Best Cleanest & Safest Websites to Download Free Software
We recommend a good deal of applications here on Featuresunlocker, software that does everything from undeleting files to automatically hack into your computer when you’ve forgotten a password.
Every one these programs that we recommend are hosted on other websites, which is quite typical and is no reason for concern.
But it means we’ve got to hand you off to a different site that we don’t have any control over and hope everything works out there as you download and install the software.
Unfortunately, sometimes even a really, really good piece software is hosted at a website that… well, we would not otherwise wish to send somebody to.
Add to the fact that some software programs, while otherwise fantastic, include small pieces of “extras” that nobody really wants on their PC.
As this is the character of downloadable software nowadays, particularly free software, we thought it worthwhile to put together this collection of tips on how best to stay safe once you download and install software.
Note: While a few of what we talk about here are particular to downloading programs we recommend here on the site, the information is very general and applies to any applications you might download and install, from any website.
Keep reading for some solid ideas on where to get software recommendations, how to avoid problems from legitimate downloads, and lots more.
Use Common Sense
We know this is the simple human advice given for almost everything, but it certainly applies here also!
If something does not seem right, trust your gut – it’s probably not perfect.
In case you have not yet heard this lesson elsewhere, the best and easiest thing you can do to avoid spyware and malware is to prevent downloading any software program or app from an unsolicited link.
In other words, avoid downloading anything that you have obtained a link to via an email, text, or any other personal message…
Unless you fully trust the origin.
You have heard that too, I am sure, but running an anti-virus program and keeping it updated is very, very important if you’re downloading applications.
Utilize Curated Software Lists
Among the best ways to make sure that you’re choosing legitimate and well-made software is by following recommendations from curated program lists. Ranked and reviewed lists of applications programs save you all of the complex settings you’d otherwise have to perform on your own.
To put it differently, a person has already done the hard work for you and figured out which programs will be greatest. Use that free wisdom and prevent being the guinea pig yourself.
This is particularly true with freeware software.
In those scenarios, the majority of the issues you’ll run into on software download web pages we link to add apps wrapped in installers and download managers, perplexing DOWNLOAD ads, and bundled adware.
The upcoming several sections below talk about these risks and more, as well as some really easy ways you can avoid them.
Know the Conditions: Freeware, Trialware, & More
Maybe you have downloaded a program that you thought was liberated and then, after using it for a little while, saw a warning or another message appear, prompting for payment to last?
Assuming you weren’t tricked into the download (see the next section for help avoiding that issue), you downloaded the wrong version, especially if numerous different download options were available, or were mistaken about the expense of the program.
Virtually All applications developers utilize these three categories to categorize their applications:
Freeware: This means the program is totally free to use as clarified.
Trialware: This usually means that the app is totally free to use for some period or period, or for a certain number of applications, and then will need to get covered. This is also sometimes referred to as shareware or just trial softwares.
Commercial: This means that the program is not free at all and needs to be paid for before you can use it. Even most commercial programs nowadays deliver limited-time trial versions before asking for payment, so we see this designation not as often.
Be wary of a program that just says it is “free” since there are lots of methods to spin this. More about this next.
Free Downloads ≠ Free Software
Just because something is a Free Download does not signify that the program is free.
Unfortunately, some software manufacturers intentionally confuse visitors with this trick on their own download pages. They use “free download” from all the page titles, all around the software description pages, then you generally end up clicking a large FREE DOWNLOAD button to start the download.
Obviously, the downloading process is totally free! The application, however, requires payment for usage, occasionally right off but frequently after a short period of usage.
Some software makers do so in the hopes of driving revenue from folks who thought they had been downloading and using the free software after that see little choice but to pay up. It’s unethical and a rampant problem among lower quality computer software applications.
Thus, before you download something that’s labeled as “free” or as a “free download,” check to see that the app description clearly says that it is freeware or completely free to use.
Do not be Tricked by “Download” Advertisements
Some of the very “successful” advertisements are the ones which trick a page’s reader into thinking that the ad isn’t really an ad, but something useful on this website.
These sorts of ads run often on software download pages, appearing as giant DOWNLOAD buttons. As much as these large buttons might seem to be exactly what you want to click to download the software you’re after, trust me, they are not.
Worse yet, these DOWNLOAD ads don’t go to benign sites – they usually go to a malware-ridden page where you truly do get to download anything, not the something that you believed you’re getting.
Actual download buttons have a tendency to be smaller and located closer to the downloadable file’s title, version number, and last updated date. Not all applications download web pages have download buttons – many are just links.
Another “what to click” problem is a bit harder to fix, but worth the try:
Avoid “Installers” and “Download Managers”
Full-time software download sites, like Download.com and Softpedia, normally host software manufacturers’ programs at no cost.
1 way that these download sites earn their money is by serving advertisements on their websites. Another, increasingly more prevalent, way that they make money is by wrapping the downloads they function inside an app known as an installer, or not as often within a download manager.
These programs often referred to as PUPs (potentially unwanted programs), have nothing to do with the app you’re trying to download and set up. The download site earns money from the manufacturers of those programs by including them with the one you’re after.
We do our very best to avoid linking to websites that use contractors and download supervisors but sometimes it’s impossible, simply because the applications I’m recommending isn’t available elsewhere.
Assuming you can not locate a non-installer download link for the applications you need, you can always put in the package anyway, being extremely careful what you agree to through the setup process:
Choose “Custom Setup” & Decline Added Software
Last, but certainly not least, please slow down and read the displays you’re presented with because you put in the software that you just downloaded.
What’s important here are the displays which are a part of the installation wizard: the screens with all the test boxes, “next” buttons, and all of the items you agree or disagree on allowing to be installed or tracked.
Unless you like random browser toolbars, your homepage has been changed automatically, subscriptions to free software which you’ll never use, and stuff like this, we strongly advise that you browse each screen in the setup wizard and decline anything that you’re not considering.
The biggest tip we have here would be to choose the Custom Installation method if you are given the option. This makes the install process a bit longer with the few extra displays it provides, but it is almost always in which the “do not set up this” choices are concealed.
1 approach to avoid every one of these installation-based problems is to choose portable software rather than installable software, when available. Many software manufacturers create versions of their apps that run without having to be installed in any way.
Advanced Tips: Assess File Integrity & Use an Online Virus Scanner
If you are more than just a novice computer user, just two more things come to mind that should help ease any concerns about what you’re downloading and installing:
Scan the File to Malware Before You Obtain It
If you’re worried that a program that you would like to download could be infected with malware, then you do not even have to download it and scan yourself, which can be a little insecure.
A completely free service will download the document to their own servers, scan it for malware using each of the significant antivirus apps, then report on their findings.
Verify the Downloaded File’s Integrity
If you are worried you may have downloaded something other than what you anticipated, you may be able to check to find what you have is what you were supposed to get.
Some sites offer something called a checksum value with their downloads. It’ll appear to be a long string of letters and numbers. After downloading, you may use a checksum calculator to make what is an exact match to the checksum value recorded with the downloading.
See How to Confirm File Integrity in Windows using FCIV for a complete tutorial.
Which Download Sites Are Best?
Generally, a programmer’s site is the safest bet for downloading applications, but they do not always host their particular programs.
As far as download sites go, we avoid the next when we can because of their tendency to add contractors whenever potential:
Freeware Files [www.freewarefiles.com]
While these download websites Might Not Be 100% free of sneaky download supervisors and managers, we rarely if ever see it:
Please let me know whether you’ve had a gap experience with any of those websites.
Have Questions About Download Links on Featuresunlocker?
Just as we try to link directly to developers’ sites and also to download repositories which don’t use installers, occasionally we need to.
If you know of a “cleaner” download resource for a downloadable app that we’ve recommended, please inform us about it and we’d be happy to change the hyperlink. We get no kickbacks from linking to one download source over another.