Some simple tips that will make finding the free software you need as easy and as painless as possible.
If you know the name of the software you need, or even the company that makes it, it is often best to go straight to the source to download it. It is in the interest of the software company to make downloading their software as painless as possible and you can be sure that you will be getting the latest version, rather than finding a link to an older version that is still floating around the Internet.
There are lots of massive general software libraries on the Internet, as well as several smaller, more targeted libraries. These are generally a good place to find free software, if you stick to the known and trusted ones. Sites like FileHippo.com, Tucows.com and Download.com offer a massive range of different free software and are a relatively easy and safe way to download it.
Many of the large, well known tech review websites will also offer links to download software and not only the software they have reviewed or featured. In some cases, the download is from their servers, other times the link will be either direct to the software maker or to one of the large software libraries. Just Googling “free software” is an option of course but can lead you to some less safe parts of the Internet.
If friends or family use a Windows 10 PC, why not ask them if they can recommend any good free software of the type you need? As with almost anything, a recommendation from a trusted person is usually better than a recommendation from elsewhere. If you do take a recommendation from elsewhere, try to work out if the person recommending has anything to gain from it. This magazine, for example, is not in any way partnered with any of the software companies we have mentioned.
Installing Free Software – Safety Tips
If you are getting your software from trusted sources, like those mentioned above, you should be fairly safe in terms of viruses, etc. but there are still things to consider before you install.
Backup Your System
You should already be creating regular backups of your system and if not, why not? It only takes one fairly major system issue to make you realise that spending a few minutes backing up once in a while, can save hours or even days setting everything back up after a major problem. When installing any major new software, create a backup or a restore point first.
Read the Small Print
It is almost universally accepted that no one reads the terms and conditions, which are often staggeringly long and boring, that come with most PC software but that doesn’t mean that you should just skip through all of the installation screens. Check what you are being asked to agree to when checking boxes and if you are unsure, do a little research to find out what particular terms mean.
Ditch the Add-ons
Some free or as-supported software will ask to install additional bit of software during the set up process, known as PUPs or Potentially Unwanted Programs. These can be browser plugins, third-party tools or almost anything else, both related and unrelated to the main product. In almost all cases we have ever seen, choosing not to let the extra software install is the best idea.
Check for Updates
If you are downloading from the software company that makes the software, you will usually be getting the latest version; but if not, check for updates as soon as the software has been installed. Most programs will have a link in the interface for checking for updates (it will usually be in the About section) and updating is usually a fairly quick and painless process.