How to Detect Spyware on a PC & Mac

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and extensive experience working in the business world as Director of Marketing and Business Development at a financial advice firm.

Whether you have a PC or a Mac, there is still a chance that your computer will become infected with spyware. In this lesson, we see how to detect spyware on either a PC or a Mac.

Symptoms of Spyware

For many computer users, spyware, or software that gathers information about you without your permission, is a very real threat. This is true whether it is a PC or a Mac that is being used. While spyware used to be more common on PCs, the expanded use of Macs has made them more likely targets than before. These threats range from being relatively innocuous, such as a slower computer or popup ads, to much more drastic instances, such as running out of hard drive space or network capacity or even sudden crashes. Additionally, there is the fact that spyware can steal your financial and personal information. In short, being able to detect spyware is important if you want to be able to get rid of it.


Perhaps nothing is as obnoxious to a computer user as a popup ad. Sure, some are to be accepted - blogs often use them to try to convince you to sign up for their newsletter, for example. That's understandable and is not a symptom of spyware. That said, popups are often a very telling example of adware, a type of spyware that tries to advertise to you without your permission. The reason that it can be considered spyware is that it often uses your browsing history to take advantage of what you are interested in to make the offers more appealing. Frankly, many of these look shady - offering deals too good to be true on financial products, media downloads, and adult entertainment. Needless to say, not only are these obnoxious, but the fact is that someone is making money off of your inconvenience.

Slowing Down

As computers age, they slow down somewhat. It is not that the internal workings get old and simply can't keep up, but instead, we put a lot of information on them. A computer that is brand new may run like a sports car, but after a year into ownership with all of your documents, pictures, videos, and applications, that sports car is starting to run more like a station wagon. However, if you are using good data management practices, that shouldn't become an issue. What is an issue is if your computer slows down to the point of being unusable. That is a firm sign of spyware since it is eating up the processing power that should be focused on running your applications.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account