Several days ago, I received a message from one of my Facebook friends who complained that Free Games Zone acted like a browser hijacker and he had tried removing it from his computer a few times but it was too stubborn that it kept coming back. Then, I searched on Google and found that Free Games Zone is a browser extension. I decided to install it on my PC and remove it on my own.
So, I clicked on the search result, and then was redirected to a website showing its related information. See the below screen.
Based on the description on the right side of the page, I sorted out the information about this extension as below:
Name: Free Games Zone
Type: Browser extension
Function: Enable users to easily keep up to date with new games, game news, and search the web with Free Games Zone new tabs.
Behavior: Configure users’ New Tab page to Free Games Zone to provide these features content and features described within users’ New Tab page.
Then, I clicked on the green “ADD TO CHROME” button in the top right hand corner above and installed this extension on my Google Chrome browser. Below is how it looks on the Extensions page.
Surely, I am not in a hurry to remove it from my browser. I am going to see how annoying and stubborn it is. I exited Google Chrome and restarted it. Then, I noticed that my homepage and startup page were not changed (it is still http://www.google.com), but the new tab page was changed to “http://www.search.ask.com” which is a search site.
I didn’t feel surprise about this, since it had become a normal thing for me. I often get an unwanted website to become my homepage, start page or new tab page when installing a desired application on my browsers.
Well, let’s return to the subject. This site offered several Free Games Zone related links, allowing users to access various games websites, a search box in the middle of the page for users to search the internet, and also some quick links to some famous sites, such as Yahoo, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.
When I typed “remove browser hijacker” into the search box and clicked on the Search button, I got a lot of ads related to the key words, both on the top and bottom of the page. Besides, there were many suggested searches in the search results list and on the right side of the page.
Personally, I don’t like to get so many unwanted links in the search results. So, I decided to reset my new tab page. Then I went to the Settings page (click on the Chrome menu in the top right corner of the browser window and clicking on Settings), and under “On startup”, I found that the new tab page was controlled by the Free Games Zone extension.
Without hesitation, I clicked on the “Disable extension” button. Then, I tried opening a new tab page, and it was a blank page this time, instead of the website http://www.search.ask.com.
Surely, the step above only disables the extension, not remove it completely. The following are my steps to remove this extension.
1) Click on the Chrome menu in the top right corner of the Chrome browser.
2) Click “Settings”.
3) In the open window, click on “Extensions”.
4) Find Free Games Zone in the list of all installed Extensions, click on the trashcan icon next to it.
5) Click the Remove button when a dialog box appears. The extension was removed immediately.
To check whether the extension have been removed completely, I closed the browser window, restarted Google Chrome, and went to the Extensions page again. Luckily, the Free Games Zone extension was no longer there.
Above is my personal experience on how to remove Free Games Zone extension. Lucky, I succeeded the first time I tried removing it.
1. How can you remove Free Games Zone from other browsers such as Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox?
Open Internet Explorer.
Click on “Manage Add-ons” in Internet Explorer’s Tools menu.
In the pop-up window, click on the Toolbars and Extensions tab. On the right side, you will see all installed extensions and toolbars.
Select the item you don’t want, click on the Disable button.
Restart your browser.
Open Mozilla Firefox.
Click on Firefox’s Tools menu, and select Add-ons. This will open a window showing all your installed extensions.
Find the extension you don’t want and click the “Remove” button next to it.
Restart your browser.
2. What if Free Games Zone extension still appears after you remove it and restart the browser?
If unluckily this happens, you need to check your installed program list. In some cases, extensions or toolbars will be installed as a windows program and should be removed via Control Panel. Take these steps to check and remove the related program:
Click Start, click Control Panel, and then click Add or Remove Programs.
In the Currently installed programs list, look for any suspicious program, select it and click on the Remove button.
Click Start, click Control Panel, and then click Programs and Features (or Uninstall a program).
In list of your installed programs, scroll down to find whether there is a suspicious program.
If you find one, remove it by selecting it and clicking on the Uninstall button.
Right click the bottom left corner of the computer screen, select Control Panel, and then click Programs and Features (or Uninstall a program).
In the pop-up window, find and remove any suspicious program from your system.
If you have taken the steps above, the extension still appears, it is recommended that you use a tool to run a full system scan. Some extensions may also drop their own files in the local hard disk C and add related entries to the Windows registry. If these files and registry entries are left on the computer, the extensions can come back again. Try these tools:
For more information about these tools, you can visit here.
3. What if “http://www.search.ask.com” has replaced your homepage or startup page?
In my case, only my new tab page was set as “http://www.search.ask.com”. But if you unluckily get your homepage or startup page changed to this unwanted site, then you can follow this steps to reset them:
Open Google Chrome.
In the top-right corner, click the Chrome menu and click Settings.
Under “On startup”, click on Set pages and then reset your startup page.
Under “Appearance”, check the box Show Home button, and then reset your homepage.
Open Internet Explorer.
Access a page that you’d like to set as your homepage.
Click the Tools menu and click Internet options.
Under Home pages, remove the unwanted website URL, enter the one you like, and click OK.
Open Mozilla Firefox.
Click the Open menu button , and then select Options.
From the drop-down menu, select “Show my home page”.
Then, type a website URL you preferred into the Home Page field and restart the browser.
4. What if the browser still open with “http://www.search.ask.com” even though you have reset the homepage or startup page?
If the unwanted home page keeps opening even when you’ve reset your homepage or startup page, then you can try checking the browser shortcut:
Right click the browser icon and then click on Properties.
In the Target field, remove any an unwanted website URL located after:
“…Application\chrome.exe” (for Google Chrome)
“Mozilla firefox\firefox.exe” (for Mozilla Firefox)
“…Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe” (for Internet Explorer)
And then click OK to save your changes.
5. Is there any potential risk to use Free Games Zone?
This extension is not malicious; however, it brings changes to your browser settings. To be more specific, it allows http://www.search.ask.com to become your new tab page. http://www.search.ask.com is not a vicious website, either. But it will surely collect your personal information for marketing purpose. The followings are excerpted from the SEARCH APPLICATION END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT
“When you use the Search Application to submit a search query, the Search Application forwards such query information to our servers. We use this information to process your web search requests (ourselves or via our search service partners) and to return a search results page to you.”
“When you access the Web Site through the Search Application, the Web Site sets a “cookie” that collects information about your use of the Search Application including the unique identification code of your Search Application, the queries you submit through the Search Application, your IP address, and whether you clicked on search results or advertising links. When you start your browser, the Search Application sends a configuration request to our servers which includes your computer’s IP address, browser type, and information about the specific release date and distribution source of your Search Application.”
“In order to provide you with certain Search Application functionalities, including the defense functionality, the Search Application may collect additional non-identifiable information such as the toolbar partner ID, your browser type and version, the installation date of the Search Application, the number of days since the Search Application has been installed, the time you spend in reviewing the defense feature, the time(s) the Search Application reverts the home page URL, the domain of the URL or site of the third party requesting to make changes to your homepage, new tab page and/or default search settings.”
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The following video offers a complete guide for Free Games Zone redirect virus removal. You’d better watch it in full-screen mode!