When Free Isn’t Really Free

How to decipher all of the free software download, free trial & free scan offers.–PC Pitstop.

When Free Isn’t Really Free

By Leo Notenboom

I frequently get questions from folks who download some free software only to find out that it’s not free at all, and they get quite upset at having been misled.

Except that they weren’t misled. Not really. Had they read more closely, they would have realized that “free” wasn’t really free at all.

That’s not to say there aren’t misleading advertisements out there – there are. But even the completely up-front and honest ones are sometimes easy to misunderstand.

So let’s look at some variations of “free” that aren’t really free at all.

Free Download!

“Free Download!” is a common advertising headline. In fact, you may see it on many of the advertisements here on Ask Leo!.

And it’s not lying: the download – the act of downloading the software from its server to your computer – costs you absolutely nothing.

What happens next varies. You may need to pay to use the program, or you may need to pay to use some features of the program, or to use it past a certain point in time. Or the software could be completely free.

But the headline “Free Download!” means nothing apart from the actual download of the file to your computer.

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