What is adware? The definition and the 5 main examples

Has your browser that seemed reliable become slow or suddenly unresponsive? Are you bombarded with annoying pop-ups and instructed to install software updates, enter your personal information, or allow browser notifications? Does clicking on links from web pages take you to rare web pages with suspicious content?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, your computer may be infected with adware.

Summary: Adware is a software component that displays ads. Malicious software takes control of your browser to track your activity, show you fake ads, and redirect your traffic to suspicious web pages. In severe cases, take control of your computer completely and not just your browser. Read on to learn about some of the most common types of adware.

  • The definition: What is adware?
  • What types of adware are there?
  • Adware Symptoms
  • How to remove adware

The definition: What is adware?

By definition, adware is any component of software, malicious or not, that plays ads on a computer. However, often people use the word adware to refer to malicious software that displays fake ads, pop-ups, large ads, and full-screen ads that play themselves, within the browser. The name is a compound of the words”advertising” – advertising and “software”.

All adware is designed to generate revenue for its developer every time the user clicks on a displayed ad. Some types of adware can obstruct your internet browsing experience by redirecting you to web pages with adult content. There are also some modalities that collect your browsing information without permission and use it to offer you ads more adjusted to your tastes, since this way there is more chance of you clicking on them.

Top 5 Examples of Adware

There are hundreds of known types of adware programs that can affect your computer in different ways. Some of the most common and/or well-known types are the following:


Fireball jumped into the news in 2017 when an Israeli software company conducted a study and found that more than 250 million computers as well as a fifth of enterprise computer networks worldwide are infected with it.

Developed by Rafotech, a Chinese digital marketing agency, Fireball is a browser hijacker. It is interwoven with other software created by Rafotech, including the Mustang Browser and Deal Wifi, and installed with these programs with the user’s ignorance. When it affects your computer, it takes control of the browser. It changes your homepage to a fake search tool (Trotux) and inserts obstructive ads on any page you visit. Even worse, it prevents you from changing browser settings.

There is still no evidence that this adware does anything other than hijack your browser and flood it with ads. However, experts are concerned that if Rafotech decided to launch a cyber-attack with Fireball, the consequences would be enormous, simply based on the number of infected systems around the world.


Appearch is another very common adware program that acts as a browser hijacker. It’s usually woven with other free software, and it inserts so many ads into the browser that it makes browsing almost impossible.

Every time you try to visit a web page, the browser will take you to Appearch.info. Even if you manage to open a web page, Appearch will convert random blocks of text into links, so every time you select some text, a pop-up window will appear and offer you to download software updates.

Along with ads, Appearch will sometimes show you a message telling you that access to the web page you want to visit is limited. It will then ask you to subscribe to the notifications in order to gain access. If you click “Allow”, you will start seeing pop-up ads on your screen even when your browser is closed. Once you subscribe, the program will override your browser settings to prevent you from leaving the subscription.


Although it has been inactive for a long time, DollarRevenue is interesting because it was one of the first major adware programs that infected millions of computers around the world. It installed a toolbar in the browser of the infected computer to track the Internet browsing carried out on the computer. In addition, the program also displayed fake ads, on the same page and also as pop-ups.

It was developed in the Netherlands in 2005, and by the end of 2007 had infected more than 22 computers worldwide. Moreover, an investigation carried out by Dutch telecommunications surveillance found that DollarRevenue was instrumental in numerous botnet attacks that affected thousands of computers.

The creators were fined one million euros in 2007, but the decision was invalidated six years later.


Another inactive adware program, Gator pioneered selective marketing based on behavior and raised much controversy. Packaged with popular free software like Kazaa and Go! Zilla, Gator would remove ads from web pages and replace them with its own ads. This meant that if page visitors clicked on an ad, all the benefits would go directly to Gator rather than to the content creator.

However, Gator was known for its policy of recording users’ complete browsing histories, and even parts of their credit card numbers. They used the information to offer them a better selection of ads. Although this practice is very common today, at the turn of the century it was unheard of.

In 2003, the company behind Gator changed its name to Claria Corporation and continued with the publication of adware until 2006, two years before it closed.


DeskAd is another common adware program that displays fake ads within your internet browser, redirects your traffic to suspicious web pages, and displays pop-up ads. Unlike other similar programs, DeskAd starts very discreetly and takes control of your browser gradually. This is why it sometimes goes unnoticed until the problem becomes so serious that only a reinstallation of the operating system can solve it.

The most frequent way to distribute it is through email attachments, DeskAd unseals the computer so that it can be launched during startup. It also reproduces, and this can hinder the memory as well as the processor and cause a break. If it infects computer networks, the effects could be devastating.

Adware Symptoms

If you suspect that your computer might be infected with adware, look for one or more of the following signs:

Your browser suddenly starts running slower than before and drops frequently.
Banners and ads appear on web pages where they never appeared before.
Your homepage has changed in some way and you can’t change it again.
Every time you want to visit a web page, you are redirected to a different page.
You have noticed new toolbars, plug-ins, or extensions in your browser.
Clicking anywhere on the page opens one or more pop-ups with ads.
Your computer starts installing unwanted applications without your permission.

How to remove adware

There is no universal recipe for removing adware from your computer. Removing some types of adware can be as easy as uninstalling the browser extension and restarting your browser. With some other types of adware, you may need to use adware removal tools to detect and remove it successfully.

Some types of adware can be so serious that not even the best antivirus software will be able to remove them. In these cases, reinstalling your operating system may be the only solution.

Even though the most common adware isn’t that dangerous, it shouldn’t leave anything to chance on the internet. Doing so not only risks losing your computer’s files, but it could also jeopardize your personal information.

To prevent this from happening, you need to install reliable software that will keep your computer protected. This way, you can scan your order for any threats; viruses, worms, spyware, malware and adware, and remove them in a few clicks. The best antivirus software for Mac will also monitor the system in real time and keep your computer safe from malicious software.