Saturday, June 15, 2013

Your Friendly Tech Tip of the Week - Removing Rogue Toolbars

I can't tell you how many times in the last few weeks I've helped people remove major annoyances on their computers from items they didn't mean to install. Each person was stumped about how it happened, so I figured there may be other people wondering. So this begins my new "Friendly Tech Tip of the Week" series.

Symptom/Complaint: "My Internet is really slow all of a sudden" or "My home page changed" or the most common, "What happened to Google? I'm getting some weird search engine show up."

Problem: You inadvertently installed something and ended up with a rogue toolbar or search engine. You may have even done this a few times and ended up with something like this at the top of your Internet browser....

Image courtesy of puptoes74

MY EYES, MY EYES!! Ouch! That's one cluttered browsing experience. Those are toolbars. Way too many toolbars. And if your browser looks like that, you most likely didn't do it on purpose. (I hope, anyway)

Solution: Open your "control panel" and sort the list by date. Look at what you've recently installed. Odds are that you'll see the rogue toolbar(s) in the list. Now uninstall it. Remove any search engines or toolbars that you don't want. Once you clean up these extras bogging down your browser, you should have a more pleasant online experience.

How did this happen?
You know those applications that seem to need updating all the time, like Java, Flash or Adobe? Some of those apps sneakily add in something extra while updating. You must be very careful to catch it or you add one of these toolbars to your browser. See the check box below on this Java update. Typically, the check boxes are teeny tiny and already checked, so you must "uncheck" them.

Be vigilant about these updates from now on. Or you'll end up with numerous tool bars. Sometimes you even get some other search engine sneaking in there. It hijacks your home screen and/or your default search engine. Those can be very tricky to get rid of. Most of the time, you need to just go to your Control Panel to see what you've recently installed, and you can get rid of them right there. Other times, they hide and you have to do some careful weeding in your system registry, which I don't advise without expert help, because you can cause real trouble there.

Moral of the story? Be careful with updates. Rather than speedily clicking through those "next" screens, read the fine print. Bonus tip - When you download an application from an unknown source, do a Google search first to see if the app is safe from malware or spyware. CNET does a pretty good job of telling you if an app is known to have spyware/malware. But at the very minimum, just take 5 minutes to do a Google search and you'll know right away if it's a bad app.

I hope you enjoyed. Please let me know if you have questions, or if you'd like to add your experience with this aggravating issue.