Downloading software online is one of the most common ways to accidentally get malicious software on your computer. However, unwanted software, often known as bloatware, is and even more common problem. Though rarely harmful by itself, bloatware is often bundled with freeware programs, download managers and installers, even if they are obtained from widely known and supposedly reputable sources. Bloatware is an increasingly common nuisance, and it provides nothing of value to users, instead bombarding them with advertising, slowing down their computer and clogging up the system tray. In some cases, there is a very fine line between bloatware and malicious software that might harm your computer or attempt to steal personal or financial information. For a secure computer that always performs at its best, you’ll want to eliminate any existing bloatware and make certain that it never makes its way onto your PC in the future. The following tips will help you to make sure that you’re downloading your programs as safely as possible:
1 – Stay Clear of Torrent Indexes
Torrent indexes, such as Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents, among many others, are the world’s most popular resources for downloading free software, a great deal of which is pirated. Such websites are often supported by extensive and intrusive advertising, and they usually stay online due to a legal loophole in most countries that allows websites to list torrents containing illegal software, provided that they don’t host the content themselves. Needless to say, the torrents listed on such websites are frequently accompanied by malicious software and, as such, should be avoided.
2 – Avoid Download Directories
Download directories, such as download.com, while generally safe to download programs from, have become infamous due 1 the installers and download managers that they often package their software with. Although these directories often provide safe, direct-download links as well, you should always look out for additional installer software, since it may install intrusive toolbars or other useless applications on your computer. Instead, try searching for and downloading software safely by using curated software lists or going directly to the developer’s website.
3 – Don’t Trust Search Engine Links
Google has recently changed its policy in favour of ad-free websites for those seeking specific programs. For example, searching for popular free media player VLC now displays the official VLC website at the top of the list of search results, but other search engines often display ad-supported websites that include third-party installers and other junk software. Instead of blindly trusting the links in the search results, always make sure that you are downloading your software directly from the official website or from any other reputable source should the former not be an option.
4 – Search for Reviews
Although search engine results can display some rather questionable content, they’re also useful for finding out if a particular program is worth downloading or not. For example, if you have seen an ad for some antivirus software, a quick search in Google will quickly reveal if it’s a rogue antimalware utility or not. Even if you’re pretty sure that the program you’re looking for is a legitimate one, taking some time to read reviews might just save you a lot of trouble later on. You may also find rankings and reviews on curated software lists, such as those at about.com.
5 – Always Choose Custom Installation
As you should already know, free software is usually supported by some form of advertising, and this often comes in the form of an annoying browser toolbar or other intrusive and disruptive plug-in or program. By default, many installers will also put extra junk on your system, hoping that their users will not bother to choose the custom-installation option. Always choose custom installation so that you know exactly what you are installing. Alternatively, you can use an automated downloader and installer such as the highly acclaimed ninite.com.
Freeware and shareware in particular are often plagued by unwanted software, and removing it can be a pain. In conclusion, always head straight to the developer’s website and, in the unlikely event that they don’t host their own software or post safe download links themselves make the effort to find a reliable source.