Understanding Google's "Unusual Traffic" Error

What to do when you see this Google error

You're at your computer working, busily conducting Google searches, and you see the following error:

Unusual traffic from your computer network


Alternatively, you might see this message:

Our systems have detected unusual traffic from your computer network.


What's going on? These errors surface when Google detects that searches are being sent from your network automatically. It suspects these searches are automated and might be the work of a malicious bot, computer program, automated service, or search scraper.

Don't be alarmed. Getting this error doesn't mean Google is spying on you and monitoring your searches or network activity. It doesn't necessarily mean you have a virus, especially if you're running antivirus software.

There is no long-term impact on your system or network from these "unusual traffic" errors and there's often a quick and simple fix.

Why the "Unusual Traffic" Error Occurs

There are a few scenarios that can trigger this error message from Google.

Searching too Quickly

It's possible you were searching too many things too quickly, and Google flagged those searches as automated.

You Were Connected to a VPN

Many users receive this error because they are using a VPN connection. This is a common occurrence.

Network Connection

If your network is using a shared public IP address, such as a public proxy server, Google may have triggered the message based on traffic from other people's devices. Additionally, this error could be triggered if multiple people on your network were searching at once.

Automated Search Tool

If you were intentionally running an automated search tool, Google may flag this as suspect.

Browser

If you've added third-party extensions onto your browser, this could also trigger Google's "unusual traffic" error.

Malicious Content

While unlikely, it's possible someone is using your network for nefarious purposes, or a virus has overtaken your system. Similarly, some unknown background process may be running and sending unwanted data.

Illustration of road leading to a computer a hand holding a key, depicting Google's unusual traffic error
 Hong Li / Getty Images

What to Do to Stop the Error

Getting past this error is likely a simple process, and the solution depends on what was causing the error in the first place.

Perform the CAPTCHA

If you know you were conducting high-frequency Google searches, this error message is normal. Google will present a CAPTCHA code on the screen for you to fill out. Reassure Google that you're a real person and that you're not abusing its network, and go about your searching business.

Hold off on making more manual Google searches for a few minutes to widen the gap for another "unusual traffic" error to occur.

Disconnect the VPN

If you were using a VPN connection when you received the error, try disconnecting the VPN to see if that solves the problem. VPNs often trigger these errors, so you may need to disable your VPN to continue working.

Reset Browser

If third-party extensions or browser issues caused the error, reset your browser to get back to the default configuration. Restart your computer when this is done. You may also need to turn off some browser extensions, such as a search scraper.

Scan for and Clean Up Malware

If you suspect that there's a virus infection, do not hesitate to run a malware scan to get rid of it. Run the Chrome Cleanup Tool to ensure you don't have any of the malicious programs Google watches out for.

If none of these solutions work, Google offers more help and explanation about its "unusual traffic" error.