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Browser toolbars come from two places: the browser, and addons or toolbars you ask for. It's easy to ask for toolbars without realizing it.

Where did this new toolbar in my browser? I didn't ask for it.

Actually it's likely that you did.

Before you protest that you most certainly did not, I need to point out one of the most annoying techniques being used to deploy more and more and more toolbars.

It all counts on your not paying close attention.

This afternoon I was installing an update to the popular Java runtime, which is software that is used by some websites to provide rich functionality beyond just displaying static pages as I do here.

The update consisted of the normal installation program which proceeded to ask me the normal installation things and agreeing to the software license. (Another annoyance, but that's for another day.)

Then I came to this screen:

Optional Yahoo Toolbar installation in Java Update

I almost without thinking hit Next.

"... it's trivially easy to miss the fact that you are asking for a toolbar to be installed."

In doing so, I would have been asking to have the Yahoo toolbar installed.

Note the circled item - the option to install the Yahoo toolbar is selected by default. If you're not paying attention and just trying to get the update installed and get on with your life, it's trivially easy to miss the fact that you are asking for a toolbar to be installed.

Personally, I find this very annoying.

I have nothing against the Yahoo toolbar. It's a fine toolbar, and if you want what it offers you should absolutely run out an install it. I don't.

I have nothing against Java or Sun, really. Java also serves an important role for web sites that want to do more than just display pages.

What annoys me is:

  • Making this offer during an update. I'll have already made my selection when I initially installed the program, thank you.

  • Defaulting to "Yes". Anything optional, particularly anything totally unrelated to what I'm installing, should default to off.

  • "Sneaking it in". OK, this is really subjective, but I can't help but feel like this was an attempt to sneak the installation in, during a process where people are frequently just hitting Next, Next, Next to get it over with.

And this installation is not the only case. It's not uncommon at all to see installations that include, somewhere along the line, an "option" to install a toolbar or some other unrelated software.

Why? Typically because they get paid to do so. I can even kinda, sorta understand it for free software as a way to recoup some of the expenses involved, but the practice is certainly not limited to only those.

So aside from griping about the practices of some software vendors, what's the real take-away here?

Pay attention.

Understand what it is you're installing, and read each step of the installation options. You might find that you're about to "ask" for something you didn't really want at all.

Article C3710 - April 25, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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21 Comments
Mary
April 25, 2009 3:25 PM

As Leo pointed out, many legitimate programs, software, downloads, etc include various toolbars as part of the installation. I found out from personal experience that certain Browser Helper Objects (BHO) can also install unwanted toolbars and other malware.

A BHO is a 'plug-in' for Internet Explorer which allows software developers to customize and control browsing sessions. When IE is launched, the Registry is referenced and the BHO is injected into the browser (typically making itself known with a new and unwanted toolbar, a new button, etc.) Once a BHO is active, it has access to all the events and properties of a browsing session (and may cause popup ads to appear, or hijack your home page, etc).

Leo published a previous article on how to manage these kinds of add-ons.

http:// ask-leo.com/why_do_i_suddenly_have_another_toolbar_in_my_browser.html

Mary
April 25, 2009 3:28 PM

Sorry. I copied the wrong URL for Leo's previous article. This is the correct link:

http:// ask-leo.com/mwsbardll_what_is_it_and_why_is_it_generating_an_error.html

Jim
April 26, 2009 8:35 AM

I never clicked on this sneaky option, ever. Why? Perhaps because when I first started using the web I was so unsure about what I was doing I really did read all the screens. Doing this is so deceptive, the people that do it should be ashamed. Sadly, I see it more and more. And like Leo says doing it in updates??? Sadly, one of my favorite programs, CCleaner-and I think Leo has mentioned it-does it every time you update.

You may be right about CCleaner - it's been a while since I looked. Regardless, it seems to be fairly common for a once independant program that gets purchased by a larger corporation to suddenly start doing this.
- Leo
27-Apr-2009

Ken B
April 27, 2009 7:18 AM

Note, however, that ccleaner comes in two versions. "CCleaner Slim" comes without the toolbar. I've never installed the "regluar" ("fat"?) version, so I can't say if it has the option to not install the toolbar, though i suspect it does.

http://majorgeeks.com/download4191.html

MmeMoxie
April 28, 2009 11:27 AM

I tried to not have 'Automatic' Updates. Yes, I want to be notified about updates, but, having 'Automatic' Updates can cause lots of problems. I don't even have Microsoft's Updates set up to download anything. I learned a long, long time ago, when you allow a software or program to just 'do it's thing', that is when you find strange things going on with your computer.

The only exception to my rule, is my aVast! automatic updates. Anti-Virus updates are pertinent for security on your computer. The rest of my programs, I update manually, just for the reasons mentioned.

I understand why companies do this, it is to generate money for them. If, you really think about it, this 'added' software aspect usually only comes with the FREE versions. Paid versions, don't need this and customers would complain loudly that they had been 'ripped off'!!!

Mark B
April 28, 2009 3:29 PM

I happened to look at my parents computer the last time I was home. It had so many tool bars on it you could almost not see anything on the screen. They had no idea how to remove a tool bar. Sad! This practice should be stopped.

Mark F
April 28, 2009 7:36 PM

It's almost offensive how these once-legit programs have toolbar install options checked by default. And like Mark B said, you see many computers with half a dozen toolbars installed at once.

Silver
April 28, 2009 8:31 PM

There are many softwares contain toolbar installation option. During the installation make sure toolbar selection is canceled. Thus, your browser would not have a "suddenly" toolbar.

Chetty
April 28, 2009 10:29 PM

I download from internet numerous softwares to try it out and I never had an unwanted toolbar/BHO in my computer. Invariably I have found the option not to install the toolbar/ unwanted BHO. Because of the commercial implications for the software provider they have a right, in my opinion to offer any optional toolbar, by default 'yes'. The best thing to do is to pay a little attention before clicking 'next' or 'yes' button.

Terry Hollett
April 29, 2009 4:55 AM

I had to clean out someones computer at one time. They complained that their internet was slow and one of the first things I noticed was they had 4 or 5 toolbars. One thing you forgot to mention is they these things are always working in the background doing something.

So - here's a question for you:
How many tool bars are to many? My answer 1. Everything offered in toolbars are now offered in most browsers; pop-up blocking for example.

And is it really that hard to go to Google or Yahoo to do a search. Computers have really made people lazy and impatient when we start crying over seconds.

http://www.geocities.com/terryhollett2003/

Zachary
April 29, 2009 5:50 PM

When are companies going to get it into their thick heads that people DO NOT WANT their ridiculous toolbar crap on their computers. We don't want it! We don't need it! And to add insult to injury, they sneak it in the installation program of the program you want to install by having the box already checked on yes. Cute. Real cute. Why don't they leave the box unchecked and let people decide for themselves? I've been using the internet since the early 90's and it was much better then. It's things like this that have turned the internet into a sea of crap.

Ed Vance
May 2, 2009 7:32 AM

I almost got caught by the Yahoo toolbar screen in Java update.

in fact, the first couple of times the update was offered to me I Canceled the update because I didn't want another Yahoo toolbar added to Firefox.

I already had one in Firefox, didn't want another.

The 3rd or 4th time around I finally figured out all I had to do was to Uncheck the check box and press the Next button to go on with the update installation.

I'm glad I am not the only one who noticed this update OPTION. ;-)

Bettine Cavanaugh
October 15, 2009 6:07 AM

I got the Ask toolbar when I didn't check the box and so I went to the control panel and uninstalled the Ask toolbar software. However, it is still on my browser Firefox and also on IE. Now how do I get rid of it?

Jeremy M. Rumble
November 25, 2009 11:29 AM

Luckily the Java updater seems to ask you if you want the update instead of just installing it.

When I was new to XP (a long time ago in a land far far away (literally)) I used to leave things open only to find them gone the next day. It was then I figured out about microsoft's ingenious plan to punish people who don't save their work :P

But yes, the fact that they do put the toolbars as standard options is to me akin to an electrician fixing something for you, then putting a sticker on your tv advertising sattellite tv in exchange for being paid by them. Or perhaps to going to an attraction only to come back and find a bumber sticker on your car that wasn't there when you went in. To me it's just impolite of them and an annoyance especially when installing everything from scratch as many programs now seem to have these "options".

Lola M R
February 20, 2010 1:10 AM

You don't need to download anything to get a toolbar - I just discovered this.

I just accessed IE for the first time since this is a new computer, decent security software installed too. It had no Ask toolbar to begin with. Then after browsing google search (didn't even access any websites), I think after 3 pages, suddenly Ask toolbar just appeared there.

I was quite miffed, it wouldn't uninstall so I had to get rid of it manually.

Trav
April 21, 2010 2:22 AM

Fine! So I had caught and unticked the ticked checkbox plenty of times in the past. But just now, I pressed next and I knew immediately that I had made a mistake. But there is no cancel button, not even the cross to close the window, no chance to stop the installation of the unwanted toolbar unless I would switch the power off and possibly leave the system in an unusable state.

I have not switched the power off. I figured I could uninstall the Toolbar after installation. But all instructions for firefox users refer to a Toolbar running in the browser. I have not restarted the browser yet. I suppose the toolbar will appear after restarting, but I DON'T want to give that yahoo software a chance to execute. So I looked in Add/Remove Programs, but no hint of yahoo or any toolbar there.
It came with Java, didn't it? So I uninstalled everything Java from there, hoping the yahoo toolbar would go away with it. Watching the Extensions Folder in ProgramFiles/Mozilla Firefox, I note that the sub-folder with the latest modification time indeed goes away.
So, I restart the browser, but the Yahoo toolbar is still there.
Someone has gone to great length to ensure that the Yahoo toolbar runs on your computer, and that you can do nothing to prevent it even if you noted your mistake. I consider this extremely malicious. Yahoo, I promise you, I will never ever forget this lost hour of my life.

Bob
December 6, 2011 4:45 AM

If you install the latest version of Yahoo Messenger, you get the toolbar. No option to 'not' install it, and if you uninstall what looks like the toolbar from Programs - you still have the toolbar, but all the 'images' in Yahoo Messenger stop working.
Another gripe - every single time I start Yahoo Messenger it suggests I 'upgrade' to IE9. I have IE9, I simply don't use it (I prefer Firefox). I have my suspicions that this 'upgrade' is bloated with Yahoo's "helpful additions", which are precisely what I'm trying to get rid of in the first place.

Connie
December 6, 2011 9:36 AM

@Bob
Unfortunately, keeping Internet Explorer updated is still best
practice, even though you use another browser. More on this
article:
Am I at Risk for Internet Explorer vulnerabilities even though I use a different browser?

Bob
December 8, 2011 6:56 AM

@Connie
Sorry if there is any misunderstanding. My IE9 is updated by Microsoft through automatic updates.
Yahoo Messenger wants me to follow a web-link. Either Yahoo cannot recognize I already have IE9, or it recognizes I don't have it's bloatware installed into my IE9. Either way, it's constant 'reminders' are annoying and frustrating.

Connie
December 8, 2011 9:47 AM

@Bob
I hear you on that!

Bob
June 8, 2012 7:00 AM

An update in my never-ending battle against toolbars I don't want.
No only have I failed to find a way to get rid of the Yahoo toolbar that doesn't break every other Yahoo feature, I have found an 'incompatibility' with another toolbar - one I thankfully can remove.
Something happens between the Yahoo toolbar and the ZoneAlarm toolbar, to render the top inch (depending on the size of monitor) of every web-page unusable. The inch that a lot of sites use for tabs, logins, and other usefull links.
Clicking on this 'inch' achieves nothing. Right-clicking on this 'inch' asks you to configure the Yahoo toolbar. It is as if the Yahoo toolbar "spills over" into the useable area of the browser and prevents any interaction.

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