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Issue #159: August 8, 2010

Q: How do I get rid of those annoying pop-up ads that come up on almost every website I visit?  Second, my PC will not shut down.  Every time I shut down my computer, it automatically boots back up.  I have to manually shut it down.  I deleted a Windows program accidentally and I’m afraid that has been causing my problems. I tried restore and that didn’t work.  I’m unable to install SP2 as well.  UGH!!!  Should I back up everything and re-install XP?  Or should I buy a newer program/PC.  I had my PC built back in ’05. 

– Jon B.
Fort Walton Beach, Fla

A: As you know, pop-up ads are annoying little windows that pop-up right on top of what you are trying to do in your browser.  They are intrusive, almost always unwelcome, and have all the cute cuddly charm of a mosquito.  A close cousin to the pop-up ad, which in my opinion is just as bad, perhaps even worse because of the sneakiness of the attempt, is the pop-under ad.  These work just like pop-ups, but instead of slapping themselves right in the middle of your current work, they hide underneath your browser window.  Then, when you’re done with whatever you were doing and you close or minimize the browser window – BAM! – there they are!  Where pop-ups are like mosquitoes, pop-unders are more like cockroaches, except they don’t scatter when you expose them.   Pop-ups became so intrusive that Microsoft put technology to block them right into the browser.  That feature was introduced in XP SP2, which would explain why you don’t have it yet, since you say you can’t install SP2.  There are lots of other pop-up blockers out there though.  Just do a search for “pop-up blocker” and to get started.  The usual cautions and caveats apply here!  I’ve actually seen software that generates ads that billed itself as a pop-up blocker.  So do your diligence before installing unfamiliar software on your system.   Also note that there are legitimate uses for pop-up windows, and the legitimate pop-ups will probably be blocked along with the ads.  So make sure you know how to disable blocking temporarily, or for certain websites.

As for the rest of your question, you’re a little vague, so my answer will probably be a little vague.  Can you re-install whatever Windows program you accidentally deleted?  If you had supplied me an error message instead of simply saying you are “unable” to install SP2, I might have found you a work around.  Given that you’re having such issues, (and I’m guessing your Windows installation is at least 5 years old) it wouldn’t be a bad idea to back up your data files and do a completely new installation of WinXP.  There will be a lot of patches and updates that need to be done via the Windows Update server, but that’s a 1-time requirement.  If you’ve never had XP SP2 on your system, you missed out on a lot of nice updates.  I don’t think I’d do anything as radical as buying a whole new PC (unless you simply WANT a newer, faster machine).  I am guessing that once your Win XP is running properly, and you perform all the updates, you’ll be pretty happy with it again, and happily blocking those pop-ups too.

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