A step-by-step guide to remove the Babylon Search toolbar

If you're reading this, chances are you've got the widely hated Babylon Search software on your system, and you want it gone. Perhaps you've tried uninstalling Babylon already, but it keeps popping back up. It's software that just won't die.

Fortunately, we're here to give you a helping hand in stamping out all traces of Babylon. This article will explain exactly what Babylon Search is, and it will also provide detailed step-by-step instructions on how to kill the toolbar and all related files for good.

The Babylon Search toolbar is frequently categorised as a browser hijacker because it takes control of the web browser and does things the user may not have specifically requested.

For example, even if you set your "home" page, Babylon will display its own site. Or when you try to get to Google or Bing to perform a search, the browser will redirect to Babylon Search (search.babylon.com). A toolbar will also appear at the top of your browser window, like so:

It's technically not a virus, but it does exhibit plenty of malicious traits, such as rootkit capabilities to hook deep into the operating system, browser hijacking, and in general just interfering with the user experience. The industry generally refers to it as a "PUP," which stands for potentially unwanted program.

How did I get the Babylon toolbar?

Perhaps you installed one of the many pieces of Babylon translation software, such as Babylon 9, Babylon Mac, Language Learning, Live Translation, White Label Apps, Babylon Enterprise, Babylon Electronic Dictionary, Writing Solutions, English for Kids, or Babylon Mobile. Any of these products can install the browser toolbar.

What's even more likely is that you installed some other application which came with the Babylon toolbar and you didn't notice when it got installed — in other words, you failed to uncheck it as an optional ride-along during the installation process of a program you actually wanted. Several applications distributed on CNET's download.com have Babylon bundled in, for example. When installed, it hooks itself into Windows, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome, making it difficult to remove.

Removing Babylon software — the toolbar, the browser configuration, everything — is a pretty intensive process, unfortunately, so be prepared to spend some time going through each of the following steps. Unlike much common software, simply removing Babylon Search from the Control Panel via Uninstall Programs and restarting is not enough. It's a good first step, though.

1.Uninstall using Control Panel

If there is an icon for Babylon software in the Windows system tray (next to the clock), right click on it and select Exit to quit the application. Once it has shut down, open up Uninstall Programs under Control Panel and uninstall everything that has a name related to the Babylon Toolbar or Babylon Software. After you have uninstalled the software, the next step involves your browser(s).

2.Remove the toolbar from each browser 

The previous step just uninstalled the desktop application; the browser toolbar and browser helper objects (NHO) are still intact. At this point, go into each browser's preferences to disable and remove add-ons and extensions.

For Firefox, go to the Add-ons page under the Tools menu (or press Ctrl+Shift+A) and search for Babylon Toolbar and additional software under the Extensions and Plugin list. Remove (don't just Disable) all the ones found.

For Chrome, click on the wrench icon (or 3 horizontal bars on some versions) next to the address bar and look for the equivalent Extensions screen under Tools.

For Microsoft Internet Explorer, select Manage add-ons under the Tools menu. On the Toolbars and Extensions tab, search for Babylon Toolbar and additional third party add-ons. Click on the trashcan icon to remove the extensions.

3.Remove the home page

Babylon overwrites the default home page with its own URLs. After uninstalling the software and toolbar, you need to reset the browser's home page.

Under Firefox, go back to Tools and select Options. On the General tab, delete search.babylon.com and any other URL listed there. Click Restore to Default or freshly type in the new page that should be set as Home.

The same option is under Tools, and then Internet Options on Internet Explorer.

For Google Chrome, again click the wrench or 3-bar icon next to the address bar, select Settings, and you'll find the option under On Startup. Select the Open a specific page or set of pages radio button and then click on the Set pages link.

Remove all the links here by clicking the X next to the URL. If you want to set a home page, manually enter the links afresh after removing everything else. If you don't want to set a home page, after you have removed all the links, select the Open the New Tab Page radio button.

4.Repair the search engine

The browser associates search with Babylon Search, so the next step is to break that connection. This way, search queries won't automatically get redirected to search.babylon.com.

On Mozilla Firefox, click on the small search arrow near the search bar at the top of the browser (mine shows up next to the browser icon). Select the Manage search engines… option and remove any Babylon related search engine listed here.

On Internet Explorer, click on Tools and then Manage add-ons to see the Search Providers list. Remove any Babylon related search engine listed here.

From the Chrome icon (wrench or 3-bars), click on Customise, and then Settings. In the Search section click the Manage search engines… button and remove any references to search.babylon.com or other Babylon search provider by clicking the X next to the name.

If Babylon search doesn't appear or can't be removed, it's possible that it is set as the default search engine and cannot be removed. At this point, choose another search engine, such as Google or Bing as default, which will make the Babylon search visible again.

5.Clear cookies, browser data

Finally, purge the browser data and cookies entirely to remove all traces of the software. Browsers generally let you select a remove all files from the beginning of time option, instead of one that's only a week, or a month, etc. Just clear it all out entirely to make sure you get rid of everything.

6.Reset the browser

If we are going all-nuclear on the browser, let's reset it. Resetting preserves your personal data but restores everything else to the default settings. (Note that this will affect what you set as home in step 3, if you set a new home page).

On Firefox, click on Help, and then select Troubleshooting Information. On the left side of the resulting page, there is a button marked Reset Firefox. Confirm that you do want to reset the browser, which will close the window and reset all the settings. It's extreme, but the Reset option is a great way to get aggressive software such as Babylon out of your browser entirely.

Resetting Internet Explorer is a little different in Windows 8 and in earlier versions of Windows. For Windows 7, Vista, and earlier, you need to exit all programs, including Internet Explorer, and open Internet Options up from the Control Panel. In the Internet Properties dialog box, click on the Advanced tab, and then under Reset Internet Explorer settings, click Reset. Go ahead and select the checkboxes to remove browsing history, search providers, accelerators, home pages, ActiveX filtering data, and so forth.

In Windows 8, you reach the Internet Options dialog box by swiping in from the right edge of the screen and clicking on search. Enter Internet Options in the search box, and then tap or click Settings.

Chrome accomplishes the same thing by letting you create a new browser profile, and then you can delete the old one. After closing the browser entirely, navigate to Google Chrome's User Data directory. The profile is located under Default. Rename the folder to something else. When you restart Chrome, the browser will create a new Default folder.

Babylon should now be fully removed from your computer. Mozilla Firefox users can check to make sure everything is clean by opening up the browser and typing about:config in the address bar. When Firefox bleats about the dangers of this step, just click on the "I will be careful…" (you will, right?) button. On the resulting page, search for "Babylon" — and if everything got removed, nothing will show up. If something does squeak through, right click on each entry and select reset.

Helpful third-party software

Since the Babylon toolbar has been known to be bundled in with other adware and malware, it's a good idea to run an antivirus scan to make sure that nothing has slipped through the cracks. I also like to run Spybot Search & Destroy to look for spyware and adware lurking on the computer. The best time to run these tools is right after uninstalling the software from the Control Panel, but you can run them at the end of the process. If nothing else, running Spybot Search & Destroy will help confirm you've gotten every little bit of Babylon out.

To reset your search engine and home page to their default, you can use the SearchReset extension. This add-on is very simple: On installation, it backs up and then resets your search preferences and home page to their default values, and then uninstalls itself. This affects the search bar, URL bar searches, and the home page.

There is also a Mozilla extension called SearchReset which helps reset the search engines on the browser to default settings, in case you don't want to do it yourself.

Some folks suggest that you should also go through and edit all references to Babylon LTD out of the registry, either manually or by using a utility such as AdwCleaner. I didn't need to do any mucking around in the registry on my test machine, and I generally don't recommend users deleting keys unless they know exactly what they are doing.

And there you have it — you now have a completely Babylon free computer. Going through all these steps should have taught you one important lesson: The best defence against PUPs like Babylon Search is not to install them in the first place, of course. Be very careful when you are installing any software, and scrutinise the installation options to make sure you aren't agreeing to install extra third-party bits and bobs, including toolbars such as Babylon.