The intent of this step is that until you have removed spyware from your system, you should disconnect from the Internet and then remove essentially all non-Windows software that is either guarding your system or interacting with the Internet. This includes virus checkers, spyware checkers, firewalls, and any programs that interact directly with the Internet without first asking for your permission. Many multimedia programs, such as audio programs or programs that display art or pictures on your screen background, fall into the latter category. If you have earlier copies of the same spyware checkers listed here, those should be deinstalled also. Expired copies of virus checkers should definitely be removed, as they are prime candidates for attack and subversion by spyware.

Do not remove antivirus programs unless you have first fully disconnected from the Internet (e.g., by unplugging the network cord in back)! Having an unprotected and spyware-infested PC connected directly to the Internet over a high-speed line is not a good idea for either your PC or other Internet users.

This step is optional for two reasons:

(1) You should not accept recommendations to remove your virus checker and then install other software too casually. It is better to get familiar with the spyware checkers described here and convince yourself directly that they are not nefarious software. The tools in this set can speak well enough for themselves by their results.

(2) Deinstalling virus checkers and other Internet software is not trivial. You should make very sure you can reinstall them later -- e.g., that you have all the disks and access rights needed to install them. Don't deinstall checkers if you don't know exactly how to reinstall them.

While optional, this step is more important than it might seem. The problem is that spyware has become very good at attacking and in some cases subverting the very software that is supposed to be protecting the system. This emphatically includes major virus checkers, and it also includes applications in this set.

If you skip this step the first time around and find that you are still getting spyware-like behavior, I recommend that you try again, but this time with as many virus checkers, spyware checkers, and Internet-active applications deinstalled as is possible without losing important software or data. Again: Do not deinstall if you do not know the exact consequences!