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Adware Removal Guide

Published November 7th, 2013 at 3:36 PM EDT, modified June 11th, 2014 at 7:52 AM EDT


Adware has been a plague on the Windows world for years. Unfortunately, this plague has begun to spread to the Mac as well. There are a number of different programs out there that serve no useful purpose except to shove ads in your face, all just to make money for the developer of the adware. Because it lives in the borderline between malware and legit software, though, detection by anti-virus software can be very hit-or-miss. This can make removal difficult.

Where does it come from?

Adware often comes packaged in installers for other software. Sometimes, this is because it has been added to a legit piece of software by an unscrupulous download site. (Even mainstream download sites, such as and Softonic, have resorted to this kind of unethical behavior.) Sometimes it is because a developer has opted to use an adware-riddled installer, provided with incentives from the adware creator, to distribute their software. It could even be installed through deceit, by pretending to be something that it is not in order to trick the user into installing it. (This last type is usually the only type that is detected as malware by anti-virus software.)

What are the symptoms?

The most typical symptom of such adware is the display of advertisements on your Mac where none should exist. Adware also will often change your browser’s home page and search engine settings, and may even cause redirects from legit sites to sites constructed for the financial benefit of the adware developer. It can also cause secondary problems, such as web pages displaying incorrectly due to insertion of foreign HTML code, and even browser crashes.

However, problems with unwanted ads in the web browser are not necessarily caused by adware. They could also be caused by a compromised network or a problem with the site itself.

Adware Removal Tool

The Safe Mac’s Adware Removal Tool is now available! Download it to scan your system and remove any known adware automatically. If you feel uncomfortable running a script downloaded from a¬†website that you may not have ever heard of before today – which is perfectly reasonable – then you can try the manual removal instructions instead.

Manual Removal

Step 1: Look for adware

Go to the Identification page in this guide for information on how to search your system for signs of known adware. If you find anything, follow the instructions for removing that adware.

Step 2: Look for other causes

If you don’t find any signs of adware, your problems may not actually be caused by adware at all. You may be on a compromised network, or an ad-supported wifi network. You may also be looking at a site that has been hacked, or even just an ordinary bad site. For help figuring out where the problem might be, see the Other Causes page in this guide.

Note that this page is a work-in-progress, and probably always will be. If you find adware not described on these pages, or find that known adware is behaving in ways other than as described here, please contact me!

This page and all contents (unless otherwise noted) copyright 2011-2014 by Thomas Reed.
For questions or comments, please contact me.