How to Evaluate and Choose Free Software

Any time that you download free software into your computer, you want to have some assurance that the software will work, and you also want to avoid other problems such as viruses and spyware. While free software does have risks, you can avoid many of these risks by taking the following precautions:

* Look for reviews of the software: Two excellent resources for finding reviews of free software are Sourceforge.net and Download.com. You can also find comparisons with similar software and find out additional information such as how frequently a program has been updated or downloaded.

* Use reputable web sites: If you know nothing about a web site that is offering free software, go to review sites such as the ones mentioned above to see if software from that web site has been reviewed. Even if you find positive reviews about the software, keep in mind the next suggestion.

* Trust your instincts: If have doubts or reservations about a program or the web site from where you can download the program, then don’t download the software.

* Beware of unsolicited email offers: If you find out about the software from an unsolicited email, do not follow any link or visit any URL mentioned in the email. Unsolicited emails are often associated with malicious software, viruses, and scams. If you are interested, research the software using the resources mentioned earlier.

* Use trusted software makers: Many free programs available online were created by established software companies or nonprofit organizations. Many of these software makers also provide updates, documentation, and technical support.

* Rely on popularity and experience: If you are choosing between two or more programs with similar capability, quality, and reputation, then go for the one that has been downloaded by the most users or that has been available for the longest time.

* Check with your Internet service provider: Many Internet service providers provide free protective software to their customers. Check with your ISP to see if antispyware, firewall, antivirus, or other protective software is offered with your service.

There is a wide array of free software available online and much of it may be very useful to you and your family. Not all of it is good, and some of it may put your computer and your personal information at risk. By doing a little bit of research and acting with a little bit of common sense, you will be able to take away most of the potential risks.