Q: I have tried to use various programs to stop pop-up ads, but it seems like they just keep coming back. What can I do to stop these darn things? —Julie
A: "Force-feeding" ads to Internet users has become one of the predominant methods of marketing goods and services to millions of people. While the jury is still out on just how effective they are in generating sales, the relative low cost per person will keep enticing companies to continue.
Some pop-up blocker software companies are actually trying to market their software by annoying users with recurring pop-ups!
The first thing that you can do to help fight pop-ups is to never buy from any companies that use pop-ups to advertise their products. Much like spam, if just a small number of people respond, they will keep doing it.
There at least three major methods that your computer will use to receive pop-up ads. The first is the traditional scripting that is embedded into Web sites that can be easily stopped with many of the free pop-up "killers." The one that I have used for some time with a great amount of success is called EMS Free Surfer mk II. You can download the free version at www.WebAttack.com by typing "free surfer" into the search engine.
The second that appeared about a year ago takes advantage of the "Windows Messenger" utility that is built into Windows NT, 2000 and XP (but not 95, 98 or ME). This utility is intended to be used by network administrators to alert users that the server is being shut down or for sending general information to everyone on a local area network. This type of pop-up is why some highspeed Internet customers are experiencing pop-ups even when they are not surfing the Internet.
Unless you are on a corporate network, you can turn this feature off. In Windows NT, go to Control Panel, then to Services. Highlight "Messenger" and click on "Stop." In Windows 2000 and XP, go to the Control Panel, then to Administrative Tools, and then to Services. Highlight "Messenger" and click on "Stop." You must also set the "Startup Type" to "Disabled."
The third and most intrusive pop-ups are delivered by secretly installing software that is known as "adware." If you have ever downloaded a free program from the Internet or you notice that an extra toolbar has appeared in your browser window, there is a good chance that an adware program has been installed in your system as well.
Once these adware programs get installed, they constantly run in the background of your computer and monitor your Internet access so it can find pop-up ads specific to your surfing habits.
Some of the less scrupulous companies (mainly porn vendors) go a step further and make their pop-up ads constantly, whether you are surfing the Web or not.
If you seem to have extra toolbars in your browser window, start by going to the Add/Remove programs section of the Control Panel and look for anything that has the word toolbar in the description.
There are a couple of excellent free programs that will look for and remove adware and spyware programs from your computer. For nontechnical users I recommend using Ad- aware
(www.lavasoftusa.com/software /adaware), and more technical users may find
SpyBot S earch and Destroy
more full featured.
These are the most common ways of getting pop-ups, but they are not the only methods. Instant messaging, file sharing utilities and a host of other programs are also incorporating pop-ups as a revenue source, so the battle will rage on!
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the "Computer Corner" radio show at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR (620 AM) and the "Tech No Phobia" television show at 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays on COX9. Readers may send questions to email@example.com.