Is Freeware Safe?

How To Be A Smart Downloader

By Calvin Kuefer

More and more people are learning about the awesome resource on the Internet known as freeware. Freeware is the shorthand term used to describe free software. Yes, freeware is an amazing resource and I have been an enthusiastic user and promoter since I learned about it years ago.

What I found interesting, though, were the number of people I spoke to about freeware who said that they would never use it because they heard that free software contains viruses. My first thought was that this was just not a true statement. I have been using freeware for years and have never been infected.

However, after giving the idea more thought, I realized that such a concern is not without merit. Because I’ve been online since the time of the old BBS systems, I’ve learned whom I can trust and whom I need to stay away from. But to a lot of people, downloading software from the Internet is a scary idea.

How does the average, non-technical person know what is safe and what isn’t? If you do a search on Google for the term freeware, more than 170 million pages are returned. The problem is that if you just start downloading software that looks good, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble.

Yes, freeware can contain spyware, adware, trojans, back doors, key loggers, bots or viruses. So, you should be concerned. However, even though we know that anytime we drive our car we run the risk of an accident, this concern does not keep us from driving. It just means that we must be aware of the threats and know how to avoid them.

So how do we know how to avoid dangerous software? We can try freeware websites, but some sites will list any and all freeware that they can find just so they can say that they have the largest collection. Some sites list only a subset of freeware by sticking to the popular versions. But popular does not always mean the best and this still does not guarantee safety.

If you want to be a smart downloader, I have found that there is no substitution for old-fashioned research. There are two sources you need to find to gather enough information to be an informed consumer of freeware. The first source is message boards -- also known as forums or news groups.

Message boards are a great place to learn about people’s experience with a particular piece of software. Believe me when I say that if someone is unhappy, they will eagerly let everyone know about it. But be sure not to read only one or two people’s experiences. Some people just don’t know what they are doing and even though their own ignorance may be at fault, they are quick to blame the software.

The second source of information is websites that test a wide range of software themselves before posting and sharing it with the world. You would think that everyone posting software would do this. But as stated earlier, most are concerned with quantity of software and not quality. So how do you find a website that you can trust? Part of it is just knowing the history and the background of the different websites and this, again, is learned via research.

Because of my passion for freeware, I have tested hundreds of programs over the years. I then started listing only the best freeware on my website for friends and family to use. When you are ready to begin your research I encourage you to browse my website by clicking on the link in my bio or "About the Author" section at the bottom of this article. At least be sure to bookmark the site for future research.

There is a lot of great freeware out there but you need to be a smart downloader. Do your research.

About the author:

Calvin Kuefer is a part time writer, full time Internet enthusiast and finds the best freeware at