Everything You Need to Know About Chrome Cleanup Tool

Remove malware, viruses, unexpected ads and other nasty software in Windows

google chrome cleanup tool
Getty Images (VICTOR HABBICK VISIONS #525442043)

The number of Windows PCs infected with some type of malware, adware or other unwanted and potentially perilous software is staggering, and that amount is likely to increase as nefarious developers continue to find new ways to bypass scanners and trick users into installing their code. A large subset of these undesirable programs can have a direct impact on your web browser's configuration and behavior.

Google offers a free application that locates and eviscerates these sometimes hard-to-remove programs from your Windows operating system. The Chrome Cleanup Tool targets a specific group of programs, which includes about three dozen of the most widespread offenders.

What is the Chrome Cleanup Tool?

The Chrome Cleanup Tool is a program that seeks out and attempts to remove all remnants of these so-called bad programs from your hard drive. Each culprit found on the list that the tool targets, shown at the bottom of the page, has at least one thing in common: to modify your browser settings without asking you for permission first.

The symptoms when one or more of these programs are running can vary and include frequent browser crashes, slower than normal page loads, unexpected advertisements (presented as either popups or injected directly into websites), unknown home pages and search engines as well as browser toolbars and other add-ons that you do not remember installing.

While many can make for a frustrating user experience, such as those that force a flurry of advertisements onto your screen at random times, others can be downright dangerous as they might eventually gain access to your personal data. There are some that hijack your home page and search provider settings without your permission, forcing your browser to utilize portals and search engines that you've probably never heard of, and for good reason - as they tend to be monetized by shady companies and can also lead to even more adware and malware.

Select variations of these unwanted programs even collect information about your browsing habits and share it with unscrupulous companies, again without your knowledge or consent.

In spite of its program-specific name, the Chrome Cleanup Tool can also get rid of malicious software that affects other popular browsers such as Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.

Since the Chrome Cleanup Tool is available only for Windows operating systems, users running on Linux, Mac or Android devices can try Malwarebytes or a similar malware removal tool instead.

How to Use the Chrome Cleanup Tool

To get started, first visit the official download page for the Chrome Cleanup Tool at google.com/chrome/cleanup-tool/. The application supports Windows 7 and above, and should be downloaded from this specific web page only.

In fact, there is actually malware that causes the following message, or one with comparable verbiage, to appear within your Chrome browser: Chrome found an unwanted program installed on your computer. You may be able to remove it by.... This message is accompanied by a button or link labeled Get the Chrome Cleanup Tool or something very similar.

While the Chrome browser may occasionally prompt you to install the real version of the Cleanup Tool if it detects that something is awry, this particular notification (above) is not valid and following it will cause additional dangerous malware to be installed on your PC.

Do not click this button or link under any circumstances.

Once you've reached the correct page, follow these steps.

  1. Click on the Download now button.
  2. Chrome's Terms of Service will be displayed. If you agree to these terms, select the button labeled Accept and Download.
  3. The file chrome_cleanup_tool.exe should now be downloaded to your default folder. Click on the filename, shown towards the bottom of your main browser window.
  4. If prompted on whether or not you'd like to open this file, click on the Run or Yes button, which differs based on your operating system version.
  5. A window should quickly appear labeled Chrome Cleanup Tool, and the search for unwanted software will begin immediately.
  1. If your system is clean from any of the specific programs that the tool targets, you'll receive the following message: No programs found. Click on the Continue button.
  2. If the tool detects something, a list of the rogue software will be displayed along with a button labeled Remove suspicious programs. Click on this button to rid your PC of these digital troublemakers.
  3. You'll now be taken to a page prompting you to reset Chrome's settings, which provides details regarding which items will be reverted to their default state. If you wish to proceed, click on the Reset button. This is highly recommended if you are experiencing problems such as those detailed in this article, even if the tool did not discover any suspicious programs. If you do not want to reset Chrome, choose Cancel.

If you've run the Chrome Cleanup Tool and are still encountering problems like those described above, you may want to consider trying an alternative malware or virus removal program.

Also, if the tool finds an unwanted program but is unable to remove it, you can file a report with Google so that their development team can investigate the issue. While this won't resolve your immediate problem, it will help ensure that future versions of the tool can be improved upon for other people that may find themselves in a similar predicament. When it comes to free software that is intended to better our lives, the best approach is usually to pay it forward whenever you can.

How is this Different from Anti-Virus Software?

While some anti-virus applications and malware removal software could potentially get rid of the same programs targeted by the Chrome Cleanup Tool, there is no harm in running the tool if you are experiencing symptoms with your browser such as those mentioned above—even if you already have other protection installed and running on your PC.

It is recommended, however, that you temporarily disable any of the aforementioned detection and deletion software before running the Chrome Cleanup Tool to avoid any potential conflicts when it comes to both scanning and removal.

Since the Chrome Cleanup Tool is designed to delete a limited set of specialty adware and malware, it can sometimes to a better job of cleaning up your browser and returning your computer to a desired working condition than an alternative application which has to target a much larger array of unwanted software.  

Ongoing Preventative Measures

There is not always a cut-and-dried explanation regarding how this virtual garbage landed on your hard drive in the first place, since there are several delivery methods. One of the most common involves bundled software, where you knowingly choose to install one application but end up getting more than you bargained for when an additional program or programs are included as well.

In many instances, the user actually agrees to install these extras without even realizing it by leaving a box checked or a button selected. This is often the case with browser toolbars and other add-ons and extensions that may have seemingly appeared out of nowhere, but were in fact specifically listed as an optional item during the setup process.

It is for these reasons why it's not only important to download software from a trusted source, but also to read each screen carefully during its installation instead of just blindly clicking through in a rush to get to the end.

Targeted Programs

Below is a list of adware, malware and other potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) targeted by the Chrome Cleanup Tool.

  • BrowseFox
  • PullUpdate
  • Vitruvian
  • V-Bates
  • SearchProtect
  • SupTab
  • MySearchDial
  • SaveSense
  • Price Meter
  • Mail.ru Sputnik/Guard
  • Conduit Toolbars, Community Alerts & ValueApps
  • Wajam
  • Multiplug
  • Shopper Pro
  • Stormwatch
  • SmartBar
  • Dealply
  • SmartWeb
  • MySearch123
  • AdPea
  • Etranslator
  • CouponMarvel
  • PriceFountain
  • Techsnab
  • Colisi
  • BrApp
  • LuckyTab
  • OneCall
  • Crossrider
  • Eorezo
  • Consumer Input
  • Content Defender
  • Movie Dea