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Finding free software shouldn’t be hard, and it shouldn’t come with risk. Linux users are lucky: they have access to package managers full of clean software. Android and Windows users, not so much: there’s always a chance that any “free” app will be riddled with ads, or come with malware. Which is why open source software is nice: it’s developed by a community, not a company.

But finding clean downloads of open source software, and other free software can be tricky. Today Cool Websites and Apps shows you five places to get clean software installers and updates for a wide variety of free programs. Let’s get started.

F-Droid (Android): Open Source App Store for Android

If you want a bunch of free software that’s ad-free and secure, F-Droid is what you should check first. It’s an alternative app store that only includes open source software What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] "Open source" is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days. You may know that certain things are open source, like Linux and Android, but do you know what it entails? What is open... Read More .

You’re probably aware that Android is built in part on the Linux kernel, but the broader ecosystem isn’t exactly open source: the parts of Android most people interact with isn’t exactly libre. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t open source software available for Linux – and F-Droid is where you can find it.

f-droid-android-open-source

You’ll find hundreds of programs here, including newer versions of staples like VLC. It kinda feels like browsing the Ubuntu repositories Your Guide to Ubuntu Repositories and Package Management Your Guide to Ubuntu Repositories and Package Management Read More , with all the pros and cons that come with that, but for mobile. It’s worth exploring.

Oh: and if you want a prettier interface, check out Fossdroid.com.

NPacked (Windows): Package Manager for Windows

I showed you Chocolatey, which lets you install Windows software from the command line The Quickest Way To Install Windows Software: From The Command Prompt The Quickest Way To Install Windows Software: From The Command Prompt One simple command from you and software will be downloaded and installed automatically. Magic? No. Chocolatey - the apt-get equivalent for Windows. Read More – including a lot of open source software. If you’d prefer a GUI tool for browsing software, though, NPacked is what you want. With it you can browse thousands of free programs, and even manage updates.

npacked-running-software-manager

You can search for software, or browse by category. There are nearly 1,000 apps offered in total, including a few open source games you can enjoy on Windows 8 Awesome Free Open-Source Games You Can Enjoy On Windows, Mac and Linux 8 Awesome Free Open-Source Games You Can Enjoy On Windows, Mac and Linux Read More . The program will scan your currently installed software and offer updates when relevant, so if nothing else it’s an easy way to keep a bunch of programs up-to-date.

Fosshub (Web): Crap-Free Source for Free Software

There have been, shall we say, certain controversies involving SourceForge Malware Invades Apple's Walled Garden, 85 MPH Bike Ride...[Tech News Digest] Malware Invades Apple's Walled Garden, 85 MPH Bike Ride...[Tech News Digest] The best-selling adblocker for iOS shut down two days after launch, Steam offers 1500 Linux games, Volkswagen was cheating on emissions tests, and an iconic Windows sound heard in an entirely new way. Read More : many popular projects had adware like Opencandy OpenCandy: The Reason You Should Never Just Click "Next" OpenCandy: The Reason You Should Never Just Click "Next" Clicking "next" repeatedly is the quickest way of installing apps on Windows - until you find you installed other programs on your computer without realizing it, thanks to OpenCandy. Let's do something about that. Read More added to downloads, in an effort to make a few bucks for the site. This is unfortunate: that site was long a go-to destination for open source software, but the brand is toxic among users at this point. Many projects have moved to other sites, like Github, but new alternatives are popping up.

Which brings us to Flosshub, a site that’s trying to build a name on adware-free software downloads for users and code hosting for developers. Basically, it’s a great place to browse for free software that’s clean.

fosshub-downloads

The site’s name is unfortunate: it implies the site is specifically for Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS), but there are plenty of non-FLOSS downloads that are nonetheless free. But even with this in mind, it’s a good place to head to for a lot of the software you install every time you set up a computer.

Ketarin (Windows): Keep Your Installer Files Up-To-Date

If you’re like most geeks, your friends and family are constantly asking you for computer help – so you carry a USB key full of software with you, just in case. But the install files on those keys can go out of date pretty quickly, meaning you need to install updates for programs after installing them.

Ketarin helps you with this, by automatically making sure a folder full of installers and portable software is up-to-date.

Ketarin-overview

This app’s been around for a while and is still actively updated. I’m honestly amazed I haven’t heard of it until now, and I hope it proves useful for all of you.

Ninite (Web/Windows): The Ultimate Software Download Tool

Technically Cool Websites and Apps is dedicated to covering tools that MakeUseOf is yet to cover, but we haven’t reviewed Ninite since 2009 Ninite - Easily Install All Your Favorite Free Apps In One Go Ninite - Easily Install All Your Favorite Free Apps In One Go Read More , and, to be honest, this list just isn’t complete without it. If you’ve got a fresh install of Windows, heading to Ninite.com should be one of the first things you do. Just check the software you want to install:

ninite-ultimate-windows-downloader

You’ll get a single EXE file that will install all of your programs, without any crapware. The installer is silent, meaning you don’t need to hit “Next” again and again. You can run the same EXE later to update your installed software, or you can pay $10 a year for a dedicated piece of updating software.

Seriously, if you don’t know about Ninite you need to check it out. It’s the best way to download free Windows software, bar none.

Where Do You Download Software?

It’s a jungle out there: people are trying to take advantage of open source software to infect your computer Downloading Open Source Software? Watch Out For The Crapware... [News] Downloading Open Source Software? Watch Out For The Crapware... [News] If you’re a regular here at MakeUseOf you’ll know we have a penchant for exploring quality, free open source software. Today we’re highlighting the importance of downloading these gems from the official software source, especially... Read More . Knowing a few safe sites to download from will save you time and, potentially, the headache of cleaning up an infected machine.

The above sites are, so far as I know, safe. But if I’m wrong, or if things have changed since I wrote this, I want to know. Fill me in using the comments below, or add a few more safe sites for free downloads in the comments below.

  1. Mohcin Bounouara
    September 29, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    Its a cool article .. really thanks ..

  2. Mohcin Bounouara
    September 29, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    Its

  3. A41202813GMAIL ..
    September 28, 2015 at 12:40 am

    If You Religiously Do Not Forget To **Test** Your Software Before Using It, You Can Make Downloads From Absolutely Any Source.

    Just **Test** It With VIRUSTOTAL.

    If VIRUSTOTAL Can Not Catch The Bad Guys, We Are Already Screwed.

    Besides, When **Testing** It, You Enter A 2 Way Street.

    You Give AV Companies Information On Possible New Strains, And That Will Help Everyone Doing The Same **Test** In The Near Future.

    ---

    PS.

    If VIRUSTOTAL Has No Information About It Yet, Of Course Common Sense Is Required.

    Cheers.

  4. Guy DÉRIDET
    September 27, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Npacked is not safe. Blocked by Ublock : badware risks !

  5. Kelsey Tidwell
    September 27, 2015 at 12:19 am

    As sure as I write this, there will be catastrophic problems found on each site, but I've always had good luck with Ziff-Davis downloads (http://downloads.zdnet.com/), CNet downloads (http://download.cnet.com/windows/), and Major Geeks (http://www.majorgeeks.com/).

    These are all Windows sites, though there are Android/iOS branches scattered around there too. For my Android phone I've tried most of the ones you mentioned Justin, but nowadays I just hang around the Google Play store.

    Happy day!

  6. MerryMarjie
    September 26, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    I'm really happy to see this article as I look for free software often. If something is really good, I often send payment to the author in appreciation. Source Forge has been a go-to site for me so I'm glad to hear the latest on the safety of their programs, had always understood they were crapware-free.

    Thanks for the great column, and yes, Ninite is on my list of sure bets. It's one super site I always trust.

    • Justin Pot
      September 27, 2015 at 12:42 am

      Happy to be helpful!

  7. Yodi Collins
    September 26, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    How do you feel about SlideME marketplace, or Mobogenie (both for Android)?

    • Justin Pot
      September 26, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      I'm honestly not familiar with either, and can't really comment on them.

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