WARNING: CNET Download.com downloads now come bundled with opt-out crapware and toolbars

One of the worst parts of bundled software is that the vast majority of people don’t actually read installers as they go by, they simply click NEXT NEXT NEXT NEXT. This means downloader’s computers get filled to the brim with stuff they don’t want and stuff they’ll never use. Luckily, software developers know people hate this and have taken to bundling less and less with their code.

However, Download.com now bundles its own crapware with those software developers’ code you download from its site. Wait, what?

Image Credit: Geek&Poke

After downloading a program from Download.com, you’ll notice that it’s not actually an installer–just another downloader. (Firefox is several megabytes, not 400KB!)

Starting this new web installer, you’ll notice that it’s a four step process in place of a one-step process. Not only that, but it complicates the already complicated process of installing new software.

You’ll notice that, before letting you actually download anything, it wants to install a new toolbar, change your search engine, and even change your homepage.

Only after accepting or declining these toolbars will you actually be allowed to install your own software.

The only way to avoid this new installer is to log into CNET and clicking the small Direct Download link:

Luckily for users, alternative download sites exist. Several popular ones include Softpedia.com, which marks programs with toolbars included; FileHippo, which has an amazing updater available as well; and MajorGeeks, which has a usable, clutter-free interface.

Via Lifehacker and Ghacks

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61 comments

  1. Kal

    I just updated my FileHippo installation to discover it appears to have gone the same way. It now forces you to use their “downloader”, and exactly as with Cnet, rather than actually downloading the software, it downloads a tiny file which is itself another layer of wrapping with another set of forced crapware. A real shame as I’ve been using FH for years!

  2. noodle

    I’m pretty disappointed to see that cnet’s download.com has turned into a crapware site. I found this page after trying to download some otherwise benign programs and finding that every program I try to install is pushing some crap, that for me, is basically malware. I’m going to blacklist download.com on my router.

  3. sl0j0n

    Hello, all.
    AVOID “cnet.com” & “download.com”.
    Try makorgeeks.com instead.
    Doesn’t have everything, but so far, EVERYthing I’ve got there is good.
    Tell your friends, family, ever enemies—majorgeeks.com

    Have a GREAT day, Neighbors!

  4. David Banks

    Any site that puts a download on your download i.e installers are useless and should be avoided. We already deal with a shit ton of Ads, pop ups, and banners there is no reason to create an installer to ask of more shit. We already know what we are downloading, if we wanted your shit free ware we would go download it. The bottom line is simple, if a site can not just give you the download straight up, they don’t give two shits about you, they care about making more money. So screw CNET and any other website that would add their installers. There are much better websites out there who have WAY less ads, and give you the download straight up.

  5. Nevermore

    [@Peter Gavin-Rowney] Bullshit, sir! I was not given the option to forgo the VIRUS and I always pay extra attention to those things. I used the direct download link. The process was intentionally deceptive. And the even bigger point here is that we are all very tired of having to uncheck boxes to opt out of things we didn’t request in the first place (assuming those boxes did exist). Why don’t you people understand that? For those less savvy, they may not catch any options like that anyway or might fail to understand what they should do. Why should they be infected with crap they didn’t want because they lack experience or awareness of the situation? This is unethical and you can try to white-wash it any which way…it doesn’t make you any less unethical (shill).

  6. Nevermore

    Never, never again! In the distant past I used Cnet for trusted downloads. After not using the site for a long time, I returned this week for some software I wanted, thinking the site was still trustworthy. The site is now EVIL. I don’t care what they’ve said to try to reassure people. They need to knock off the bullshit talk. I’ve examined their forums and they are giving meaningless, BS reassurances when confronted on this. The software I downloaded infected my computer with 23 malware files and a browser hijacker that neither Malwarebytes nor my antivirus program could remove. I am furious and have now spent hours trying to clean my computer. I did not use their installer, but the direct download link, so it makes no difference.
    I knew something was wrong when the installation hung for a long time and when I tried to cancel it, it forbid me from doing so. How dare it. I shut it down in task manager and was immediately hit with a warning from my anti-virus that my system had been infected.

    I keep my system clean and have never had in infection this bad…have had very few, ever. Now this! I don’t even know if my efforts will completely remove this evil crud. I may just reformat. All I can think is — “You’ve got to be kidding me!!” Cnet, you actually think this is acceptable?? How would you like it if you took your car in to have a stereo system installed and you got it back with holes punched in your hoses and parts ripped out everywhere, so that it’s no longer functional in the way you need it to be?? Do you think this is acceptable? Huh?? DO YOU???!!! This is like vandalism to personal equipment. What you consider to be safe and harmless is not agreed on by anyone else, and certainly not by security software either. Anything that changes the functionality of my computer (without my consent)…a computer that I purchased and paid good money for, is NOT OK!!! I hope you die!

  7. DoktorThomas

    CNET was purchased some years ago by lame stream media mega monster, Columbia Broadcasting. Since then the site has been in a death spiral. When the requirement to use and install their downloader first appeared (2005 ?), I stopped using the site for any purpose. Any software provider ignorant enough to use CNET doesn’t deserve patronage. Both CNet and Columbia are knowlingly in bed with the fed.gov.

  8. Never again

    One of the worst experiences I had to date, when I used the downloader, I assumed it was going to be a temporary thing and tried to look for a ‘no thank you’ option for the additional crapware. As there was no such thing and I didn’t see the direct download link as mentioned in this article – I assumed it was a merely simple toolbar which I could easily uninstall later.

    How utterly wrong I was. About 4 different icons clung to my desktop some were always in process and unable to uninstall easily. And my browser suddenly had a billion buttons everywhere.

    I gave up in the end and just used a restore point from 2 hours ago. Never using CNET again.

  9. Jill

    CNET downloads “spam toolbar installer” is the worst. It has plastered itself all over about 40 of our 55 office machines.

    I have to spend each day going from dept to dept and TRYING to uninstall that mess.

    Awful.

    Avoid cnet.com and downloads.com

  10. S Finch

    I, too, have trusted CNET for years. I have previously downloaded from the site without any problems. After downloading an ftp program last night I spent two hours getting rid of everything. My three browsers home pages had been changed, a games package was installed and something else that seemed to be music related. An .exe file was stopped, that was my first clue that something was up.

    I went back in to the CNET download page today and yes, the information is there and I accepted the downloads. It was the big download button beside the item that I wanted. At this point I doubt that I would use the site again.

  11. Wayne

    I agree with William Johnson in that Peter Gavin-Rowney is a paid CNet mule. Do a google for this issue and you’ll see that not only DotTech.org but tons of other sites with many posts blast Cnet for their unethical business practices.

  12. Wayne

    I trusted CNET for news and download for many years. When I accidentally installed CutePDF from them on 5/10/2013 with CNET downloader, it installed all these garbage spamware. I will no longer use download.com nor trust CNET news anymore. This is outrageous how they make legitimate free software look bad with their bloatware.

  13. Tony

    No, it isn’t legitimate at all. cnet are now a rogue website and should be treated as such.

    It’s impossible to download anything from their site without this payload. Note they did not create anything available for download on that site – they simply took it and wrapped scumware around it.

    *even if you uncheck everything* it installs crapware anyway.

  14. Peter Gavin-Rowney

    IMO your vilifying review of CNET Download.com is unjust and unfair in this case. The download process for the consumer is clearly laid out and there is no attempt at deception by CNET Download.com who, when all is said and done, are justifiably doing no more than simply running a nonetheless trustworthy and respectable business.
    Declining the extra bundled software and/or toolbars is a very uncomplicated matter even for a computer novice, provided they are patient enough to wait five or ten seconds for the downloader to do its stuff. The consumer has the option of accepting or declining any part of the download.

  15. Terminus

    This stupid toobar downloader is a piece of shit. I just downloaded plasma pong from cnet.com , i read every window and unchecked the DAMN STUPID TOOBAR ACCEPTING BOX, and you know what? it installed anyways and deleted all my actual tabs!. THAT’S NOT EVEN LEGAL PIECE OF CRAP!.

  16. Pixel-Solitaire

    The worst thing you could do is hiding a cr@ppy software behind the one that I’ve clicked for. Congratulation «download.cnet.com»: you’ve done it. So what’s next? An optional Trojan Horse?

  17. Malou

    I wanted to download google chrome but im not sure which site is better that doesn’t load
    of junk in my computer.,i thought of cnet because i saw high stars rating and then i searched
    for reviews and i found its all bunch of crap ..now i dont know which one to trust..cnet,softpedia or FileHippo.
    HELP!

  18. Chris

    I recently experienced a more dubious adventure from CNET. While going through the motions mentioned above, Step 1 was to “Proceed with install”. Clicking next did nothing… I waited a few seconds and clicked it again and WHOA! what was that? The step 2 screen flashed by in a second, onto step three. Hmm, weird, but whatever. When I was done I discovered Blekko had ingrained itself as my default browser and a new toolbar had emerged. Took a little effort to get rid of it.
    I decided to check it out and ran the installer again. Turns out the next button seems to be rigged to do nothing, or pause, or something so that when you click it once it just sits there until you click it a second time, then it carries that second click onto the 2nd step (where all the crap is hidden) so that you inadvertently OK it all, and it jumps to step 3.
    So long CNET.

  19. John

    I just tried to get KeyScrambler free off of Cnet today and Nod32 refused to allow me to download it. Very strange. I usually use Filehippo, it’s my homepage, but some downloads are only available on Cnet. Also, apparently the developer for Keyscrambler is not developing the free version anymore because of the rapid Firefox release, I have one premium version I got on a giveaway from raymond’s site ant it is nice but wayy too expensive to buy.

    PS to Locutus, HP SMB sent me a confirmation of my order today (from a Sunday order) for my TP. No shipping notice though, so the order could still be cancelled at any moment, as many people are reporting for various online stores. About the only reliable online vendor for the discounted TP madness is Amazon direct.

  20. a simple happy man

    I absolutely adored CNET Download.com until they started with this extra unessential Downloader Garbage and bundled in all the extra Crapware making the download experience that much longer and rubbishy.

    So it’s time to say Thanks for the Good Download Times and go find another online friend that doesn’t try to force me to take any crap from them and let’s me choose for myself!!

  21. Bruce

    @David:: Actually, Secunia’s PSI does a comprehensive scan. I have not found a single instance where it missed an installed application. You do need to remember that it only reports a problem with software that has a security patch available that has not been applied. Any other updates are irrelevant for PSI’s purposes.

  22. David

    CNET TechTracker – one of the free tools (like SUMO, PC Authority), which scan your apps and lists updates worked pretty well (other than dying occasionally) until they started on this … dubious track (get it?) Ok, weak pun.

    Maybe it’s time for a good review of update tools? (This isn’t it- just a starter for, well, say 5..)

    Any scanner would usefully distinguish between freeware and commercial versions, as updating a commercial version often means you need a new license. TechTracker is one of the few to do so, alas.

    SUMO I find confusing- it seems to need to rescan before it lists updates.
    PC Authority’s UpdateScanner seems to list a whole bunch of apps I don’t have as well.
    UpdateStar free is limited, and really points you to the commercial version.

    FileHippo’s only picks up a very few apps, so is extremely limited.
    DC Updater is exclusively for Donation Coder programs
    Secunia PSI has a different (and useful) objective, and does not do a comprehensive scan.

  23. leland

    I have always hated Cnet and only go there as a last resort. As far as MajorGeeks I like the site myself as I find the ratings and information very useful and they also have many discontinued programs still available for download. But to each their own. We all like our computing devices to fit the way we work and it is the same with sites to it seems. Thanks for the heads up; I always hate it when more shovelware comes with our software.

  24. Locutus
    Author/

    @Ashraf: You were the one that posted about it xD
    But that’s not where I learned about it. I found it on Gizmodo and Engadget long before then. :P
    And then I waited in line for 2 hours on Sunday to get one :O
    Now I’m just writing one sentence per line with an emote at the end. :)
    If you really want to you can always make me admin ;-)

  25. Locutus
    Author/

    @Ashraf: by the way, I noticed this post is second to an already published one. Is there a way you could change that?

    I’ll update the article with the if-you-sign-in thing when I get home.

  26. Yhe Green Wizard

    Just go to filehippo.com. I found every things and they even send you daily update about new softwares or updates if you wish. By the way that’s the place where the maker of CCleaner send you for download.