A Word of Warning About Free Software and Add-Ons

Expertek advises on a number of different topics for our customers and one that we’ve been asked about a lot regards Free Software. Free Software sounds like a good deal but we think you’ll find that it’s worth what you pay for it. Free Software frequently includes add-ons and things that help the author of the “free software” pay their bills. They do this by including advertising-laden toolbars, disabled malware-scanners, extortion-ware, trojans, and other junk that you didn’t realize was buried in (“included with”) their installer.

When installing most programs, free or not, you’ll be presented with the ‘Next’ button. Delay the urge to click it! Read the information on the screen before clicking ‘Next’. When you get to the screen that offers a choice of ‘Custom’ or ‘Typical’, it almost always defaults to ‘Typical’ not showing you the things that it’s going to add to your PC. Other software packages will present check box(es) to disable the add-on(s) that they’ve included with their software. The concept here is that honest software companies put it out front of you to see and deselect, while less reputable software companies hide their intention behind the screen of ‘typical’ and ‘custom’ selection. A good basic rule of thumb then is to (A) Never just click ‘Next’, ‘Next’, ‘Next’, AND (B) Question the honesty of the author, as soon as you see the ‘typical’ choice selected as default.

When presented with the typical or custom screen we advise you to select ‘Custom’ because then, when you click ‘Next’, you will be presented with a list of the optional items that you can deselect, thereby saving you time and frustration in the future in having to remove them or repair whatever damage they cause. Deselect any toolbar or add-on you don’t want. Our advice: If it’s not related to the original game or freebie that you downloaded, you probably don’t want it, and should turn off, disable or otherwise deny the installation of those add-ons.

If you open your web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox or Netscape, whichever you use regularly) and there are more than 2-3 toolbars installed, it may already be too late. Each installed toolbar takes not only CPU cycles and RAM to run, but also a little display space for web pages, and we’ve seen some browsers where the pages is barely visible. These systems were also incredibly slow, and invariably infected with malware!

Keep in mind: IF you choose ‘Typical’, you’re going to get whatever THEY want to put on your system. If you choose ‘Custom’, you will have the ability to deselect Add-On Junk that you don’t want installed on your computer.

OUR FINAL WARNING: WE FIND THAT MOST MALWARE INFECTIONS BEGIN WITH UNDESIRED PROGRAMS BEING INSTALLED BY FOLKS WHO ARE “IN A HURRY” TO PLAY THEIR FREE GAME, UNWITTINGLY ALLOWING JUNK TO INSTALL AND SLOW THEIR SYSTEM DOWN OR WORSE, INFECT THEIR COMPUTER WITH MALWARE AND TROJANS.

Free Software is readily available from many websites on the web and some programs are written better than others. The best place to download free software is a site that reviews and rates the software and provide some way for users to rate as well. CNET’s download.com is an example of one of these type of sites.