How-To: Reclaim your hijacked search bar

Computers & Mobile
How-To: Reclaim your hijacked search bar

The other morning, I clicked on an upgrade button for Winamp. Generally, I like the program, it seems to load faster than Media Player, and doesn’t bother me too much. In the afternoon, I did a search by typing in the address bar of Firefox. Normally, this type of search brings me to the Google results of the phrase, but this time it brought me to the Winamp results of the search term. Grrrr. Winamp hijacked my search bar.

This wasn’t the first time that this had happened, a few months ago, I encountered a similar phenomenon while looking for a way to convert the .3gp files that come from the audio recorder on the G1 to .mp3, .wav or just about any other format that can be used on a standard player.

As it turns out, Winamp hijacked three settings from my browser. Bad software….sit…..stay…. I successfully changed the location bar search, the search bar in the upper right, and my home page. Here’s how:

Location bar:
If this is the first time you have done this, it’ll be a bit more complex than normal setting changes.
Here is how to get it done:

  • Open up a new tab
  • type about:config in the location bar and press enter
  • You may see a warning message that discourages you from going further. Make your choice and live with it.
  • In the filter field, type keyword. As you type it, fewer values will be listed below
  • The one you are looking for is keyword.URL
  • The value I like is: Which searches google and returns the result. You can also have it search through other vendors, and return different amounts of info.
  • When you close it, the settings should be changed.
  • Test it with the term of your choice to make sure it is working properly.

Search bar:
This is an easy fix. Click on the arrow to the left of the field and select the search engine you want.

Home page: This one I didn’t notice until later. It’s also pretty straightforward. Go to the EDIT menu, choose preferences, then go to the MAIN section. Home page should be up in the top third of the window. Below it are a couple of buttons, including Use Current Pages. That one can be a pain, because every time you hit the Home button, it will load all the tabs you have open currently. If you are addicted to tabs, this will really send you over the edge with a zillion tabs open in no time at all. It is easier to just pick the one page that you want to be your home page, and go from there.

This process should work for Mozilla-based browsers. What are your favorite tricks with web browsers?

22 thoughts on “How-To: Reclaim your hijacked search bar

  1. redsquid says:

    I use VLC media player. No problems, no regrets.

    1. ineedhelpbad says:

      I use VLC too its great. I would also think twice about any program that hijacks your browser.

  2. Johnno says:

    It doesn’t do it behind your back. A few screens into the installation you’re asked if you WANT these things.

    Un-tick the boxes to change what gets installed. You just have to be more proactive in what happens.

    1. Odin84gk says:

      Anything that is an “Opt Out” during installation is sneaky. This happened for Winamp, and it also happens for AT&T internet installation. I just want it installed. I don’t want all of your crap bloatware that comes with it.

  3. Nick says:

    Can you not just click on the search engine icon in the search box and select Google again? You shouldn’t need to go through about:config.

    There are a few other useful tricks. You can get more search engine plugins at (I’ve no idea why the ‘get more search engines’ link in FireFox doesn’t take you there). If you use several, you can set a keyword for each one by selecting ‘Manage search engines’ from the search box’s menu. To use a keyword, click in the URL bar, type the keyword followed by your search terms. I find that easier to use than the search box itself; I can search google with ‘g foo’, google images with ‘gi foo’, wikipedia with ‘w foo’, all without selecting an engine from the search box. I don’t even have the search box on my toolbar anymore.

  4. Lumpy Log says:

    If it’s out in the open and YOU have to make a choice rather than just clicking ‘OK’ or ‘Next’ and rushing to the end then it’s still your fault.

    Maybe they’re playing on the fact that MOST people WILL charge in without looking twice at what’s happening. But the fact is YOU let it happen by not paying attention.

    1. Anonymous says:

      “Maybe they’re playing on the fact that MOST people WILL charge in without looking twice at what’s happening. ”

      How is that not sneaky?

  5. DennisD7 says:

    The best trick I know is to change to google chrome.

  6. not sneaky says:

    This search bar option is obvious during the install. It’s not hidden. Winamp can’t make it more apparent. For free(loaders) users of Winamp, they probably get some revenue having these things installed.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I use Tiddlywiki to keep a scrapbook of hints like this.

  8. Some guy says:

    Nothing is hi-jacked, it’s not a trick, it’s not even bloat-ware.

    I agree, I’d prefer the options to be un-checked by default, but hey, think about the alternatives.

    Companies need to at least try to make money, and doing it this way, by having completely external options that the user can easily de-select on install, allows them to do this, and to have less actual crap go into the actual product. Would rampant “search features” puked all over the actually application be better? I think not.

    Besides, the search is google anyway.

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