. If your PC is still brand new, just format the whole thing and start fresh. You have to be incredibly careful when downloading new programs, even from "reputable" websites like Download.com. NEVER select "express" installation options, as these are often just codewords for "includes crapware." Instead, always do custom installations, and de-select everything except for the program you want.

Hope this helps.
 

Paul Wagenseil

Senior Editor
Apr 11, 2014
692
1
4,940
4

Paul Wagenseil

Senior Editor
Apr 11, 2014
692
1
4,940
4
I second using Malwarebytes or CCleaner to clean things up. Most straightforward antivirus software won't get rid of this stuff, as it isn't actually malicious, but Malwarebytes specializes in this.
 

USAFRet

Splendid
Moderator
Aside from that, there's always the nuclear option. If your PC is still brand new, just format the whole thing and start fresh.
That is exactly what I did with a friends brand new Toshiba laptop a few weeks ago. Out of the box, it was almost unusable.
It included some POC System Scanner thing. 1 day old, it was reporting "56 errors". The continual scan, and the competing Norton....100% disk usage for an hour after turning it on.

It was faster just to wipe and reinstall, rather than trying find and clean/remove the dozens of individual crapware, games, Registry cleaners, etc, etc, etc....
 

wgehring

Estimable
Oct 24, 2014
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4,510
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A lot of really great responses, thank you. Everybody's advice was valuable, this is a great community! I will definitely try out CCleaner and Malwarebytes.

EDIT: I want to update this post after trying both programs for anyone else that may read this. Maybe I wasn't totally clear on what CCleaner was supposed to do, but it was useless for me. I do not recommend it for anyone with a similar problem. First it attempted to install its own crap-ware additional programs, then it missed finding anything in the system scan, then it tried to removed important programs that I wanted to keep. I quickly uninstalled it and used Malwarebytes to finish removing all of it crap-ware from my system.

Malwarebytes worked very well and I do recommend it. It found and removed all of the problematic programs and files on my computer with one scan, even those that I had not been able to remove previously.

Hopefully that is helpful to anyone with the same kind of problem.
 

Paul Wagenseil

Senior Editor
Apr 11, 2014
692
1
4,940
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Let me ask: From which site did you download CCleaner?
 

wgehring

Estimable
Oct 24, 2014
3
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4,510
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I downloaded it from www.piriform.com, which appears to be the homepage of the company that makes the software?

 

Paul Wagenseil

Senior Editor
Apr 11, 2014
692
1
4,940
4


That is indeed the homepage of the company. And I, unfortunately, got the same results you did when I installed CCleaner on my machine -- my antivirus software picked up a crapware installation 10 minutes later, even though I found nothing in Programs and Features.

So, um, maybe stick with Malwarebytes for now. And don't download it from Download.com -- that site wraps free software in bundles that include crapware.
 
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