Adware and Pop-Ups: Can a Pop-Up Blocker Help You?
A pop-up is a form of advertising where a small browser window containing an advertisement (and usually a link to the advertiser's website) literally "pops up" onto the screen of your computer when you go to certain websites. These can even be sophisticated (and annoying) enough to hover over whatever you're doing and/or not let you close them.
A variation of the pop-up is the pop-under, where the new window opens up behind your active window. You only see the pop-under when you close the active window, and this makes it harder to detect the source of the pop-under.
The purpose of pop-ups and pop-unders (referred to more generally as just pop-ups) is to increase internet traffic to the particular sites they're advertising. They are related to adware in that adware can also cause pop-ups on your screen. Adware has the ability to make pop-ups appear on your screen even if you are not surfing the Web, as long as your computer is connected to the internet. Adware may also cause pop-ups when you are surfing the internet, causing you think the website you're visiting is causing the pop-ups when in actuality it's the adware. This is a great disguise for adware that its producer's don't want to be detected.
Just because you get pop-ups when you're on the internet doesn't mean you have adware, but it might. If you're getting pop-ups on your desktop when you don't even have your browser open, it's a good sign that you have adware.
So, how do you block those annoying pop-ups then? If your pop-ups are coming form the internet and not adware, this is easy - all you need is to download a pop-up blocker. This is an extra component that can be added onto your browser that stops pop-ups from opening. Most updated browsers (such as Firefox and Internet Explorer) already have pop-ups blockers in them, but downloading an extra pop-up blocker may help catch the pop-ups that your browser missed. Downloadable pop-ups blockers also often have extra components that your browser doesn't have such as ad filters, which remove advertisements on web pages so that webpages load faster and you don't have to see the ads.
If your pop-ups are due to adware, a pop-up blocker won't help you. You need to remove the adware that's creating the pop-ups to get rid of your pop-up problem. Check out our section on how to remove adware.
Complications of Pop-Up Blockers
One complication that pop-up blockers may cause is the blockage of legitimate pop-ups. Legitimate pop-ups are pop-ups that you actually want. Examples include download windows that pop-up when you click to download something and forms and help windows that appear in response to a link you choose to click. Pop-up blockers may not always be able to tell the difference between these things, and they may block these pop-ups that you actually want. One way to get around this is to hold the "Ctrl" key while you're clicking the link to the pop-up. Most browsers support this action as a sign to momentarily deactivate the pop-up blocker.
Another more serious complication of pop-up blockers is that many free pop-up blocker downloads contain adware and spyware. These illegitimate pop-up blockers may even generate pop-ups themselves once installed on your computer! That's why you should do your research before choosing a free download, and only install something from a source that you trust. One safe and trusty free pop-up blocker is the one produced by Google, which comes as part of their free downloadable toolbar (the Google Toolbar).