Friday, November 15, 2013

Safely Downloading Free Software - Clicking Next Next Next can Surprise You

There are thousands of pieces of software to choose from when downloading software.  When you download free software and sometimes when you update existing free software, you will often be prompted to download peripheral software at the same time.  Many times these extra software pieces are things you do not need and slowly they can eat up your processing power, system memory, and other system resources.  Paying close attention to each step of a download or update before you click next can have a large impact on the amount of peripheral and unintentional software that ends up on your computer.

For this example, I am going to download Zipeg, an open source software that can unzip and zip files, from Download.com.  The software type is not important in this example as it is merely used to show how many different pieces of software I could end up with if I was not paying attention during the download process.  Note:  Having additional software downloads can also happen while downloading web browsers, free antivirus, or any other of a number of software types and brands.


First, I went to the download site and searched for the software I wanted to download.


If you look closely at the results, you can see there is a large Free Download button at the top of the page that would make the most sense to be the download I am looking for.  However, upon a closer look, you can see this download button is an ad for RegClean Pro, something I am not interested in at this time.  Below that are two sponsored ads displaying the name of the software I am looking for in the title, but also have nothing to do with the Zipeg software upon closer look.  Next, Sponsored Products are listed, again with a list of items not related to what I am looking for but are easy to identify as ads.  At the very bottom of the screen shot you can see 2 search results displayed.  If I scroll down, the results for the software I searched for are displayed.


Once you find the correct software download link, click on the Download Now button that matches the operating system you have.  This will bring up an installer window.  The first window shows the Zipeg software version and file size with a next button.  After clicking Next, I am prompted with the screenshot below.


The second screen prompts me to select the Express Installation or Custom Setup.  If I select the Express version, which would be the easier setup, I will get additional software.  Under the Express Installation you can see there will be two additional pieces of software, the Connect Toolbar and Search Protect, and Conduit Search will be set as my browser homepage.  This means for the one software I wanted to download, I will get an additional two as well as a browser homepage change.  To opt out of this, click the Custom Setup button, uncheck the checked boxes and click Next.


At the next screen you have to click the Decline button to say no to a peripheral software.  While this seems counter-intuitive for downloading software, it is the only way to skip the peripheral software and still be able to download the original software.  The screenshot below shows this example.  Click Decline to get to the next step.


The next two screens are exactly like the one shown above except they offer different types of peripheral software.  Click decline two more times to install the software originally searched for.  Once the software has been downloaded, you will see this screen.


From here, click the Install Now button, accept the license agreement, and the wizard will finish installing the Zipeg software.  Once this process finished the software is installed and ready to use.  In this example, the Zipeg, and only the Zipeg software was installed.

While this example will be different from ones you have experienced, keep in mind when you download and update free software you are often being offered additional software whether you realize it or not.  Being offered free software is not necessarily a bad or malicious thing, but being aware of it is important so you can make the decision to download or to decline the software.  Reading each step during a software download or update before clicking next will help ensure you download only the software you want without getting software you do not want.

If you do accidentally download more software than you wanted or intended to, you can always uninstall the program.  On a Windows System, go to the Control Panel, Add / Remove Programs or Programs & Features and remove the software you did not want.  On a MAC, go to Applications and delete the folder for that program.

As always, good luck and happy computing!



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