The Tool Designed To Fool – We Don’t Want No Stinkin’ Toolbar! (Revisited)

In today’s Tech Thoughts Daily Net News column, you’ll find a link to Ed Bott’sHow Oracle installs deceptive software with Java updates. So, what’s new here? Not as much as you might think – unfortunately.

I first posted on the issue of unwanted Toolbars – or, PUPS (potentially unwanted programs) – in March 2010. Based on the indignation shown by the majority of commenters – it just might be worth another read.



imageYou 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.

I’ve been around the Internet for a few decades, so it’s not often I get caught 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; dishonest; 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 (and, you may well be), 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.


Filed under Adware, Browser add-ons, Point of View

17 responses to “The Tool Designed To Fool – We Don’t Want No Stinkin’ Toolbar! (Revisited)

  1. I was going to tweet about Ed Bott`s article with a little note saying this sums up why I`ve always thought of Ask`s toolbar as being akin to malware, now I get to retweet this article instead and people get a nice two-for-one of good tech writers.

    If software is really worthwhile, it doesn`t need to trick you into installing it – it could tell you honestly exactly what it does and you`d be happy to install it.

    • Hi Aseem,

      Totally agree – “If software is really worthwhile, it doesn`t need to trick you into installing it – it could tell you honestly exactly what it does and you`d be happy to install it.”

      It couldn’t be any more clear than that – could it?



  2. sometimes the install is like a voting ballot, when you check no you are really voting yes for the issue, or the install will mix up the decline with other
    choices with option you may want, but the decline appears in a area that goes totally unnotice. i was ones of those who click right past all of it, being trustful, and get pinned with a toolbar, or a search engine that was hell to remove. this as one of the reasons “bill’s” writtings became a daily “must”
    for me. i always find all types of valuable info, that is not offered anywhere else.

    • Hi Kenneth,

      Apologies for the late response – intermittent ISP outages all day. Bummer.

      Totally agree – “but the decline appears in a area that goes totally unnoticed.” It’s become almost like a game – find the baddies. 🙂



  3. Unfortunately this behavior is becoming more not less prevalent. The all might dollar rules and they are finding the tools to install this crap onto the unsuspecting average computer users system.
    Never use the default installation method. Always choose the custom or advanced method when you install a new program.
    It’s always better to discover the hidden installs while the program is being installed than after the fact.
    Many of this crap ware that’s being peddled is extremely hard to remove from your computer and using the custom install can prevent this from happening in the first place.
    Always be suspicious and thereby prevent the unneeded install.

  4. Fred

    “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.”

    SuperAntiSpyware does that, and the download for a recent version was 2.2 MB bigger than the last one, now as a person on dial-up that means a lot, however when I went to install they had Google Browser and Toolbar checked to install, I carefully unchecked those boxes BUT what if I hadn’t been a regular reader of Tech Thoughts? Then when I uninstalled the earlier version of SAS wham off my browser went to their website, HACKING is the proper term for that.

    Always appreciative,

    • Hi Fred,

      It is quite upsetting. Especially for those on dial-up, as you point out.

      Connecting to the Internet without express permission is HACKING. Developers can color it any way they like – but, it is HACKING.



  5. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    “We Don’t Want No Stinkin’ Toolbar!”

    That, and your message to the “ethical” freeware providers, is very clear. Not only is it sneaky, it’s lazy. Far more honest to offer a time-limited free trial.

    Not wishing to dilute the impact of your message, I have to say there is something the consumer needs to remember: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

    Thank you for this article; food for thought on both sides.

    Kind regards

    • Hi John,

      Not a single ISP outage in 7 years. Recently, the ISP updated all local equipment – 3 outages in the last 5 months – including most of today. Gotta love progress. 🙂

      Totally true – “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Not that this well know truism seems to have any impact in virtually any area of consumerism. Really, are we that stupid. Just asking? 🙂



  6. These developers should keep in mind that if they are this sneaky when installing their freeware product, how motivated do they think I’m going to be to pay them money for another product they offer? Any relationship that starts with deception is doomed to fail – online or in the physical world.

    I always tell my clients to perform the Advanced or Custom install and look for these sorts of things.

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but HP is getting very sneaky about this. I installed a new HP printer for a client the other day, and the Advanced setup link is on the page in the same size as all the other print and doesn’t look like a link at all. When I clicked it, they had “helpfully pre-selected” to install a Coupon printer as well as the Bing Toolbar! HP!!! My client was appalled and angry that a company they would never suspect of doing something like this had tried to “snooker” them and would have if they had installed the printer themselves.

    • Hi Matt,

      Interesting that you should mention HP’s – “I’m gonna grab you while you’re not looking, attempt.” 🙂

      A couple of weeks ago, I cranked up my old HP-PSC 1410 (all-in-one), which had been gathering dust for a few years and took it out for a spin on Win 8. And yes – ran into exactly the situation you describe (having downloaded the new software package).

      Just like your client – I was totally knocked off my feet. Couldn’t believe HP would pull a stunt like this. Actually raised all sorts of questions as to HP’s financial viability. Got over that, and simply put this down to GREED!

      An absolute lack of respect for you, your client, and the rest of us. Really pathetic.

      Thanks for weighing in on this.



  7. delenn13

    Hey Bill,

    You know my feelings on toolbars and bundling..

    I got this in December of last yr. Scared me for a bit; thought they were closing. This is from the people that have the stationery site I shared. The Future of Cloudeight | Cloudeight Information Avenue

    • Hey Delenn13,

      I do. Took a look at this last time you posted, and again just now.

      Made me sad then, and once again now. Have to admire their moxy and their desire to do it the right way. I wish them success.



  8. Richard J.

    Hello Bill,

    I thought that I’d try out a new program that’s supposed to offer only safe, clean download links to applications.

    Quote from the download page: “It tries to download Setup files with a Single Click that don’t install third party application such as Toolbars or other components”

    Installation requires copying an .OCX file into the SysWOW directory and then registering the file on a 64 bit system!

    Actually it does seem to offer a pretty decent selection of apps to download. I thought I’d try downloading SARDU (usually comes bundled with Babylon Toolbar) and guess what? I ran the SARDU installer and it still tried to install Babylon Toolbar! – What the hell!

    Tried downloading a few other apps and had no problem.

    Actually I never cease to be amazed by the number of apps that need to be blocked from connecting to the internet for no apparent reason. The lastest one that I installed was Video Manager from Saleen Software. It tries to connect every time it’s run and had to be blocked via my firewall. If I knew that it was simply checking for updates then it might be acceptable. The problem is that I have no idea why it wants to connect!

    Best wishes,

    Richard J.

    • Hi Richard,

      Often, hidden in the legalese of the EULA, you will find a clause which permits the developer to connect to the Internet in order to develop so called “usage” statistics. I suspect that may be what you’re facing.

      You might want to try Ninite – here’s a link to an article I posted on this superb application – Ninite – A Jaw Dropping One Shot Multiple Application Installer. It will download an application, or multiple applications, without the added “bonuses.”