The Hazards of Downloading Freeware

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:

According to Lowell's article Here’s What Happens When You Install the Top 10 Apps,

Freeware software vendors make almost all of their money by bundling complete nonsense and scareware that tricks users into paying to clean up their PC, despite the fact that you could prevent the need to clean up your PC by just not installing the crappy freeware to begin with.

And no matter how technical you might be, most of the installers are so confusing that there’s no way a non-geek could figure out how to avoid the awful.

And it doesn’t matter which antivirus you have installed — we’ve actually done this experiment a number of times with different antivirus vendors, and most of them completely ignored all of the bundled crapware. Avast did a pretty good job this time compared to some of the other vendors, but it didn’t block all of it for sure.

There are also no safe freeware download sites… because as you can clearly see in the screenshots in this article, it isn’t just CNET Downloads that is doing the bundling… it’s EVERYBODY. The freeware authors are bundling crapware, and then lousy download sources are bundling even more on top of it. It’s a cavalcade of crapware.

Each time we ran through this experiment over the last few months, different software would end up being bundled in a rotation, but every single software that bundles itself ends up bundling the same culprits: browser hijackers that redirect your search engine, home page, and put extra ads everywhere.

You owe it to yourself to read the whole article.

Image credit: made by me at Quozio