How to Remove Spyware Toolbars
I now have FOUR unwanted toolbars on my browser! In addition to cluttering up my screen, I'm getting 'adult' popups, and it also messes up my searching. I can't figure out how they got there, or how to get rid of them. Help?
Remove Unwanted Browser Toolbars
The Internet is awash in free browser toolbars that promise better searches, instant access to your favorite social networks, and other supposed conveniences. By some estimates, there are hundreds of different toolbars out there. Some are legit, such as the Google Toolbar, and similar offerings from Bing and Yahoo. But unfortunately, most of them are spyware or adware.
Install one of these spyware toolbars and you will quickly be overwhelmed by pop-up windows advertising anything from fake security software to porn and "men's health" drugs. Some toolbars pop up ad after ad so rapidly they make it impossible to navigate or even close your browser in the normal way. The only option is to kill the web browser via Task Manager.
Other spyware toolbars are more subtle. They may not annoy you with pop-ups but, in the background, they are quietly logging your Web surfing activity. Information about the sites you visit, links you click, and keys you press is collected and transmitted to the spymasters. This data may be used to target ads to you interests, or it may be used to steal your usernames and passwords. Spyware toolbars can get even more aggressive.
A toolbar may include a botnet Trojan that gives its master control of your computer. Email contact lists may be stolen and used to spam your friends. Credit card numbers and other personal data may be sniffed out wherever it resides on your hard drive.
Steps to Remove a Toolbar
Clearly, spyware toolbars should be removed. But that can be difficult. Right-clicking in the toolbar area may bring up a prompt to remove a toolbar from the browser. But don't rely on that to get rid of anything. At best, it will simply hide the offender.
Start with the Windows uninstall app. Click Start, then Control Panel, then Add/Remove Programs in Windows XP. In Windows 7, click "Uninstall Program" on the Control Panel. Find the spyware toolbar in the list of installed programs and attempt to uninstall it. But even if the toolbar appears to be uninstalled, it may come back.
Spyware toolbars sometimes install a hidden program or registry key that is not removed by their uninstall file. When you reboot your computer, this hidden program re-installs the spyware toolbar. You have to take extra steps to remove such malware.
After uninstalling a toolbar, run a registry cleaner such as CCleaner to remove leftover traces of the spyware installation from your registry. Also scan your hard drive with an anti-malware program such as Adaware, Malwarebytes, etc. You may have to try several different anti-malware programs because no one program recognizes every breed of spyware toolbar. See my related articles Free Registry Cleaners and MalwareBytes Anti-Malware for help downloading these free "cleanup" tools.
There are free programs online that claim to specialize in removing toolbars. Some of these have been discovered to be "rogue anti-malware" that actually installs malware while claiming to remove toolbars. "Antimalware.com" is one example fingered by Symantec as such a deceptive program. If a solution seems to be tailored exactly to your problem, it may actually be trying to take advantage of your pain and desperation to remove annoying toolbars.
The best way to avoid the headaches of spyware toolbars is not to install toolbars from unknown sources. If you must install a Google search toolbar, get it directly from toolbar.google.com and not from some free app that you found online. The same goes for Yahoo and Windows Live toolbars. Avoid toolbars bundled with other free software, even if they appear to be from a trusted source. If you pay careful attention to all the prompts that appear during a software installation (especially pre-checked boxes), you can avoid many of these nuisances.
Do you have something to say about browser toolbars? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 21 Jun 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How to Remove Spyware Toolbars (Posted: 21 Jun 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved