Suddenly my web browser is cluttered with toolbars that I never asked for. I delete them, but sometimes they come back. Why is this happening, and how do I get rid of all those unwanted toolbars?
When Unwanted Programs Piggyback Onto Downloads
You open your Web browser one day and there at the top is a toolbar you didn't install. You close your Web browser and up pops something calling itself "History Swatter" bugging you to delete your browsing history and oh, by the way, download this other "nifty, free" utility. Oh, and you didn't install that, either? Where did these things come from? How can you get rid of them? How can you avoid picking up more of them?
Often such annoying programs are sneaked into your computer with other programs that you actually did mean to download. The annoyances "piggyback" a ride onto what you want and are installed along with the desired program. Usually, you can avoid piggybacks if you pay attention during the installation of a desired program. But some distributors of free programs sneak piggybacks in far under a normal person's radar.
Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, Ask.com and others have toolbar piggyback programs, and one can only presume the company pays software distributors to sneak it in on their users' computers. During the installation of the desired program, after clicking on several routine buttons and getting used to clicking "OK" or "Continue" mindlessly, there will be a notice that asks if you wish to install a toolbar, or some other extra thing. They're counting on you to be lazy or impatient, and just click the go-ahead button without really reading what you're agreeing to.Usually there is a checkbox you can uncheck to deny the installation of piggyback program. Just pay attention for it.
Other software is even more stealthy and devious. There are quite a few trusted software packages that try to foist toolbars and other addons under the radar. Even some security-related programs use this tactic! Here is a sampling of some well-known programs that include piggyback downloads:
- Sun Java Update (Offers Carbonite or Microsoft's Bing toolbar)
- Adobe Flash Player / Reader (Offers Google Toolbar or McAfee Security Scan)
- AVG Antivirus (Offers Yahoo Toolbar)
- CCleaner (Offers Yahoo Toolbar)
- Comodo Internet Security (Offers Ask Toolbar)
- Foxit PDF Reader (Offers Ask Toolbar and eBay Desktop Shortcut)
- IrfanView (Offers Google Toolbar)
- RealPlayer (Offers Google Toolbar or Google Chrome)
- Skype (Offers Google Toolbar)
- Winzip (Offers UniBlue RegistryBooster)
- ZoneAlarm (Offers SpyBlocker aka Ask Toolbar)
HistorySwatter, which I mentioned earlier, is infamous among Web surfers. It is a stealth piggyback on an "opt-in" piggyback like the Yahoo! toolbar; the opt-in is called MyWebSearch Plus. Here's how the nasty scheme works:
You download and install any of several hundred free programs, and during installation you get an option to install MyWebSearch Plus. Giving the go-ahead implicitly states that you "agree" to the Terms of Service that are part of MyWebSearch Plus - a lengthy piece of legalese displayed five lines at a time in a tiny window, which no one ever reads. But buried deep in this land-mine is this clause:
In simple terms, MyWebSearch downloads and installs additional applications without your knowledge. History Swatter is just one of them.
Protect Yourself From Piggyback Downloads
Anti-adware programs such as ZoneAlarm, Avast! Antivirus, Advanced System Care Plus, etc., will detect and remove piggyback programs like these. But things like MyWebSearch just download and install the darned things again and again. It's perfectly legal and completely evil.
To get rid of piggyback programs once and for all, use the Control Panel to uninstall MyWebSearch and any other free software you may suspect of downloading piggyback programs. SmileyCentral is another example of this wicked breed; it provides a library of animated graphical emoticons which most people don't want to receive in email anyhow. Get rid of it!
Think before you download. If it's free, somebody may be paying the distributor to load up your computer with adware or extras you don't need. Pay attention during installation; opt out of anything you don't really need; and take the time to read Terms Of Service before agreeing to them - or just don't agree to such things without compelling productivity reasons.
Got comments about piggyback downloads, toolbars, and other unwanted extras? Post your thoughts in the comments below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 6 Oct 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Piggyback Downloads (Posted: 6 Oct 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved