How to Safely Download and install Free Software

Posted on Posted in Download and installation, free software

In this write-up, we will learn how to safely download and install free software. The list of free and open-source software (FOSS) is growing each day. FOSS comes as a blessing to those who cannot buy expensive, and at times overpriced commercial software. However, searching and obtaining free software from the internet may come with huge risks. And there are many commercial software that seem to offer you free downloads, which does not necessarily mean free software.

Some makers of free software, in order to get financed, bundle them with other third-party software, some of which come along with viruses that can break down your computer. Some unscrupulous sites also exist, pretending to host free software, and letting you into the trap of signing a contract with them simply by blindly accepting terms and conditions for downloading a free software. The software ends up not being free, even as the money goes to scamming companies and not to the developers who worked hard to produce the software.

Most of the software we will cover in this blog can be safely downloaded UNIQUELY from the links I will provide. Using other links may land you on dubious sites. I have tested all the links I provide here and found them to be free of viruses.  However, since you may want to explore more free software, it is worthwhile taking a chance to talk about the concept of downloading and installing (free) software in general.

Is the Software Freeware, Commercial or a Trialware

Freeware: The program is completely free to use as described with no strings attached.

Free and Open-Source: The program is completely free to use as described with no strings attached. In addition, you could have access to the source code (the programming lines making the program to work) and modify it, without infringing copyrights.

Commercial: The program has to be bought or paid either now or in the future for you to use it.

Trialware: Most commercial software traps you by asking you to use a trial version. This works a certain number of times and would not work after that till you pay. Others have suppressed or blocked functionality which becomes available only after you pay for them. Others come with watermarks stamping boldly on your project that you used their trialware.

The word “free” is often used in tricky ways even by commercial software providers, and also scamming websites, to trap users in by offering a “free download”. Beware of what is actually free and make your choices accordingly.

Safe procedure for searching a free software via the internet

The safer way of obtaining an open source or free software is to go through the home page of a dedicated computer magazine, and getting the web link of the software there. These journals have done the great work of testing the software. In Germany for instance, I often use www.computerbild.de, to read reviews and get a safe link to the software there. Another go-to place is https://sourceforge.net/, the most authoritative platform for complete open-source software. While traveling across other countries I noticed the use of www.softonic.com, www.freewarefiles.com, and www.tucows.com. There are many other similar sites hosting software for download, but you wish to be certain these are not sites meant to scam you. Many of these sites have curated lists and accompanying reviews for software.

No matter where you wish to source your software from, it is always advisable to read around for the reviews and threats associated with the particular software.

If you simply go to google and search, you risk landing on dubious sites that will install third party software on your computer, at times at a cost.

Custom installation, Advanced Installation, and Additional Software

When installing software, you will usually be asked if you want custom or advanced installation. For the majority (>99 %), custom installation is ideal. An advanced installation will usually be done by computer jerks and people very savvy with what they are doing.

Go past the installation mode, software that has been bundled with third-party programs will ask if you want an additional program to be installed. Refuse by unticking the program. In certain cases however a bundled program may be required for smooth functioning of the program. In such a case, stop, go to google and read what that program does, and what dependence it has on the program you intend to install.

Checksum – Did something go wrong during software transmission or storage?

A checksum is a small datum that allows for detection of errors during transmission or storage of a software.  This is like checking whether what you have obtained on your computer is what was sent to it. Some websites provide the possibility for you to do this check by providing a datum called checksum value with their downloads. Using a checksum calculator, you could verify whether what you have is what you were supposed to get. One of the software we will use, R (www.r-project.org), relies heavily on you downloading some packages for particular tasks. Here during package installation, the program will automatically do the checksum calculations and verifications for you.

Virus alert – Do you trust the provider of the software?

Often times, your computer or anti-virus software will signal there is a viral attack during installation. If this happens, stop and delete the downloaded file.

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