Browser Toolbars


Browser Toolbars - Assistants That Should Be Fired?

Nearly every time you start a new browsing session, you may see an ad for this toolbar or that one. In fact, you may even have one or two of those toolbars installed in your browser. Are they as helpful as they seem, though?

Types of Toolbars

The toolbar industry has exploded fairly recently, and there are all sorts of toolbars that you might see out there. There may even be a few that you need. Most search engines now have a toolbar that you can download and install. Most of them claim to give you easy access to the information you want why you're browsing on the web. Lots of instant messenger programs have toolbars associated with them as well. They'll help you out by giving you access to all of your contacts right away. Some websites even have their own toolbars you can download, design, or work with to help you out. For example, one site may offer you a shopping toolbar while another will give you access to a dictionary whenever you need it. The real problem with most toolbars, though, is telling the good from the bad.

Adware Toolbars

Some toolbars are bluntly unfriendly objects. Many will stealth install without your permission or knowledge. While they have a search bar and lots of little icons that look like fun, in most cases, they are simply another method of advertising to you. Not only do they send you targeting ads based on your typical browsing experience, they also upload information about you to a third party, putting both you and your machine at risk. They'll clog your system, eat your resources, and employ some rather nasty tactics to get their ads and programs to you. Your best bet with these kinds of toolbars is to remove them immediately and avoid them if you can.

I Love Them. Are They Really That Bad?

One of the biggest problems with toolbars, any toolbars,  is that even if you love them and want all of them, the undoubtedly slow your overall browsing experience. Each program you run on your computer works with the help of your system's virtual memory. The more programs you have, the more virtual memory is being used by your computer. Just as your body has its limits, though, your computer does too. You wouldn't run a marathon without some training, and your computer simply cannot function with eight or ten toolbars running at the same time. That's why you might experience pages that load slower, links that won't work, and constant freeze-ups on the part of your machine. They can even reduce the size of your screen, making more work for you at each site. They also take up very real space on your computer, leaving you with less room for the programs you actually want to install.

Moreover, the more toolbars you have, the less likely you are to use them effectively. For example, while you may have one toolbar for your search engine, one for your instant messenger, and one for your favorite shopping site, they all have a search space. How can you possibly use three different search spaces at once?

Another real problem with almost all of the toolbars on the market today are the security flaws they introduce to your computer. The toolbars, by their very nature, create holes in your system. Unfortunately, this can make drive-by downloads at unreputable sites much easier. It can lead to more adware on your system. It can also lead to the transmission of personal information that should be protected. This, in turn, can increase your risk of identity theft. While some toolbars are safer than others, in most cases, having so many of them just isn't a good idea.

Toolbar Removal

Whether you have the world's greatest and safest toolbar or you have an adware program toolbar that you just don't want, you have three basic options when it comes to removal. First, you can get rid of the toolbar using your add/remove programs panel located in your main system control panel. In many cases, a few clicks, and you're done with the toolbar forever. This, though, just isn't the case if you happen to be a victim of an adware product. In many instances, the add/remove programs panel will miss a file or two, and some adware toolbars are programmed to reinstall themselves if you try to remove them.

You could also choose to edit your computer's registry to remove all traces of any toolbar files. This, though, should be sort of a last ditch effort. First, you need to make a backup of your system before you play with the registry. Second, you should only work with your computer's registry if you know what you're doing. If this is your first time, either have a professional do it for you, or have someone who knows what they are doing by your side as you work. Third, be careful. Remember that one mistaken keystroke while you're in the registry can be problematic for future use of your computer. Finally, be sure to remove all traces of the program. If it's an adware toolbar, it may reinstall itself the moment you restart your machine if you've missed a key file.

One final way to remove a problem toolbar is with antispyware applications. There are lots of these on the market today, and if you don't have one, be sure to choose wisely. You may see an ad for something that looks great online, but it could just further your adware problem. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (Malwarebytes has free malware removal) is a safe choice and our recommendation for adware removal. Talk to your friends and coworkers to see what they use, but carefully research any suggestions you get by reading product reviews. Once you do get a good antispyware application, be sure to keep it up-to-date, and scan your machine regularly. Most have a built-in feature to schedule scans, and if you think you might forget, it can be a nice way to ensure you remember.

Toolbars can be a lot of fun, but they can also be a problem. Evaluate your toolbar usage.

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