After 21 years Google Toolbar is finally gone, so we installed it one last time

Success! You just installed the last Google Toolbar. | Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge

I was lost and in search of myself after hearing the devastating news on Ars Technica: Google Toolbar had been put down by the search giant after nearly 21 years — longer than most projects the company lets live. (A recent newsletter effort didn’t make it past three months).

There was no ceremony, no announcement, no moment of silence, nor any closure — just a “no longer available.” That’s what Google has now on its Install Google Toolbar help page; it tells you how to uninstall the Google Toolbar and install Chrome instead.

How to “install” Google Toolbar — the result may surprise you.

It feels unreal for Google to silently forsake a tool that was, in 2008, responsible for 12 percent of all Google searches — and then convince a new internet generation that everyone should just download Chrome if they love Googling so much. Chrome is great (fine?), but it isn’t what it used to be.

I have a confession: I was not a Google Toolbar user, but we had a relationship. Google Toolbar existed to help me blame it for my family’s and friends’ computer problems. If they ask me about tuning their computer or complained about websites loading slowly: I told them it’s the Google Toolbar, and I was happy to uninstall it for them.

It always seemed to work, too: removing not only Google Toolbar but also Yahoo! Toolbar, Ask Jeeves Toolbar, or any toolbar would give back so much screen real estate (we are talking about the 1024 x 768 screen resolution days of the 2000s) that there was at least the perception of a tune-up. Sure, I’d still end up going the extra mile and actually fix their real issues, but each removal of the omnipresent Google Toolbar felt almost like material change.

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
Internet Explorer 8 (released in 2009) on Windows XP. You could do a Google search in the Google Toolbar, the IE8 search field, or the Google website — the choice is yours.

The popularity of Google Toolbar — and other browser toolbars — in the 2000s was what pushed web browsers to adopt web searches as a built-in feature. Internet Explorer 7 (2006) was one of the first browsers to have a dedicated search field next to the address bar, making web searches quick — though the default search engine was Microsoft Live Search, to the dismay of many. That’s why Google Toolbar would continue to thrive and build a dependence of Google services on users for years to come.

With Chrome dominating web browser usage since 2012, the redundant web search fields have finally come to an end. Now let’s get together and install Google Toolbar one last time to celebrate its life and let it rest in peace:

Find a PC that has Internet Explorer, Preferably IE8 or newer. It could be your first build with a Pentium 4 and a Radeon All-In-Wonder that your family threatens to dump. The important thing is it should be a computer no one is using, cares about, or otherwise wouldn’t mind toolbars being added to Internet Explorer. I found a PC running Windows XP x64 Edition, so that should work!

Image: Umar Shakir / The Verge
The computer I found had a CPU fan error since it was filled with thick dust, but I flicked the blades until it started spinning. It has a Pentium 4 and an Nvidia Quadro FX 1700.

Find and install Google Toolbar. Some freeware sites still have it, or if you’re lucky, there might be about three toolbar installers deep in the downloads folder of any old PC. Open the installer and run it. After install, it will close all browsers and reopen Internet Explorer. Congratulations, Google Toolbar is here!

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
Be sure your finding is actually from Google. Though that is no longer verifiable since Google doesn’t host the file anymore.

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
This one is specifically for Internet Explorer, but it will close Firefox when you click Restart Now.

Consider your search options. You can Google on your new Google Toolbar, Google on, or Google in the Web Search field — though you would have to drop the default Live Search or Bing (in my case it was, which was probably set inadvertently or maliciously on this PC). In the Search Provider Default window that pops up, select Google (after all, this is a Google Toolbar tribute).

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
The war between browser and search engine rages on.

Try signing in with your Google account for the full experience. Click on the Sign In button on the right side of the bar. You’ll get error messages and a wonky Google sign-in screen pop-up. If you enter your credentials, it will give you another error message, so maybe don’t bother. Let’s just pretend it works, quietly close the error messages, close the sign-in window, and continue.

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
The services don’t seem to work anymore, but it’s also because Google stopped supporting old versions of Internet Explorer.

Enable geolocation. Go to Toolbar options > Tools under the wrench menu. Check “My Location.” We may as well contribute to a decade or two of targeted ad tracking while we’re at it, right?

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
The Toolbar options have tools that let you block pop-ups (before browsers could do it), sync bookmarks between computers using Google Toolbar, and help with spell checking!

Review the Google Toolbar Privacy policy. Click on the Privacy side tab. You’ll find the 2014 edition of Google’s Privacy policy (though it does link to the latest policy). You could even opt in to “enhanced features,” although I admittedly didn’t look into what it does (but you can).

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
There was also a button to opt out of all the features that send information.

A moment of silence. Click on the About Toolbar tab. Gasp at the fact that you’ve just updated to the final version of Google Toolbar.

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
We installed version 7.5.5111, but the software still downloaded the latest version with 7.5.7210.

Share your favorite sites to social media. Under the More button on the toolbar, you can translate the page, share to social media, and more. MySpace and Google Plus are the recommended places to share.

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
You can add more buttons to this list under the Toolbar Options.

Uninstall the toolbar (Optional). It’s so easy with just two clicks — next to the wrench icon in a drop-down menu click “Uninstall.” Or, instead, continue and you could get your Google Toolbar a companion.

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
This is the step I took helping people over the years. I’ve got a lot of thank you’s uninstalling this.

Get Yahoo! toolbar. Find it in the same place(s) where you found Google Toolbar. It’s the same steps, but scarier.

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
I don’t think I’ve ever opened this installer myself, and I shudder thinking about everyone who has. Let’s carry on.

Be bold. Make Yahoo! your default search engine, and commit to it.

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
Notice the check box to share your data. Let’s skip that and save it for Google.

Experience search overload. Internet Explorer will ask you again about what default provider to use. Feel forever conflicted by choosing between the two… there’s not much more you can do.

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
This takes me back to the computer conditions of some friends and professors I’ve helped.

Time to put Google Toolbar to rest. Turn off the PC. If it’s a computer you don’t care about, skip the shutdown. Just hold the power button so the last thing the computer did was operate Google Toolbar. If you’ve made it this far, I’m proud of you. You’re a strong and beautiful human. Now we can finally lay Google Toolbar to rest.

Image: Umar Shakir / The Verge
This PC I found has a power switch on the power supply. A quick flip for me.

Bonus: I stumbled upon another relic, Google Desktop! Maybe you will find this on an old PC you procure. The program came out in 2007 (full release) and was basically a Sherlock — but for any PC. Google would index all your files so you could find anything, and interfaced through a web browser. Comes with a sidebar of widgets like weather and RSS feeds. I tried adding The Verge RSS feeds, but it wouldn’t load. Google Desktop was discontinued in 2011.

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
Google would love to index your Thunderbird emails.

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
Imagine doing an “I’m Feeling Lucky” search for a file on your computer.

Screenshot by Umar Shakir / The Verge
I was really hoping it could load more than just Blogspot RSS feeds. It probably could, but I didn’t try any harder.

And that’s all. If you really feel like you need another toolbar fix, the Yahoo! Toolbar somehow still exists — but now as an extension for Firefox.

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