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Have you ever opened your browser of choice and been greeted with a bizarre-looking start page or an unsightly toolbar glued to the top of the page? These changes seem to happen by magic and without warning. At their worst, they can slow your browsing to a crawl and spawn ads into nearly every page you visit, so it’s wise to purge them from your browser. Fortunately, with just a few minutes of your time and a keen eye, you can restore your browser to tip-top shape. These instructions cover Chrome on Windows, since it’s the browser most people seem to have issues with.

How Does This Stuff Get On Here, Anyway?

Typically, these problem-causing programs are not intentionally installed by the user, but rather by trickery. Here’s an example. You’ve probably seen this image before:

Java Setup

Yes, that’s the Ask Toolbar installer, which arrives bundled with Oracle’s Java. This toolbar, as you can see, provides a user with only features that they could readily find elsewhere. Modern browsers can search the Web simply by typing into the address bar and create shortcuts to sites such as Facebook and weather below the address bar manually.

The worst part of all is that the boxes are already checked – and every time Java updates, which is often, the user must remember to uncheck the boxes once again. And heaven forbid, if you do forget to uncheck those boxes of death, removing the toolbar Get Rid Of Those Annoying Browser Toolbars With Toolbar Cleaner [Windows] Get Rid Of Those Annoying Browser Toolbars With Toolbar Cleaner [Windows] Maybe it's a trend that is quickly coming back, or just coincidence and bad luck on my part, but I've noticed an alarming amount of new freeware applications coming bundled with toolbars. The only browser... Read More is an absolute horror.

Seeing as even a legitimate program like Java bundles in this junk for you, it’s no wonder that many users find their browsers plagued over time. Whether you’re sure that you’ve been affected by these programs or you just want to do a wellness check-up, here are three places to check to make certain Chrome is completely clean.

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Extensions

Extensions in Chrome are often the root of undesirable behavior, and thankfully, they’re easy to find all in one place. Simply click the menu bar in the top-right of Chrome (the three bars), then expand “Tools” and click on “Extensions.” From here, you will see a list of every extension installed in your browser. Ones that you purposefully installed likely are not the culprit, so look for any that seem out-of-place.

One big clue is the “installed by a third party” message under an extension – this indicates that something other than you installed it. Often these extensions also have the generic “puzzle piece” icon – but not always.

Chrome Extensions

There’s no reason for something to stay on your computer that you didn’t authorize, so it’s a good idea to remove them.

If you’re on the fence about an extension, seek help: the Chrome Web Store allows users to leave reviews on extensions, so if others rate it poorly, throw it out. Another valuable resource is the website Should I Remove It? The site allows you to look up any program Know What Software To Uninstall With Should I Remove It? Know What Software To Uninstall With Should I Remove It? Here at MakeUseOf, we've put out many articles reviewing and highlighting software that allows you to completely and cleanly uninstall applications from your system. One issue many of you run into is not knowing which... Read More and see what it does, where it typically comes from, and what percentage of users removed it. It’s extremely helpful if you don’t consider yourself a good judge of a program’s integrity.

Should I Remove It

The Default Search Engine

Even though you’ve removed a shady-looking extension that was injecting ads into your browser, traces may still remain. The next place to check to make sure that Chrome is healthy is the search engine settings.

From the extensions menu you were just visiting, click on “Settings” on the left hand side of the menu. A list of settings comes up, but for now we’re interested in one – entitled “Search.” A drop-down box lets you pick your favorite. If it’s not something recognizable like Google, Bing, or Yahoo!, then change it to whichever you prefer.

Chrome Default Search Engine

An optional follow-up step is to completely remove the offending search provider(s). Choose “Manage Search Providers” and all the way to the right of a provider’s name there will be an X. Click that, and the provider goes poof.

Chrome Full Search Engine List

Why is this step important? As aforementioned, when you type something into the address bar that’s not a web address, Chrome automatically searches for it using the default search engine. Additionally, some of these search engines try to imitate Google, so if you’re in a hurry you may not notice what you’re actually using.

If that engine is a garbage one, you’ll still be using it every time you search the Internet in this way, and since these search providers are usually filled with a mountain of ads, they’re better off left alone.

Search Engine

The Home Page

Similar to the default search engine, many of the malicious extensions like to change your default homepage. For this step, you’ll want to check two spots in Chrome:

First, visit the “On Startup” section in Chrome’s settings. If “open a specific page or set of pages” is the chosen option, click “set pages” and make sure none of them look strange; if they do, remove them and set them back to whatever you like.

Chrome Startup Page

Second, under the “Appearance” header in the settings, choose to show the home button. Again, if the page listed here looks weird to you, change it and you’re good to go.

Chrome Home Page

All clean!

By performing these easy steps, you’ve cleaned your browser of all unwanted litter. This will get rid of most problems of this type; if they persist, you may need to visit the programs list in Windows to see if they’re installed on your computer instead of just in the browser, or perhaps take even more drastic measures 4 Steps To Completely Remove Troublesome Or Bad Software [Windows] 4 Steps To Completely Remove Troublesome Or Bad Software [Windows] We’ve all had that one program that no matter what we’ve tried, it wouldn’t go away. Or perhaps you didn’t even know what to try and thought you were simply stuck with this annoying program... Read More . And thankfully, the future looks bright in this area, as Google will soon enact a policy that blocks these third-party extensions by default. Once that is in place, a much lower amount of spam extensions will appear in the wild. Until then, you now have the knowledge to take charge of Chrome on your own.

Have you experienced any particularly nasty browser extensions? What are your best strategies for avoiding bundled-in software? Sound off in the comments!

Image Credit: Geoffrey Whiteway via Stockvault.net

  1. mickie
    September 8, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    I don't know who you are but i think that you solved my problem and i am not even a low tech person; I am NO tech.

    Thank you so much; maybe i won't need my kids to bail me out this time.
    mickie

    • Ben Stegner
      September 15, 2016 at 11:41 pm

      I'm so happy this helped you! This was my first article for the site, and I'm glad to see that it's still solving problems over two years later.

      I'm Ben, and I like to help people like yourself (no-tech? I like that!) solve issues. Nice to meet you!

  2. Tim
    June 5, 2016 at 11:26 am

    this is just too simplistic an answer to the larger issue. Bottom line is that Browsers are under constant bombardment, and you need something to fight them. Myself, I use the paid service ($30/6 months) called SpyHunter (from enigmasoftware.com). I have found that crap left behind by MalwareBytes and other services people recommend makes them inadequate, but SpyHunter cleans the browser crap out every time. And NO, I have no connection to SpyHunter

    • Ben Stegner
      September 15, 2016 at 11:42 pm

      You really don't need paid software to clean out your browser. You're being ripped off. There are plenty of free tools that will do it for you, or you could just reinstall the browser.

  3. Carol
    January 27, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    I've done all the above, including deleting the browser, running Dry Eraser / Norton and reinstalling CHrome. Days later, there it is again.

    • Ben Stegner
      January 28, 2016 at 2:58 am

      It sounds like you probably have something on your computer that's re-installing the browser extension. Can you check your Programs & Features menu for anything suspicious?

    • Tim Gatton
      September 16, 2016 at 1:05 am

      Yep ... not only do you need to spend hours testing, but I'm in charge of miltiple computers and letting Spymaster do it for me is NOT a waste. Also if you know of a better solution, NAME IT.

      • Ben Stegner
        October 6, 2016 at 10:35 pm

        Hours testing? I really don't understand. How infected is your browser that it takes more than 10 minutes to follow the steps above? If it's that bad, you should just reinstall it to save the time.

  4. Dr K Chaudhry
    September 27, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Unsupported extensions disabled
    Page up top

    I remove the Extension PAGE ON TOP but every time I start my computer, it appears again with above alert.
    How can I get rid of that?

  5. db
    May 21, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    THIS IS helpful BUT, i am still not sure what to do about homepage, have been set to yahoo forever, now suddenly left side shows purple yahoo list, have reset the homepage turned off all extensions and all else you suggested, but cannot get rid of it. I dont have it in mozilla firefox which is also set to yahoo home page, any suggestions are appreciated, today is May 21, 2015 so maybe its something new? I dont use my chrome much, but for a few things i do and hate that my homepage is hijacked or changed without me wanting it.

  6. Steve
    May 13, 2015 at 6:48 am

    Good day,

    I'm actually very disgusted in Yahoo, It's like they are standing in front of Google Chrome and screaming USE YAHOO. What a desperate call to use their product.

    I've searched the web to remove Yahoo from my PC and from G-Chrome, no luck.
    I'm beyond furious with Yahoo and don't know where to turn to.

    I need help.

  7. Nikki
    April 15, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    I've done all of that and still I see one pop ad every time I turn on my computer and open Chrome. I've even "Restored" my computer to an earlier date thinking I downloaded something that was unsafe. So I uninstalled that program and then did the System Restore. That didn't work and I don't see anything in my extensions (or in my program folder) that looks suspicious. I don't know what else to do. Also, I've done Windows Defender and it can't find anything either.

    Help me, I'm getting nervous, what if this thing that makes the pop up show is taking my password and other important information??

  8. RMann
    March 12, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    I did all the above mentioned steps to get rid of Yahoo hijacking my searches and then it comes right back. I have removed all apps added since the trouble started, extensions included. I followed other steps as well and when I go to search boom there it is again, but not every time. I keep clearing out the search engine choices in settings and it gets re-populated with Yahoo, Bing, Ask and many others and I don't even visit those sites. I am not giving up. I will win.

    • Ben S
      March 13, 2015 at 1:32 am

      This is irritating, isn't it?

      Have you checked the Installed Programs list in Windows to see if these extensions have installed a program counterpart, too? Sometimes they get in there and keep re-installing the browser extension to mess your browsing up.

      Aside from that, I would run a scan with Malwarebytes to make sure there's not a deeper problem. Would resetting Chrome be a big issue for you? You can back up your bookmarks first so you don't lose anything.

  9. ramin
    February 23, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Thanks
    it was helpful :-)

  10. Margot C
    December 18, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Thank you! (and I love you). How on earth did that Yahoo thing get in my extensions in the first place is what I want to know though. I didn't have that 'installed by a third party' thing and I haven't installed a single thing.

    • Margot C
      December 18, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      Mac OS 10.10.1 Yosemite on Chrome btw

  11. dragonmouth
    March 13, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    "Getting rid of Chrome is easy, but other browsers have these problems, too."

    Is browser hijacking a fault of the browsers or is it an added bonus of using Windows? Does browser hijacking occur under other O/Ss?

    I used Firefox in its Phoenix and Firebird incarnations and up to version 3.6 on Windows and never had them hijacked. I also used Opera on Windows, again no hijackings. I have used Firefox on Linux for about the 10 years, and Chrome recently for couple of months. Again, no hijackings. However, one thing I don't do with my browsers is to download extensions and add-ons willy-nilly.

    "it is easy to get rid of Chrome. However, where does this leave you?"
    If it gets infected so easily, it is the only solution. I can think of at least 10 other browsers, not including IE, that I can use instead of Chrome. You make it sound like it's either Chrome or IE, or no browser at all.

    • Ben S
      March 13, 2014 at 8:14 pm

      If you're diligent, you'll likely never see a problem like this in your browser. However, every time someone complains to me of ads in their browser, or overall slowness, without fail at least one junk extension is present. Hence my motivation for writing this article.

      "However, one thing I don’t do with my browsers is to download extensions and add-ons willy-nilly."
      I've never had a junk extension in Chrome either - which goes to show you it's almost all about the user, not the browser itself. If this article doesn't apply to you, then I'm sorry, but don't tell me what I'm saying is wrong. This article isn't written for tech experts.

      Of course Chrome has more infections like this, because it's so commonly used. Just because there's problems out there doesn't mean they're going to affect you.

      "If it gets infected so easily, it is the only solution"
      This simply isn't true. If you find Chrome getting infected a lot, you need to examine your browsing habits and be more careful when installing programs. These extensions don't appear out of nowhere. Why get rid of the browser when it takes two minutes to clean it?

      "You make it sound like it’s either Chrome or IE, or no browser at all."
      And what inexperienced reader is honestly going to download a browser that's not well-known? The article is for people who want to use Chrome and need it cleaned. This stuff finds its way into other browsers too, including IE and Firefox. You could apply the advice here to them.

    • dragonmouth
      March 13, 2014 at 9:22 pm

      Thanks for the answer. However, you did not address the question about browser hijacking in other O/Ss. If you don't know whether Chrome running under Linux gets hijacked, that's OK, maybe you don't have any experience with Linux or OS/X. If multi-platform browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, etc.) have no hijacking problems under other O/Ss, then the finger should be pointed at Windows, not the browsers.

      "don’t tell me what I’m saying is wrong."
      I am not. I said the same you did, that more often than not it is the user, not the browser.

      " This article isn’t written for tech experts."
      If you consider someone who heeds common sense security guidelines an expert, then I suppose you could call me an expert. Your doing a good job, keep writing articles for the heedless among us.

      "Of course Chrome has more infections like this, because it’s so commonly used"
      Puhleeze! Firefox has just as much exposure as Chrome, and there is no rash of hijackings.

      "And what inexperienced reader is honestly going to download a browser that’s not well-known?"
      The user that does not want his browser hijacked. Firefox and Opera are just as well known as Chrome and have been around a few more years. Do you think it is possible that their developers have learned how to patch the vulnerabilities better during that time?

    • Ben S
      March 14, 2014 at 4:50 pm

      I don't know how bad hijacking is in other OSes, honestly. I would guess it exists in small amount on OS X and barely at all on Linux, but you have to remember that the vast majority of computer users are on Windows.

      Technically the finger should be pointed at the browser, but as I said it's all about what the user does. It's unfortunate that articles like this have to be written because these shameful practices exists, but I can agree that Windows is weak in this area.

      By tech expert, I didn't mean someone with a high degree of knowledge, but someone who knows their way around a computer and wouldn't be hearing about this process for the first time here. Thank you; I plan to continue because I love helping people.

      "Firefox has just as much exposure as Chrome"
      Actually, I'd still argue that Firefox has quite a bit less use. See Wikipedia's stats on browser usage to see that Firefox is a lot lower than Chrome. Yes, it's still extremely popular, but not to the extent of Chrome.

      I'm not arguing that everyone needs to use Chrome and it's the only available browser. My reasoning is that many people use it, so they might as well use it correctly. If I recommended Maxthon to a friend, they'd likely be confused with it.

      I'm really not wanting to argue here; I'm just not sure you understand what I'm saying. It wasn't meant to be this complicated.

  12. Zakaria E
    March 9, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Get rid of Chrome is much simple

    • Ben S
      March 10, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      As stated in another comment, yes, it is easy to get rid of Chrome. However, where does this leave you? You most likely don't want to back to using IE, and these cleaning tips only take a few moments to implement. Why remove the entire browser when it's easy to fix?
      I'd liken it to buying a new car simply because the oil needs changed in your current one. It's not a deal-breaking problem.

  13. AndyUser
    February 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    My chrome app data ballooned to over a gig. Why would a browser ... never mind. Uninstalled using Revo - scrub everything chrome and never again. Same on my android phone.

    • Ben S
      March 10, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      Could it have been a malicious extension? In this case, scrubbing and restarting would probably be a good idea. What browser do you use now?

  14. Aquariuzz
    February 14, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    AVG just did this to me. I finally uninstalled AVG. I tried all of the steps above and I still couldn't get it to go away. Finally uninstalled AVG. Problem fixed.

    • Ben S
      February 14, 2014 at 8:05 pm

      I get annoyed with antivirus programs that install browser extensions like this. The extensions aren't malicious, but annoying and you can usually find an alternative option that does it better. I just had to help a friend with this same problem, because avast was clashing with Adblock. What a pain.

  15. henhead
    February 13, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Good article. Informative, to the point (not the usual 15 things I have to go check) and entertaining (" ... provider goes poof."). Loved it.

    PS. This brand of malware is most frustrating. I understand nothing comes for free (hence the "Ask" autoinstaller on Java and friends) but going to the current extremes to trick people into installing something doesn't do anyone any good. Case in point, I used to use and like Ask. Now it's actively blocked.

    • Ben S
      February 13, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      Thank you for reading and commenting!
      It is frustrating, and one thing that really bothers me about it is that most people don't know that toolbars and junk don't belong. They assume that because it's there, it's supposed to be. Makes me angry.

  16. matthew
    February 13, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    sometimes the shortcut in quick launch or on your desktop can get "infected" by pointing to a specific web page, bypassing the "home" page directions in broweser settings.

    • Pam Merreck
      February 13, 2014 at 9:28 pm

      I just got rid of Chrome.
      Problem Solved.
      Pam

    • KC1127
      February 14, 2014 at 6:03 am

      Agreed with Pam.

      Get rid of Chrome is much simple.

    • Ben S
      February 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      Getting rid of Chrome is easy, but other browsers have these problems, too. I don't see them as commonly, but then again I don't see many people use Firefox or other browsers as their primary.
      The nuclear solution is meant to be a last resort; this was written so you don't have to do that right away : )

  17. bben
    February 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Please excuse the rant - but these are a special sore spot to me.
    These kind of programs are malware. No matter how loud the makers scream they are not - If I cannot remove it COMPLETELY using the built in windows remove function, IT IS MALWARE - if it tries to hide behind some innocuous sounding name - IT IS MALWARE. If it intentionally makes itself difficult to remove or comes back after being removed - IT IS MALWARE. When are the major advertising companies ( and people like Java) going to realize that these idiots are poisoning the well? I now have ad blockers on nearly everything - not because I object to well behaved ads on sites - but because these MALWARE idiots insist on making their garbage intrusive and obnoxious as well as nearly impossible to get rid of. These MALWARE scumsuckers have forced me to take action to entirely stop any advertising from getting through. So, the not so evil advertisers and the sites that they benefit suffer because of the actions of the truly evil MALWARE purveyors. If you want your ads to be seen - then take out the garbage.

    • Matthew
      March 4, 2014 at 4:20 am

      You can't remove a chrome extension via the windows programs and features panel, that doesn't make it malware. But other then that, I do agree with you.

    • Ben S
      March 4, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      I agree - just because you can't remove it from Add/Remove programs doesn't make it malicious. However, I highlighted that option in the article because certain types of adware, such as Wajam and We-Care, install both in the browser and as a Windows program. If this happens, as I've seen with Wajam, uninstalling the extension only works until the computer is restarted, and then the adware extension pops back in.

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