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Avoid Java’s Ask Toolbar Installations With This One Weird Registry Hack

stop-java-from-installing-ask-toolbar-and-other-junk-software-with-this-option

Java tries to install the terrible Ask Toolbar and other obnoxious junk — sorry, “sponsored software” — when you install it. Worse yet, Java bundles this junkware with security updates. This registry hack tells Java to never install that stuff.

If you do need Java installed (and you probably don’t), be sure to change this setting. It will protect you from Java’s junkware — at least until someone at Oracle realizes Ask Toolbar installations are down.

The Java Control Panel Option

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This first method only works if you already have Java installed. It’s not useless, though — it will protect you from accidentally installing the Ask Toolbar and other junk when you install one of the many security updates Java needs because it’s horrifically insecure.

This setting is buried in the Java Control Panel. To access it, press your Windows Key once to bring up the Start menu or Start screen and type Java. Click the “Configure Java” shortcut.

open-java-control-panel-from-start-menu-or-start-screen

Click over to the Advanced tab and scroll down to the very bottom — yes, they hid this option at the very bottom of the Advanced list. Check the “Suppress sponsor offers when installing or updating Java” option and click OK.

The option here will basically just set the same registry value you can set yourself below.

suppress-sponsor-offers-when-installing-or-updating-java

We’re not sure exactly when this option was added, but it appears to have been sometime in July or August 2014. If you don’t see the option here, you have an outdated version of Java — update it now! (And be sure to uncheck the junkware while installing the update.)

The Registry Hack

You can also use a quick registry hack to change this setting. We have a .reg file you can use to enable it with a few clicks. This will prevent Java from trying to install the Ask Toolbar the first time you install it. You could run this .reg file on your family’s computers and they won’t get bit by the Ask Toolbar if they ever try to install Java.

Download the Disable_Java_Junkware.zip file, double-click it to open it, and double-click the Disable_Java_Junkware.reg file to add the values to your registry. (You can right-click a .reg file and click Edit to check what it will do; feel free to check the downloaded .reg file before running it.)

registry-hack-to-prevent-java-from-installing-ask-toolbar

Better yet, system administrators can roll out this registry setting using group policy to all computers in their organization, and anyone who installs or updates Java won’t be prompted to install any extra junk.

If you’d rather do this yourself, you can. Just open Notepad or another text editor, copy the following text, and paste it into a new text file:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\JavaSoft]
“SPONSORS”=”DISABLE”

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\JavaSoft]
“SPONSORS”=”DISABLE”

Save the file and give it the .reg file extension — for example, Disable_Java_Junkware.reg. Double-click the .reg file and import it.

disable-java-ask-toolbar-registry-hack

If this tip spreads too far, Oracle may change the required registry keys and start trying to install junkware again. It’s still a good idea to pay attention when installing Java security updates in the future.


It’s weird that Oracle even gave us this option in the first place, but this is how they’re responding to criticism: “Hey, IT people — stop complaining about the Ask Toolbar. Use this hidden option and let us keep foisting this crap software on normal users’ computers, okay?”

Sorry, Oracle — that’s not good enough. Installing junkware is bad enough, even if it is sadly common on Windows. But using critical security updates to the most vulnerable piece of software on Windows as an opportunity to push more junkware onto users computers? That just takes it to another level. It’s just sleazy.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 10/13/14

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