You know the saying “your body is a temple.” Most of us are familiar with it and we at least “try” to eat things that are good for us and exercise with some regularity. Hey, our intentions are good and we are really going to get serious about this starting on Monday. That saying can really be applied to our computers as well. Pay close attention to what you put in (programs, data, hardware) and maintain your PC regularly (defrags, malware and spyware checks,etc.) and your PC will last longer and perform better.
Did you know that there are forces working against you and your goal to take care of your computer? Of course we are all familiar with the fact that viruses, malware and spyware exist, but there are other dangers stalking us from the shadows. I’m going to call them “tagalongs.” Tagalongs are programs that get installed on your computer with/without your permission. I used “with/without” because these applications get on your PC by tricking you. That’s right, it has probably happened to you before and you didn’t even know it.
Everyone will install or update a program on their own PC at some point. It is just a fact of life. We just want to warn you about the dangers of doing so. Watch Out! Program installs are not the same step-by-step they once were. Manufacturers of some of the most popular applications are now tricking you into installing a “partner’s” software, or more specifically, their toolbar. (I’m looking at you Java). You see, when you go to add or update a program, you are almost always guided through a “wizard” of some sort. A wizard is the series of windows that ask you to agree to the install, agree to the terms, pick your install location… Now, some companies have managed to shimmy in a tagalong install during one of those wizard screens. Here is an example (screenshot):
In this example, the Yahoo toolbar has been “bundled” with this defrag program. Not only were they nice enough to check the box for you that says “I agree to Install the Yahoo! Toolbar.” They also went ahead and helped you decide that it was time to change your default search engine. I hope you detect the sarcasm there. You see those two check boxes in the center of the screen shot. They were checked when that screen came up. You would have to uncheck them to keep them from installing on your PC. There are so many things wrong with that and there is no doubt that they are intentionally trying to trick you into installing this software.
Now, some of you may ask “why is this such a big deal?” Maybe you even like the Yahoo toolbar. Aside from the fact that Yahoo toolbar will be yet another plugin for Windows Explorer and will slow down your web browsing (see our article Which Browser Should You be Using?), it is the principle. You should not be tricked into installing anything. It won’t take long before other software companies have you installing programs that are far more malicious than a toolbar.
The moral of this story, pay attention when you are installing and updating. Look out for screens like the one above and be prepared to make a few extra button clicks. This may become more common and you need to be prepared.
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