Toolbar Hell

Unwanted Toolbars Ruining Your Day?

Add-on toolbar spam has been steadily increasing over the last couple of years. Last week I was pushed over the edge by an update of my favorite free anti-virus program. Suddenly AVG Free had decided I needed another toolbar on my browser- and hijacked my default search provider! Now a simple search or new tab brought up an AVG-branded search page from Yahoo!

Lucky me. It's FREE!

I can understand the need to monetize a free product. It’s a little shady though when these “features” are so obscured- or completely hidden. Then to make matters worse the removal process is often difficult or intentionally complicated. Fixing this particular problem in the Chrome browser was simple, Firefox was a pain. Total removal of this particular spambar required uninstalling the AVG Safe Search program. Fortunately this will be listed as a separate program from the actual a/v package.

But this practice is nothing new. Google “unwanted toolbar” and you’ll see that thousands of others feel your pain. Anyone who has installed Java will have seen this dialog box (above) asking to install the Ask toolbar. Though they may not remember it. Notice it is ticked by default? Handy.

If you don’t uncheck it you’ll have a new toolbar on your web browser and sometimes a red Ask button. Most people wonder how they got there.

Adobe has gotten into the act also. If you’ve recently downloaded Acrobat Reader chances are you also came away with a McAfee security product. There’s another one of those “opt out” checkboxes on the Acrobat download page. Once again, most people wonder how McAfee got on their computer.

The best way to avoid this sort of crap is to slow down, read the dialogs, and pay particular attention to any form fields- especially checkboxes. I still use AVG Free today. But I’ll be a lot more careful the next it downloads an update!


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