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Free is Not Free

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.

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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.

Free Trial

By itself, “Free Trial” seems pretty clear: you get to try out some software for some period of time, or some number of uses, after which you need to pay to continue to use it. Free trials are often completely full-featured versions of the software you’re interested in; at other times, they may have limitations that are removed only by purchasing the software.

Free?The confusion arises when there are two versions of a particular program:

  • A truly free version that might be older or more limited in functionality.
  • A free trial that will eventually demand payment for continued use.

As you can imagine, companies often promote the free trial over the completely free version so they eventually get paid.

Take care to note exactly what it is you’re getting. If it’s a “trial”, then eventually it will not be free.

Free Scan!

This is perhaps one of the most easily confused of the free variants, and yet it’s once again completely accurate.

A free scan will typically do exactly that: perform a scan of your computer for whatever it is that the software is designed to scan for. Absolutely nothing was promised about what happens next.

Free scan does not imply free repair.

Most free scans are really nothing more than a form of free trial, allowing you to run the scan on your computer to see if you even need whatever it is the results might indicate. Most then offer to repair or act on those results – for a fee.

The worst examples of this genre of software are free scans that lie. They are nothing more than “scareware” – software that scares you into taking unnecessary action. Typically, one of those unnecessary actions is spending money to purchase the so-called “repair”. (Actually, the worst of the worst are, in fact, malware themselves, installing malicious software on your machine only to then offer to remove it … for a fee.)

Unless it’s a specific program that you know has a good reputation, I recommend avoiding anything that advertises itself using the “free scan” marketing tactic. There are just too many slimy players out there that leverage it to do nothing more than take your money.

Free with advertising

There have almost always been websites that are completely free, except for the “cost” of being presented with advertising as you view the website’s content. Ask Leo! is a fine example. Advertising is an important component of what keeps Ask Leo! afloat, and what keeps the content on the site otherwise truly free.

Particularly in the mobile world, there’s now a lot of free software that is, indeed, truly free as well, with the caveat that advertisements are included. Some include paid upgrades that allow you to use the software without the advertising.

But the bottom line is that advertising in general is one thing that keeps the majority of free websites and resources truly free to you and me… with the “cost” of seeing the advertising.

Other forms of “free”

You’re likely to run into other forms of “free” as well.

Perhaps the most common is what I call the “public radio” model, where every now and then you’re asked to contribute money to the operation of the site or software. Wikipedia is a great example of this: enduring periodic fund drives is part of the cost of using the resource, and simultaneously a critical component of keeping such a valuable resource free to the internet.

“Free” is a powerful word, and with great power comes great responsibility, as well as great opportunity for abuse.

It’s important to understand exactly what the word “free” really means, and exactly what it applies to when you’re presented with offers on the internet.

Sometimes free really is free. Sometimes free means free, but with an acceptable pseudo-cost, like advertising.

But sometimes free isn’t really free at all.

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45 comments on “Free is Not Free”

  1. My primary computer OS is Kubuntu, a Linux application. From the standpoint of your comments, this never happens in Kubuntu. Free in Kubuntu is free indeed, no tricky statements, nothing you have to figure out, very little waste of your time when reading the information. It is the very reason I finally permanently removed Windows 7 from my PC.

    If you tried it for a couple of weeks, at least until you were comfortable with the differences in the two different Operating Systems, you would do as I did, probably.

    It has taken a very long time for people to test the differences. The propaganda has been effective by Microsoft, however, no sane person who learns the operation methods for a Linux OS ever goes back to Microsoft.

    Every time I used Windows, I became pissed off. Each time I started Windows, I was interrupted with a plethora of required things to do to continue. I am old, and an interruption many times will make me forget why I was on my computer. So, I have to wait until I happen to remember what it was that I wanted to accomplish.

    But if I get the same interfering interruption, I many times have to go through the same process again.

    It NEVER happens when using a Linux distribution, at least not in my 20 years experience in Linux.

    The Internet as it relates to Microsoft applications is so filled with GREED as its motivating factor that GREED seems to be the focus on every search. Virus’, spyware, and adware are processes that require some sort of blocking script to reduce the amount of crap you have to continually be on the lookout for when surfing using a Microsoft product.

    It doesn’t happen when you use Linux distributions.

    Using Windows, each time you are confronted with a file extension that has yet been introduced to your OS, you are given the option to enter the Internet to search for the program that will read that file system. It usually costs a few dollars, perhaps $20 or a little more to then be able to open documents using that file system.

    In Linux applications, especially Kubuntu, it is hard to find a file extension that doesn’t automatically open. In fact, an option to remove programs that use rarely used file systems exists to help the user save a little memory. However now that memory has become so inexpensive, saving memory is usually not a problem, so having all the different file systems ready to use is slightly better, because you might come across the need, although perhaps rarely, at some future time.

    Many Microsoft users thing Linux users are just cheap, as well as, willing to satisfy themselves with an inferior OS to save money on programs, or for similar type considerations. That is not true. I, for one, when trapped in the Microsoft system, would have paid a lot of money to have my Microsoft OS behave like my Kubuntu system does. Fortunately I found Linux and did not need to spend what I would have been willing to pay.

    And as far as the Linux applications not being up to the standard of Windows compatible applications, that is simply a joke. All the Linux applications equal or exceed the capabilities of Microsoft compatible products. Spend the 2 weeks mentioned in the first part of my reply and you will see why it is such a joke.

    I have never had a virus on my Linus OS. In fact, I have not even installed the virus software so needed when using Windows. I never had to purchase, or pay for an upgrade, or agreed to someone else’s conditions for use either.

    I remember a few years back that unwanted ads were a small problem on Linux distributions, but the developers closed that door relatively fast, and I still do not have to install any spyware of adware protections.

    In Windows, if you want the new innovations offered by an Adobe product, you have to pay a rather large upgrade expense to have that benefit.

    In Kubuntu, if I type in the following commands: sudo apt-get install updates or sudo apt-get install upgrades, every program in my system is brought up to the cutting edge of technology. I have never had to pay for an upgrade.

    You Windows users are so used to dealing with all that crap, you don’t seem to realize what an intrusion it is to your life.

    Over the years, I have usually had a version of Windows in a dual-boot configuration on my computer. I still have Windows Vista on my laptop, but I really never use it, and because of this reply, am probably going to remove it now. Every time I open Vista or Win 7, I can be assured that I will soon be pissed off. It is the very reason I rarely open either up.

    Recently, I finally convinced my closest friend to install Kubuntu on his system. I carefully helped him through the learning process of learning the differences in use.

    A comment that I have been expecting and one that repeats, over and over, is this, “I can’t believe it took me this long to take the advise from a friend I always trust in all other matters of my life”. “This stuff is incredible. I cannot believe I never seem confronted with that. Wow, the free application is so configurable, it is just plain better than the Microsoft compatible alternative. I have forgotten to even think of virus’ or spyware, or adware. I can’t believe that the free option is also better quality in use. I wish I had listened to you; I would have saved thousands of dollars over the years, and wouldn’t have had to tolerate so much crap.” I am certain I have forgotten to mention many similar comments, but it is the way that things are learned, if you start out using a Microsoft product.

    You have probably heard all this many times, but it is obvious you have never given a LInux application a fair use and chance. If you had, you would not be spending any of your precious life condoning an indefensible behavior of this article.

    I make this statement from time to time; it rarely works; I don’t know why. However, every time, I stress EVERY TIME, I get through to an individual who has never given Linux a fair trial, they all, I stress ALL, come to the same conclusions as my friend who finally, after about 10 years of coaxing, tried Kubuntu. He recently removed his Microsoft OS from his computer.

    I am certain that you are probably much smarter in the use of your computer than I. You probably know most of what is necessary to minimize the problems you experience using Windows OS’s, but you are light-years from the capabilities of a knowledgeable Kubuntu user.

    After 20 years, I still consider myself a rookie; I am just not as intellectually as equipped. Learning has always been a struggle for me, but tenacity has kept me moving forward.

    There are over 30,000 free applications available to a Kubuntu user. When they are offered by Kubuntu in the package manager that provides access to them, they have been perfected to a very high quality in use. All are free. None have a contract to agree to. All give you permission to use their application freely, us change or modify it if you like. Usually they request to hear about any improvements to their creation, but none will take you to court over the changes that are made.

    I will never know if you are open-minded enough to take the time to read my comments. If you are a typical Microsoft user, you will have stopped long ago. But if you took my advice, as given, you will probably become a Linux user, angry with Microsoft for wasting so much of your time and life.

    • Spoken like a true fanboy. Facts don’t matter as long as you can rant about how great (Windows, Anything Apple, Unix) is and how everyone else is closed minded or just doesn’t get it.

    • i tried Ubuntu and Kubuntu is a derivative of Ubuntu. i couldn`t even find my printer and there was no way to add it. are you saying
      Kubuntu has fixed it? maybe i should have asked Leo. in Ubuntu, much like some aspects of Win 7, if you don`t already know
      you never will. as least when i tried it.

    • I am a very new user of Ubuntu, and I’m in love! And it’s FAST. As do others, I run Windows (7) for old time’s sake, and for the things I haven’t yet cracked in Linux, but bit by bit I do manage. I would love to find a Linux version of Ask Leo, though, mainly because if you go anywhere for help you run into geeks writing for geeks, though the language becomes more transparent with time. But back to Steven, he’s bang on the mark throughout, and I’d add that if anyone is retiring an old machine, load up Ubuntu (or whatever) and have a breeze.

    • It’s great that you’re happy with Linux. Awesome! Fantastic! Enjoy! Proselytize! Spread the word!

      But that’s no reason to bash Windows, which works perfectly well for millions of users out in the world. Same for OSX, or any other operating system one happens to like. Every operating system has flaws. Every operating system crashes. It’s the nature of the beast(s).

      Just because YOU happen to have a bad experience with an operating system or application or whatever, doesn’t mean others do or will. Many times it’s the users themselves that are the biggest problem, but you’ll NEVER hear that from them.

      No one answer works for everybody. We use what we use because it works for us or we find something that (hopefully) works better.

      • Ummm, have you tried this crap that Windows is calling 8 or 8.1 ? I finally had to buy a new machine and a Windows 8 was cheaper than any I could find that still ran 7. It took me DAYS to set this thing up and Microsoft wants me to PAY for the driver for my printer. I tried installing it from the CD and Windows told me that software won’t load on this machine. Really ? It’s 64 bit software on a 64 bit machine, it loaded on two other machines running 7. Oh, but this is 8 and we don’t have to be backward compatible. I guess it’s time for me to go into the closet and find my geek hat and load Kubuntu.

        • I’ve never heard of MS asking people to pay for a driver. Make sure it’s actually Microsoft making that request and not some scammer.

        • I’m running Windows 8.1 on a couple computers and have had no issues whatsoever.

          If you’re being asked to pay for a driver, perhaps you’re looking for it in the wrong place. Many sites tout the availability of thousands of drivers for this and that, yet end up being nothing more than scam websites that are out for a buck.

          The best place to start is with your printer manufacturer’s website. Most responsible manufacturers have drivers available for their printers regardless of the operating system in use.

          I’m sorry you’re having a tough time with Windows. It can at time be a very trying operating system at best. However, if running something other than Windows will help keep your temper and blood pressure under control, then that’s probably a smart move.

          Good luck!

    • “no sane person who learns the operation methods for a Linux OS ever goes back to Microsoft” – that’s just an unfair assessment. I do use Linux (I tend to prefer Mint). I also use Windows and Mac OS. Each has its strong and weak points. Many (many) applications are simply not available on Linux, and the free and open source alternatives are either non-existent, abandoned or unsupported from the perspective of the average user. Support, in general, tends to be difficult to find, and often exceptionally geeky – the point of intimidating the average user away.

      That being said, I recommend Linux to people all the time. When the needs are simple, or clearly the type of thing that Linux distros support well, then it absolutely can be the right solution for many people.

      It’s just not the right solution for ALL people.

      Oh, and as for “I have never had a virus on my Linux OS.” – that’s fantastic, and I agree, Linux is a much smaller target for malware than either Windows or Mac. But once again, the only system I’ve ever personally had compromised was a Linux server. Never say never.

      • Leo,

        Thanks for helping people be optimistic. If you never got malware under Windows, it means it’s doable. Hopefully.

    • As Bill said “Spoken like a true fanboy. ”
      It all depends what you want to do.
      Enjoy your Linux, but if you want to do serious programming I’m sorry to say there is little choice, Linux just doesn’t cut it without cumbersome additional Windows emulation applications. Not a good outcome.

    • Ok, I don’t have time to read the rest of your rant about MS, and your love of Linux. But this comment caught my eye: ” Each time I started Windows, I was interrupted with a plethora of required things to do to continue.”

      That’s got NOTHING to do with Windows! I just received my new laptop from Puget Systems, running Win7. I purposely bought from them because, among other things, I didn’t want any pre-loaded crapware bogging down my system. I configured it to be lean and fast. When I turn it on, it is ready to go in about 15 seconds. And that’s not from Sleep or Hibernate either. So I don’t know how you use a computer, but all the “plethora of things required to do to continue” you mention, is most certainly not the fault of Windows.

      By the way, for anyone else thinking of upgrading their machine, but doesn’t want Win8… This was another reason I went with Puget: Win7 OS still available for no extra charge. Now their computers ain’t cheap. But the research they put into making sure the components they choose are at the top of the list when it comes to reliability, and the quality of the build and the company itself is top-notch. So again, considering the “free” concept…

  2. Robert Heinlein used TANSTAAFL – There Ain’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.
    You pay for everything you do or use in some form. It can be obvious like paying for a phone connection or subtle like small ads on a web page.

  3. Not sure where Bill is going, BUT, Steve has points (to a point). I use BOTH, Linux and Windows. Both have drawbacks, Windows – for all the crap that creates the need for guys like Leo to be there. Linux – for the need for friends to help with the questions, and clues on how to do things. IE: I still haven’t found a way in Linux to rip a DVD (I OWN) and make a back-up (DVDFab/ DVD Shrink in Windows).

    However, I like the clean environment my Linux machine gives me, the security – I feel more comfortable with, and watching movies with VLC (also available in Windows format). And, yes, Libre, Firefox,etc.

    Especially, I like the fact, that if I clone my machine to a external medium, I can reinstall it on other machines and thus far it has worked flawlessly, no licensing restrictions,etc. No OS installs, followed by program installs, and all the personalization needed to look like you are used to.

    By the way, I’m still on Ubuntu 10.10 LTS and loving it. (And Windows 7, when I need to)

  4. So Leo…after reading your article on nothing being truly FREE, what do YOU have to say about the Kubuntu operating system touted by a commenter?

  5. Seriously…. Free 🙂 If anyone has ever used one of those many “free” online dating sites….. Most all are only free to post a profile…..to actually answer ads or e-mails … You have to pay up. But the FREE offer stuff has always been around, even before the internet.

  6. You justify false advertising by the fact that it’s common practice. Similar to my son justifying things with the excuse that, “….everybody does it’, and somehow that’s supposed to make it ok. It doesn’t. One should not have to scrutinize the fine print to figure out that the download is free, but if you use it then you will have to pay. How dishonest and devious are you willing to justify? What you refer to as common practice I call a lie – plain and simple. Free means no charge. and free trial means you’ll pay if you decide to keep it. Someone needs to look up what truth in advertising is all about. What you justify may be common practice, but it is certainly not truthful.

    As an truthful comment, I enjoy and appreciate your articles.

    .

    • Please understand I’m not trying to justify anything. I think it’s as awful as the next person.

      My intent here is to educate. It is what it is – misleading or otherwise – and it’s critical that people understand what FREE does, and does not, mean.

  7. Free software – from OS to applications to utilities – is never totally free. You, the user, always have to devote some time and effort to installing, learning, maintaining and operating the new software. And our time has value.

    On PC’s I’ve used MS-DOS, Windows, even CP/M, UNIX, SCO-UNIX, Linux, Ubuntu Linux, TRS-DOS, various Apple OS’s, Android OS’s and probably some I’ve forgotten. They all did what they were supposed to do in their time. None are awful, some are better than others. But I value my time, so now I stick with Windows systems for most things because it spans all the things I do regularly. If I want to get geeky, I keep up to date enough to use Linux for a few things. Even with that experience, I figure I’ll spend 40+ hours getting to know a new OS well should I upgrade. Resources like Ask Leo really help to keep the number of hours down..

    When you evaluate any new software, ‘Free’ or otherwise, ask yourself how much time you will spend to be able to use that app (at the skill level you think you will need) and whether your time is better spent elsewhere.

  8. I use win 7, and I also have a machine with Mint 17.1. The difference between the two os’s is very small. I like them both. I still have problems with Mint, I can’t get it to recognize the windows network. I had Gloria before and it was no problem, boot it and the network was installed and it all worked.. Same with winXP, everything worked, Win 7 doesn’t want to see the Mint 17.1 computer. But I like the idea of just clicking on an icon and the program works when installed. Mint,, where does it store programs sometimes. Says it’s downloaded but I can’t find it. Not good. But I like the Mint, uncluttered, works faster than Windows, never had malware installed, but they both have good and bad things. Learning curves I suspect are easier in Lunux distro if you are new to computers, but an old hand I think Windows is easier. Wonder what Win 10 will have that I might not use and stick with Mint? The Penguin lives happily.

  9. Is there a way to lock out the Windows key on the left and the key that looks like a tablet on the right on a Windows keyboard? I get tired of hitting it by mistake and having a program do strange things, like deleting, or shutting down..

    • If you might need the keys in the future simply make a cover for the keys to keep from using them. Plastic that is thin enough to fit without interfering with the keys next to it and thick enough to prevent you from pressing the keys.

      If you NEVER ever plan on using those keys remove the buttons and fill the hole. Don’t try this on a laptop since if you break something it can be very expensive to fix. Regular keyboards can be rather inexpensive.

      Now if you want to dissable the keys through programming, I’m quite sure that it can be done through the Registry Code, but that would be well beyond my capabilities.

      Good luck……….Alan

  10. I have a couple of random comments..

    –Years ago I read in a marketing article that “free” is the most powerful word in advertising, and you should use it in any way that you can manage to promote your business. That opens up a world of possibilities, many of which are deceptive. But in the hyper-competitive world of computer software, even legitimate developers need whatever edge they can get. The trick is to use “free” to get customers’ attention without deception.

    –I would no more opt in to a “free” scan of my computer than I would for a “free” safety check for my car. You might was well just hand over a blank check.

    –I use the free version of some programs that offer a paid upgrade, and the paid version of others. This seems like one of the fairest and most honest business models to me, as long as the free version is actually useful and not just a come-on. (Malwarebytes comes to mind as a positive example.)

    Great article as always Leo. Thanks!

    • About 30 years ago the transmission went out in my car. AAMCO, a popular shop at the time, offered FREE towing and FREE inspections. Well, after they towed the car and inspected it, the price for repairs was tripple the value of the car. I decided NOT to get it fixed. I had to pay $300 to get the car back. There was no fine print at the time stating any limitations or qualifications on the tow and inspection.

      Free often “implies” some type of restrictions. Just try asking a bank for a free sample, you will be met at the door with a SWAT team.

  11. Leo,

    You’d think after a few years of internet experience or just plain life in a world filled with commercials, folks would’ve figured out how to interpret information regarding something “free”, but my experience tells me otherwise. Sometimes I think people see and hear what they want rather than what is really being offered. It’s my opinion that the makers of certain drugs for men want males to hear the part about, if this condition last for more than “4 hours” see a physician. It’s my opinion that it’s a “selling point” to most males (not just those with the condition). My point is we see and hear what we want to see and hear and may not read or listen beyond the point of denying us a chance to get what we want.

    I’ve learned to read & listen to what is being said and if I can ask questions, I know if my question was actually answered or whether I was given an answer to something I didn’t ask. So, I’ll ask the question again or re-read the information to make sure I understand what’s going on. Now I don’t read every download’s million worded legalesed agreement. But I know when I’m being asked for my financial information or the potential for a cost to be paid down the road.

    I guess I treat everything online as a scam when I come to it like the “Nigerian Prince” scheme and then proceed forward with caution. I obviously have people & companies that I’ve learned to trust and only need to make sure that it’s truly them I’m dealing with. Am I at the “askleo.com” website or “axleo.com” website?

    People always say “we have the best or sold the most” and relatively speaking they’re right. But relative to what is your job to find out. What does this person or company mean by “free” or to what extent? Take your time and figure it out and if you don’t have the time right then, wait until later when you do.

    Your article should slow a lot of people down when they see the word “free” from now on.

    • As a general rule……….
      People without money tend to be more trusting of everyone else
      People with money (especialy those who aquired their wealth through fraudulent means) don’t trust ANYONE.

      It comes down to this……….
      You have to think like a theif to not be conned by a theif.

  12. Leo: Your commenter Steven Vollom wrote a ringing endorsement of Kubuntu. I’ve heard that kind of report for years and so have frequently downloaded Ubuntu and tried it on my computer. Last time I was amazed at how fast everything was compared to Win 7. However, there is an Achilles Heel to his love fest which he hints at but doesn’t address. How do you learn how to accomplish anything? For example, he says you should type in an instruction called sudo. He doesn’t say how or where to type it in, and the geeks who answer questions on forums never tell you how to enter or modify code, which they love to recommend. I usually have no idea what they are talking about when they propose adding ten or twenty lines of code to fix a simple problem. There may be all kinds of assistance and free programs but it’s a mystery to me how you find out about them. Or how you answer the simple questions – the ones that would be a piece of cake to an experienced user who was sitting next to you and could say “click on that ” or “type in that”. But there is no one next to me and every small task is a giant obstacle. I know of no website where you can go that will lead you through all of the tiny leads you need to just get started and feel competent. Instead, after you download Ubuntu, they basically dump you and leave you on your own. Yes, if you can figure out how to get on the Internet using Ubuntu (I couldn’t) you may be able to search for help on every little problem but their Forums and FAQ’s are awkward and cumbersome and the answers are so geeky that they are useless. If Leo were to organize the acclimatization and new user process, that would change everything but in the Linux world, ego seems to rule and developers are left to write their own help instructions, which doesn’t work. It seems to me that Linux is its own worst enemy. I would love to become proficient at it but the learning curve is way too steep.

    • Getting started with Linux can seem daunting. I’ve found various user forums (eg, fedoraforum.org) and introductory texts on using Linux (eg, Linux for Dummies) that are very useful. Windows and Linux variants are very different operating systems, but proficiency with either requires some effort by the user

    • The reason for a lack of easy to understand Linux support websites is the similar to the reason for the lack of certain kinds of software and drivers. The good support sites like Ask Leo! and many others are supported by advertising and/or book sales etc. There are simply not enough users to allow for much ‘free’ professional level support. My personal experience has taught me that sometimes the best thing in live AREN’T free.

  13. Aloha Leo,
    Good article, even a computer neophyte such as myself understood every word. It is a shame that there is not some way to police the bad guys. Its usually those who can least afford it that get taken.

    Pax et bonum Duane

  14. I’ll add another “free” not-quite scam which I’ll call the Freeware Maze. This is where you get free dl and use of some program (possibly with limited capabilities). However, very often, you are notified that there is a new version or update or whatever, and when you follow, you go through some place like FileHippo where you have to click through several times to keep moving. You have to watch for little opt-out buttons to avoid having your home-page and browser and search engine changed, and you have to avoid big green buttons that, when clicked, start you on the for-a-fee options installation. If you want to stay with updating the free version, you have to thread your way through a button maze. And I do suspect that these “updates” are only put up to lure you through that maze more often.

    • And don’t confuse that with very legitimate free offerings. Lot’s of times people will offer a free sample in the hopes you like their product and will then buy something from them. There is nothing underhanded about that at all. Personally I would much rather pay for a product or service. I like to try a free sample. But I want to know the person providing my valuable service is getting paid for their efforts. Then I know they’ll be around when I need them, and perhaps even develop something else of value to me.

    • I avoid all download sites completely these days – including FileHippo. Instead, always and only get the software download directly from the manufacturers web site. There’s simply too much risk in using download sites right now.

      • There’s an exception to that which you yourself mentioned in a few articles, Leo. Often when you go to the developers’ sites, they redirect you to CNET or FileHippo or another download site. For example Macrium redirects you to CNET. Usually, when you are redirected by the developer, you get a download without the foistware, although that might not always be true. In any case, if you are sent by the developer, you don’t have any other choice other than to click through the screens carefully to avoid downloading any surprises.

  15. Google (now Trimble) Sketchup has a great free version of their software. And notice, I didn’t put the word free in quotes. You get quite a lot of features in the free version. But continue to use the free version, instead of upgrading to the paid version, and you will start to see reasons why the paid version might well be worth it: Saving time. I think this is one of the best, most fair way, of marketing your product: Give someone a great, truly free, version of your product, with no strings attached. Allow them to stop there, if they want. But then show them how they can be even more productive using the product, if they can start to see the monetary value of their time.

    If there’s a free version of something you use, and it works for you, great. But if they offer something else for a price, that can save you time, moving forward and ponying up the $$ can actually result in a true win-win. And that’s one of the best things about technology in general: Giving people the opportunity to “buy” more time.

  16. Leo
    Another well written and easily understandable article. Most of the comments were nice as well till the Linux sidetrack. I use Windows not because it’s easier to use, but because it is easier to find solutions when it doesn’t. I’ve run the gammit from TI-994a to Windows 3.1, 3.5, 95, 98SE, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1. The transition from each to the next was a challenge but I managed to get through them (couldn’t really hack Vista but jumped on 7).
    I for one would rather spend more time with an innitial installation of Windows if they would be more informative as to the changes from one version to the next and not just the “NEW” features. I also would like to know and select the features available so I can pick and choose what I want and not install things I will never ever use and just wastes time and memory to load.
    As far as “FREE” goes it is always best to think it through. Like the Carpenter’s motto “measure twice and cut once”. Thanks…………..Alan

  17. I think that any article about “Free Anything” should mention Ninite. All downloads from Ninite are truly downloads of totally free programs and downloads from Ninite are safe since they purge all malware whether it is in the downloaded installation file or occurs during the installation process. As more and more once-trustworthy sites sell out (CNET, SourceForge, and others I will not name for fear of repercussions greatly disappointed me – I had used them for so long and recommended them to other users), it is good to know that Ninite is as pure as the driven snow.

    I still trust Bleeping Computer, but the programs that they have to offer are mostly not for the faint of heart. Those that they offer that are aimed at average users are usually available at Ninite.

  18. Leo,

    Another definition of free software, is free to use and modify the software. Most software does not allow you to do that.

    The consequence of using not free to modify software is that you are always at the mercy of the authors or owners.

    Software licence agreements usually have a clause that allows the contract to be terminated at any time, such that you may be unable to legally continue to use the software.

    • It’s actually Open Source which is free to modify the software. Free and open source programs like Open Office and Linux are Free to use and Modify. Most others are just free to use.

  19. I found a place online that is in Austin, TX that does computer builds, and supplies Win7, pro, usually with their systems. You might check them out. I have nothing personally to do with the company, other than receiving their emails. I was looking for a place that had really good prices, and their’s fits that requirement. They are: Discount Electronics . Com
    Personally, I have never tried Linux OS out, as I have thought that it is for “Techies”. I am definitely not that. But, what Steven Vollom has written about makes me think that perhaps I should give it a go. I have been on Win since 95, and now on 10. Not sure if I am impressed. It has issues, I think. Personally, I think they released it a bit too soon.
    I do have an issue, in that I bought a computer from a pawn shop, that had Win10 on it, although it shows Win8 in the system. I see sometimes, that various entities recognize that I have Win8, and don’t see Win10. Others see Win10 but not Win8. I have never used Win8, or Win7 for that matter. The last computer that died after 8 years was running Win Vista Home Premium. I now have this one with the Win10/8??
    Any suggestions about the Win10 Win8 issues? Could it be a security problem at all? Thanks, Dave

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