Avoiding Extras in Free Software

Scott’s First and Second Laws of Computing

  1. It is your responsibility to know what you are installing on your computer. When in doubt, Google (or the search engine of your choice) is your friend.
  2. READ SCREENS. DON’T AUTOMATICALLY CLICK BUTTONS
    (Next/Yes/Accept/Install/OK).

 

Free software is great. There are fantastic, free software tools and services that we use everyday. When dealing with “free” software, you have to be careful during installation or updating. As the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Watch out for those “extras” that come bundled with your main product. You don’t always want or need them.

People (and companies) who write and/or provide free software often bundle other extra stuff along with the main product. They usually get paid to include the secondary product that may or may not be related to the main product. Most often, the installers are set to install the secondary stuff right along with the main product.

Usually you don’t want or need the secondary stuff. In the most benign cases the goal is to try to get you to buy the secondary product (often as a replacement for something you already have – see the Adobe Flash/McAfee example below). In the more nefarious scenario, the secondary product ostensibly provides some minor service, but the primary service often seems to be collecting information and/or advertising. See the discussion on OpenCandy in IZArcĀ  (a free archive/compression program) at Tech Support Alert, a freeware review site that I like.

Let’s look at a couple of common examples of common applications that try to install a secondary product by default.

Flash

By default Adobe Flash player wants to install a McAfee Security Scan product along with the Flash player. You do not need this product to use the Adobe Flash Player. If you don’t want it, be sure to uncheck the box.

screen capture of Adobe Flash install dialog

Typically, these types of scanners scan your computer, find things they report as problems, and then point you to their commercial (for-pay) program to solve the problems. If you already have and use current Anti-Virus and Mal-Ware detection software, then you don’t really need another one.

Disclaimer: I don’t use McAfee products and have not installed their Security Scanner. I use other AV and malware detection software

Java

By default, Java tries to install search products from Ask.com.Search engines have nothing to do with Java. You don’t need it to use the main product. If you don’t want it, uncheck the boxes.

java1Personally, I don’t like Ask.com as a search engine I don’t find their results to be good. I don’t like the “set and keep Ask as my default search”, especially the “and keep” part.

Ask has historically made it deliberately hard to change and or remove their product once you get it on your system. In my decades of technology experience, many people have had a problem with this particular product. There is lots of stuff out there when you search for removing the Ask tool bar, much of it on legitimate sites.

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