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Warning: Microsoft malware

Warning: Microsoft malware

Microsoft has declared war on a popular browser toolbar and it could change how you use your browser. Recall that a browser toolbar is a row of buttons across the top of your browser that gives you short cuts to accomplish some common or handy browser tasks.

If you've been around the Internet for any length of time, you've probably run into the Ask toolbar. This "helpful" add-on comes bundled with a lot of free programs you download, including Java.

Once Ask installs, you get a toolbar taking up room near the top of your browser that's supposed to help your searches. Ask also changes your default search site and home page to its services, and makes it hard to change them back while it's installed.

You can choose not to install Ask, of course, but a lot of people install without realizing it. If you find yourself accidentally installing third-party add-ons a lot, a program like Unchecky can help you avoid them.

Unlike other toolbars, Ask is fairly easy to uninstall, but it's still annoying to go back and change your home page and default search site. Of course, things are about to change for Ask thanks to Microsoft.

Microsoft has decided that Ask's tactics of changing user settings puts in the "malware" category. So, starting this month, Microsoft's virus removal tool that's built into Windows is going to remove Ask automatically. Sort of.

There is a little more to the story. The latest version of the Ask toolbar actually doesn't hijack your home page or search settings anymore, so Microsoft is going to leave the latest version alone.

Microsoft is only targeting older versions of the Ask toolbar. And because the Ask toolbar updates whenever you open your browser, Ask says only about 1% of its users are going to be affected.

Still, Microsoft's policies have forced Ask to change some of its most annoying features, which is a win for everyone, except Ask.

Have you had a run-in with the Ask toolbar? Do you actually find it useful? Should Microsoft remove the current version of the Ask toolbar anyway? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Having trouble uninstalling a third-party toolbar you don't want? Here are some steps to easily remove stubborn toolbars.

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Source: The Register
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