What is the price you pay for downloading freeware infested with adware/spyware? First, you have the pleasure of dealing with pop-ups, rotating banners, in some cases flashing or moving images, and the inability to remove these annoyances when you remove the freeware program. That is only the adware.
While adware may be tolerable by some, spyware is a concern. Spyware gathers information about you, and your browsing habits. This information is then shared with email address miners and other disreputable organizations. I say disreputable because any organization that resorts to gathering information secretly, even with a clause in the EULA, does not deserve a person’s hard earned dollar. Granted, this is only my opinion.
Adware can feed you targeted ads even when the freeware program is closed, and after deletion of the initial program. Spyware on the other hand spies on you, just as the name implies. Recording such things as your social security number, credit card number, birth date, and passwords. Spyware works just like a Trojan. It can spread and activate other malware such as viruses. One last little point of interest: It is inserted manually into a program. It is not there by accident.
The argument for including these programs into freeware consists of such things as: “It helps pay for time invested in creating the program.”, “They are necessary or there wouldn’t be updates.”, and my favorite, “They’re harmless, and who cares anyway?”.
These “harmless” add-ins, cause problems with other programs. Including operating systems. The addition of adware and spyware into freeware can make the program unstable. You will likely see an increase in error messages and freeze ups. Removing the adware/spyware, with programs such as Ad-Aware and Spybot, can make freeware inoperable.
When it comes down to it, the benefit freeware may have is made void by the headache added malware creates. When you opt to download freeware you are not told about adware/spyware enclosed in the program. You can delete/uninstall the freeware but it does not mean the malware will be uninstalled. Adware and spyware can be very, very difficult to remove. Using adware and spyware removers won’t guarantee removal. In some, not so rare, cases removal requires specific programs. Example: Kazaa.
Granted not ALL freeware includes malicious code. There are sites dedicated to testing freeware to make sure they do not contain adware/spyware. Unfortunately, these sites are hard to find and at times are unavailable due to attacks. Sites who take the time to test the freeware sometimes ask for donations to continue their work. One can only speculate on donations they do or do not receive. In a world where we expect free donations are probably not forth coming. Personally though, I would rather donate money to a group of people testing freeware instead of spending fifty dollars, or more, on a program to remove adware/spyware left behind by a “free” program.
That leads us back to the initial question: Is freeware really free?