Has your browser ever looked like this?
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 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! 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) or with other free third-party software.
The Ask Toolbar is probably the most vile and widespread of this list. It’s perfectly acceptable to try an alternative search engine, 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 in the first place. When you install or update Java, you’ll be greeted with this message, and the saga begins.
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 is extremely popular as a free video conference tool, and we’ve dived into its uses. 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
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.
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.
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; 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 to purge the filth.
Keep Up The Fight
These certainly aren’t the only toolbars 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 keeps out most big forms of malware, 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) 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.
Should Malwarebytes not work, give AdwCleaner a try. It’s a more focused program that targets all sorts of browser crud. Craig tried AdwCleaner and claimed it couldn’t be simpler, so it’s worth a shot if you’re still experiencing weird behavior.
Be Careful Where You Download
When we covered Windows for newcomers, 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.
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.
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