How to fix a grayed-out Safari home page preference

The Safari option for picking your home page can be hijacked.

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While malware hasn’t found a fertile home on the Mac for decades, scammers keep trying. As many of you have experienced, adware and other software that delivers unwanted content or an unwanted experience abounds—like redirecting you to a specific website for searching or turning all Amazon links into affiliate links that earn the scammers a commission until they’re shut down.

Even with vigilance against nasty threats, you or (more likely) someone you know may have installed otherwise reasonable seeming software that hijacks Safari in some particular way. That includes a rather nasty way in which you can be prevented from changing your homepage in Safari in Safari > Preferences > General, then the Homepage field.

This technique involves using profiles, a tool for system administrators and others to distribute specific settings files to Mac users. It’s used more widely in iOS, where VPN software and other apps rely on profiles to let users opt into behavior that Apple otherwise prevents iOS apps from engaging in.

In System Preferences, look for the Profiles preference, which is a spiky badge with a checkmark in the middle. If you don’t see Profiles, you have no profiles installed, and any Homepage field problems are unrelated.

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The Profiles preference pane may appear due to unwantedware installing it.

To remove an errant profile, click the Profiles preference pane, select the profile in the list, and click the minus button. This will prompt you to confirm removal and may require entering an administrative password.

Others users unable to change or set a homepage in Safari have found first restarting in Safe Mode (restart and then hold down the Shift key at startup), and then restarting normally restored their ability to choose a homepage.

This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader John.

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