Internet Explorer 6 Spyware -- Alexa Registry Key, Part 2

Dennis Faas's picture

I had a few people email me with regards to the Alexa Registry Key (Spyware) that Chris B. submitted yesterday.

OK, So is the Alexa registry key Spyware or not?

There is much debate. Let me try to outline some of the issues.

1. It has been said that the "Spyware" part of the tool will only activate if you choose to use the Alexa tool provided in Internet Explorer. Long story short: you can't activate the Spyware component used in Alexa if you don't use the Alexa tool. You have the ability to change this (see below).

2. Spyware software is considered "Spyware" because reports of your online (Internet) activity are sent to a central computer without you knowing about it. The question is: did you know that Alexa was actively requesting information about you when you used the Alexa component which has been incorporated in Internet Explorer?

Most users will say, "No, I didn't know that was happening." Therefore, some users feel that this would qualify the Alexa feature as being Spyware. The fact is that this feature has been well-documented, whether you know about it or not.

3. There is confusion about the registry key when comparing it to the Alexa Toolbar. These are, infact, two different items. This registry key is often simply called Alexa, but that is wrong for two reasons:

  • Simply calling the registry key "Alexa" would mix it up with the Alexa Toolbar, and
  • This registry key was not created by Alexa. It is a Microsoft Internet Explorer key that points to a Microsoft DLL and a local Microsoft HTML file. The later redirects to a online MS page, and only that page redirects to the Alexa search engine.
  • Q: Is it safe to remove this key from the registry?

    A: Yes, but there is a better way around that: just change your Internet Explorer setting to use Google as the Related Links feature, instead of MSN search which points to Alexa. If you use this method, Google will NOT point to Alexa (as MSN search does). Instructions are directly below.

    RE: How to remove MSN Search + Alexa "related links" tool from Internet Explorer and replace it with Google

    This suggestion was sent in by Carl S., who pointed me to Here is the info (slightly modified):

    As stated above a few paragraphs above, the existing Alexa / Show Related Links is infact a Windows Registry key, which creates a menu item in Internet Explorer. This menu item points to a local web page file on your system, which points to an MSN search page, which uses the Alexa engine. It looks something like this:

    Windows Registry Key -> a HTML file on your computer -> MSN search -> Alexa

    If you change the Related Links feature to use Google, you are removing the "link" to point to Alexa:

    Windows Registry Key -> a HTML file on your computer -> Google

    If you have used the Related Links feature at least once, the HTML file will be created on your hard drive and will point to Assuming that this file is on your computer:

    1. Open C:\Windows\Web\Related.htm in Notepad.
    2. Change: RelatedServiceURL="ttp://"; To: RelatedServiceURL="";
    3. Save the file.
    4. If you attempt to modify this file and you can't save it, it is most likely because the file is "write protected". You can reset the "read-only" attribute to writable by double-clicking on My Computer, then go to C:\Windows\Web, right click on Related.htm and select Properties. Uncheck the "Read Only" flag, and Apply.

    One last comment

    Your settings for the "Related Links" feature will be lost if you upgrade Internet Explorer at any time (example: upgrade to Windows XP service pack 1). Keep that in mind when you upgrade Windows using the Windows Update web site.--

    Side note: this article has an update in another issue of the Gazette newsletter.

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