We all want to save money, but getting freeware from free software vendors is a bad idea. Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, says there are NO SAFE freeware download sites.
No matter how tech-savvy you are or which antivirus you've installed, it's unwise to try your luck downloading freeware. Hidden bundled software could give your computer a "crapware" infection that plants browser hijackers to redirect your search engine, change your home page, put extra ads everywhere, and install a proxy to send all of your web browsing through it.
To show you how bad it can get, the How-To-Geek did an experiment by installing ten applications from a free software vendor's most popular downloads list. Here's the gory details on why freeware download sites are so dangerous:
When I switched to Windows 7 from Windows XP, I was happy to find I could pin programs to the Taskbar. But then became unhappy once I realized I couldn't move & reorder multiple instances of progams — like 2 Excel spreadsheets or 3 Word documents — independently; all Excel files and Word documents were grouped together, and I couldn't move the individual files where I needed them to be on the taskbar.
And then I found a free app to fix it — the 7+ Taskbar Tweaker — yay! It's a free utility that's easy to install and customize. (Note: If you use Windows XP, you can install the free Taskbar Shuffle utility instead; I wrote about it in this April 2009 Ides post.)
Here's what my Taskbar looked like before installing 7+ Taskbar Tweaker:
Don't become a victim by clicking on malware-infected email links and fake antivirus scanners!
Pete Hodge (Winnefox's Computer Support Specialist) is seeing an alarming increase in malware-infected computers in libraries around the system:
The most common method of infection with this new batch of malware seems to be the fake email from a shipper such as USPS, UPS, or Fedex. Once you click on the link in the email you are redirected to a site the infects your computer.
Another method creates a popup window that claims your computer is infected with spyware and viruses. The malware wants to scare you into acting immediately, out of fear your computer has been infected; in reality, it will get infected if you click a bogus virus scanner offer.
Pete says: Think Before You Click
... be extremely skeptical of what pop-up windows and banner messages are telling you when on the Internet. Any security software that should be installed on the computer will come from someone at WALS or on staff at your library. If you ever have any questions about popup windows or other odd computer messages, please do not hesitate to call or email me. [Pete Hodge, 920-236-5273]
Sticky notes — those ubiquitous pieces of adhesive stationery — are also available in "virtual" form on your computer if you're running Windows 7. It's a nice little application that makes it easy to jot down a quick note, and leave on your Windows desktop so it's in front of you so you won’t forget it. (If you used Windows Vista you might have used them there; sorry, they aren't included in Windows XP.)
Is your Windows password too easy to guess? Or too hard to remember?
If your password is "password", "12345678", "qwerty" or one of the other 25 Worst Passwords, you can help keep your computer secure by changing to a stronger password. (Your Windows password is the password you use to log on to your computer.)
Here are tips for creating a new password that's more secure: