A Crapware Paradise

A Crapware Paradise

Note: Given our concerns about the issues outlined in this article, PC Pitstop has begun the process of removing our product listings from download.com.

In great detail, the folks at howtogeek.com outline the risks of downloading software from sites like download.com.

We installed the top 10 apps from Download.com, and you’ll never believe what happened! Well… I guess maybe you might have a good guess. Awful things. Awful things are what happens. Join us for the fun!

We’ve been railing against freeware download recommendations for years, and recently we taught you how to test any software safely using a virtual machine. So we thought, why not have some fun and see what really happens if you download software like a regular clueless user might?

For the purpose of this experiment, we’re going to just click through all regular installation screens with the default options using a fresh virtual machine. And we’re going to install ten applications from the most popular downloads list. And we’re going to assume the persona of a regular non-geek user.

Why would we choose Download.com? Because their policies page states clearly that they do not allow malicious software on the site, and further that they do NOT accept any software that contains the following:
Article Continued Here at Howtogeek.com

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13 thoughts on “A Crapware Paradise

  1. Believe it or not, Windows itself also has/had crypto or ransomware in some of its “mandated” update downloads (crypto lock in Aero last Sept., Ditto for Silverlight in March)…an MS service rep recently verified this for me…had to reformat the entire drive…lucky I had Dropbox (I do not work for them) and an external drive.

    I do not trust any program or software now…I do not update Windows ever (last time it did in September 2013, it automatically installed a permanent installer that disregarded one’s choices for an update, silently updating itself in the background…I couldn’t even uninstall the update key…thanks Windows, I guess this is YOUR computer, not mine)..updates are now purely selective, if they can’t explain it properly, then c ya

    Security Essentials (a.k.a.Defender) is nonsense–60% effective. I always choose a utility or virus checker that updates more than once on a daily basis–not just every other day or week, I also use a VPN on my laptop, with several utilities and virus chex –basically, six layer protection…yeah, very slightly slow, but I get warned in advance…

    I always perform “custom” or advanced downloads, versus standard (also, got caught once where a new software browser hacker was embedded in the “terms and conditions” at its bottom…)

    And, never, ever sync files to or from the cloud unless you un-link the computer and check both ends of the file folders before sync transfer.

    • @Doc: Wow, this post is unbelievable. To fail to apply security updates leaves Windows vulnerable in ways that even Antivirus software cannot protect one from. While I agree that Microsoft has released updates with problems, I’ve only had to remove one update in the last three years that had caused an issue with third party software, and NONE of the MS updates on any computer I’ve serviced over the years (and I’ve worked on 100’s) have ever contained any viruses or ransomware.

      My guess is that you had issues with some virus or ransomware that infected your computer and showed up during an update. While I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Microsoft since the inception of MS-DOS, they’ve been excellent at keeping their software clean (from virus-like infections – not from software ‘bugs’).

      As for Microsoft Security Essentials? Yea it’s not the most effective and even Microsoft says so (they consider it a ‘base-line’ defense), but when you add some additional Anti-Malware software like MalwareBytes and keep your computer up-to-date with MS Security patches, the combination is pretty good. I even had MSE
      (using the offline version) clean up a computer infected with ransomware which had got past the existing active “highly-rated” third party antivirus. The infection had even made the computer inaccessible. MSE cleaned the ransomware up nicely.

      Frankly, I do not like the overly top-heavy nature or the cost of most subscription Antivirus programs and the free ones just have too many limitations or advertisements.

      Lastly, since many users are not savvy when it comes to safe Web browsing and downloads, I usually add some additional protection (like cryptolocker, Unchecky, turning off unneeded Windows services and some firewall hardening).

      My policy? Keep it simple and keep it clean as too much of anything can simply be “too much.”

    • no download site if free of crapware. majorgeeks was one of the few sites that i trusted, but not anymore. a few days ago my antivirus software alerted me to Outbrowse.Gen a trojan attached to Best Free Video Converter 1.0. you’ve got to check each and every file from each and every site that you download from.

  2. I have put my trust in PC MATIC to keep my computers safe from malware and viruses. I do not use any other anti-virus or malware programs. Am I SAFE. do you recommend any other programs?

    • @William Oliver: I use Microsoft Security Essentials (now Windows Defender) along with MalwareBytes Anti-Malware paid version. I also have a few other passive protections in-place (like cryptoprevent), but MSE and MalwareBytes are my front line. No ongoing annual fees and good protection.

  3. You say that the freeware YTD YouTube Downloader is bad, but not why. I’ve been using this app for years, and have had zero probs with it, and I have PC Matic now instead of Norton, etc. So, where’s the beef? Thanks.

    • @Glenn Shumway: I no longer use YouTube Downloader. At one-time is was a decent program, but no longer. It’s now loaded with crapware and doesn’t always work. I now use an online YouTube Download site as it’s safe, easy and always works for me.

  4. Open Source is a better option, but even then always investigate some before rushing into a fried-machine.
    If you don’t have time to check out claims and websites, then you definitely don’t have time to get your PC fixed, or visit the bank to make fraud claims.
    Always protect yourself, because no one else will!
    Great article…. it’s sad too because Cnet was a great site once upon a time… long ago!

  5. I believe since I have an account with download.com, so I am able to avoid some of it. Snapfiles.com and majorgeek.com are two free software sites without crap.

  6. I always use and recommend ninite.com. If you are building a new PC just choose all your favourite freeware progs and it installs them for you in one go, sequentially, in the order they need to go in. If there are any checkboxes, it silently ticks the safe answer. I have installed 20+ programmes at a time – you just go away and when you come back it is all done.
    (I have no connection with Ninite.com )

  7. Interesting article.

    I too have found today’s freeware loaded with crapware of all kinds, even within software that at one time was free of such unwanted addons. However, I do personally use some programs that are freeware, but have learned how to prevent the crapware from installing in the first place. I have found that Malwarebytes (paid version) does a good job at preventing some like ‘opencandy’, but the best tool I’ve found is Unchecky.

    In most cases, Unchecky deselects the ‘optional’ unwanted packages during installation preventing them from being installed in the first place. This has been a life saver for my clients who just insist on clicking whatever is presented to them.

    I too would not recommend download.com as it has become so crapware ridden. There are still many places that offer ‘freeware’ that has value for the enduser and isn’t ridden with crapware or that awful ‘downloader’ that download.com and c/net insists on pushing.

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