In this post, we will list some of the safe software download sites from where you can download freeware & full version Windows software. There was a time when we went to some good download sites and clicked on the Download button to download software. And what we got was – software. But times have changed now, and things have gotten a bit messy. Now you have to be very careful before you click on any Download button or link because you never know what you may end up with! You may go visit a download site to download, say our 340KB Ultimate Windows Tweaker, and end up with a bunch of other crapware you did not ask for!
Why did things come to stage?
Over a period of time, something somewhere changed. Reputed download sites started getting a lot of traffic. Search Engines rank these sites well, so many visit them to download software. People trusted them. Then came a day when such sites decided to encash that trust – and betrayed their users! It was all about money!
They started offering Installers!
CNET was one such site. So are BrotherSoft, Softonic, FreewareFiles and Tucows. The open-source download site Sourceforge was yet another example then! I am sure there are many more. So what are these Installers or Downloaders? They are nothing but setup files that try and first push third-party offers, bundleware, and potentially unwanted programs onto your computer before giving you access to the file you want. This is what the downloaders or installers look like. At that time in around 2016, the CNET website explained:
The Download.com Installer securely delivers software from Download.com’s servers to your computer. During this process, the Download.com Installer may offer other free applications provided by our partners.
Brothersoft stated on its Download Manager policy as:
The program you want to download will be downloaded through Brothersoft Downloader, making the download process much faster, showing a progress bar and ensuring the program is virus-free.
Rationalized SourceForge about its Installer and third-party offers:
Our mission is to help open source communities to grow, and we understand some projects need funds to be sustainable. We have taken every effort to ensure that the offers that you’re presented with are trustworthy and legitimate, and not a conduit for malware, spyware, viruses, or otherwise malicious software. All offers presented via this installer are subjected to a rigorous verification process to ensure that you are safe. Furthermore, if you don’t choose to accept the offer, the installation will continue, and you’ll hear no more about it. Nothing is installed without your consent, and no personally identifiable information is sent anywhere without your consent.
FileHippo too had started offering downloads via Installers but they have discon
But things changed and now many of these download sites have removed the installers.
Don’t press the green Download Now button blindly
When you go on to download some software, you may see a big Download Now button. Most people will typically click on this button, and end up downloading the download sites installer, which is ad-supported and may include third-party offers. Most don’t see them and keep clicking on Next > Next and end up with software they did not want on their computers. Fortunately, for those who are sharp enough, you can see a Direct Download Link too. It’s very small, but it is there on most sites. All Download.com Installer-enabled products now have this Direct Download Link that you can use instead of the Installer. So remember to click the small Direct Download text link instead of the large Download Now button or link. While download sites profess that the real intention is to provide a fast, secure, feature-rich download experience and make exclusive third-party offers, the fact remains that each bundled software, when installed, earns the download site & maybe the developer also, money. Sure I understand, everyone wants money, and large websites have large bills to pay. But the pressure to get healthier bottom lines at any cost has forced such decisions that do not give a good user experience.
Safe software download sites to download Windows software free
So we then come to the question – which are the safe software download sites. Well today, if I have to download freeware, I usually prefer to download it from either the developer’s website or the Microsoft Store. This ensures that I get the latest version too. But if I have to visit a download site, I prefer and trust the following:
Where freeware contains bundled software, some of them mark it as Bundleware or Ad-supported or something to this effect. At least they do not add anything to the freeware.
I am sure that there may be a few more clean download sites. If you know of any other safe software download sites, please do share them with us in the comments, for the benefit of others. I am open to updating this list of safe software download sites.
Don’t click Next Next Next blindly
Before I conclude I would like to say a few things. Please create a system restore point first before you install any new software. Pay attention during the installation process. Don’t trust the word ‘Free’. Don’t just click on Next, Next, Next. Even the official installer of a legitimate software like Java includes third-party offers! Opt-out where you can, if you can’t, simply exit the installation process. So you have to be aware during the installation process!
Remember the ‘Look before you Leap’ saying? Well, now I would say – ‘Think before you click on any Download link blindly’!
TWC freeware is clean and does not push crapware
Let me be clear. Take the example of our Ultimate Windows Tweaker. We get a lot of mail saying ‘your freeware is pushing crapware’. We don’t! You can download any of our freeware from their official pages, and you will see that all you get are clean freeware downloads. But if someone downloads it from saying CNET, by clicking on the Download Now button, instead of the Direct Download link, they are very likely to end up with Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) or some crapware.
I wish to clarify that we make NO MONEY from such downloads. We do not believe in pushing crapware. Some developers may have such a tie-up and maybe some sort of a sharing agreement with these download sites, but I or my site does not, and we have not entered into any understanding for such revenue shares.
We, as a developer, wrote in 2017 to all such download sites, requesting them to offer our 75+ freeware without any downloaders or installers and have our freeware excluded from the installer downloads.
- FreewareFiles.com had replied to us: The download manager option has been removed from all of your listings as requested. We apologize for the inconvenience.
- Received confirmation from CNET: Your software has been removed from the Download.com Installer.
That was nice of them!
What is the best site to download software?
It is always a safe bet to download the software from their official homepages or download pages. Downloading from Microsoft Store or the Android or Apple Stores is also always safe. Some good third-party download sites that you can trust are softedia.com, majorgeeks.com, etc, as mentioned in this post.