Tip: Softpedia allows users to easily identify freeware programs that come bundled with toolbars/third-party programs

We all like freeware programs. What none of us like, however, are the third-party offers (such as toolbars) that come with many freeware programs. While I am not bashing on freeware developers for including third-party offers in their programs (freeware developers need some sort of revenue), I am saying that many users accidentally end up installing third-party programs – such as Ask Toolbar – because they are bundled in the installation of other programs. The only truely effective way to avoid installing undesired third-party programs is to keep your eyes open and read before simply clicking “Next” while installing a program. However, knowing beforehand that a program comes bundled with a third-party offer can help in avoiding accidental installation of undesired software.

Image Credit: Geek&Poke

We all know about Softpedia; it is a program hosting website that allows users to download programs. One of the cool things about Softpedia is the fact that they have two separate categorization for free programs:

  • Freeware
  • Ad-Supported
    • “Ad-Supported” programs are free programs that
      • Display ad banners or other types of advertising material during its runtime;
      • Offer to change the homepage for web browsers installed in the system;
      • Offer to change the default search engine for web browsers installed in the system;
      • Offer to download or install software or components (such as browser toolbars) that the program does not require to fully function;
      • Offers to create desktop or start menu shortcuts for items unrelated to the program’s functionality;
      • At program startup/shutdown, opens web pages featuring advertising or similar income generating content.

Whenever a free program is “ad-supported”, Softpedia explicitly lists it as such:

(Take note that shareware programs that are “ad-supported” are not marked as such – they are listed as “Trial”, “Demo”, or something along those lines. “Ad-supported” is only for free programs.) Update: It has been brought to my attention even shareware programs are marked as “ad-supported” if they are, well, ad-supported.

Freeware programs that are not ad-supported are marked as “Freeware” (or some other special freeware types such as GPL, Donationware, etc.):

While Softpedia does not strip any third-party programs from “ad-supported” free programs, because this distinct categorization users can easily identify freeware programs that are “ad-supported” and prepare themselves to not install any third-party offers that may come with the program. So, moral of the story? Whenever there is a Softpedia download mirror available, download from Softpedia to be best aware of any potential third-party bundles that may come with the program you are downloading.

Feel free to share in the comments below any tips you may have on how to avoid third-party bundles.

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13 comments

  1. Pete

    Good post, and Softpedia is right on the money. Try using a small freeware program called “The PC Decrapifier”, if, by chance, you do end up installing unwanted third party software.

    from Developer’s Site:
    “The PC Decrapifier is a program designed to remove or uninstall a specific list of unwanted software in an unattended fashion.
    It can be used to clean off most of the annoying software that is typically shipped with new PCs.”

  2. godel

    Recent experience — Doing an in-program “Check For Updates” and subsequent download in Foxit PDF reader resulted in the Ask Toolbar being installed in both IE8 and Firefox, with no warning or opt-out option.

  3. Softpedia

    @Jan Bart: Well, as opposed to Filehippo and MajorGeeks, we’ve always done our best to list software without these third-party components – whenever possible. That’s why we list the clean/slim version of CCleaner ( http://www.softpedia.com/get/Security/Secure-cleaning/CCleaner.shtml ) or the last version of Nero Free ( http://www.softpedia.com/get/CD-DVD-Tools/Data-CD-DVD-Burning/Nero-Free.shtml ) that doesn’t force users to install Ask and so on :)

    Thank you, everyone, for your positive feedback! It is very much appreciated!

  4. Jan Bart

    Thank you Ashraf, for the explaining of the matter in your article.
    At the end you ask for any tips you may have on how to avoid third-party bundles.
    I have a tip to avoid installing the free GoogleToolbar with the installation of CCleaner.
    If one gets this program at http://www.filehippo.com/download_ccleaner/, it is called ccsetup302.exe (2.907 Kb) and comes with the optional free google toolbar.

    The solution is simple: surf to
    http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner/download/slim and get it directly from the site of the maker Piriform! Here it’s called ccsetup302_slim.exe (2.059Kb) and has no annoying toolbar.
    I don’t know who puts this toolbar in this great program but this is the way to avoid accidently installing this toolbar. Maybe you knew this solution all along, but I thought it did belong at this article.

  5. David Roper

    No matter who has a site for the software, there are only two kinds of software: (1) Freeware, which allows use without paying a fee to anyone now or later, and (2)all others, including but not limited to: begware, nagware, shareware, commercial, installs a toolbar or other crap – ware, add stuff here.

    I like (1) and may on occasion find it okay to pay a fee for its use as in (2).

    Easy.

  6. mikeart

    As a parent, what I find even worse, is extra unwanted software that is bundled with stuff my kids download, they are not stupid and are of an age to know how to look out for them, time comes for me to do some maintenance on their computers, and hey ho what’s all this crap, stuff they were unaware they had downloaded, this is a step in the right direction and good for Softpedia for doing so. thanks Ashraf for another good post, ps wanna free toolbar ?

  7. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Softpedia: Oops. My fault. I got my information off the Ad-Supported License page:

    Ad-supported software is generally defined as software that is free to use but includes third-party components or services not necessarily related to the program’s functionality but intended to somehow generate income for the developer, as compensation for providing the software free of charge.

    I have fixed the article. Thanks for bringing my attention to the matter.

  8. Softpedia

    Thank you very much for writing this article, but there’s one little problem with it. You’ve mentioned that “shareware programs that are “ad-supported” are not marked as such – they are listed as “Trial”, “Demo”, or something along those lines. “Ad-supported” is only for free programs”. That’s not true. As you can see here http://www.softpedia.com/get/CD-DVD-Tools/Data-CD-DVD-Burning/Nero-10.shtml / http://www.softpedia.com/get/CD-DVD-Tools/Virtual-CD-DVD-Rom/DAEMON-Tools.shtml / http://www.softpedia.com/get/Internet/Popup-Ad-Spyware-Blockers/Ad-Aware-Pro.shtml etc shareware programs can also be listed as ad-supported. If you know of any shareware products that should be listed as ad-supported and are not, please drop us a line and we’ll investigate asap. Thank you!