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Has your browser ever looked like this?

01-Toolbar-Overload

Hopefully it’s never been this bad, but you still may have picked up a toolbar or two in your travels. Toolbars have been synonymous with junk for a long time, and with good reason. Modern browsers like Google Chrome have tons of features The Better Browser With Great Features - Google Chrome The Better Browser With Great Features - Google Chrome Google Chrome presently is the most popular browser on the planet. It took Chrome less than 4 years to rise from barely 1% market share to where it is now. Globally, more than one out... Read More that make them unnecessary; the ability to search the Web, check weather, and see Facebook notifications can all be done with the vanilla browser or by using extensions. At best, these bars take up space and are useless (like the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer) and at worst, they slow down your browsing, hijack your searches, and track your activity.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common offenders, where they come from, and what you can do to be sure you never see them again. Note that these instructions assume you installed the toolbars with all checkboxes ticked for maximum crap; as such you may not have to perform every step. Also, since these toolbars all change the same settings, we won’t explain them individually for each browser, as that would be redundant.

Yahoo! Toolbar

Yahoo! isn’t a bad service by any means, but its toolbar is one that a lot of people have installed, according to avast!’s analysis. You’ll find it bundled with Yahoo! Messenger (which you might have switched to when Windows Live Messenger bit the dust The End for Windows Live Messenger: What Are the Alternatives? The End for Windows Live Messenger: What Are the Alternatives? If you've been a dedicated user of Windows Live Messenger, it's time to start considering your options for future messaging. Today we'll talk about how you can migrate to Skype, what alternative chat options are... Read More ) or with other free third-party software.

Ask Toolbar

The Ask Toolbar is probably the most vile and widespread of this list. It’s perfectly acceptable to try an alternative search engine Pause Google: 8 Alternative Search Engines To Find What Google Can't Pause Google: 8 Alternative Search Engines To Find What Google Can't We probably know all the Google search tricks, but there are still things that Google can't tell us at first glance. Google's a Hercules, but we shouldn't be shortsighted not to spot the midgets. Yes,... Read More , but Ask is probably the last you’d want to use. The stinker is most commonly seen packed in with Java, which you really don’t need Is Java Unsafe & Should You Disable It? Is Java Unsafe & Should You Disable It? Oracle’s Java plug-in has become less and less common on the Web, but it’s become more and more common in the news. Whether Java is allowing over 600,000 Macs to be infected or Oracle is... Read More in the first place. When you install or update Java, you’ll be greeted with this message, and the saga begins.

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02-Java-Install

Babylon Toolbar

The Babylon Toolbar is another common annoyance. Commonly found in free software like PDF readers and media players, Babylon hooks in without you knowing and is a pain to remove, but we’re here to help.

Skype Toolbar

Skype is extremely popular as a free video conference tool, and we’ve dived into its uses Skype - The Best Tool For International Video Conferences & Cheap Phone Calls Skype - The Best Tool For International Video Conferences & Cheap Phone Calls On the surface, Skype looks like an application for text, audio, and video chats, a great way to stay in touch with a friends. Only that it's more than that. Skype is a Voice over... Read More . However, depending on how you install it, some unnecessary extensions, like Skype Click-To-Call, may have come along. We’ll weed them out in the following steps.

How To Remove

Internet Explorer

Nowadays, Internet Explorer will ask you when extensions want to change your browser settings via a small menu at the bottom. Look for it to save yourself some trouble.

Toolbars will hijack your start page, glue themselves to the top, and barge in as your default search provider. Funnily enough, the Yahoo! extension didn’t even hijack my homepage correctly; it added an extra “http://” at the front of the URL, so Internet Explorer didn’t know what to do.

03-IE-Homepage-Change

To get started, click the gear icon in the top-right of your browser, followed by Internet Options. On the General tab, you’ll see your current sacked homepage; go ahead and change it to something useful 12 Awesome Homepages Readers Shared With Us 12 Awesome Homepages Readers Shared With Us Read More .

04-IE-General-Homepage

Removing the toolbar itself in Internet Explorer’s menus won’t do much good, as most will re-enable themselves. Instead, head to the Control Panel and remove it for good 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 ; yank both the toolbar and any related Updater programs in your programs list.

Next you’ll want to set your default search provider back to what you had. Head back into the Internet Options, this time to the Programs tab. Clicking the “Manage Add-Ons” button will get you to the right place.

Finally, choose the “Search Providers” tab from the left menu and something recognizable. Once you’ve picked a better search engine, you’ll be able to click the junk one’s Remove button; Ryan has explained how to change your browser’s default search engine How To Change Your Browser's Default Search Engine How To Change Your Browser's Default Search Engine So, what are you searching with? Bing? Google? You might know how to use any search engine you want on the Internet, but do you know how to change the default search engine for your... Read More  in greater detail if you need more info. Finally, while you’re here, it’s a good idea to check the “Prevent programs from suggesting changes” box to stop this nonsense in the future.

05-IE-Search-Providers

Firefox

Firefox will warn you of any changes most trashy extensions try to make, so you can defuse them before they make a mess. But if it’s too late, fear not.

06-Firefox-Addon-Warning

First, we’ll remove the rogue extension. Head to the three-bar (hamburger) menu in the top right of Firefox, followed by Add-Ons. Choose the Extensions tab on the left, and remove anything related to your toolbar. Banish it with the Remove button. Head to the Plugins tab and choose to never activate the Yahoo (or any other related) entry while you’re here.

07-Firefox-Addons

To fix your homepage, head back to the hamburger menu and choose Options. The following popup will be Firefox’s General tab with the homepage options. Finally, to reset your default search engine click the existing icon in the small search box, then choose to Manage Search Engines. From here you can pick a default and remove any junk ones.

08-Firefox-Search-Providers

Chrome

Chrome has come a long way in identifying hazardous extensions. The first time you start it or open a new tab after installing a poisonous toolbar, you’ll get all kinds of warnings letting you know you’ve made a mistake.

09-Chrome-Toolbar-Warning

If you see these, obviously you want to remove the extension before it can act, but it might already have made its way onto your system. If you poke around in the options, you’ll notice that Chrome even puts up a big notice that an extension is controlling your start pages. Disabling it from here will reset your affected options, but make sure to remove it completely by following our steps to cleaning Chrome 3 Essential Steps To Get Rid Of Chrome Hijackers In Minutes 3 Essential Steps To Get Rid Of Chrome Hijackers In Minutes 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? Restore your browser to tip-top shape. Read More  to purge the filth.

10-Chrome-Extension-Controlling

Keep Up The Fight

These certainly aren’t the only toolbars Do you use any Browser Toolbar? Which one? [Poll] Do you use any Browser Toolbar? Which one? [Poll] Read More that infect users out in the wild, but they’re a good sample of what most people have dealt with. If the above methods of removing the extensions and programs aren’t working for your toolbar, here’s a way to attack them, along with some methods to keep them away in the first place.

Run An Anti-Malware Scan

Your antivirus Free Anti-Virus Comparison: 5 Popular Choices Go Toe-To-Toe Free Anti-Virus Comparison: 5 Popular Choices Go Toe-To-Toe What is the best free antivirus? This is among the most common questions we receive at MakeUseOf. People want to be protected, but they don’t want to have to pay a yearly fee or use... Read More keeps out most big forms of malware What Is The Difference Between A Worm, A Trojan & A Virus? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is The Difference Between A Worm, A Trojan & A Virus? [MakeUseOf Explains] Some people call any type of malicious software a "computer virus," but that isn't accurate. Viruses, worms, and trojans are different types of malicious software with different behaviors. In particular, they spread themselves in very... Read More , but they’re not perfect at picking up the smaller junk, like toolbars. This is where on-demand scanners like Malwarebytes Anti-Malware or SuperAntiSpyware (which we’ve covered SUPERAntiSpyware Is A Vital Tool In The Fight Against Malware SUPERAntiSpyware Is A Vital Tool In The Fight Against Malware Read More ) come into play. Install one and run a full scan of your system to find any residual junk, following Aaron’s steps for removing malware 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer We would like to think that the Internet is a safe place to spend our time (cough), but we all know there are risks around every corner. Email, social media, malicious websites that have worked... Read More .

Should Malwarebytes not work, give AdwCleaner a try. It’s a more focused program that targets all sorts of browser crud. Craig tried AdwCleaner AdwCleaner Makes Adware Removal Easier Than Ever [Windows] AdwCleaner Makes Adware Removal Easier Than Ever [Windows] When confronted with adware or other junkware, the average person is going to tell you that you're going to need an application like SUPERAntiSpyware or Malwarebytes to get rid of the problem. While those are... Read More  and claimed it couldn’t be simpler, so it’s worth a shot if you’re still experiencing weird behavior.

If nothing else seems to work, you can reset your browser to its original state. It’s a good idea to back up your bookmarks 4 Great Ways To Sync Your Bookmarks & Favorites Across Computers & Phones 4 Great Ways To Sync Your Bookmarks & Favorites Across Computers & Phones Gone are the days when we used a single browser on our only computer. Today, many of us constantly switch between desktop computers, laptops, netbooks, smartphones, and tablets, all of which are outfitted with various... Read More before you do this, just in case things go south.

Be Careful Where You Download

When we covered Windows for newcomers New To Windows? These Tips Will Help You Survive New To Windows? These Tips Will Help You Survive Many kids these days go through school using iPads, Macs, and Android tablets. Sooner or later, though, most people encounter Windows. Learn about the OS and tips on mastering it! Read More , a highlight was the need to download safely. This doesn’t just apply to newcomers, however; downloading from safe sources will greatly cut down on the junk that your computer accumulates. Stay away from sites likes CNET and Softonic, which often bundle offers in with their software. The amount of programs you can be offered by one installation has gotten to be ridiculous, as the How-To Geek has found out.

11-uTorrent-Crap-Install

A safer alternative is Ninite, which is quick and junk-free, or FileHippo. Even a program’s official site can host adware, so keep a keen eye out.

Use Unchecky

Unchecky is an awesome tool that automatically clears the check boxes that get this troublesome software installed in the first place. Grab it from the official website and watch most of your unauthorized installs go away. It won’t work for every program in existence, but nearly everything you install should be covered.

Done With Toolbars?

We’re all sick of toolbars, and hopefully a future without them is plausible. Until then, however, don’t let your guard down against these foes. Keep a sharp look out for checkboxes, don’t put up with homepage changes, and use the tools you have to remove malicious extensions. For another automated toolbar solution, check out Craig’s coverage of the free Toolbar Cleaner 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 .

What toolbars grind your gears? Are there any other methods you follow to remove them? Respond with a comment below!

Image Credit: Toolbars via Flickr

  1. sal monda
    April 30, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    no one is listening i don't have windows i have a tablet. my problem is i have 10 posrings on my toolbar of which i am trying to get help in deleting them. all i ask is for someone to assist me. thank you

  2. Karen
    February 14, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    I have searched and searched for a way to get rid of Ask and was always told
    go to uninstall, but the craft thing wasn't even showing there. When I say I have searched I mean about 4 pages of google ad you are the only one who has helped. The only thing I didn't get was the gear icon, but then I figured it must look like a gear!! Thank you thank thank you.
    I think I had a glass of wine when I clicked acept Ask! idn't even notice....I saw one comment. Ask is like a Barnacle...it doesn't do any harm to you, but it just looks ugly and is annoying he he
    Thanks again x

    • Ben Stegner
      February 14, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      I'm so glad I could fix your issue! Ask is a stubborn annoyance and it can be a struggle to get it to go away. Now you're rid of it! :)

  3. Nahla
    October 7, 2014 at 7:29 am

    I hate toolbars! The computers of my friends and the ones in public internet shops have always been bundled with so many toolbars that made me cringe and uninstall every single one of them. Conduit, Babylon, Ask and so on are such a pain to see.! God, that picture above! I've never seen so many toolbars at once! And it's a shame that CNET and Softonic changed. They used to be reputable. Haven't heard of Ninite before. I'll try it out!

    • Ben S
      October 7, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      I hate them too, Nahla, and I hope someday we won't have to deal with them. Unfortunately they're typically used to make a quick buck for the software owner, and so they're a popular choice.

      Ninite is awesome for more reasons than one. For anyone setting up a new PC, it's a godsend that will save hours.

  4. intelligencia
    October 5, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Hello Everyone!

    I also use Geek Uninstaller - - It's a very good UN-Installer alternative to REVO which is also very good!
    Get it here: http://www.geekuninstaller.com/

    Thanks for reading,

    i

    • Ben S
      October 7, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      Geek Uninstaller is another good one! We've covered power uninstallers in the past; I'm glad they're around to help us out. Thanks for your suggestion!

  5. nalk
    October 4, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    I came across a nasty one that changed my start page and opened a couple of pages upon openning the browser. I ran both Malwarebytes and Ccleaner but neither helped.

    When I unpinned the browser icon from the taskbar and right clicked/properties, the "target"-line showed "C:Program FilesSRWare Ironiron.exe" and a very long web address for some realtor search type thingie.

    I deleted the web adress part and kept only ""C:Program FilesSRWare Ironiron.exe"and everything went back to normal.

    Btw. you never mentioned Conduite search engine. God, I hate that thing!

    I always find it on my kid´s computers. I have given up on trying to teach them about removing check marks an clicking "no thanks" when they install something.
    No kidding, but the youngest have a browser almost exactly like the one in the article some times. Then he usually asks me to clean his computer cause "it lags". :)

    • Ben S
      October 5, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      Yeah, Conduit sucks, It's one of my most-hated programs, along with its bogus Search Protect program.

      These things are a pain, huh? I wish we could educate everyone on how to avoid them.

  6. Krish
    October 4, 2014 at 6:43 am

    Has your Browser ever looked like this ? screenshot is awesome. I enjoyed it. I use HiJackThis. Avast free comes with a Browser cleanup tool.

    • Ben S
      October 4, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      Thank you! That's a pretty popular image that shows how bad things can get.

      I haven't tried avast!'s cleanup tool but I'm sure it works well.

  7. Adrian
    October 4, 2014 at 6:09 am

    The one I often come across is mywebsearch.com, and like babylon is a slippery fish to get rid of. Not only do they change your default search engine but they change your homepage, autosuggestions, and many other subtle changes to try to hold on to your browser even when you think you have removed it. They can even infiltrate other browsers to the one you originally unwittingly installed on. I find they install their own program and sometimes add into the startup sequence.
    When eradicating this malware, I find the best way is to go through the suggestions above but also check the installed programs from the main control panel, check the startup programs and services in msconfig, and search through firefox's about:config to remove as much trace as I possibly can.
    The biggest problem is educating the rest of the family not to install the toolbars in the first place. Thats why I tend to keep the windows machines in the house away from the casual surfers and let them have Linux based laptops to reduce the risks.
    This is not to say toolbars can't be useful. My favourite is the webdeveloper toolbar that is always a must in my firefox browsers.

    • Ben S
      October 4, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      Good points! Toolbars often reach further than they first appear, which is even shadier. And it always amazes me how people seem to get this junk installed in the first place.

  8. XtremWize
    October 3, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Simply use "AdwCleaner v3.xxx" of General Changelog Team, which is the best free software to remove forever anoying browser toolbars in a click.

    Link: http://general-changelog-team.fr/en/tools

    • Ben S
      October 4, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      Another vote for adwCleaner! Awesome!

  9. XtremWize
    October 3, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    Just use "AdwCleaner", its simply the best.

    http://general-changelog-team.fr/en/

    • Ben S
      October 4, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      Yep, everyone here seems to love adwCleaner! It is a great tool.

  10. DieSse
    October 3, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    adwcleaner readily removes toolbars, PUPs and other similar malware. Works where others fail ..

    • Ben S
      October 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      Yep, adwCleaner is awesome. I mentioned it as a last resort as it's easier to mess something up while using it than with MBAM, but it's a simple, fantastic tool.

  11. etim
    October 3, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    Also, don't choose the 'express' option when installing new apps-- use the 'custom' install, read everything and uncheck anything suspicious before clicking 'next'.

    • Ben S
      October 4, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Excellent tips. I elaborated on these further in the "New To Windows" article, and they're still true. They try to make you think that "Advanced" is only for expert users, which is a bunch of baloney.

  12. Riley Mullins
    October 3, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    "Craig’s coverage of the free Toolbar Cleaner" Just so you know and if don't want to get a bad reputation for software suggestions, Craig's suggestion of installing Toolbar Cleaner got picked up by Malwarebytes Pro, AVG, AdwCleaner, JunkWare Removal and Hitman Pro on my desktop I use to test new programs. It likes to start off by setting the homepage MyStart.com for all web browsers installed, which we all know in the IT service is a big red flag.

    • Ben S
      October 4, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Riley,

      If you read Craig's piece, he does mention the homepage change it tries to pull. Unfortunately, even useful, legitimate software like CCleaner and Adobe Flash contains this junk. The program itself isn't malicious, just the stuff it tries to bundle it.

      We mentioned it so you don't miss it!

  13. Dave The Computer Guy
    October 3, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I recommend using Revo Uninstaller as well, uninstall the junk and it'll search out the added little junk that reinstall it, makes for a clean slate.

    • Ben S
      October 4, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      Good tip! We've covered Revo before. People like to argue about whether it's necessary or not, but it's definitely another step you can take to purge this junk.

  14. Bob
    October 3, 2014 at 11:26 am

    CNET used to be my go to place for downloads. Used to be. Now it's a steaming pile of fecal aggravation and frustration

    • Ben S
      October 4, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      It's always nice to have a central place for downloads, but CNET has gotten really bad. Trying to install something without a toolbar is a magic act. I cringe when it's the only place to download software.

  15. Gilbert J
    October 3, 2014 at 3:25 am

    MalwareBytes is a great tool. I love it. SuperAntiSpyware seems to use system resources even when it isn't supposed to be running. AdwCleaner is a powerful tool, but should only be used as a last resort as it sometimes breaks stuff.

    • Ben S
      October 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      That's a pretty good summary of each tool. SAS actually sets itself to run at startup by default, which is annoying and should be turned off. If you do that it won't consume resources all the time.

      adwCleaner is indeed powerful but probably shouldn't be used indiscriminately. Some users could mess things up by using it without care.

  16. Jessica C
    October 2, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Sometimes I find I get a particularly nasty sticky toolbar that won't leave, or that disables options to remove them. MalwareBytes often saves the day.

    • Ben S
      October 3, 2014 at 12:50 am

      I hate those! I've had a few that reinstall themselves. Malwarebytes should always be used in those situations. What would we do without it?

  17. Jack Alexander
    October 2, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    You left out JRT.exe which just updated. And opencandyap. zip can be found at the search engine of your choice.

    • Ben S
      October 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm

      Ah, I did! I was trying to get the most common, but I could have included a few more.

      Thanks for letting me know what I missed!

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