How to remove PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs)

What is a PUP?

A PUP is an acronym (and abbreviation) used by computer security programs to identify a Potentially Unwanted Program, otherwise known as a “possibly unwanted program, grayware, riskware, offerware, or bloatware. A PUP is not necessarily malware or a computer virus and is commonly categorized in the adware, browser hijacker, dialer, remote tool, scareware, and/or spyware categories of computer infections. Other abbreviated terms that are similar to PUP are PUM (Potentially Unwanted Modification) and PUA (Potentially Unwanted Applications).

what is a PUP

Most Antivirus and Antimalware software will detect Potentially Unwanted Programs once a scan is complete. Some PUPs are appended a detection name such as Optional.PUP, PUP.Spyware, Adware.PUP, and more. For example, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium will detect as PUP.Optional.GoPhoto.A and will give the user an option to remove the PUP or ignore the program to keep it on the system.

how to remove PUPs

People often mistake a PUP for a computer virus even it is not technically defined as a computer virus. Sometimes when people are infected with a PUP they will referrer to the program as “program name virus.” Although, a PUP is not a computer virus by definition it can still be a dangerous program and put user security at risk the same way a computer virus does. A PUP can also be the sign of a more severe computer infection because the programs will usually bundle with malware, adware, spyware, and other malicious programs.


PUPs have many symptoms since the detection can refer to a number of different programs.

  • Pop-up ads, pop-under ads, in-text ads, and banner advertisements
  • Sponsored search results and new advertisements that appear when you search the web
  • Modified homepage, new tab page, and search engine
  • Slow and sluggish computer
  • Internet browser crash

A concern with PUPs is that they usually bundle with and are advertised alongside other unwanted programs, Malware, and other threats that can remain hidden on a computer system. If a victim did not install a PUP but find it installed on their computer it is likely that the unwanted program was part of a package that bundled it with other objects.

Distribution Methods

Potentially Unwanted Programs are usually distributed via free downloadable content including freeware, shareware, and dubious torrent files. Potentially Unwanted Programs may also be advertised as something they are not in order to trick victims into installing them. For example, a Potentially Unwanted Program may claim to be a browser update, system update, driver update, flash player, media player, ad blocker, browser extension, image, or something similar.

Potentially Unwanted Programs are typically advertised across various websites that contain prohibited content such as video streaming websites, torrenting websites, and pornography websites. These websites utilize aggressive advertising networks that will also advertise malware because the websites are not alloted to display legitimate advertisements by services like Google AdSense due to their prohinited content.

Potentially Unwanted Programs are also bolstered by third-party download managers associated with freeware programs (free programs). Freeware download managers offer PUPs as a custom install and give the user a chance to accept or decline the program from installing. If the user does not opt out from the program installation the program will begin to install alongside the freeware. The way that the custom installation is presented may also be confusig and designed to trick the user into installing programs they did not mean to install. It’s advised to be alert when installing free programs from the internet and keep an eye out for custom installation presentations to avoid any confusion and security risks.

How to Remove PUPs

Removal Software

Name Detection Download
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium PUP.Optional Buy
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free PUP.Optional Download (Free)
HitmanPro by Surfright [Threat_Name] Download (Free)

View more: Antivirus Software, Antimalware Software, Optimization and Cleaning Software


How to uninstall PUP from Windows

1. Open Windows Start Menu and go to the Control Panel (or Programs and Features).

2. In the Programs section click Uninstall a program (in earlier versions of Windows this is called Add and remove programs).

3. Double click the PUP program in the list to begin the uninstall process.

How to restore your computer

If a restore point has previously been established on your machine you will be able to perform a system restore in order to restore your machine to a date and time before it was infected. You will lose files on your computer that were obtained prior to the restore point.

There are several options to restore your computer. Most computers have their own restore software that can be found by performing a search. Additionally, computers that run the Windows Operating System have a default restore program that can also be found by performing a search.

A boot screen that can be used to access options to restore your computer can be reached by rebooting your computer and pressing the F8 key once the manufacture screen is displayed.

How to recover your computer to factory settings

A system recovery (or reset) will recover your computer to factory settings. You will lose the current programs and files on your computer.

There are several options to recover your computer to factory settings. Most computers have their own recovery software that can be found by performing a search. Additionally, computers that run the Windows Operating System have a default recovery program that can also be found by performing a search.

A boot screen that can be used to access options to restore your computer can be reached by rebooting your computer and pressing the F8 key once the manufacture screen is displayed.

How to protect your computer against future threats

The key to staying protected against future infections is to follow guidelines and take advantage of reputable Antivirus and Anti-Malware security software with real-time protection.

Real-time security software

Security software like Malwarebytes and Vipre Antivirus have real-time features that can block malicious files before they spread across your computer. These programs bundled together can establish a wall between your computer and cyber criminals.

  • Backup your computer and personal files to an external drive or online backup service
  • Create a restore point on your computer in case you need to restore your computer to a date before infection
  • Avoid downloading and installing apps, browser extensions, and programs you are not familiar with
  • Avoid downloading and installing apps, browser extensions, and programs from websites you are not familiar with – some websites use their own download manager to bundle additional programs with the initial download
  • Avoid visiting fake “spyware removal” blogs and websites that promote “spyware removal software.” These are usually malicious websites designed to phish your personal information, infect your computer with a rogue program and trick you into paying for rogue “spyware removal software.”
  • If you plan to download and install freeware, open source software, or shareware make sure to be alert when you install the object and read all the instructions presented by the download manager
  • Avoid torrents and P2P clients
  • Do not open email messages from senders you do not know
Helpful links

Sean Doyle

Jacob is a tech author and engineer with over 20 years of experience in cybersecurity, privacy, malware, Google Analytics, online marketing, and other topics. Jacob's content has been featured in numerous publications.

1 Response

  1. Ralph says:

    What I want to know is how I MYSELF can LOCATE ALL PUPS and PUMS on my PC computer and then how I MYSELF can DELETE ALL PUPS and PUMS from my PC computer.
    All I seem to be getting in my online search is to get someone elses software to do this, which in my mind means, they are probably in fact NOT LOCATING AND DELETING THEM ALL and may even be ADDING THEIR OWN PUPS and PUMS to my PC computer.

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