Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, "Confident Computing", for more solutions you can use to make your life easier. Click here.

Can I trust this site or utility?

//
Leo, do you have any opinion on the program ShouldIRemoveIt?

I have to say I don’t have any direct experience with this particular utility. However, looking at it briefly, on the surface, it seems like it might be kind of a useful thing. So what I want to do here is take you through a high-level process that I use to investigate programs and sites like this to determine whether or not I want to risk the download.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Domain Registration

In a case like this, I almost always start by looking up who owns the domain name. I use domaintools.com; specifically the utility whois.domaintools.com/(and then the domain I’m interested in). In this case, shouldiremoveit.com: http://whois.domaintools.com/shouldiremoveit.com

That will return you information on the domain registration. You can actually do that for any domain, including even Ask Leo! – you’ll see that my name pops up there.

Unfortunately, ShouldIRemoveIt?’s registration is anonymous. It’s actually registered by Domains By Proxy, a service that allows you to register a domain without needing to make your contact information public. That’s a reasonable thing to do. It makes a lot of sense for individuals who want to keep their privacy.

Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of using it for companies and services and the like. It’s not a huge strike against the product, but it certainly is a missed opportunity for them to be open about who they are.

TrustContact information

So, next I take a look at the contact information on the website. Usually there’s an “About” page or a contact page. In this case, they list the name of the company: Reason Software with an address in New York. Sounds fine so far. But I tried to research the company a little, and they have no corporate website. I Googled the address listed, and with the help of Google street view, I found that it was actually the location of a mail forwarding service.

I use a post office box myself; in other words, the address you’ll find on my domain registration is in fact a post office box. But coupled with the anonymous registration, this kind of thing just makes me a little bit more wary.

Web of Trust

So, next, I went to Web of Trust, mywot.com to see what others were saying. There are other reputation sites like WOT, but this is one that I find useful and quick to get to.

The program itself seems to get relatively good comments. The anonymity of the author seems to be the biggest objection of the negative comments that do appear. The good news is, not one WOT comment was complaining about malware or any kind of malicious behavior; at least not when I looked and not that I saw.

Examine the claims, understand the program

Then I took a look at exactly what ShouldIRemoveIt? does.

It examines your system to see what’s installed and looks in its own database to see what those programs are used for. In addition, it also reports what others users decided about each of the software packages it finds. In other words, did they leave it installed or did they uninstall it?

The thing to consider here is that by the very nature of the service that it’s providing, it’s reporting back to its servers both what’s on your machine and what actions you decide to take.

They’re not trying to hide this; I learned this all just by visiting their website and understanding what they claim the product does. It’s a crowd-sourced database of what people think is worth keeping and what’s not worth keeping. But it’s important to realize that it is reporting this information back.

Decisions, decisions…

So, what do you decide? I don’t know. Ultimately, while I’m uncomfortable with the anonymity of the author, the overall reaction to the program seems to be relatively positive. If you’re okay with the fact that it reports back what you have installed and what you choose to uninstall, it might be worth a try. Of course, take a full backup before you download it, just in case.

The process that I went through to try and dig up more information about the program is something that you should probably get in the habit of doing whenever you stumble across something that is unfamiliar to you. In today’s case, the results were mixed and I took a cautiously optimistic approach.

Sometimes, however, the results will be clear, and your decision will be an obvious one. When it comes to software that you’ve never heard of before, every so often, that decision will be to run away.

6 comments on “Can I trust this site or utility?”

  1. Wow from the sound of it and all the hiding of the name and stuff i would not even use that program, i will take your tips though Leo what a awesome way to find stuff out :).

      • That won’t work in this case. The software would be scanning the virtual machine for the programs installed on the VM, not the base OS that the VM is running on.

  2. thank you Leo, i also thought i might try this download, recomended by ” computer active ”
    but your advice made me think, and so will not. i’ll download recomended check sites though
    as usual cheers,

  3. Thanks, Leo! I searched my own domains, and it correctly said I had six. What concerns me is that my phone number and address were listed. I’ve not had a problem with that other than some domain people try to get me to list with them, but I really don’t like seeing my information there.

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Typically that's off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.