"Pop-Up Goes the Weasel"
-Andy's amendment of the childhood nursery rhyme
Marnie from comcast.net asks:
"For some reason I am getting those message pop-ups that I was telling you about. They are grey boxes that are message alerts to get rid of ads... I am getting a new pop-up every few minutes. Do you know what I can do?"
Look at the trees. They show off their brilliant and beautiful spectrum consisting only of orange, red, gold, and a quiet whisper of green. Feel the chill in the air. It warns you shorts will no longer be tolerated, as the weather is now more suited for long pants and jackets. Listen to children. Their talk turns toward costumes and candy. They're preparing for a certain holiday, just as some parents are making sure dentist appointments are up to date.
That's right: Everyone get ready for Christmas!
Wait... What? That doesn't make sense, does it? And yet that's the way our society works. September of this year I was in a certain unnamed mall in southwest Michigan. To paint the picture in precise detail, let's call it "The New Mall". The New Mall has a great variety of stores, and many have some frightening things in common. Santas. Candy canes. Stockings so hideous to wear, your only hope is to nail them to a fireplace and hope someone fills them with something besides feet.
It seems an American tradition that Christmas season arrives earlier each year. This is evidenced by what we'll call "pop-ups": You're walking into a store and a plastic Santa pops-up before you, reminding you there's only four months left! You can be watching TV, and a commercial may have a pop-up telling you about a sale "just in time for the holidays!" Don't you wish there was something you could do about those pop-ups? If there was some way of fighting back, some way of preventing those irritating and unnecessary advertisements whose sole purpose is to remove you from your money?
Well, you can't fight back. There's little you can do as an individual. So let's focus on computers instead!
Pop-up windows should now be familiar to everyone who browses the Internet. In my opinion, they do the opposite of their original intent: When I see a pop-up window, I get upset with the company responsible, so much that I feel it's my right as a consumer to deny them my money until their advertising practices 1) don't insult my intelligence and 2) don't interrupt my browsing so rudely and aggressively. And since trying to ignore the pop-ups doesn't really fix the problem, wouldn't it be nice if there was something else we could do? There is. The three methods below are very effective ways of preventing pop-ups from popping up. They may not stop every pop-up Internet ad, but I guarantee they'll make a noticeable difference. If you have a question about any of these, consult a local computer geek first!
If you use AOL, they give you automatic pop-up blocking options. This prevents third-party ads, as well as the AOL pop-ups! You can get instructions for doing this by using AOL keywords "pop-up controls". This will guide you to the Settings menu area where you can disable pop-ups.
If this option does not appear in your AOL menus, then upgrade to the latest version of AOL and try again. The latest version is available for free from AOL, either a CD by mail or download from www.aol.com.
2) Windows XP
If you are using Windows XP or Windows 2000, turn off the Messenger Service. (If you don't know what this is, you probably don't need it.) To turn this off, do the following:
Right-Click the "My Computer" icon and click "Manage". (The "My Computer" icon will be on your desktop and/or in your Start Menu.)
Expand the "Services and Applications" item by clicking the "+" sign.
Scroll down till you find "Messenger" in the Name column. Double-click it, and a window will open.
In the window that appears, change the "Startup Type" to Disabled.
Then Click the "Stop" button.
Then Click "OK".
This will turn off certain pop-ups as well as give some protection to your PC from hackers. Many people having this problem report symptoms as black-and-grey ads that pop up without warning, and advertise porn, free diplomas, or other potentially illegal wares. Marnie quoted at the beginning of this article had this problem.
3) Other pop-up blocking software
Not all pop-ups are caused by the "good guys". Many pop-ups are caused by infections of adware. This is software installed on your PC, without your knowledge, that shows you pop-ups, slows down your PC, and generally makes you want to toss your PC out a window. Click to find adware detecting and removing software.
For basic pop-up blocking, you can use Google's pop-up blocker tool. It appears as an extra toolbar in your Internet Explorer browser. This will block most legitimate pop-ups, but won't help much against the adware infections mentioned above. Read about it and download it at: http://toolbar.google.com
It's frustrating to not have control over advertising. Unfortunately, the Internet functions in a way that sometimes feels like you don't have control over your own computer! Take control and don't let your PC get pushed around by advertisers.
Perhaps this concept can work in the "real world", too: The next time a robotic Santa insists you look at a Christmas display in September, buy some Halloween candy instead. And make sure he notices.