Feb 072013
 

Toolbar Cleaner is a small and simple free program to remove unwanted browser toolbars from Google Chrome, IE and Firefox. Such toolbars can ‘infect’ all browsers on a PC and may be difficult to remove in the normal way – or they are poorly named so it is hard to find them in the list of installed programs.

Toolbars are typically ‘optional’ extras during the installation of many free programs but may be selected (ticked) by default, making it easy to just click through and, hey presto, a new toolbar is installed – they often reset your homepage(s) too.

Even large corporations are guilty of such dubious practices e.g. the infamous Ask toolbar is a pre-selected option whenever you try to upgrade Java – shame on you Oracle. Unless you are very careful, it is easy to end up with many of these toolbars, taking up a large part of the screen, slowing down your browser and, potentially, impacting your privacy.

Toolbar Cleaner offers a quick way to remove them – from all major browsers at once.

Using Toolbar Cleaner – download the program (small – 1MB in size) from the official site here. The ultimate irony is that at the end of installation, it offers to install a browser add-on and change your home page – and these are selected by default. This is exactly the type of behavior that causes unwanted toolbars in the first place!

I can forgive this only because the program itself works well (and is free) but I do wish the developers would find an alternative way to generate an income – it seems rather hypocritical otherwise… So, install the program but when it completes make sure that you un-tick both options shown below if you do not want them, before you press Finish:

toolbar cleaner 1

Deselected add-on and Homepage reset

After installing, run the program (it creates a desktop shortcut) to display the main screen at the Browsers tab – this lists all the IE toolbars and BHOs (Browser Helper Objects) plus the active extensions (add-ons) and plugins used by Firefox and Chrome:

toolbar cleaner 2

Main program window

To see more detail about an entry and the file(s) it relates to – right click it and choose Properties. To select an extension, Toolbar or plugin for removal – tick the box next to it. In the example above I selected all instances of the Ask Toolbar.

When you have finished choosing which to remove, press the ‘Remove Selected Toolbar(s)/BHO(s)’ button – the toolbars etc are now automatically removed from the browser(s).

Tip: the ‘Windows Startup’ tab lets you remove Windows Startup items – it is worth checking there to see if the toolbar has also left a startup entry that needs to be deleted.

After removal, a message appears asking if you want to open Control Panel to remove the remaining programs:

toolbar cleaner 3

You can ignore this but it is a good idea to completely uninstall the leftover toolbar/addon files in the usual way (if you can find the entry for it). See the ‘How It Works’ section below for more details.

How It Works – Toolbar Cleaner removes the toolbars, BHOs and plugins from the web browser so they no longer appear and are not called upon. However, it does not delete their actual files (.dlls and .exe etc) from your PC.

Although such files probably aren’t doing any harm if left alone (because they can no longer be called upon from the browser) it is a good idea to run the standard uninstall procedure afterwards to completely remove them.

You may be wondering why not just uninstall them all in the usual manner from Control Panel then? Whilst it is true that would be the best way to remove them, Toolbar Cleaner is still useful in cases such as:

1. The uninstaller does not work.
2. The uninstaller is poorly named so the user can’t find it within the list of installed programs.
3. There are many toolbars installed and the user just wants a quick way to remove them all from the browser(s) at once.
4. The user does not have the time/confidence to remove each one via Control Panel individually.

Conclusion

Toolbar Cleaner does a good job of removing the offending toolbars etc but it is annoying that its own installation includes an addon and change of homepage – selected by default…

Although experienced users will find it easier to just uninstall toolbars via Control Panel, the program could still help with those that fail to uninstall. Less confident users and those with a lot of browser clutter will benefit from using the program as a single point of toolbar removal for all major browsers.

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