Manufacturer & ISP hijacks browser on 404

I have a Gateway laptop and use Verizon as my ISP. If I enter a nonexistent URL, I get a search page from either Gateway or Verizon (can’t find a pattern as to which one under what circumstances) trying to “help” me figure out what I was looking for.

I have “search from the address bar” unchecked.

Any way to prevent this, or do they just have me by the balls?

I was having the same “problem” with Time Warner/RoadRunner. Then I noticed a tiny explanation/disclaimer on the results page, followed the embedded link, and found instructions on shutting it off. It wasn’t a regular option to set, something like a registry entry or similar. I’m sorry I don’t recall more details — perhaps a call to your ISP would be an easy fix, or hopefully someone will see this bump and post more helpful information.

Good luck!

ETA: Found it, but it’s not quite helpful: is the “why am I seeing these results” page is the form-based preferences change page

I don’t know how the pages work (they’re PHP, so the meaty code doesn’t download), but hopefully your ISP will have a similar option.

I wonder if you went to those pages, set your preferences to ON, then went back and turned them OFF?

You might try a different DNS provider.

Well, Internet Explorer redirects are pretty common, for Gateway Dell, and HP computers and many ISP’s as well. The browser hijack is stored on your computer, put there at some install point. Some spyware removers will remove browser hijacks, for example, HijackThis will show it to you, and present the option to remove it.

You should be real sure you want to fiddle with this bit, and that you have some idea of what you’re doing. But then, if you did, you’d be using Firefox, or opera, or Safari, or Linux.

But if you’re just peeved that the company isn’t satisfied with what you paid them, and feels it must hook you in your off time, well, you can Google the subject, then try my suggestions above …

That’s how it starts you know. You’re peeved, and want to tweak. You want to know, how your system works. Then gradually, you start calling Gateway – Gatesway, and you abbreviate Microsoft, M$. Then you’re running dual boot Linux flavors in a water cooled custom rig. The dark side is seductive, like that.

He’s (?) not kidding. I had a simple Linksys network attached storage device. Plug n play. Simple. But I wanted to be able to boot the drives independently, if something happened to the unit. So I started looking at Linux. You know, just to run a Live CD to boot in an emergency. Sure. Flash forward, and I now have a small Linux server on a Gigabit LAN, with a RAID1 array. It not only serves us files (Mac and PC), it’s also now our print server, Web page testing server, and a few other things that I have yet to implement. All because I was curious. Be careful… It all starts with a simple question or annoyance.

The problem CookingWithGas describes is unrelated to the user’s operating system or browser. mks57 is right on.

This has to do with the way your computer asks your ISP for domain names. Simply put, your computer will ask your ISP’s Domain Name Server for the IP address of and it will respond with something like, pointing to one of Google’s servers. Normally if you ask for a mistyped or non-existent domain name, such as gogole.comn the server responds with an error. But your ISP has seen the potential for profit here, and instead of responding with an error, responds with the IP address of its search engine/ad page.

There is an article describing Verizon’s introduction of the “service” on ArsTechnica from 2007.

You’ll need to change your network settings (on your computer or router most likely) to point to alternative DNS servers that will return an error instead.

Verizon has some instructions here:

If you provide us with some more information about how you connect to the internet, some dopers may be able to help as well.

Further to this, this sort of thing breaks the RFC that defines how DNS works. It only works properly for http DNS requests. Lots of other internet communication tools (particularly anti-spam and email servers) rely on DNS returning an error if a DNS lookup fails. ISPs and DNS providers who set up wildcard redirects end up never returning an error in response to a failed DNS lookup, and so some tools stop working properly. The better solution for ISPs is to not change their DNS, but to supply a proxy server that redirects to their search page on DNS lookup failure. This means that users could choose the behaviour that they want by selecting the appropriate proxy. Of course, many ISPs use transparent proxy redirection anyhow, so you get a proxy whether you want one or not, but they could provide an alternative proxy users could select to disable the search redirection (and not fiddle with DNS at all).

The solution is to use an alternative DNS server - some ISPs with these sorts of DNS server have an alternative DNS server without this behaviour that users can switch to. YMMV.


I hate to defend money-grubbing ISPs, but there is a large population of people who appreciate the suggestions when a domain name is mistyped. It isn’t strictly a money-making grab. For the non-techie who just wants to get to, a link to the correct site is a time saver.

And I say this as someone who was screwed over when my ISP first made the switch. I was suddenly unable to get to servers over my company VPN. I (along with many others) raised hell with the ISP, and to their credit, they quickly put up a few DNS servers that return an error instead of a page of suggestions and ads. A bonehead move on their part to not think through the impact in advance, but I can understand the reason (and my non-techie mom loves it).

I think that the response you saw from your ISP was rare. My ISP allows us to “opt-out” of the service. If you opt out, instead of getting re-directed to a search page you get redirected to a copy of the IE 404 Error page on a server hosted by the ISP. Thanks guys, that was a big help.

Maybe, but deliberately breaking a well defined standard on which the internet (and not just web browsing) for profit when there are correct alternative technical solutions with a similar result ticks me off.


Yup, I won’t try to defend that one.

Although it sounds like I have the solution in hand (which I’ll try today), I’ll respond to this anyway. At home, I use WiFi to connect to my home LAN, which uses Verizon FiOS as my ISP. Everywhere else I use a Verizon broadband card. Interestingly I seem to get this behavior only at home.