If you check out the tips I post on this blog on a regular basis, you surely know by now that I love telling my readers about all the great free software that’s out there to make our computing lives safer and more enjoyable. I love trying out new programs and apps and then sharing them with all of you if I find them to be beneficial in some way.
Whenever I recommend a piece of software, I always try my best to find a download site that offers an easily identifiable direct download link. Unfortunately, that task is becoming harder by the day as more and more sites begin sneaking other programs, apps and toolbars into the installer routine.
I call this unwanted software “sneakware” because they literally sneak these programs past unwary users and onto their computers while the software that you intentionally downloaded is being installed.
Why do they bundle in sneakware with their legitimate downloads? For the same reason that computer manufacturers load their brand new PCs to the gills with all the trial software that so many of us detest. Money!! The companies that produce these “extra” programs apparently would rather pay a third party to sneak a trial version of their software (or a full version of their spyware) onto your machine than pay for advertising.
I don’t have any problem with companies making money from their websites. After all, they are certainly entitled to recoup the investments of time and money spent on their sites, and even make a profit. That’s the American way. In fact, I’m sure you’ve noticed that my blogs have ads on them as well (they help pay my web hosting fees and buy me a Whopper or two at the local Burger King every month).
What I find distasteful is sneaking unwanted software onto an unwary user’s computer without explicit, intentional permission. Yes, I know the EULA (End User License Agreement) that we all have to agree to before downloading and installing any piece of software explains somewhere in its expansive volume of fine print just exactly what they are doing.
I also understand that in the legal sense we agree to having the sneakware installed on our machines when we click the accept button. But it still stinks more than a skunk colony residing in a garbage dump.
I said all of that to say this: Whenever possible, always choose a direct download link instead of a link to an “installer” that has sneakware programs bundled within it. If there simply isn’t a direct download link available, ALWAYS pay attention to every screen and uncheck any unwanted programs that are checked by default. Also, whenever possible choose “Custom Installation” because that’s where they hide many of the sneakware opt-in check boxes.
It’s with great sadness that I report to you that one of the last holdouts from the sneakware download business has now crossed that line themselves. SourceForge.net has been my favorite download site for years because all of their download links were direct links to the individual programs they offered. But not anymore.
I’ll still be sending you wonderful folks over to SourceForge on occasion when a “clean download” alternative doesn’t exist for a given program or app. But when I do I’ll try my very best to steer you through the download and installation processes in a way that keeps your PC sneakware free.