When your browser’s home page changes, there are two possibilities at play: the home page setting in your browser has been changed, or the content at the home page you’ve selected has changed.
I’ll look at both, and what you can and can’t do about each.
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What’s a home page?
First, a definition: a home page is the webpage your web browser opens up first, and the page it returns to when you click on the “Home” button in the browser’s toolbar.
Typically, that home page is a URL of a page on a website out on the internet somewhere. For example, many people have Internet Explorer set to display http://www.msn.com/1 as their home page. When they fire up Internet Explorer, the page at that URL is automatically displayed.
People choose different home pages. Some use a bookmarks service as their home page; others, a sports team or local news website. Using a search engine as a home page is also a common choice.
Another possibility is to use “about:blank” as a home page. This quickly displays a blank page on start up.
Setting the home page
You set the home page in your browser by telling it what URL — like http://www.msn.com or something else — you want it to use.
Naturally, each browser is different.
First, navigate to the page you want to use as your home page. For example, if you want to use Ask Leo! as your home page, navigate to https://askleo.com.
While on that page, click on the gear icon on the top right of the IE toobar, and then Internet Options in the resulting menu. That dialog should open to the General tab.
Click the Use current button followed by the OK button, and your home page will be changed to the page you’re currently viewing — in this case, https://askleo.com.
The procedure for Firefox is similar.
First, navigate to the page you want as your new home page. Then click on the hamburger menu on the far right of the Firefox toolbar, and click on the Options item in the resulting menu. The resulting page should include the home page setting.
Click on Use Current Page, and then OK, and the home page will be changed to the page you’re currently on.
Google Chrome’s home page setting is somewhat more hidden.
As before, navigate to the page you want as your browser’s home page. 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 Use current pages to set the home page.
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 to that same page, 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 that you want the home button to take you to.
Close the Settings tab, and you’re done.
One page or multiple?
Each of the browsers support having multiple home pages 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 home page only.
The “Use current” button in each browser typically saves all the tabs you have open as your homepage setting, so make sure you have only the single page open in a single tab if that’s all you want.
How home pages change
There are typically four scenarios in which your home page can appear to change.
You said yes
This is perhaps the most common scenario.
When installing software, never accept the default settings. Always choose the “custom” or “advanced” set of installation options. The reason is simple: sometimes, one of those default options is to change your browser’s home page.
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 that because you’re installing what they have to offer, they have the right to change your home page as they see fit.
In my opinion, this is evil, but it happens. Watch for it as you install software, and prepare to revert to your preferred home page using the instructions above if it does.
Malware — specifically spyware — is notorious for hijacking home pages. Typically, it’s not to something as benign as an MSN preview page, but often to more questionable sites.
Make sure you’re running a good anti-spyware solution to protect yourself from this scenario.
The setting didn’t change, the content did
This is actually the scenario with which we started this discussion.
No settings in your browser were changed. The home page 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 home page, and one day Microsoft changes how it works and what’s displayed on that page.2
Unless an option is made available by the owner of that web page, 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 home page, and use the instructions above to set your browser to use it instead.