11 January 2015
By Joe Callison

I like free stuff, and the computing community is bursting with offers for free stuff. Offers for free scans, free downloads, free trials, etc. are everywhere. Unfortunately most of the time you get what you pay for. A free scan will scan your computer and tell you a multitude of things “wrong” with it, but if you want it “fixed”, it will cost money. A free download is usually similar- you can download the program and install it, but if you want to activate the program it will cost money. A free trial is at least a little clearer- you get to try it for a period of time for free and then if you want to continue using the program, it will cost money. 

Freeware, Shareware, and Open Source

Happily, there are thousands if not millions of people in the computing community who just love to create programs and share them with others. This software is often distributed under a category like freeware (unlimited use at no cost), shareware (trial, demo, or unlimited free use but donation requested), or open-source (the program and even the source code for the program are available for use under the terms of the license for free). Examples of freeware and shareware can be viewed at the links below. It is highly recommended to only download such programs from reputable websites, as many rogue sites bundle them with viruses and malware.

Open-source programs are ones like OpenOffice, LibreOffice, Mozilla Firefox, Gimp, etc. which can be found at the link below.

It is always best to download the program from the developer’s own website if you can find it. Sometimes the website is shown in the description or review of the program, or you can do a web search for it. Even the CNET and Sourceforge downloaders try to bundle additional unwanted software, some of which can contain malware, that you have to carefully read and decline as you do the download.

Free Tools

There are some free tools for fixing computer problems that are worth looking at. They are completely automatic and easy to use, with a low risk of causing a problem.

Microsoft has a collection of automated Fixit tools for all kinds of problems. I have found that they sometimes fix the problem, but often do not. They are still worth trying as a first step.

The next tools are free, but they do give you an opportunity to donate if you wish.

For internet browser problems with Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, or Mozilla Firefox, the easiest fix is using the Reset for the browser. It is easiest to find the Reset by searching for it in your browser help if you have trouble finding it in the settings or internet options. For an automated browser cleanup for all three of the browsers you can use the Adware Removal Tool available at this link:

For problems getting rid of junk programs like Ask Toolbar, Babylon, Conduit, Incredibar, MyPC Backup, MyWebSearch, and many others, you can use the automated Junkware Removal Tool at this link:

Posted by Joe Callison


Wanda Holden

This article “Free! (or Not?”) was EXCELLENT.

From past experience I am afraid to download anything. At this time I somehow have no choice but to search with BING and dislike it very much for the reasons (1) I prefer Google (2) I did not choose Bing to replace Google. It must have come along with some download. (3) Now I have to use my time trying to get rid of it and get Google back.

Thanks! This article was helpful.

Joe Callison

Bing does sneak in as an option with some updates and downloads. In Internet Explorer, you control the search provider by going to Tools which has a menu that includes Manage Add-Ons. If you click that you get a screen where after you click on Search Providers you can select a search provider in the list and click the Set as Default button, and even click the “Prevent programs from suggesting changes to my default search provider” for added protection. In Google Chrome you click on the three horizontal lines to get the menu and click on Settings. The fourth item down the list is Search, where you select the search engine used in the address bar and you can also “Manage search engines…” to select one and make it the default. In Mozilla Firefox you may have several ways to get to add-ons depending on how it is customized.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.