Written by Tomas Meskauskas on (updated)
What is catstart.com?
Cat Start is a rogue program that falsely claims to allow users to customize their homepage designs. On initial inspection, Cat Start may seem legitimate and useful, however, this program is categorized as a browser hijacker and a potentially unwanted program (PUP).
There are three main reasons for these negative associations: 1) stealth installation without users' consent; 2) modification of web browser options, and; 3) information tracking.
Cat Start targets Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. Following infiltration, Cat Start assigns the new tab URL, default search engine, and homepage options to catstart.com - a fake Internet search engine. Note that, although these changes may seem insignificant, users are unable to revert them.
Research shows that Cat Start continues to reassign browser options when attempts are made to change them. Therefore, returning browsers to their previous states becomes impossible and users are encouraged to visit catstart.com when they open a new browser tab and/or search via the URL bar. These redirects significantly diminish the browsing experience.
Another downside is information tracking. Cat Start and catstart.com records various user-system information relating to browsing activity.
Collected data typically includes personal details that developers sell to third parties (potentially, cyber criminals who misuse private data to generate revenue). Therefore, information tracking can lead to serious privacy issues or even identity theft. We strongly advise you to uninstall the Cat Start browser hijacker and never visit catstart.com again.
|Name||Cat Start browser hijacker|
|Threat Type||Browser Hijacker, Redirect, Search Hijacker, Toolbar, Unwanted New Tab|
|Symptoms||Manipulated Internet browser(s) settings (homepage, default Internet search engine, new tab settings). User's are forced to visit hijacker's website and search the Internet using their search engines.|
|Distribution methods||Deceptive pop-up ads, free software installers (bundling), fake flash player installers.|
|Damage||Internet browsing tracking (potential privacy issues), displaying of unwanted ads, redirects to shady websites.|
|Malware Removal (Windows)||
To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
Cat Start is identical to 3D Shape, Triangles Move, Start Trail Tab, and many other browser hijackers. As with Cat Start, listed apps also offer identical feature, however, none give real value for regular users. Browser hijackers are designed only to generate revenue for the developers.
Rather than enabling the functionality promised, PUPs cause unwanted redirects and gather various information. In addition, some fake search engines feed users with misleading search results and/or intrusive ads (coupons, banners, etc.) These results and ads typically lead to dubious websites.
In addition, some clicked ads run scripts that download and install malware. Therefore, using fake search engines can lead to serious privacy issues or even identity theft.
How did catstart.com install on my computer?
Research shows that, although Cat Start has an official download website, it typically infiltrates systems without permission. This is due to lack of knowledge and careless behavior by many users. These browser hijackers are often distributed using a deceptive marketing method called "bundling", and via intrusive ads.
"Bundling" is stealth installation of third party software together with regular apps. Developers hide "bundled" programs within "Custom/Advanced" settings or other sections of the download/installation processes.
Many users rush these processes, skip steps, and click intrusive advertisements without considering the possible consequences. This behavior often leads to inadvertent installation of potentially unwanted programs such as Cat Start.
How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications?
The key to computer safety is caution. Therefore, pay close attention when browsing the Internet and especially when downloading/installing software. Bear in mind that criminals invest time and resources into intrusive ad design, however, these ads are distinguishable, since most lead to pornography, gambling, adult dating, and other dubious websites.
If you encounter such redirects, immediately eliminate all suspicious applications and browser plug-ins. Carefully analyze each download/installation step and cancel all additionally-included programs. We also strongly recommend that you avoid using third party downloaders/installers, since they are monetized by promoting dubious programs (the "bundling" method).
Website promoting Cat Start browser hijacker:
IMPORTANT NOTE! Cat Start installs its Google Chrome extension as Administrator (read more here), thereby preventing removal. Therefore, before taking any further removal steps, perform these actions:
1) Open the Command Prompt by clicking the start menu button and typing "command prompt". Right click the "Command Prompt" result and select "Run as Administrator":
2) Execute the following commands:
- rd /S /Q "%WinDir%\System32\GroupPolicyUsers"
- rd /S /Q "%WinDir%\System32\GroupPolicy"
- gpupdate /force
After performing these actions, you can proceed with further removal steps for this browser hijacker.
Instant automatic malware removal:
Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
- What is catstart.com?
- STEP 1. Uninstall Cat Start application using Control Panel.
- STEP 2. Remove catstart.com redirect from Internet Explorer.
- STEP 3. Remove Cat Start browser hijacker from Google Chrome.
- STEP 4. Remove catstart.com homepage and default search engine from Mozilla Firefox.
- STEP 5. Remove catstart.com redirect from Safari.
- STEP 6. Remove rogue plug-ins from Microsoft Edge.
Cat Start browser hijacker removal:
Windows 11 users:
Right-click on the Start icon, select Apps and Features. In the opened window search for the application you want to uninstall, after locating it, click on the three vertical dots and select Uninstall.
Windows 10 users:
Right-click in the lower left corner of the screen, in the Quick Access Menu select Control Panel. In the opened window choose Programs and Features.
Windows 7 users:
Click Start (Windows Logo at the bottom left corner of your desktop), choose Control Panel. Locate Programs and click Uninstall a program.
macOS (OSX) users:
Click Finder, in the opened screen select Applications. Drag the app from the Applications folder to the Trash (located in your Dock), then right click the Trash icon and select Empty Trash.
In the uninstall programs window: look for any recently-installed suspicious applications (for example, "Cat Start"), select these entries and click "Uninstall" or "Remove".
After uninstalling the potentially unwanted programs that cause browser redirects to the catstart.com website, scan your computer for any remaining unwanted components. To scan your computer, use recommended malware removal software.
Cat Start browser hijacker removal from Internet browsers:
Video showing how to remove browser redirects:
Remove malicious add-ons from Internet Explorer:
Click the "gear" icon (at the top right corner of Internet Explorer), select "Manage Add-ons". Look for any recently-installed suspicious extensions, select these entries and click "Remove".
Change your homepage:
Click the "gear" icon (at the top right corner of Internet Explorer), select "Internet Options", in the opened window, remove hxxp://catstart.com and enter your preferred domain, which will open each time you launch Internet Explorer. You can also enter about: blank to open a blank page when you start Internet Explorer.
Change your default search engine:
Click the "gear" icon (at the top right corner of Internet Explorer), select "Manage Add-ons". In the opened window, select "Search Providers", set "Google", "Bing", or any other preferred search engine as your default and then remove "catstart".
If you continue to have problems with removal of the cat start browser hijacker, reset your Internet Explorer settings to default.
Windows XP users: Click Start, click Run, in the opened window type inetcpl.cpl In the opened window click the Advanced tab, then click Reset.
Windows Vista and Windows 7 users: Click the Windows logo, in the start search box type inetcpl.cpl and click enter. In the opened window click the Advanced tab, then click Reset.
Windows 8 users: Open Internet Explorer and click the gear icon. Select Internet Options.
In the opened window, select the Advanced tab.
Click the Reset button.
Confirm that you wish to reset Internet Explorer settings to default by clicking the Reset button.
Remove malicious extensions from Google Chrome:
Click the Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "More tools" and click "Extensions". Locate "Cat Start - New Tab Page" and other recently-installed suspicious browser add-ons, select these entries and click the trash can icon.
Change your homepage:
Click the Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "Settings". In the "On startup" section, look for a browser hijacker URL (hxxp://www.catstart.com) below the “Open a specific or set of pages” option. If present, click the three vertical dots icon and select “Remove”.
Change your default search engine:
To change your default search engine in Google Chrome: Click the Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "Settings", in the "Search engine" section, click "Manage search engines...", in the opened list, look for "catstart.com", and when located, click the three vertical dots near this URL and select "Remove from list".
If you continue to have problems with removal of the cat start browser hijacker, reset your Google Chrome browser settings. Click the Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome) and select Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen. Click the Advanced… link.
After scrolling to the bottom of the screen, click the Reset (Restore settings to their original defaults) button.
In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Google Chrome settings to default by clicking the Reset button.
Remove malicious plug-ins from Mozilla Firefox:
Click the Firefox menu (at the top right corner of the main window), select "Add-ons". Click "Extensions" and remove "Cat Start", as well as all other recently-installed browser plug-ins.
Change your homepage:
To reset your homepage, click the Firefox menu (at the top right corner of the main window), then select "Options", in the opened window, remove hxxp://catstart.com and enter your preferred domain, which will open each time you start Mozilla Firefox.
Change your default search engine:
In the URL address bar, type about:config and press Enter.
Click "I'll be careful, I promise!".
In the search filter at the top, type: "catstart.com"
Right-click on the found preferences and select "Reset" to restore default values.
Computer users who have problems with cat start browser hijacker removal can reset their Mozilla Firefox settings.
Open Mozilla Firefox, at the top right corner of the main window, click the Firefox menu, in the opened menu, click Help.
Select Troubleshooting Information.
In the opened window, click the Refresh Firefox button.
In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Mozilla Firefox settings to default by clicking the Refresh Firefox button.
Remove malicious extensions from Safari:
Make sure your Safari browser is active and click Safari menu, then select Preferences...
In the preferences window select the Extensions tab. Look for any recently installed suspicious extensions and uninstall them.
In the preferences window select General tab and make sure that your homepage is set to a preferred URL, if its altered by a browser hijacker - change it.
In the preferences window select Search tab and make sure that your preferred Internet search engine is selected.
Make sure your Safari browser is active and click on Safari menu. From the drop down menu select Clear History and Website Data...
In the opened window select all history and click the Clear History button.
Remove malicious extensions from Microsoft Edge:
Click the Edge menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge), select "Extensions". Locate any recently-installed suspicious browser add-ons, and remove them.
Change your homepage and new tab settings:
Click the Edge menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge), select "Settings". In the "On startup" section look for the name of the browser hijacker and click "Disable".
Change your default Internet search engine:
To change your default search engine in Microsoft Edge: Click the Edge menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge), select "Privacy and services", scroll to bottom of the page and select "Address bar". In the "Search engines used in address bar" section look for the name of the unwanted Internet search engine, when located click the "Disable" button near it. Alternatively you can click on "Manage search engines", in the opened menu look for unwanted Internet search engine. Click on the puzzle icon near it and select "Disable".
If you continue to have problems with removal of the cat start browser hijacker, reset your Microsoft Edge browser settings. Click the Edge menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge) and select Settings.
In the opened settings menu select Reset settings.
Select Restore settings to their default values. In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Microsoft Edge settings to default by clicking the Reset button.
- If this did not help, follow these alternative instructions explaining how to reset the Microsoft Edge browser.
A browser hijacker is a type of adware infection that modifies Internet browser settings by assigning the homepage and default Internet search engine settings to some other (unwanted) website URL. Commonly, this type of adware infiltrates operating systems through free software downloads. If your download is managed by a download client, ensure that you decline offers to install advertised toolbars or applications that seek to change your homepage and default Internet search engine settings.
Post a comment:
If you have additional information on cat start browser hijacker or it's removal please share your knowledge in the comments section below.
▼ Show Discussion