Browser and PC Clean-up: Eliminate the pop-ups

Here’s a quick guide I’ve knocked together to help clean up a PC that may have browser pop-ups and may be running a little slower than it used to. It’s not intended as an in-depth PC service manual, but it should work as an effective crib sheet for tidying up a computer.
PC
Add/Remove Programs from Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a Program
OR Start > Run > appwiz.cpl
Work your way through the list and uninstall any suspicious / unknown applications, if the problems are fairly recent then you can sort the list of applications by date of install (click the column header) and remove all recently installed programs.

Browsers
Internet Explorer
• Internet Explorer > Cog > Manage Add-ons > Toolbars and Extensions > right-click each and select ‘Disable’
• Internet Explorer > Cog > Manage Add-ons > Search Providers > Choose the desired search engine (normally Google), right-click and select ‘Set as default’ > right-click each other search engine and select ‘Remove’
• Nuclear Option – reset all IE settings: Cog > Internet Options > Advanced > Reset > check box to Delete Personal Settings > OK > reboot

Firefox
• Settings > Add-ons > check and remove/disable any unnecessary plug-ins and extensions
• Settings > Options > General – check and set home pages
• Settings > Options > Content > check box to block pop-ups
• Add Adblock Plus to FF: Settings > Add-ons > Get Add-ons > Search for and install Adblock Plus to hide advertisements
• Nuclear option – reset all FF settings: Settings > Help > Troubleshooting Information > Reset FireFox

Chrome
• Settings > Search engines
• Settings > Extensions
• Settings > On start-up > open new tab
• Nuclear option: Scroll down to bottom > Show Advanced Settings > Reset Chrome

PC
Now to run a few quick anti-malware scans and clear down temporary files, MRUs (most recently used items) etc
• Download and install MalwareBytes (MBAM), do not enable the resident protection trial, run the ‘Quick Scan’ and action any detections
• May as well run Kaspersky TDSSkiller, this will scan for common rootkits. NB – not an in-depth anti-rootkit utility, just a cursory examination. Download and run TDSSkiller, should only take 5 minutes.
• Download and run Piriform’s CCleaner, leave everything selected and let it do its thing. This will clear temporary files, temporary internet files, MRUs, file caches, missing startup items and more.
• Check Windows Update status: Control Panel > Windows Update >
• Finally review startup items in MSconfig (XP and Win 7 – Start > Run > msconfig) or Task Manager > Startup (Win 8 +). Removing unnecessary items from these lists will improve boot and login speed.
This is only a five-minute-fool’s guide to cleaning up a personal computer. It won’t clean everything, it’s not a substitute for knowledge and understanding and it won’t remove viruses / rootkits from a well-infected machine. It should help keep most machines running smoothly though, and remove annoying pop-ups and slow-downs.

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