27 March 2010

Getting rid of Ask.com

Last night I decided to have a relatively early night, but made the fatal mistake of deciding to look something up on the web on the way.

I opened a new tab on Firefox, and hit the Home icon, to find to my horror that instead of seeing my default search engine (Google) I was confronted by something called Ask.com, which had not only insinuated itself into my system as a new default search engine, but had installed a couple of unsolicited toolbars with handy links to places like amazon.com and Facebook that I do not find handy at all (or I would have installed them myself).

I next did the simple and obvious thing – opened Internet Options and replaced the Ask.com string with www.google.com.au.  This made no difference whatever, and when I had another look at the default search engine in Internet Options, there was the Ask.com string again. I tried shutting and restarting Firefox, and doing a complete restart, after restoring Google as the default, all to no avail.

I then started looking on the web to see whether other people had encountered this problem. Indeed they have, and a variety of potential solutions is offered. I tried the easiest ones first, and none of them worked. Then I found someone who seemed to know what he was talking about, on a site called ITechLog. The bad news is that Ask.com inserts three sets of entries into your systems registry, and you cannot get rid of the damned thing without doing a registry edit.

This is never something to be embarked on lightly by the average mug IT user, but if you follow the steps carefully you cannot go too far wrong. 

The ITechLog solution, directed to Vista users, may be found here.  I could not find the third entry that needs to be replaced (extension.snipit.chrome), which may have something to do with the fact that I am in Windows 7 rather than Vista, but having made the first two changes I used the filter to find any other entries associated with Ask.com. I found one with a name to the effect that it is the preferred search engine and replaced that with Google.com.au, and another entry with a name indicating it is to be launched on startup; here I replaced the Ask.com string with the Google string copied from the ITechLog solution.

This all worked in the way it is intended to, but the strings I have inserted mean that without another registry edit with a Google string I do not have I now have Google.com as my default search engine. This means that I have lost the facility to give preference to Australian web pages unless I take the further step of going to Google.com.au. Not happy.

And so much for the early night.

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