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What To Do When Your ISP or A Program Hijacks Your Home Page
Windows All Versions

Ray's ISP Hijacks His Start Page
There I was, knowing my computer was in need of a fresh Windows install because of shut down problems. No spyware, and no viruses. But how? I have never done anything that complicated with a computer. Then there it was. Instructions in your newsletter. So I printed out your instructions, and went to work. I saved everything I needed to save to an external hard drive. And you were right, it took some time, but it was easy. My computer runs great again, except one thing. I have tried everything I can think of, but I cannot change my start page. I have changed to your start page in internet options at least a dozen times, but after shutting down IE, it goes right back to my ISP's start page. Can you help me out?  I think you have a GREAT newsletter, and I hope you never change a thing. I hope my spelling and punctuation was acceptable. Thanks, Ray

Answer
Your ISP is writing changes to the registry at Windows boot and unless you can find the cause by going through the startups (click Start/Run and type in MSCONFIG, then click on the startups tab or use WinPatrol explained later on) it's never going to change. Every time you boot whatever start page you set during your Windows session will be replaced by your ISP's start page. If you cannot locate the file that your ISP placed on your machine when you installed their software which is starting with Windows and writing registry changes at Windows start, the next best way to handle this is to install some kind of protection so that you prevent any registry modifications when you reboot or start up your computer.

What your ISP is doing is hijacking your browser, and if your ISP were an application they'd be listed as a hijacker and many anti-spyware programs would remove the hijacker. But, for some reason, no adware/spy-ware program with which we are familiar dares call any ISP (with the possible exception of AOL) adware or spy/ware. However, regardless of what you call it; if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.

We recommend that you download the free version of WinPatrol and allow it to auto-start with Windows. The only programs we recommend that you allow to auto start with Windows are: one anti-virus, one anti-spyware (though we recommend that you have at least two good anti-spyware programs installed), one security-related program (like WinPatrol) and any Microsoft items which must start with Windows. Anything else can be manually started when needed. So, if you can weed out anything in your start ups that you don't need you might, through serendipity, fix your problem of your ISP's software rewriting or modifying registry keys and causing your personally chosen start page, to revert back to theirs.

A little note here: Our first reaction to an ISP who refuses to allow you to use the start page of your choice would be to call the ISP and find out why they were hijacking our start page. We already know the answer to this, it's called MONEY. But, they won't admit that's the reason, because, after all, you're already paying them for a "service" so they cannot admit the reason their subverting your personal start page is money.  Anyway, if you call them they'll probably deny their doing anything. If so, see the rest of this answer. If they're honest they'll tell you what to uninstall or which startup item you need to disable. But, don't count on it.

You do have another choice, you could insist your ISP tell you how to disable their hijacking software or threaten to find another ISP - but only if you're really willing to do that. Most ISPs might not take you seriously and unless you're really ready to show them who's the real boss, don't threaten to take your business elsewhere.

Finally, if you don't want to call your ISP, and if you don't want to change your ISP, and you cannot figure out what startup entry is causing your registry to be altered each time you start up or reboot, then the next best solution is to download WinPatrol from www.winpatrol.com and allow it to protect your start page. After you've downloaded and installed WinPatrol, go to the start page you want to use as your start page. WinPatrol will popup a warning that your current start page (which would be your ISP's) is about to be changed. Of course, you're the one changing it so you want to accept the change.

After you've done this, then reboot your computer, if you've allowed WinPatrol to start with Windows (and you should) you will get a popup informing you that something has changed your start page and asking if you would like your start page changed back to the one you set yourself. You say "YES" and WinPatrol will reset your start page back to the one you chose. Unfortunately, you'll have to do this each time you reboot unless you can find the software installed on your computer by your ISP that is automatically changing registry entries on Windows boot. But at least you won't have to navigate to the start page you want each session and go through the "Set as start page" routine in Internet Explorer.

We chose your question because so many have written who are having the same problem with their ISPs as you are. While ISPs have no right to change your start page, it's not illegal (yet). It's called hijacking and it is the same sort of thing that spy/ware and adware companies get blasted for all the time. The key for you is to identify the start up program that was installed surreptitiously by your ISP that is controlling the registry entry (entries) associated with the start page of your browser. But it may not be easy for you to find as it might have some name which is totally unrelated to your ISP. Since there are so many ISPs out there who do this sort of thing, we cannot give you any ideas of what it might be called or whether it's running as a startup or a service. In either case, WinPatrol will help you protect the start page of your choice and not allow the ISP to take over your start page. And that's about the best you can do unless you can identify the culprit that is running at startup and modifying your registry.


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