Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Browser Toolbars - Spyware that should be uninstalled

I was sitting at the development computer, a slower machine that I only use for making web pages and doing my various blogging and Social Media work, after a restart and I was wondering why it was taking so long to start up. 

I keep this machine clean and lean.  No extra fluff like weather monitors or extra multimedia things are installed here.  Google Earth is on another PC.   It runs XP and everything is turned off.  I know intimately how fast this thing runs and it's surprisingly snappy for an old Pentium 3 Class Machine.  I have Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 3.6.10 as of today, if you're curious.

The machine had just been restarted for the first time in a couple days, maybe even weeks.  It should have just "started".  It came up with a window by the Update Of The Week club - Adobe Flash.  Flash is a cranky beast, I have to wonder if Steve Jobs may be right by not allowing it on the iPhone and iPad.  It had crashed last night when I checked Google Analytics on this particular blog so I had to force the browser closed. 

After Adobe stopped annoying me with its questions about installing, I launched both browsers wanting to check if there are updates and to get started with banging my head against the keyboard here when I saw it.

The Vile Stench of a Browser Toolbar showed up with an "Ask" near the word "File" on Internet Explorer and when Firefox came up, above the "Most Visited" folder. 

No, I do not like Browser Toolbars.   If I am asked to support a computer, and I see a browser toolbar, I will uninstall it.  If you like them, I'll let you have your fun with them, but I will also stop right there.   Browser toolbars are the warts of computer programs.  They watch what you browse, they take in information, and they give nothing back.   Parasite.   They slow down your computer.   All the search engine companies have them, and they typically are installed when someone puts something new on the PC.  Sure, it's "Free" but the company who provides it gets a kick back when you slip and let this thing pollute your computing experience.

Yes, that is my opinion, but this is my blog and on a slow day I get over 50 people reading here.   Hi Folks!  Welcome back!

Here is how to uninstall it - it is what I did immediately on seeing that thing sit there.

Look at your browser.   You will probably see at the very left of the control stripes at the top under the navigation buttons - a green or grey jellybean with a "<" on Firefox or a blue jellybean with an arrow pointing to the left on Internet Explorer - an icon for a website.  The one that made it here was "Ask".  It could also be "Yahoo" or "Google" or "Bing".   You do not need it.  There is a built in search box in Firefox to the right of the control stripe.  In my case, on this machine it is Wikipedia, but it could be anything you want it.  My Internet Explorer has it in roughly the same spot, next to the Red X, with "Live Search" in it.

You now have identified where the toolbar came from and where you will do your searches in the future.  Remember which icon you see because you will have to close all of your browser windows.  Both Internet Explorer and Firefox will need to be closed, and others as well if you have more than two - some people do.

Now, go to the control panel.  Click Start, and on XP it is on the right pane of the start menu.  Classic start menu it will be there too, but in a slightly different place.

In the control panel, select "Add or Remove Programs" and let the list fill up.  This is a list of all of the programs that you have installed, whether you knew it or not.  Some are things you should never touch, but the ones you are looking for are pretty obvious.

The Wart that was the "Ask Toolbar" had a tiny "Ask" Icon in the list of the installed programs, and was labeled as "Ask Toolbar" in the Add or Remove Programs list.

Click on the name "Ask Toolbar" - or Yahoo or Google or which ever and the line will highlight and give more information.  It will also give you the blessed grey "Remove" button.

Click the "Remove" button to achieve computing nirvana.    It will then ask you if you really want to remove it.  Take exquisite pleasure in clicking "Yes" and the vile thing will be removed from your PC after windows does its work.

Remember, this is your machine.  You do not need that program, it really does spy on you and it really does slow you down.   I went from having a computer that was barely useable to a machine that is spry and snappy and it is a 10 year old computer.  Yes, I know how to "tune" the operating system, and Yes, I have newer machines, but why upgrade, I've already paid for this machine.

Hey, if you want to send me a machine to review, I will more than happily do so, but ... well I didn't think so did I.  The typical person with a 2 year old machine who gets a new machine because it is slow doesn't realize how much software is running on "Old Paint" and how much of that is just bogging them down.  The fastest machine I personally have is a Five Year Old Laptop.   If you have an old Core 2 Duo machine, its actually an upgrade for me to give you an idea.

Once all that is done, you can repeat that for any other toolbars that snuck onto your machine.  When they're all gone restart and your machine will be faster.  That is of course assuming that when they put that there they didn't damage your operating system by replacing parts of it to do their dirty work.

Of course as always, you get what you pay for.   Instructions on the internet are as good as the writer.  I went through these steps and immediately started on this rant.  If your machine is broke after doing this, I made a good faith effort at making sure the instructions are correct - but I do not warrant that they are so.  You can never be sure that a program that was installed by a sneaky method when something else was installed is making a good faith effort at being open and above board and a good citizen when it is removed.

If you want me to go through your machine at your house to clean it up and you're nearby I can do so at a reasonable rate...  I've done so before for others and they're generally happy with the end result.

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