What is a PUA (Potentially Unwanted Application) or PUP (Potentially Unwanted Program)?

Man researching PUAs while listening to music.

Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs) are unwanted software programs that come bundled in legitimate free software programs as a package.

Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs) are unwanted software programs that come bundled in legitimate free software programs as a package. These may also be called Potentially Unwanted Programs, or PUPs.

Not all PUAs are destructive, but some can cause very annoying behaviors, like generating pop up ads or causing your computer to run very slowly. These applications can negatively affect a computer’s performance and can even introduce security risks such as spyware and other unwanted programs.

How does a PUA (Potentially Unwanted Application) work?

Often embedded within free software, potentially unwanted programs will download and install themselves during the installation of a legitimate free software bundle. Because the PUAs arrive along with the End User License Agreement (EULA) that governs the bundled software, these unwanted programs are categorized differently than malware. These unwanted programs can come in the form of adware, browser hijackers, browser toolbars and even spyware.

Common PUAs

Adware is software that displays unwanted advertising on a computer or mobile device, usually in the form of pop-up ads, or they may redirect your browser to a certain website. While it usually doesn’t cause any direct harm to the users’ device, it can cause very annoying behaviors and could contain spyware, as well.

Browser hijacker
Browser hijacking is caused by malicious software. Generally used to display advertising, a browser hijacker can also be used to generate visits to a specific website, or can redirect you to a fraudulent website that could download malware onto your computer.

Spyware is designed to do exactly what it sounds like — it can hide on your computer and record your keystrokes and track your online activity. Cyberthieves can then obtain sensitive personal information, like your passwords or payment card information.

How Norton Power Eraser can help you identify and uninstall PUAs.

Norton Power Eraser uses our most aggressive scanning technology to eliminate threats that traditional virus scanning doesn’t always detect, so you can get your PC back. It can also help detect and remove Potentially Unwanted Programs.

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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