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How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek. Read more.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Browser plug-ins are the biggest target on your computer. Java is a gaping security hole, but Flash has seen a stream of 0-day attacks recently. There’s even been an increase in attacks against Silverlight.

These plug-ins have also become less necessary over time. For example, YouTube recently dumped Flash, and Netflix has dumped silverlight. Your browser is capable of doing this stuff on its own — as long as websites cooperate.

Why Browser Plug-ins Are Bad

Web browsers are becoming ever more capable, and the functions that once required browser plug-ins — various video playback features, video chatting, animations, in-browser games, and more — are now built into modern browsers. It’s just up to websites to switch over to the in-browser features from those old plug-ins they’re still using.

And plug-ins really are old. Firefox still uses the NPAPI plug-in system created for Netscape Navigator. Internet Explorer uses ActiveX, which is notorious for its security problems. Chrome uses PPAPI, which is designed to provide additional sandboxing — but even it isn’t ideal. If an attacker finds a hole in your browser plug-in, they can generally exploit that hole to gain access to the system. They aren’t sandboxed — except on Chrome, and even that sandbox won’t protect you from everything.

Note that browser plug-ins are different from extensions, or add-ons. An extension or add-on adds a new feature to your browser that you can use, if you like. A plug-in is a program that websites can require. They were necessary when browsers weren’t evolving fast enough — like back in the Internet Explorer 6 days — but now need to go away.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Popular Plug-ins You May Not Need

Plug-ins will likely never vanish completely from the web. Even now, if you dug deep enough, you could probably find web pages that required you install RealPlayer to view their old videos. But, at a certain point, we all uninstalled RealPlayer because it just wasn’t necessary. Plug-ins like Java and Silverlight have already hit that point for most people, and even Flash should get there one day soon.

  • Silverlight: Most people have Microsoft’s Silverlight plug-in installed for Netflix. If you’re one of them, there’s good news — in modern browsers, Netflix will just use HTML5 instead of Silverlight. So, if you still just have Silverlight installed for Netflix, you can go uninstall it now. Really, Microsoft wants the Silverlight browser plug-in to go away, too. You’re doing them a favor by ditching it.
  • Java: What more can we say about Java? Java applets have all but vanished from the consumer web — unless they’re being used for exploits — but the terribly insecure Java browser plug-in is still enabled by default. Even if you need Java installed (to play Minecraft, for example), you don’t need the browser plug-in enabled. Head to the Java Control Panel and disable the Java plug-in if you can’t uninstall it.
  • Flash: Flash is the plug-in you might still want. Flash is becoming less necessary than ever, and you can now even view every single video on YouTube without having Flash installed. Other video-playback sites have also switched to Flash, and modern websites shouldn’t require it. On the other hand, Flash is still used for many different things — the videos on Facebook, for example, require having Flash installed. To alleviate the problem, we recommend enabling click-to-play for Flash rather than uninstalling it complete.

Other plug-ins have also become unnecessary as they’ve been folded into the browser. Google’s Google Talk plug-in for audio and video calls is no longer needed, nor is the Google Earth plugin for looking at detailed satellite views on Google Maps. Microsoft is working on a version of Skype for the web that will no longer require the Skype browser plugin. Plug-ins like QuickTime, RealPlayer, Windows Media Player, and the VLC Web Plugin aren’t really used anymore either.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Seeing Which Plugins You Have Installed

To see which plug-ins you have installed, check the list of plug-ins buried in your web browser of choice.

  • Chrome: Plug “chrome://plugins/” into your address bar (without the quotes) and press Enter. You can also navigate to Settings>Show advanced settings>Content settings>Disable individual plugins.
  • Firefox: Click the menu button, click Manage add-ons, and select the Plug-ins icon.
  • Internet Explorer: Click the gear menu on the toolbar and select Add-ons. Ensure the “Toolbars and extensions” category is selected, and then click the Show box and select All add-ons.
  • Safari: Click the Safari menu, select Preferences, and click the Security icon. Click the Website Settings button to the right of “Internet plug-ins.”
  • Opera: Click the Opera menu and select Settings. Select the Websites category and click “Disable individual plugins.” Alternately, you can just plug “opera://plugins” into the address bar (without quotes) and press Enter.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Uninstalling or Disabling Plugins

If you see any ancient plugins you don’t need, you should head to your Control Panel and uninstall them — you can’t uninstall them from inside your browser.

If you’d rather just temporarily disable the plug-ins, you can click the Disable button on your browser’s plug-in manager page. Leave it disabled for a while and see if you really need it. If you don’t notice you need it, you can head to the Control Panel and uninstall it later. Note that disabling a plug-in in one browser only disables it for that specific browser. For example, if you disable Flash in Firefox, it’ll still be enabled in Chrome and Internet Explorer.

You could also set up different browser profiles, with the plug-ins disabled in one browser (or profile) and the plug-ins enabled in another browser. This would let you isolate the plug-ins from your normal browsing experience.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Assuming you don’t uninstall every single plug-in — and you probably won’t — you should head to the Firefox Plug-in Check page. Don’t let the name fool you — this tool will work for any web browser. It’ll let you know if you have any old, vulnerable plugins that you need to update or get rid of immediately.

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek. Read more.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Browser plug-ins like Flash and Java add additional features web pages can use. However, they can also slow things down when in use or add extra security holes, particularly in the case of Java.

Each web browser has a built-in way to view your installed browser plug-ins and choose which are enabled, although this feature is hidden in many browsers. To remove a plug-in completely, you’ll need to uninstall it from the Windows Control Panel.

Update: Since this article was originally written in 2013, modern web browsers have largely dropped all support for traditional plug-ins. Web browsers still support add-ons but not web plug-ins like Java and Shockwave. The information here may not be relevant on the latest versions of modern browsers—for example, Chrome no longer has a Plug-ins page that lists installed plug-ins.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome has several hidden chrome:// pages you can access. To view the plug-ins installed in Chrome, type chrome://plugins into Chrome’s address bar and press Enter.

This page shows all the installed browser plug-ins enabled in Google Chrome. To disable a plug-in, click the Disable link under it. You can also click the Details option to view more detailed information, such as the location of the plug-in on your computer’s file system.

By default, many plug-ins can only run with your permission. This helps prevent websites from exploiting plug-ins like the vulnerable Java plug-in. The Always allowed check box allows you to bypass this protection for an individual plug-in, but it’s unchecked by default for a reason.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox makes your list of installed plug-ins easier to access. To view your list of installed plug-ins, open the Firefox menu, click Add-ons, and select Plugins.

You can disable individual plug-ins by clicking the Disable button. To view more information about a plug-in, such as its file name, click the Options button. You won’t actually find any options you can use to configure the plug-in from here, only additional information.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

If you would like to view a more technical list, Firefox’s old plug-ins page is still available on one of Firefox’s hidden about: pages. Just type about:plugins into Firefox’s and press Enter to access it.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer lists its browser plug-ins along with other browser add-ons you have installed. To view them, click the gear menu at the top-right corner of the Internet Explorer window and select Manage add-ons.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Browser plug-ins are displayed under the Toolbars and Extensions category, along with any browser toolbars and other type of ActiveX add-ons you have installed. Note that many are hidden by default — click the Show box at the bottom-left corner of the screen and select All add-ons to view them all.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

You can disable add-ons by selecting them in the list and using the Disable button at the bottom-right corner of your screen.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Opera

Opera allows you to view its installed plug-ins on one of its hidden opera: pages. Just type opera:plugins into the address bar and press Enter to view your list of installed plug-ins.

You can disable plug-ins from here by using the Disable button, just as you would in other browsers. You can also disable all plug-in support by unchecking the Enable plug-ins check box or use the Refresh plug-ins link to have Opera notice new plug-ins you’ve just installed. (This normally requires a browser restart.)

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Uninstalling a Plug-in

You’ve probably noticed that web browsers don’t have a built-in way to uninstall plug-ins from your system. Unlike browser extensions or add-ons, plug-ins are installed system-wide.

To uninstall a plug-in, you’ll have to open the Uninstall or change a program screen in the Windows Control Panel, locate the plug-in, and uninstall it like you would any other installed program.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

To view your installed plug-ins in Safari, click the Help menu and select Installed Plug-ins.

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek. Read more.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Most web browsers load Flash and other plug-in content as soon as you open a web page. Enable “click-to-play” plug-ins and your browser will load a placeholder image instead — click it to actually download and view the content.

Click-to-play allows you to conserve download bandwidth, improve page load times, reduce CPU usage, and extend laptop battery life. This feature gained popularity with Flashblock for Firefox and is now built into modern browsers.

Update: As of 2020, modern web browsers have plug-ins like Flash disabled by default. The information here may still be useful if you’re using an older web browser.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome has a built-in click-to-play feature that works for all plug-ins, including Flash. To enable it, click Chrome’s menu button and select Settings to open the Settings page. Click Show advanced settings, click Content settings under Privacy, scroll down to Plug-ins, and select Click to play.

If you are using a newer version of Google Chrome, the setting will actually be called “Let me choose when to run plugin content” instead.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

IMPORTANT!

Make sure you check the Manage Exceptions button in the screenshot above, because that will override the setting.

For Chrome, you’ll also need to head into about:plugins (literally type that into the address bar and hit Enter) and make sure that “Always allowed to run” isn’t enabled, which appears to override the click-to-play setting.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Of course you should probably just click the Disable button to make sure Flash is dead.

Mozilla Firefox

You can make Firefox require click to play by heading into Tools -> Addons -> Plugins and changing the drop-down to Ask to Activate. This should generally work, but there’s a chance an update will flip the setting back.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Alternatively you can use Flashblock, which will completely whack Flash and more, and you don’t have to worry.

Mozilla Firefox uses click-to-play for most plug-in content by default, but it will still load Flash content. There’s a plugins.click_to_play setting in Firefox’s hidden about:config page, but it’s enabled by default. We can’t find a way to enable click-to-play for Flash in Firefox — Mozilla made a decision to make all Flash content bypass their click-to-play feature. There may be a way to override this, but we can’t find it.

Instead of using an option built into Mozilla Firefox, you can install the Flashblock extension. (Update: This extension is no longer available.)

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer can ask you before it loads plugin content, but this option is well-hidden on the add-ons screen. To access it, click the gear icon on Internet Explorer’s toolbar and select Manage Add-ons.

Select Toolbars and Extensions here, click the Show box, and select All add-ons. Locate the Shockwave Flash Object plug-in under Adobe Systems Incorporated, right-click it, and select More information.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Click the Remove all sites button and Flash won’t load automatically on any website you visit.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

When you visit a site with Flash content, you’ll be asked whether you want to run the content. Repeat this process for other plug-ins if you want to prevent them from loading automatically.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Opera

This setting is also available in Opera, which is no surprise considering Opera is now based on Chrome. To enable it, click the Opera menu button, select Settings, and select Websites on the Settings page. Enable the Click to play option under Plug-ins.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Safari

Safari on Mac OS X also has a way to enable click-to-play for plug-ins. This setting can be adjusted individually for each plug-in you have installed. To change these settings, open Safari, click the Safari menu, and select Preferences. Click the Security icon and click Manage Website Settings to the right of Internet plug-ins.

Select a plug-in, click the When visiting other websites box, and select Ask.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

If a Website Doesn’t Work…

Be careful when using click-to-play plugins. Some websites load Flash content in the background. Such websites may need Flash content to work properly, but you may not see the placeholder image. For example, if you visit a website that plays music and click a play button, the music may not play because the website can’t load Flash in the background.

In these cases, you’ll generally need to click the icon that appears in your browser’s address bar, informing you plug-in content has been blocked. You can enable plugin content on the current page from here.

Browsers also have options to enable plug-in content automatically for certain websites. For example, you may want to allow a video-streaming website like YouTube or Netflix to always load plug-ins without asking you.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Enabling click-to-play plug-ins can even help protect you, as so many attacks exploit flaws in insecure plug-ins. However, you shouldn’t rely on click-to-play for security. Think of increased security as a potential bonus feature and follow the usual online security precautions.

Can browser plugins and extensions affect my connection to iMeet Central?

If you are encountering speed, upload, download, or various interface problem with iMeet Central it could be caused by a plugin, add-on, or extension that you have installed in your browser. To see if this is the case you can try disabling all plugins, add-ons, or extensions within your browser. Here are steps for various browsers:

Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 and Later:

  • Follow the steps in this help article: Why Do I See “Error on Page” in Internet Explorer?

Mozilla Firefox:

  1. Click the menu button and choose Add-ons . The Add-ons Manager tab will open.
  2. In the Add-ons Manager tab, select the Plugins panel.
  3. Select the plugin you wish to disable.
  4. Select Never Activate in its drop-down menu.
  5. To re-enable the plugin, find it in the list of Plugins and select Always Activate in its drop-down menu.

Google Chrome:

  1. Click the menu icon “≡” at the top right of the browser window, choose More tools and choose Extensions to open the Extensions
  2. Uncheck Enabled to disable an extension or lick the trash can icon next to the extension you want to delete.
  3. Enter chrome://plugins in Chrome’s address bar to view plugins installed for your browser.
  4. Click the Disable link under the plugin you want to disable.
  5. Test Trimble Connect with this add-on disabled.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for every add-on until you find the one the issue in Trimble Connect. Leave that one disabled and enable the rest. When you’re finished, click Close.

Safari:

  1. Open the Safari app on the Mac if you have not done so already
  2. Pull down the “Safari” menu and choose “Preferences”
  3. Go to the “Security” tab
  4. Uncheck the box next to “Internet plug-ins” so that ‘Allow Plug-ins’ is unchecked and turned off
  5. Exit Preferences and use Safari as usual

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

For best results, you’ll likely want to quit and relaunch Safari.

Browser plug-ins like Flash and Java add additional features web pages can use. However, they can also slow things down when in use or add extra security holes, particularly in the case of Java.

Each web browser has a built-in way to view your installed browser plug-ins and choose which are enabled, although this feature is hidden in many browsers. To remove a plug-in completely, you’ll need to uninstall it from the Windows Control Panel.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome has several hidden chrome:// pages you can access. To view the plug-ins installed in Chrome, type chrome://plugins into Chrome’s address bar and press Enter.

This page shows all the installed browser plug-ins enabled in Google Chrome. To disable a plug-in, click the Disable link under it. You can also click the Details option to view more detailed information, such as the location of the plug-in on your computer’s file system.

By default, many plug-ins can only run with your permission. This helps prevent websites from exploiting plug-ins like the vulnerable Java plug-in. The Always allowed check box allows you to bypass this protection for an individual plug-in, but it’s unchecked by default for a reason.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox makes your list of installed plug-ins easier to access. To view your list of installed plug-ins, open the Firefox menu, click Add-ons, and select Plugins.

You can disable individual plug-ins by clicking the Disable button. To view more information about a plug-in, such as its file name, click the Options button. You won’t actually find any options you can use to configure the plug-in from here, only additional information.

If you would like to view a more technical list, Firefox’s old plug-ins page is still available on one of Firefox’s hidden about: pages. Just type about:plugins into Firefox’s and press Enter to access it.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer lists its browser plug-ins along with other browser add-ons you have installed. To view them, click the gear menu at the top-right corner of the Internet Explorer window and select Manage add-ons.

Browser plug-ins are displayed under the Toolbars and Extensions category, along with any browser toolbars and other type of ActiveX add-ons you have installed. Note that many are hidden by default – click the Show box at the bottom-left corner of the screen and select All add-ons to view them all.

You can disable add-ons by selecting them in the list and using the Disable button at the bottom-right corner of your screen.

Opera

Opera allows you to view its installed plug-ins on one of its hidden opera: pages. Just type opera:plugins into the address bar and press Enter to view your list of installed plug-ins.

You can disable plug-ins from here by using the Disable button, just as you would in other browsers. You can also disable all plug-in support by unchecking the Enable plug-ins check box or use the Refresh plug-ins link to have Opera notice new plug-ins you’ve just installed. (This normally requires a browser restart.)

Uninstalling a Plug-in

You’ve probably noticed that web browsers don’t have a built-in way to uninstall plug-ins from your system. Unlike browser extensions or add-ons, plug-ins are installed system-wide.

To uninstall a plug-in, you’ll have to open the Uninstall or change a program screen in the Windows Control Panel, locate the plug-in, and uninstall it like you would any other installed program.

To view your installed plug-ins in Safari, click the Help menu and select Installed Plug-ins.

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Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek.Read Full Bio »

Is an extension giving you trouble? Get rid of it!

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

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What to Know

  • To delete or disable, go to menu (3 vertical dots) >More tools >Extensions > slide toggle next to extension or select Remove.
  • To disable, go to the Chrome menu >Settings >Privacy and security >Site Settings > select toggle next to plug-in.
  • A quick way to get to Chrome settings is to enter the following in the address bar: chrome://settings.

This article explains how to disable or delete Chrome plug-ins and extensions. Instructions apply to all versions of Chrome browser.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

How to Delete or Disable Chrome Extensions

There are two ways to remove or disable Chrome extensions. One is through the Chrome menu, and the other is by entering a specific URL in the Chrome navigation bar.

Enter chrome://extensions in the navigation bar in Chrome or use the menu button (the three vertical dots) in the upper-right corner of Chrome to access the More tools > Extensions option.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Next to the extension you want to manage, slide the toggle to the left to disable it or click Remove to delete it and click again to confirm. To re-enable an extension, slide the toggle to the right.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

If you delete a Chrome extension that you didn’t install and suspect it was installed by a malicious program, select the Report abuse check box before confirming the deletion to tell Chrome that the extension might not be trustworthy.

Re-enabling extensions in Chrome is as easy as going back to the Extensions screen and checking the box next to Enable.

How to Disable a Chrome Plug-In

Chrome plug-ins are managed through the Chrome Content Settings window.

Go to chrome://settings/content or open the Chrome menu and select Settings.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Click Privacy and security > Site Settings.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Scroll to the plug-in you want to control and click it.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Click the toggle switch to turn on or turn off the plug-in. You may also see Block and Allow sections where you can input specific websites on which to disable (or enable) the plug-in.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

You can also get alerts when a site wants to use a plug-in. On the Site Settings screen, click Unsandboxed plug-in access, and toggle on Ask when a site wants to use a plug-in to access your computer.

Use the latest browser recommended by Microsoft

Get speed, security, and privacy with Microsoft Edge .

Add-ons are apps that Internet Explorer uses to interact with web content like videos and games. Toolbars and extensions are also types of add-ons. Some common add-ons are Adobe Flash, Quicktime, and Silverlight.

Internet Explorer is designed to provide an add-on free experience, and will play HTML5 and many Adobe Flash videos without needing to install a separate add-on.

You’ll only be able to install and use add-ons in Internet Explorer for the desktop. If you’re trying to view a page that requires add-ons, view it in the desktop: swipe up from the bottom of the screen (or right-click) to bring up the app commands, select the Page tools button , and then select View in the desktop.

Note: In Windows RT, add-ons aren’t supported by either Internet Explorer or Internet Explorer for the desktop.

Installing and using add-ons

If you’re missing an add-on that you need to view a page, Internet Explorer will let you know, and will prompt you to install the add-on. Some add-ons come pre-installed by other apps or your PC’s manufacturer.

To view installed add-ons

Open Internet Explorer, select the Tools button , and then select Manage add-ons.

Under Show, select All add-ons.

To turn add-ons on

Open Internet Explorer, select the Tools button , and then select Manage add-ons.

Under Show, select All add-ons.

Select the add-on, Enable, and then select Close.

Turning off and removing add-ons

Add-ons can sometimes cause browsers to run slowly and crash, or they might pose a security or compatibility risk. You can turn off specific add-ons to help increase your browsing speed, or if you suspect they’re causing problems for Internet Explorer. You can also remove add-ons that you’re no longer using from your PC. It’s a good idea to delete add-ons if you suspect they’re causing performance, compatibility, or security problems.

To turn off add-ons

Open Internet Explorer, select the Tools button , and then select Manage add-ons.

Under Show, select All add-ons and then select the add-on you want to turn off.

Select Disable, and then Close.

To remove add-ons from your PC

Note: Not all add-ons can be removed. Some add-ons are necessary for Internet Explorer and your PC to work correctly.

Open Internet Explorer, select the Tools button , and then select Manage add-ons.

Under Show, select All add-on and then select the add-on you want to delete.

If the add-on can be deleted, you’ll see the Remove option. Select Remove and then Close.

The risks of installing add-ons

While add-ons can make your browsing experience better by giving you access to great web content, some add-ons can pose security, privacy, or performance risks. Make sure any add-ons you install are from a trusted source.

Enhanced Protected Mode and add-ons

Enhanced Protected Mode helps protect your PC and personal data from malware and other attacks. When it’s turned on, add-ons such as toolbars, extensions, and browser helper objects can only run if they’re compatible with Enhanced Protected Mode. You’ll be notified if an add-on is incompatible. If you need to run an incompatible add-on, you can turn off Enhanced Protected Mode in the desktop browser.

Note: Enhanced Protected Mode helps protect your PC from malware and other attacks. Only turn it off if you’re sure about increasing the level of risk to your PC.

To turn on or off Enhanced Protected Mode

Open Internet Explorer, select the Tools button, and then select Internet Options.

On the Advanced tab, under Security, select (or clear) the Enable Enhanced Protected Mode check box, and then select OK. You’ll need to restart your PC before this setting takes effect.

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek. Read more.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Malware, adware, and pushy software installers all love changing your browser settings, giving you new home pages, default search engines, and obnoxious toolbars. It’s easy to forget to uncheck these options while installing software.

Reverting browser settings changes typically isn’t too difficult. However, you often have to do it by hand — even if it’s a legitimate program, uninstalling it probably won’t restore your preferred home page and default search engine.

Search Engine

If a program manages to change your browser’s default search engine, a different search engine will appear when you use your browser’s built-in search features — the search bar or right-click search, for example.

You can change your search engine back easily:

  • Internet Explorer: Click the gear button, select Manage add-ons, and select the Search Providers category. Choose your preferred search provider from the lit and click the Set as default button at the bottom of the window. You may also want to enable the “Prevent programs from suggesting changes to my default search provider” check box.
  • Mozilla Firefox: Click the search engine icon in the search box at the top-right corner of the Firefox window. Select your preferred search engine from the list.
  • Google Chrome: Right-click inside the location bar at the top of the Chrome browser window and select Edit search engines. Mouse over your preferred search engine and select Make default.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Home Page

Annoying installers love changing your home page to a new one — often filled with advertisements — so they can make money whenever you open your web browser. Even if the home page doesn’t contain ads, it probably contains a search feature they want you to use — they’ll make money when you search with their inferior search engine instead of using your preferred one.

Restoring your browser’s home page is easy:

  • Internet Explorer: Click the gear button, click Internet Options, and select the General tab. Change the addresses in the Home page box.
  • Mozilla Firefox: Click the Firefox menu button, select Options, select the General tab, and change the address in the Home Page box.
  • Google Chrome: Click Chrome’s menu button, select Settings, and check the Show Home button option under appearance. Click the Change option and change the home page. You should also click the Set pages option under On startup and ensure that no additional web pages are set to load at startup.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Toolbars and Other Browser Extensions

Toolbars are a still a blight on the Windows software ecosystem. Even Oracle’s Java software tries to install the terrible Ask toolbar by default. Toolbars get a company’s product right in front of you in your browser all the time, encouraging you to use all their features and search with their product. It would even be possible to install so many browser toolbars in Internet Explorer and other browsers that they consumed most of the browser’s screen space.

  • Uninstall in Control Panel: First, open the standard Programs and Features Control Panel and try to uninstall the toolbar like you would any other program. If you’re lucky and the toolbar is somewhat legitimate, it will appear here in the list and you’ll be able to uninstall it normally. If it doesn’t appear in the list, you’ll have to disable it in your browser using the below instructions.
  • Internet Explorer: Click the gear menu, select Manage add-ons, and select the Toolbars and Extensions category. Locate the toolbar or browser add-on you don’t want to use, click it, and click the Disable button. If you don’t see the add-on in the list, click the Show box and select All add-ons.
  • Mozilla Firefox: Click the Firefox menu button and select Extensions. Select the add-on you want to disable and click the Disable button.
  • Google Chrome: Click Chrome’s menu button, select Settings, and select the Extensions category at the left side of the window. Uncheck the Enabled box to the right of any extension you want to disable.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

Websites Redirect Elsewhere

Sneakily redirecting websites in the background is a much nastier thing to do than simply changing a home page, swapping a search engine, or installing a useless toolbar, so this problem isn’t as common. However, some browser extensions may abuse their permissions to redirect websites elsewhere, taking you to scamsearchengine.com when you try to visit google.com. Or, malware may have modified your Windows hosts file to do this.

First, uninstall any toolbars or browser extensions you don’t recognize. They integrate with your browser and are capable of redirecting you to other web pages.

If uninstalling junk browser extensions didn’t help, you may need to look at your hosts file. Malware sometimes modifies the Windows hosts file to redirect websites elsewhere.

Consult our guide to editing your hosts file for more information. Look for any unusual entries. By default, the Windows hosts file shouldn’t have any entries in it below the commented lines (those are the lines that begin with a # character.) You can likely delete everything but the lines with the # character in front of them if you see that your hosts file contains junk. The image below displays a normal hosts file on Windows 7.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

If Settings Change Back

If you find that these settings are automatically changing back after you change them, you have a program running on your computer that’s interfering with your browser settings. Be sure to scan your computer for malware — such programs should be detected as malware by most antivirus programs. If your existing antivirus program isn’t detecting any malware, you may want to get a second opinion from a different antivirus program.

Windows program installers have historically abused the user’s browser. It’s no surprise that Windows 8’s new “Modern” version of Internet Explorer doesn’t support any browser toolbars or extensions.

How to view and disable installed plug-ins in any browser

The Java plugin is part of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) and allows a browser to work with the Java platform to run Java applets to execute in the browser.

The Java plugin is enabled in a large number of browsers around the world and this makes it a target for malicious hackers. Any popular third-party plugin is subjected to the same kind of unwanted attention. The team behind Java have always taken security seriously and they will endeavor to quickly release an update to patch any serious security vulnerabilities found. This means the best way to minimize problems with the Java plugin is to make sure it is up-to-date with the latest release.

If you are really worried about the security of the Java plugin but still need to visit a popular website (e.g., online banking in some countries) that need the Java plugin enabled, then consider the two browser trick. You can use one browser (e.g., Internet Explorer) only when you want to use the websites using the Java plugin. For the rest of the time use another browser, (e.g., Firefox) with the Java plugin disabled.

Alternatively, you might find that you don’t go to websites that use Java very often. In this case, you may prefer the option of disabling and enabling the Java plugin as needed. The instructions below will help you to set up your browser to disable (or enable) the Java plugin.

Firefox

To turn on/turn off Java applets in the Firefox browser:

  1. Select Tools -> Add-ons from the menu toolbar.
  2. The Add-ons Manager window appears. Click on Plugins on the left-hand side.
  3. In the list on the right select, the Java Plugin – the name of the plugin will vary depending on whether you are a Mac OS X or Windows user. On the Mac, it will be called Java Plug-in 2 for NPAPI Browsers or Java Applet Plug-in (depending on the operating system version). On Windows, it will be called Java (TM) Platform.
  4. The button to the right of the selected plugin can be used to enable or disable the plugin.

Internet Explorer

To enable/disable Java in the Internet Explorer browser:

  1. Select Tools -> Internet Options from the menu toolbar.
  2. Click on the Security tab.
  3. Click on the Custom level.. button.
  4. In the Security Settings window scroll down the list until you see Scripting of Java applets.
  5. Java applets are Enabled or Disabled depending on which radio button is checked. Click on the option you want and then click OK to save the change.

Safari

To enable/disable Java in the Safari browser:

  1. Select Safari -> Preferences from the menu toolbar.
  2. In the preferences, window click on the Security icon.
  3. Make sure the Enable Java checkbox is checked if you want Java enabled or unchecked if you want it disabled.
  4. Close the preferences window and the change will be saved.

Chrome

To turn on/turn off Java applets in the Chrome browser:

  1. Click on the wrench icon to the right of the address bar and choose Settings.
  2. At the bottom click the link called Show advanced settings.
  3. Under the Privacy, section click on Content settings.
  4. Scroll down to the Plug-ins section and click on Disable individual plug-ins.
  5. Look for the Java plugin and click on the Disable link to turn off or the Enable link to turn on.

Opera

To enable/disable the Java plugin in the Opera browser: