Sunday, January 1, 2006

Q How do I get the "Best Offers Direct" ads off my PC? My anti-spyware program can find the program behind them, but it keeps crawling back.

AThis Windows-only pest -- earlier known as "Aurora" and "A Better Internet" -- exhibits a vile degree of tenacity in its mission of littering your screen with pop-up ads.

Uninstalling the "free" software that inflicted Best Offers on your computer (currently, FunScreenz, iWatchNow and Smiley Source) won't work. The Best Offers application itself burrows deeply into Windows to defy removal attempts, and its creator, New York-based Direct Revenue LLC, revises it often to evade anti-spyware tools.

For example, a copy of Best Offers installed on a test laptop went undetected by Microsoft AntiSpyware, Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition and Spybot Search & Destroy. (A trial version of Webroot's Spy Sweeper did identify it.)

The most effective counterattack is to use Windows XP's System Restore utility: From the Start Menu, select All Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools. But if it's been a while since Best Offers began bugging you, that may not work. Direct Revenue also provides an uninstall utility on its site, which seemed to work in one test. But this company's conduct gives us little reason to trust it.

If you can't get this parasite off your machine on your own, you may need to destroy your PC in order to save it. Back up your own data to a CD, DVD, USB memory key or external hard drive, then use your Windows CD (or the system-recovery partition on your hard drive) to wipe your computer and reinstall everything from scratch.

To avoid that kind of radical treatment, be careful about using allegedly free software from strange sites -- and in particular any part of the "Best Offers Network."

--Rob Pegoraro

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071

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