A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk

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safe free softwarePicture this – you’ve just found this awesome free software that you are stoked about because of all that it can do for you, but when you install it, you discover that it is packed with other “bloatware” that you accidentally installed on your computer. Now instead of using your software that you were so excited about using, you have to sift through all your programs to find the bloatware that you just installed.

Or worse, you just leave it on your computer only to let it bog down your startup time and hard drive space. Typically this bloatware is added to the installation in a form of sponsorship for the company offering the free software. Despite how good the program that you’re trying to install may be, additional sponsored software can be annoying to say the least.

But it’s not the end of the world — you can do something about it by simply developing some new practices when installing software and even using a certain website as a tool to easily avoid the headaches of installing altogether.

Being Aware

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I want to emphasize the most important practice you can develop before you read on. It’s not even just with installing software, but with computing in general, and that is to be aware and to care. Once in a while unwanted software may still sneak past you in the installation. However, if you are aware about what you are installing and truly care instead of just going through the motions, you’ll prevent 99% of bloatware from being installed, that otherwise may have been due to careless actions.

This won’t come naturally if you are not used to it — it definitely takes a conscious effort. For example, many computer users simply don’t pay attention to what updates are needed or the reputation of websites they visit. Installing software is no different. Being conscious is, by far, the first thing you need to be. It doesn’t take a certain level of technical ability (although, sometimes it certainly helps) – it just takes the doing.

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Mind The Check Boxes

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The second practice to have when installing software is to not just leave everything checked, but to actually read what you’re installing or adding to your computer. Take a look at the example above of the Trillian installation process.

Not only is there an installation location box, that you can change….stop. Did you know you can change the location to where your software is installed? Now, more than likely you will rarely need to. But on my 64-bit Windows 7 operating system, I have two “programs” folders. I prefer to install all my programs in one so that I know where I can find all of them. Once in a while a program will choose the wrong folder automatically. Knowing that you can change the location to where the program is installed can prevent future disorganization and save time when looking for software. And it just makes things simple.

Now back to the check boxes. You can see that there are four separate boxes:

  • “Add Trillian to Start Menu”
  • “Add Trillian to Desktop”
  • “Load Trillian when my computer starts up”
  • “Add Uninstall information to Add/Remove programs”

Add Trillian To Start Menu

This, in my opinion, is a good thing to do. Your Start Menu is the easy access to many programs that you may not want on your Taskbar by your start menu, or your Desktop for that matter. These programs can be accessed under “All Programs,” but can also be “pinned” to the Start Menu, for easier access, by right clicking and selecting “Pin to Start Menu.”

Add Trillian To Desktop

This option is entirely up to you. Ask yourself “do I need to access the program often?” If you do, then go ahead and leave this box checked. If not, maybe just accessing it from All Programs in the Start Menu is enough. Personally, I have a completely sparse desktop, meaning nothing but my wallpaper and Rocketdock — a dock like on the Mac, but for the Windows OS.

Load Trillian When My Computer Starts Up

Watch out for this one. You’ll unlikely need most programs right away when logging onto your computer each day. Examples of ones you should have might be your anti-virus software and a file backup program. Of course this will be different for each user. For example, I have a program called Launchy that starts up automatically because that’s half the convenience of using the program.

Note: If you would like to remove programs from your startup follow these quick steps:

  1. Bring up the Run box by holding down the Windows Start key and pressing R on your keyboard.
  2. Type msconfig in the box.
  3. Click the fourth tab over “Startup”.
  4. Uncheck the boxes of the programs you don’t need.

If you don’t recognize the program, find out if you need it, but be careful. If you don’t know what you’re doing, seek out advanced help from someone who knows what they are doing.

Add Uninstall Information To Add/Remove Programs

I recommend this one is checked for easy removal using the Windows program uninstall utility. However, may I briefly suggest the use of Revo Uninstaller, a superior alternative to the default uninstall utility that is provided in Windows. That said, still keep this option checked just to be safe.

Add To Taskbar (a.k.a. Quick Launch Bar)

This option is actually not offered as an option in the Trillian installation, but is very common with most programs. This, like the desktop option, is also up to you and your user habits. If you want a clean user experience (or want to start having one) it is important not to add every program to this bar, or your desktop for that matter.

This should be the most popular of the popular programs that you use. Consider using it this way – a delayed startup bar. Meaning, a place to easily access programs that you will use when turning on your computer for the first time (or shortly after), but don’t want them starting up to keep the startup time efficient.

Beware Of Programs That Appear To Be Necessary

You see in the image above that “Best Video Downloader” is the bloatware here. You will also see that there are two options to continue:

  1. “Accept”
  2. “No Thanks”

Don’t be fooled. These are phrased that way to make you believe that you need them. You don’t. Don’t be afraid to say no to something that you don’t agree with or want. This even includes the Terms of Service for a program, but who reads all of that? Kidding – you should.

Nonetheless, it’s important to be aware of these programs and the trickery involved during the installation process. The worst thing that could possibly happen if you said no would be that the installation process would be terminated and you would have to start all over. That is, if you actually want to, given what just happened.

Oops! You almost did it again! Don’t click “Next” quite yet. Notice those check boxes again? This time they are to something completely different from the last ones we saw. These are regarding yet another program to add to your computer — this time a toolbar. These are quite common. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve got on to other peoples’ computers and seen two, three, four, five search toolbars on their browsers. Yikes.

Not only is this a waste of screen real estate, they aren’t even necessary. One is enough and with all modern browsers today the address bar functions also as a search bar so these toolbars are completely useless.

Look closer at the screenshot again. Is it just asking about adding a toolbar? No. It’s requesting permission to change settings:

  1. “Make Ask my default search provider”
  2. “Make Ask.com my browser homepage and new tabs page

Make Ask My Default Search Provider

Really? Who even uses Ask anymore? I’m surprised they even have enough money to fund this advertisement in Trillian. Needless to say, I guess if you really want Ask as your search provider, you can use them. But you make that decision and set them as the default search provider in your browser — don’t let this program access these settings

Make Ask.com My Browser Homepage and New Tabs Page

Have you ever logged on and noticed that your homepage is something different from last time? This is most likely why. The only other reason could be that you changed it during an intense sleep walking spell — probably unlikely. Like I previously mentioned, don’t let Trillian set these permissions. If you so desperately want to use Ask.com, set it as your home page manually.

You made it! Looks like you didn’t need all that misleading software installed with your program after all.

Use Ninite.com

Ninite has been covered before by MakeUseOf, so I won’t contribute to redundancy, but I would like to briefly mention it as it can be a terrific source for downloading software.

The process is fairly straightforward. Simply select what software you want. It can be as few as one program and as many as all the programs (not that I’d recommend that). There is quite a wide selection available of free (although some is trial software) programs.

After selecting your software, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the big green “Get Installer” button.

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Open the downloaded file and it will prepare to install…

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And then download the program or programs…

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And then install the programs…

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And then you’re done! That’s it! No bloatware. No settings changed. Just plain and simple software installation – the way it should be. Notice that Ninite can also function as a software updater for programs already installed.

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Note: It is important to remember that Ninite only keeps the default settings for the programs. When I installed Trillian through Ninite, an icon was added to my desktop and the program was added to the Startup. If you are one desiring more control, you may want to stick with the standalone installer from the individual programs. That said, Ninite is a great alternative to preventing accidental installation of bloatware.

Conclusion

To recap there are three important things to do when installing software:

  1. Be aware and conscious of what you’re doing.
  2. Check those checkboxes.
  3. Watch out for trickery methods to get you to install unneeded software — don’t be afraid to say no. Bonus: Check Ninite for the software download first.

Free software can be great, and it’s because of the sponsored software that it can be free. But that doesn’t mean you must install it, so be aware and pay close attention to what is going on when installing your next free program.

If I left anything out, please tell us in the comments. What was your best or worst experience when installing software?

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This article may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

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