The Internet is full of exciting stuff that you can download and install for FREE without paying anything. We’ve talked about a few of these in our previous tutorial where we have given a list of the top 10 screensavers that you can install on your Windows machine to make it look more awesome! If you’ve tried on of them then you surely have noticed that they are offered freely and anyone who wants to try or use them can do so without any hassle.
However, it is important that before you start filling your Windows computer with a bunch of freeware coming from different websites telling you that they only want to provide some useful stuff for free without adding extra costs, you need to know that there are some risks along the way especially if you will not watch carefully for anything that is bundled with the free software’s install file.
What are these things and how can you avoid them while still enjoying your free software? We will be answering these questions in this tutorial so be sure to get yourself and your Windows machine ready and follow the instructions that we’ll be demonstrating below.
Why Offer Free Software?
Now, you might be wondering why companies offer free software. Where do they get their income from if all they do is offer free stuff? The answer is very simple, they earn not by selling software and stuff but by advertising or selling user information to other companies! So how do they do this? The method that these companies offering free software uses is very subtle. Just imagine having you fooled in installing more than one software to your computer!
Most of the freeware that we can find on the Internet actually comes packaged with other stuff which you won’t surely want to install on your computer but they are subtly embedded in the freeware’s installation file and if you don’t read the fine print then you could be a victim to such unwanted software unknowingly! These software are also called bloatwares because they are useless most of the time and only serves for the benefit of the company.
You must also watch out for any link or button that a certain website offering freeware requires you to click before you can download their free software because most of these are designed to download additional software or even lead you to unsafe and unverified websites. Be sure to click the real button which will download your freeware and there is no other way for you to know which one is real or which one is fake but by reading!
Harmful Stuff That You Need to Watch Out For!
So what exactly are the things that you need to be careful about when installing free software to your Windows computer. It doesn’t matter whether you use older Windows versions like Windows 7 or newer ones like Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, you will still be a victim to any of these harmful software and stuff if you are fond of installing freeware! It is therefore important that you know what these things are so you can avoid them upon download and installation or even get rid of them in case some are already installed on your computer!
1. Additional Offers
When you find the site for a certain software that is offered for free, you might find a lot of “Download” buttons on it. There might even be a pop-up offer which also contains a “Download” button and if any of these are clicked, you will either be able to download the wrong software of you’ll be taken to a new Window that has even more buttons for “Downloading” something or even other offers disguised as games that you need to click in order to get a certain price like “Win an iPhone 7 if you catch it with a click”!
If you are redirected to this kind of webpage then it is best not to click on anything that is obviously trying to get you to click on it. Most of the time, the real button that would download your desired free software is a link or a small button found near the bottom. Remember, the key here is reading what the “Download” button is for or what the pop-up Window is actually offering. Don’t just click and download anything because before you know it, your computer is already infected by a malware or something has already been installed to your machine without you being aware of it.
2. Fake Browsers
Another form of unwanted software that can subtly be added to your computer are “fake browsers”. These types of software can easily be modified in order to function maliciously such as monitor a user’s browsing sessions or even collect personal information which can further lead to identity theft and many other sorts of cyber crimes. You must be aware that there are only 4 verified and trusted browsers available at present and these are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge.
If you wish to install a new browser to your computer then it is best to install any of the 4 that we’ve mentioned above and avoid all the others that are not in the list! You should also make sure that you are actually downloading any of these 4 browsers only from the developer’s official website. Because of their popularity, there are plenty of third-party websites that offer download of their latest editions but again, you need to watch out for any bloatware or any other additional offers that can pop-up or appear as one of the steps that you need to go through during the install process. It’s always better to spend time looking for the browser’s official download page than suffering the risks of installing malicious software into your computer if you download it from third-party software download sites.
3. Games Bundled with Offers
The list of malicious stuff being offered for FREE all around the Internet is widely diversified. They can come in the form of offers, browsers and even free games! Most of these games are actually offered for free trial and it would remain that way for a certain period of time but the problem is even on its trial version, these games could require certain purchases or ask you to do something to unlock certain features or move on to the next level.
Others also offer additional software that are supposed to make your computer more secure when connected to the game server but you need to remember that if you already have a security software installed, getting another one would result in a conflict between the software that is already in place before you installed the game and the one that you’ve installed as required by the malicious game!
When this happens, you will start experiencing errors, crashes and many other sorts of problems which if left unfixed could lead to even more serious problems. Again, just like the popular browsers that we’ve given above, it is always best if you download games and security software from their official webpages instead of just getting them from third-party providers. Doing this would ensure that the game or software you downloaded and installed are free from algorithms and other malicious stuff that can put you and your machine at risk!
4. Browser Toolbars
This is one of the most popular way that companies cheat users into installing software that are offered FREE to download but the truth is something hidden is actually bundled with them. Toolbars are those unwanted stuff that automatically gets added to the browsers that are installed on your computer as shown on the screenshot below.
These toolbars can provide search, music streaming and many other sorts of additional features for your browser but the truth is most of them just collect information about your Internet and browsing sessions and sends them to companies so that they know what types of ads to show when you are browsing.
You must be careful when installing free software because these toolbars often come as bloatwares which can be seen as one of the options that you need to check during the installation process. If you are not careful and you just click “Next” until you reach “Finish” whenever you’re installing software on your computer, you could be faced with several toolbars in the long run as you can see below and before you know it, there isn’t enough space anymore for displaying the webpage that you are trying to view.
Stuff that are offered for free which require to be installed such as screensavers often have this toolbars included in their install files so be sure to read every option that is being shown on each page of during the installation process and uncheck any that mentions about a toolbar being installed to your browser.
Now that you know already know where those annoying features that suddenly gets added to your browser are coming from, you can now avoid avoid them and actually have a cleaner Windows machine.
Finally, we come to the last one on the list which encompasses Trojans, Adware, Malware and many other sorts of tiny programs that are made to act like devils working in the background replicating, infecting files and other devices on your network and destroying your machine’s integrity without you knowing it! Some can even collect your personal information and send it to the one who’s controlling the malicious stuff that is currently lurking around your computer!
To avoid these tiny yet very destructive devils from doing damage on your Windows machine, you will need to install a reliable antivirus software or you can also choose to scan any downloaded file first before installing them. You can do this in several ways and there’s a rich resource of software that can perform file scanning all over the Internet but again, we recommend that you use an online based tool such as “Virus Total” and others since installing free software that does this could again lead to having you install something that isn’t really what you wanted!
Keep Your Machine and Your Information Safe Always!
Almost all of us who use devices and connect to the Internet really want to be safe and secure always but there are actually some threats that we unknowingly bring ourselves into and the list above are part of them. It is therefore important that you keep a close watch on anything that’s offered for free. Most of the time, when the offer sounds “too-good-to-be-true” just like the candy house in a fairy tale, it usually has some dire consequences in the end if you bite into the bait. If you are doubtful on something then it is best to just ignore it. After all, it’s always better to be cautious always than to suffer the consequences which are often irreversible.
Have you experienced installing something that you got for free and started experiencing problems with your computer right after you do so? We want to hear about your experience so that others can also be warned. Please share to us your stories by posting them in the comments section below.