There are two possibilities for this happening: the homepage setting in your browser has been changed, or the content at the homepage you’ve selected has changed.
I’ll look at both, and what you can and can’t do about each.
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In most browsers, you can set the home (or startup) page by going to Options or Settings, looking for the homepage setting, and configuring the URL of the page(s) you want to open on browser startup (or Home button press). Homepage settings can also change as a side effect of some software installs or malware. Homepages can appear to change if the content of the page is changed by the website owner. You can be more productive and even avoid ads by taking control and making your own choice.
What’s a homepage?
A “homepage” or “startup page” is the page your web browser opens when you first run the software, and the page it returns to when you click on the “Home” button in the browser’s toolbar.
The default behavior is often set to display a new tab page on startup. This built-in page varies from browser to browser, but is often some combination of search box, shortcuts to common websites, and possibly news and other information.
On the other hand, some browsers are set to open the URL of a webpage out on the internet. For example, many people have their Microsoft browsers set to display https://msn.com1 as their homepage. When they fire up Edge, the page at that URL is displayed.
Different people choose different homepages. Some use a bookmark service as their homepage; others, a sports team or local news website; still others, a search engine. Another possibility is to use “about:blank” as a homepage. This quickly displays a blank page on startup.
Setting the homepage
You can set the homepage in your browser by telling it what URL — like https://msn.com or something else — you want to use.
Naturally, finding the setting in each browser is different.
Click on the ellipsis (…) in the upper right corner of the Edge window, then click on Settings in the resulting menu. In the left-hand column of the resulting page, click on On startup.
Click on Open a specific page or pages, and then Add a new page. You’ll be presented with a small box into which you can enter the URL2 of the page you want to be your browser’s homepage. Click OK, and it’s set. In the example above, I’ve set https://askleo.com as my browser’s homepage.
You may also want to show the home button on your browser’s toolbar, and you can have it go to the same page, or a different one if you like.
Still in the settings page, click on Appearance in the left-hand column, and then under “Customize toolbar”, click on Show home button, if it’s not enabled, and then click the circle in front of the box below “New tab page”. This will allow you to enter the URL that you want the Home button to bring up. Click Save.
In the image above, I’ve enabled the home button and set it to bring up https://askleo.com.
Click on the hamburger menu on the far right of the Firefox toolbar, and click on the Options item in the resulting menu. Click on Home in the left-hand pane. Click on the dropdown menu next to “Homepage and new windows”, and click on Custom URLs… . This will expand to include a box into which you can enter the URL of the page you want to be your browser’s homepage.
I’ve entered https://askleo.com to be used as my browser’s homepage.
Close the options tab, and the setting is saved.
Click on the vertical ellipsis (⋮) on the far right of the Chrome toolbar and click on Settings. In the resulting page, scroll down until you find the “On startup” section near the bottom.
Click on Open a specific page or set of pages, and then Add a new page. You’ll be presented with a small box into which you can enter the URL of the page you want to be your browser’s homepage. Click OK, and it’s set. In the example above, I’ve set https://askleo.com as my browser’s homepage.
In Chrome, the Home button is separate from the page the browser opens on startup. If you want the Home button to be visible and take you somewhere specific, scroll back up until the “Show home button” option becomes visible.
Make sure that “Show home button” is enabled, and then type or paste the URL you want the home button to take you to.
Close the Settings tab, and you’re done.
One page or multiple?
Each of these browsers support having multiple homepages that all open on startup. For example, you could have Google.com and askleo.com and msn.com all open in separate tabs each time you open your browser or hit the Home button. Personally, I find this cumbersome, and set a single homepage only.
Rather than entering a URL, you can use the “Use current” button in browsers that have it. This typically saves all the tabs you have open as your homepage setting, so before making this setting change, make sure only the pages you want to open on startup are displayed.
How homepages change
There are typically four scenarios in which your homepage can change or appear to change.
You said yes
This is perhaps the most common scenario: you unintentionally approved the change when installing a new program.
When installing software, never accept the default settings. Always choose the “custom” or “advanced” set of installation options. The reason is simple: sometimes, much like a PUP, one of those default options is to change your browser’s homepage.
Make sure you pay attention to all the options offered when you install or update software, and take care to opt out of any changes you’re not interested in receiving.
You weren’t asked
Some installation programs don’t ask. They simply assume they have the right to change your homepage as they see fit because you’re installing their program.
In my opinion, this is evil, but it happens. Watch for it as you install software, and prepare to revert to your preferred homepage using the instructions above if it does.
Malware — specifically spyware — is notorious for hijacking homepages. Typically, it’s not to something benign, but to more questionable sites.
Make sure you’re running a good security solution to protect yourself from this scenario.
The setting didn’t change, the content did
This is the scenario with which we started this discussion.
No settings in your browser were changed. The homepage setting is unaffected; it’s still exactly as you set it or left it. However, the content of the page at that URL has changed. For example, you’re happy with the MSN.com homepage, and one day Microsoft changes how it works and what it looks like.3
Unless an option is made available by the owner of that webpage, there’s nothing you can do to get the previous page back. It’s their page, and they can change it at will.
You have two options: live with it, or find a new homepage and use the instructions above to set it as your default.
How setting your own helps
I know many people leave the homepage setting to their browser default.
To me, that’s wasted productivity. Rarely is that page what I want. It’s often full of random things I don’t really care about, including ads.
That means there’s at least another click or two to get to something useful.
Take control. Set your homepage to something that’s immediately useful to you. Perhaps that’s a news page, a social media site, your choice of search engine, or your own page of curated links.
Whatever you chose, it’ll likely be much more useful than whatever the default was.
Footnotes & References
1: It may also include additional information after a “?” in the URL that lets the webpage know why or how it was visited.
2: You may find it easiest to navigate to the page you want as your homepage in a different tab, click in the address bar, type CTRL+A followed by CTRL+C to select the contents and copy it to the clipboard, and then return to these settings to paste in the URL by typing CTRL+V.
3: This is the single most common example I run into. Microsoft has made major revisions to the MSN.com homepage at least twice in the last ten years. People get upset each time.