Some Advice about Free Software

After a visit to my parents house recently it has become crystal clear that people who ought to know better about some pretty easy web basics do not.  So here is a post about some things to look out for when you are downloading something from the internet.

The example I put above is a common question you are asked when installing Java, and many other programs will also prompt you for downloads of a more annoying nature.  The Ask toolbar from the above example is a fairly harmless form of Bloatware, which is unwanted software included by the manufacturer of a product.  If paired with other toolbars, it can eventually slow your browser to a halt, but by itself Ask might as well just be another search bar.  Some programs will prompt you for some more insidious downloads, which can cause popups to appear on sites that didn’t have them before, or cause random words to link to ads.  This is called Adware, and not only is it annoying, it can be a huge pain in the butt to get rid of.  Adware by definition is a virus that automatically displays, shows or downloads unwanted ads. My most recent experience with Adware was when a little sibling attempted to get Photoshop from a site that was offering it for free.  He downloaded the program, and surprise surprise, no Photoshop, but now whenever he goes online ads play where they shouldn’t be, and also any and every other word is a link to some advertising site.

Based on my past experience, here are a few basic rules to follow while browsing the Internet or installing software that can help you avoid situations like this:

  • NEVER EVER download something you see in an ad that says it can enhance your computers performance.
  • NEVER EVER download something that says it can give you more memory OR storage, since that isn’t possible through software.
  • NEVER EVER download a “free” software that you would normally have to pay for.
  • Watch what you agree to when installing an application. If one of the checked boxes says to install something you’ve never heard of
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