We Don’t Want No Stinkin’ Toolbar!

Memo to: Sneaky Freeware Developers

image You give me your software for free as a marketing tool, with the hope of course, that I’ll upgrade to the commercial version of your application. That’s cool, that’s smart, (it cost you nothing, by the way), nevertheless, I’m appreciative.

But you don’t stop with just the free use of your application, you piggyback a toolbar, or some other non-essential item, as part of the install package. Listen, I understand, you want to install a toolbar because you get paid by the toolbar developer. Even that’s OK – but you do it in such a sneaky way that it really pisses me off, and that’s not OK.

Worse, if I don’t like your application and uninstall it, you open your Internet site, following the uninstall, using my Internet Browser – even if I don’t give you permission by allowing the connection. In my view, that’s a form of hacking. You need to take a refresher course in ethics.

Now, I’m a big boy and I’ve been around the Internet horn for a few decades, so it’s not often I get caught up in your schemes to install unwanted software on my machines, but less experienced users are often caught in your carefully laid traps.

Here’s a sample of the outrage a typical user, who got trapped by unethical behavior, feels – a comment on my site left by an outraged reader, several days ago, following her installation of Miro.

I thought I’d give this a try, since I watch Hulu quite a bit, and I’m sooo angry I did. Miro installed Bing Search toolbar, which I didn’t want or agree to install (using firefox) and it wiped out all my default search engines for Firefox.

Now I’m trying to figure out how to get Firefox back to normal. Beware!!!!!!!! I don’t trust companies that install things without your consent or knowledge.

In this particular instance it’s true that the EULA covers this situation, but here’s the question. Why does an average user need to read a Eula in order to find an alternative installation solution?

An accusation of unethical behavior doesn’t begin to cover this case – sleazy; vulgar; dishonorable; sordid; are much more appropriate.

You, the unethical developer, are not alone in attempting to profit by toolbar inclusion in freeware applications. More and more, high profile developers who offer a stripped down version of their commercial applications as freeware, are involving themselves in this highly questionable practice.


So here’s a question for the “ethical” freeware providers. How many toolbars do you think an average user needs? Ten? Twenty? Thirty………….. Just so you know, a Google search for “toolbar”, returns 167 Million results!

I can already hear your answer “ but the user can uncheck the appropriate box when installing the application”. Right! Unless you’re detached from the real world, you’re more than aware that a typical user does not uncheck this box. Then, over time, the user is at a loss to explain why their machine has slowed to a crawl.

Could it be because your toolbar, along with twenty others, all installed in a furtive way, become active at startup – ya think!!

So, just stop with the crapware already. If you’re pissing me off, just consider what you’re doing to an average user. Like it or not, there’s a lesson here. In the long run, your behavior will cost you – big time.

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Filed under Adware, Bill's Rants, Browser add-ons, Don't Get Scammed, Freeware, Personal Perspective, Slow Computer, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

31 responses to “We Don’t Want No Stinkin’ Toolbar!

  1. abhijit

    Well said bill,
    It’s becoming an habit to uncheck the toolbars option while installing every other new application………………i am with u bill, sign me in when EULA …..seriously considers it as reason 4 threats…… thanx Bill………………

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Abhijit,

      You’re right, almost every free app has a toolbar attached.

      Thanks for visiting.



  2. Liam O' Moulain

    Gotta say I agree Bill. It’s always like an infectious disease there are so many toolbars. Most of them have no value.

    Thanks for this.


  3. Nice piece Bill. I’m with you on this; damn annoying practice and completely unnecessary, just makes us all mad as hell.

    • Bill Mullins

      Thanks Paul.

      Your Comment “damn annoying practice and completely unnecessary”, sums it up. One would think that this is so obvious – but no, instead it’s more like “lets do what everyone else is doing”. Very sad.


  4. I love the screen shot I counted 16 toolbars in addition to the normal navigation tabs.
    This does make me crazy, is Adobe really that desperate for money? The toolbar “vendors” are basically creating a product they have to trick us into installing. That should be clue #1 as to whether or not their product is useful or not, some business model. To me it’s just a slightly less malicious form of malware (when its not out- right malware).

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Mark,

      I’ll bet in your travels, you’ve seen more than a few toolbars staring back at you. Maybe not 16, but……….

      Any business model that risks pissing off the customer is the beginning of a slide into oblivion, so I can’t understand why these people persist.

      You’re right, this stuff may not be malicious malware (although it some cases that’s debatable), but it certainly is malware.



  5. TeXaCo

    I was wondering when somebody was going to speak up about this problem. It’s to the point now where you basically have to do a “Custom” install nowadays for every program you install because if you do an “Express” install, you’re more than likely to end up with stuff you don’t want or need. Even free programs that I thought never would stoop to that level have added this practice although I won’t mention their names but some of them are supposed to be an A,B, C”Cleaner” to get rid of junk files, while installing a toolbar that’s a junk file. It’s disheartening

    Although I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon, the more people that call them on it, the more hope we have for changing it.

    Thanks for speaking up Bill


    • Bill Mullins

      Hi Tex,

      You’re right – in order to protect ourselves, we’re forced to go to a custom install.

      I just can’t understand how these “toolbars/junk files”, as you so rightfully call them, got a hold on the better software developers. Doing this sort of thing runs contrary to established business practise – “don’t aggravate the customer”.

      Thanks for your supportive comment, and for dropping by.


  6. Hi Bill,

    A common misconception is that EULAs give software vendors a only a modicum of legal protection.

    The protection an EULA provides a vendor is far greater than “modicum”, and anyone who a software vendor decides should be hammered into the ground for theft of his intellectual property or piracy or other criminal misuse of the license learns that the hard way.

    Whether you’ve read it or not, if a vendor provides an EULA then you’re legally bound by it, and no judge in the world is going to accept the old “Who reads and understands EULAs anyway ?” argument as a valid excuse for breaching it.

    Unfortunately the very same legal binding can be sneakily worded to allow unscrupulous shonks to do just about whatever the hell they like to your computer and get away with it … “legally”.

    Regardless of the contents of an EULA, any program that surreptitiously installs a toolbar without giving you the option of saying “no” should be given the massive negative publicity it deserves. Blog it everywhere and expose it as shonky. (It’s probably a waste of HD space anyway.)

    You might not be able to hit toolbar shonks legally, but you can hit them in the pocket.

    • Bill Mullins

      Thank you Rod, for your considered comment. An instructive lesson on EULAs, that all readers should take to heart.

      Your advice, “You might not be able to hit toolbar shonks legally, but you can hit them in the pocket”, is sound and appropriate. Falling revenues tend to get a company’s attention – quickly.



  7. dar

    -ha,ha,this toolbar stuff is small potatoes compared to THIS:

    ‘When you accept Microsoft’s end-user license agreement as part of Windows’ installation, that click is considered by many people to be as enforceable as a wet-ink signature — at least in the U.S…. But I’ve found that the terms in the EULA you agree to during an installation may vary from the license that’s posted at Microsoft’s Web site..However, even though you may pay for Windows fair and square and use the program as it was designed to be used, you could still violate the EULA.
    No agreement on what you’re actually agreeing to.’

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Dar,

      I subscribe to Windows Secrets, and I saw that when it was published. Thanks for bringing it back up – it’s important that users are aware of this. Scary stuff.



  8. g

    I’ll trade you two pdfforge for a yahoo.

    I just got done reloading all of my programs after installing Win7 (RC no longer is the way to go!).

    I said no to 3 offers to install pdfforge and two programs felt offering was to much. They just went ahead and did it. AAAARRRGGG. No worries. AVAST said no way.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey G,

      No deal – I hate Yahoo. lol

      That’s the thing that drives me crazy (my friends figure that’s a short drive), I said NO and they install regardless. Lucky, in your case, Avast intervened. Gotta love Avast.



  9. Daena

    LOL.. I do feel stupid that I didn’t see the other installation option..forgot what it was..but I just used “recommended” option and then got zapped. Kinda made me feel violated-if that’s possible. But I feel if I wanted those stupid tool bars or search options, then I would have installed them myself.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Daena,

      No need to feel stupid, as you put it – the whole toolbar industry is based on tricking users.

      I’m happy to hear that you managed to get things back in order through the reinstall.


  10. Daena

    P.S….uninstalled then reinstalled Firefox..all is good with the world again. LOL

  11. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    I hate toolbars, I don’t have any, not even good ones. And lets not forget about all the garbage that is left behind when you uninstall the software, even after using tools like Revo and deep scanning the registry. I sometimes find old files related to software I uninstalled 2 years ago.

    And sometimes these free software programs have sneaky code in them. Twice, in the last two weeks, I have been trying out different software and my AV has gone mad. One just happened today. At first I thought they must be false positives but not every alert can be. I was on a safe and trusted site today when my AV nabbed something nasty in the internet cache. So yes, to say the paranoia levels have been up lately is an understatement.

    Anyway, I got slightly off topic there but I’ve had one stressful week lol.


    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Mal,

      I agree with every thing you’ve said – toolbars suck!

      Keep up the paranoia, but take it easy with the stress my friend.



  12. John Bent

    Hi Bill

    I agree with everything above. I will absolutely not pay for any software from a vendor who’s tried to con me. They are no better than the other malware smugglers. Luckily help is available; Winpatrol always warns me of new additions to the startup list and gives me the option to allow or deny.

    Keep up the good work

    Kind regards


    • Bill Mullins

      Thanks John,

      You’re right about WinPatrol – wouldn’t run a machine without it.


  13. And what was adobe thinking when it was cramming macafee security scan down peoples throats when they went to download flash player? They seem to have stopped (now it’s google toolbar on flash and reader), both of these programs are a bloated mess unto themselves, why add to the junk.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Dave,

      Gotta agree, both Adobe and McAfee write terrible code – the very definition of bloatware.


  14. Hi Pockets

    Hey, Bill! —

    “We Don’t Want No Stinkin’ Toolbar!”, like many of your articles, deserves much wider distribution. I’ve been reluctant to join Facebook and Twitter, but is there not something called a “Retweet” that could be used to publicize / disseminate it? I think you would have to add a button to your site to do so, but what do I know? :>).

    By the way – I found your site about a month ago. I visit it, along with over 40 others, every day. I have been wanting to tell you that your site is one of the top two or three of all the ones I look at. Some topics I skim over, but I make it a point to always find the daily quote.

    One small thing – I have found that some of your links to free software (like today’s http://www.winxdvd.com/giveaway/blu-ray-decrypter.htm) won’t load. All that I get in Firefox, Opera, and Chrome is a message similar to, “Contacting the web site”. But it never loads.

    Thanks for you, your work, and your website!

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Hi Pockets,

      Thank you for your kind words, and for making Tech Thoughts part of your Internet routine – much appreciated.

      I actually have a Twitter page, I’m just to blasted lazy to bother with it, but I Know I should.

      I have your message in your other email, and the messages you’re getting from the Server indicates Server overload, (occasionally happens with free licenses), or possible an issue with your Browser (try clearing the cache). Since I generally have a lot of links, I pay particular attention and I use a tool CoolPreviews,to ensure every link is a working link. Having said that, I did, much to my chagrin, have an issue with a link just the other day. lol



  15. Hi Pockets

    OOPS. Wrong message quoted. The message is more like, “Completed request to xxxx”, or “Waiting on reply from website”.

  16. John Bent

    @ Dar

    Clicking on “Download Smart Toolbar Remover” provokes an all-red warning from WOT. Also several grammar/spelling errors on the main site rings a warning bell IMHO.