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iHatePopups review: iHatePopups

iHatePopups

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Robert Vamosi
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Robert Vamosi

Former Editor

As CNET's former resident security expert, Robert Vamosi has been interviewed on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets to share his knowledge about the latest online threats and to offer advice on personal and corporate security.

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4 min read

Tired of closing pop-up windows on your desktop? Sunbelt Software, maker of iHateSpam, has entered the booming anti-pop-up app market with iHatePopups. This app does an adequate job of blocking pop-ups (advertisements that open a new active browser window on your desktop) and pop-unders (advertising that opens underneath your active browser), but that's about all it does--in other words, it's a decent app for an Internet newbie or someone who just wants to stop pop-ups without any fine-tuning. But while iHatePopups works with Internet Explorer 5.5 and above, it doesn't integrate with Internet Explorer's toolbar, nor does it work with AOL, Netscape, or Opera. At a mere $10, iHatePopups is affordable, but for 10 bucks more, you can get more options, plus additional security features with PopUpCop. iHatePopups installs easily via either a download from the Sunbelt site or from a CD. An installation wizard does the rest. You will, however, need to reboot before it will work. Unlike AdSubtract Pro, PopUpCop, and Guard-IE, iHatePopups does not fully integrate with Internet Explorer as an add-on toolbar. Rather, iHatePopups is accessible primarily from a system tray icon; just right-click the icon to launch the iHatePopups interface. You can also access the app through the tools menu within IE.

7.0

iHatePopups

The Good

Stops pop-up ads; inexpensive; easy to use.

The Bad

Doesn't work with Netscape or Opera; doesn't integrate with Internet Explorer; weak documentation.

The Bottom Line

While iHatePopups lacks the sophistication and security of its competition, it's good for home or student users who want just the basics.

The iHatePopups interface is larger than it needs to be, considering its limited options.

The iHatePopups interface is simple compared to its competitions' and takes up too much screenspace for its limited capabilities. For example, the Reports screen does not generate a report or a log file of recent activity; instead, it displays only a bar chart that graphically illustrates the number of pop-ups stopped over time, pop-ups stopped today, adware stopped over time, and adware stopped today. You can't, for example, click these bars to obtain details of the pop-ups or adware that was stopped. For that, you need to view the Blocked History screen, which shows most of the blocks ads' URLs, should you want to view any of them or add any of them to your allowed list. Unlike the other apps we've seen, the Allowed Sites tab in iHatePopups does not allow you to cut and paste URLs. To add sites, you must right-click in the site itself.

Like AdSubtract, PopUpCop, and Guard-IE, iHatePopups blocks advertising generated both from Web sites and ad-serving software that lives on your hard drive. (Such ad-serving software often accompanies free downloads.) It's important to note that no pop-up blocker removes ad-serving apps from your computer but only mitigates their effects. To remove ad-serving software from your hard drive, you'll need Ad-aware 6.0 or Spybot Search and Destroy.

All of the ad-stopping apps we've seen so far play a sound whenever they find a pop-up. iHatePopups offers 11 such preset sounds--the most we've seen in such an app--with an option to add your own custom WAV file. With or without sounds enabled, a tiny notification window rises out of the system tray whenever a pop-up is stopped. This can be disabled as well.

To display how well iHatePopups works, the app sports a counter to the right of the main interface that shows the total number of pop-ups stopped. The Reports tab shows the total number of pop-ups stopped, how many pop-ups generated by ad-serving apps were stopped, and the total number of each stopped during the current day.


Instead of seeing a log of blocked ad-related URLs, we often saw only this message: "Dynamic pop-up--no URL."

The Blocks History tab displays the individual URLs stopped. We found that this feature did not work in the trial software. However, even after we registered the product, iHatePopups displayed only a few of the total URLs it had blocked. Several were identified only as "dynamic pop-up--no URL." According to Sunbelt's technical support, dynamic pop-ups are "embedded in a Web page and are called upon from a remote location" and, therefore, change constantly. In comparison, we found that PopUpCop captured a list of these embedded URLs for the same sites.

The lone security feature in iHatePopups prevents viruses and rogue apps from changing your Internet Explorer home page. Short of that, iHatePopups does not specifically stop malicious ActiveX or JavaScript from running on your browser, nor does it notify you when a link on one page takes to you a different domain (usually a harmless act, but sometimes it's a sign that a hacker has created false Web sites for the purpose of identity theft). Finally, iHatePopups doesn't let you turn off animation and background sounds on Web sites, while both AdSubtract Pro and PopUpCop include this feature. Nor does iHatePopups clear your browser's history and cache files as do Guard-IE, AdSubtract, and PopUpCop. For security reasons, you should always clear your browser's cache when exiting.

One thing iHatePopups does that its competitors do not is block Windows Messengers. These are operating system-generated pop-ups that appear to be from network administrators. Designed originally to warn users that the server is about to be rebooted, some individuals have found ways to code these messages with advertising, enabling them to broadcast ads across large corporate networks.

The iHatePopups user manual covers basic descriptions of the features, with very little troubleshooting information. The iHatePopups program's help file is also minimal, providing general answers to general questions. For more extensive help, try the vendor's online technical support forum, which contains several topics specifically for iHatePopups users.


The in-program help file offers little more information than that found in the user manual.

Sunbelt offers toll-free phone support at 877/673-1153, as well as e-mail technical support. When we posed a question, we received an immediate confirmation e-mail and waited less than 24 hours for a thorough response.

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