How to remove a browser hijacker from your Mac

Browser hijackers have become one of the most common types of malware on the Mac. Whether you use Safari, Chrome, Firefox, or another browser entirely, you're at risk of browser hijacking. Here, we'll tell you how you can tell if your browser has been hijacked and how to remove the culprit.

What is browser hijacker?

It's a type of malware that takes control of your web browser once it has been downloaded and installed. Typically, it will change your homepage to one hacker wants you to visit and change your default search engine to one that allows the hacker to monitor your searches or clicks. 

The gathered information will then be used to display adverts. Some browser hijacking also involves installing toolbars that claim to find discounts or offer coupons for online shopping sites. In reality, this is adware designed to get you to click on a link that will take you to a suspicious website to increase its advertising revenue.

Hijackers may also download files to your Mac that monitor your activity or steal data. For example, your Mac may get infected with a software keylogger that can record your banking and email authentication information. 

Well-known cases

Some hijackers have become so widespread and easily recognizable that even non-tech-savvy users might have heard of them. They often bear names that make them sound like search or shopping extensions. Here are some examples:

  1. Pitch of Case
  2. Ask Toolbar
  3. Search Quick or CoolWebSearch
  4. Time Search Now
  5. Booking app
  6. GoSave
  7. Coupon Server
  8. RocketTab

How browser hijacking works and why it is dangerous

All the browser hijackers above sneak into your Mac bundled with legitimate applications, browser toolbars, add-ons, or disguise themselves as updates, like Flash Player. Unaware users allow these additional downloads, sometimes when they simply agree to the site's terms and conditions. The next thing you know, these unwanted apps change your default search engine according to the hackers' preferences.

Now, taking control over your system, hijackers can direct you to whatever site they wish. Many of those pages would probably contain computer malware, viruses, and other dangerous cyber threats that can severely affect your device. Not to mention that you'll also experience a significant drop in your Mac's performance.


macOS' Gatekeeper feature safeguards your Mac and checks the apps you're about to download. It approves apps already on the App Store or those created by authorized developers. 

Gatekeeper doesn't advise installing anything else, asking you to confirm the download. Apple must also notarize code-signed apps – that means they are checked for malware, among other things, to get past Gatekeeper. CleanMyMac X is one of quite a few notarized and Apple-approved apps.

How can I tell if my browser has been hijacked?

Spam, pop-ups, and changed settings can be possible symptoms of browser hijacking. Answer the question below to detect if your device has been compromised:

  1. Has your browser's homepage changed without your knowledge?
  2. Has your default search engine changed?
  3. Have you started experiencing an increase in pop-up advertisement alerts?
  4. Is your browser running more slowly than it used to or behaving erratically?
  5. Does your search engine redirect you to random websites? 
  6. Have you noticed multiple toolbars that you didn't install on a web browser? 

If the answer to those questions is 'yes,' it's likely that your browser has been hijacked.

How can I avoid being hijacked?

Hijackers find their way onto your Mac using many different techniques. However, they are downloaded only after the user-initiated action, like clicking a link in a phishing email or proceeding to a questionable website. 

Let's review some rules you should follow before talking about removing a browser hijacker from your Mac.

  1. Don't click on any email link unless you know where it leads.
  2. Don't respond to pop-up adverts claiming a component, like Flash Player, is outdated or that your system needs to be updated.
  3. Avoid downloading apps from free software download sites that use their proprietary download manager.
  4. Keep your OS and all your apps up to date – CleanMyMac X has an updater that scans apps installed on your Mac, checks for updates, and automatically installs new versions.

How to remove browser hijackers

There are two ways to remove browser hijacker – the manual, which is a bit tiresome in my humble opinion, and the speedy automatic method. Let's do a quick 2-step prep before clearing our Macs from unwanted infection.  

Step 1. Remove programs, apps, and add-ons from Mac

  1. Go to Finder, then click Applications.
  2. Click the icon of the application or program you wish to uninstall and drag it into the Trash. 
  3. Don't forget to empty your Trash after that.

Step 2. Restart your Mac in safe mode

Shut down your Mac. Wait around 10 to 15 seconds and restart your Mac. When restarting, press and hold the Shift key, and you should see the log-in screen pop-up. Voila, You're in a safe mode! 

How to remove browser hijacker in Safari manually: 

  1. In Safari, click on the Safari menu and choose Preferences.
  2. Select the Extensions tab and look for any extensions you don't recognize.
  3. If you find one, click on it and press Uninstall.
  4. Now, choose the General tab and set your homepage to your preferred start page.
  5. Finally, select the Search tab and choose the search engine you want to use.

How to get rid of a browser hijacker in Chrome: 

  1. Launch Chrome and type the following in the address bar:
  2. Look for any extensions you don't recognize.
  3. If you see one, press Remove next to it.
  4. Now, paste this into the address bar: chrome://settings
  5. Scroll down to "On startup" and decide what page you want to see at your browser's start. 
  6. In the "Search engine" section, choose a default search engine.


  1. Launch Firefox and enter this command in the address bar: 
  2. Choose "Extensions."
  3. Look for any extensions that seem suspicious.
  4. If you find one, click the ellipsis (3-dot) next to an extension and click Remove.
  5. Then, go to about:preferences
  6. In the Home section, set your homepage.
  7. In Search, set your default search engine.

Browser hijacker removal: the no-brainer way

The easiest method we recommend to remove browser hijackers is CleanMyMac X. This app has a dedicated tool for deleting Extensions. Here's how to use it:

  1. Download, install and launch CleanMyMac X.
  2. Choose Extensions in the sidebar.
  3. Click on a browser, and check the box next to the extensions you want to delete.
  4. Press Remove.

What's more, CleanMyMac X has another tool that allows you to clear browser caches. We suggest you also run that one to check for potential malware in your browser.

  1. In CleanMyMac X, choose the Privacy module.
  2. Press Scan.
  3. When the scan is complete, check the box next to your browser in the main window.
  4. Press Remove. 

The browser hijacker is a common type of malware that typically comes bundled with apps, browser toolbars, add-ons, or updates downloaded from free unauthorized software websites. Once installed, they change your browser's homepage and default search engine to mislead you to pages that display ads. It's undeniably risky since your most private data become accessible and, as a result, vulnerable in the hands of a hacker. Fortunately, with the help of CleanMyMac X, these threats are reasonably easy to remove. Stay safe!

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