How Do I Turn Off Safe Search?

Anna from Payson, Utah writes:

When I open my Internet Explorer or my Firefox browser the only thing that comes up is a search thing called SafeSearch. How do I get rid of them? I can only use Chrome now. Thank you for any information I can use to get rid of this thing. I understand it comes with the Avast virus protector I just installed after my Norton expired.

The answer to this question actually depends on what is meant by “SafeSearch,” as there are several programs with similar names that can modify your browser and affect how you search for information on the Internet. The solution may be as simple as uninstalling a toolbar and manually changing your home page.

However, Anna’s mentioning of the Avast program, her inability to access other websites, and the fact that it is only affecting certain browsers means she is likely dealing with a specific type of virus that hijacks your web browser. “SafeSearch” actually has no connection to the Avast anti-virus tool. This malicious program automatically redirects you to a fake search engine meant to look like it’s from a legitimate source, such as Avast, AVG, Yahoo, or Google.

To get your browser back to normal, first we’ll check to see if there’s a toolbar installed that’s causing the problem. In Firefox, click the “Firefox” button at the top of the screen and select “Add-Ons.” Check to see if there is a “SafeSearch” or “Avast” tool listed, and if so click the “Remove” button at the far right side of the entry.

Firefox's Add-Ons

Next you’ll need to try to uninstall the program through Windows. Navigate to the “Control Panel” in the Start menu and click “Uninstall a Program” underneath the “Programs” heading.

Uninstall a Program

Highlight the “SafeSearch” option if it is present and then click the “Uninstall” button at the top of the window.

Uninstall Button

The SafeSearch hijacker has likely made changes to your browser you’ll need to manually fix. Navigate back to Firefox and click the “Firefox” button again, then click “Options.”

Firefox Options

On the “General” tab, click the text box and type in whatever URL you’d like to use for your home page, such as “” Click “OK” to save the change.

Firefox Homepage

This crafty virus likely changed another setting you’ll need to fix, however. While your homepage has been restored, the SafeSearch browser will probably show up again automatically when you open a new blank tab. To prevent this, type “about:config” (without the quotation marks) into the address bar and tap Enter. Click the “I’ll be careful, I promise!” button to bring up Firefox’s advanced features.

Firefox Advanced Options

Type “browser.newtab.url” into the “Search” box. Right-click the entry and select the “Modify” button to bring up a text box. Type whatever URL you’d like to use as a default page anytime you open a new tab and press Enter.

Modifying Firefox Options

Uninstalling SafeSearch and manually fixing your browser is only the beginning though, as programs like these are difficult to get rid of. To ensure SafeSearch doesn’t simply appear again the next time you open your browser, you will also need to run both an anti-spyware tool (such as Spybot Search and Destroy) and an anti-virus program (such as AVG).

Be sure to perform a full system scan with both programs, which will likely show several “browser hijacker” entries. Follow the program’s instructions to quarantine or remove the infection, and then restart your operating system.

~ Ty Arthur

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