How to prevent or fix a web browser being hijacked

Updated: 08/31/2020 by Computer Hope
Insect on a button representing malware.

Unfortunately, many of the software programs used to hijack a computer's browser are intentionally designed to be difficult to remove or detect. Below are recommendations on how these programs can be prevented and removed.

Free programs

When installing free programs, such as KaZaA, read the disclaimers and watch for additional programs that are being installed. Many times these programs are supported by automatically installing spyware programs.

If you no longer use these programs on a regular basis, uninstalling them can (but not always) also uninstall any associated software that is included with them.

Add/Remove programs

If you are running Microsoft Windows and you have noticed an unwanted program, try removing it through Add/Remove programs.

Any legitimate company's toolbars should be removable using the Add/Remove programs tool. Some examples of these toolbars include the Alexa Toolbar, Ask Toolbar, Google Toolbar, Yahoo Toolbar, and Windows Live Toolbar.

If the spyware program cannot be removed or shows back up after removal, boot the computer into Safe Mode, and then try to uninstall again.

Restore browser settings

Some web pages and programs are designed to automatically change your browser's settings. For example, a web page or program may automatically change your default homepage to an alternative one. These issues can be corrected by following the steps below.

  1. Close any extra browser windows so that only one window is open.
  2. Visit an alternate safe site, such as Computer Hope or Google.
  3. Correct the settings changed, such as changing your homepage back to your original homepage. For additional information about changing your browser's settings, see our browser help index.
  4. Once the settings are changed and applied, close your browser.
  5. The next time the browser is opened it should have the correct settings. However, if the site that changed your browser settings is visited again, the settings could be changed again. This issue can be prevented with many of the spyware or adware removal programs that are available today.

Spyware, adware, and malware detection and removal programs

Many companies have developed programs that help prevent, detect, and remove infections related to browser hijacking. Below is a listing of a few of the programs you may want to consider.

A computer can have any number of spyware removal programs installed at the same time; we recommend you have more than one as a failsafe. If any spyware returns after rebooting the computer, boot the computer into Safe Mode and run the spyware removal program(s) again.

System Restore

Users of Microsoft Windows can run the Microsoft System Restore utility to restore the computer to an earlier date.

Make sure to update Windows

Make sure your computer is running all the latest updates and service pack (if available).

Try alternative browser

Because Microsoft Internet Explorer is so widely used, switching to an alternative browser such as Firefox or Chrome can significantly reduce the amount of spyware you get on your computer.