Hijacking file extensions, forcing itself into context menus and downloading additional data – no, it’s not a virus, but any app you can mention from NCH Software.
They’re known online for providing good software, useful niche converters and media editors that can do the job for you at the drop of a hat. But should you take the risk of installing a useful app if it is liable to hijack your computer in such a way?
NCH Software: Who Are They?
A slightly shadowy software publisher originating in Canberra, Australia and with a Denver Colorado, USA office supporting North American customers, NCH Software develops and releases a huge number of media and file conversion utilities.
Launched in 1993, NCH apps often appear on cover disks and can also be found across the web through popular legal app download sites.
NCH Software’s customer care is notoriously limited, and their shunning of social media makes them far less easy to contact than many of their competitors.
Useful Software, For a Fair Price
For an appropriate price, NCH Software provides a variety of useful media and file converter applications, the majority of which work as advertised.
A quick perusal of the NCH Software website may reveal a variety of “free” apps, but these are almost all trial versions with limited features. You’ll need to upgrade to the full version to unlock advanced features.
Whether you’re planning to edit photos, create DVD labels, edit audio files, digitize video or convert file formats, NCH Software has a tool that you can use.
The question is: should you?
Typical Problems Caused By NCH Software Applications
After installing an NCH Software app, you might find that it helps you deal with the urgent file conversion or media editing task that you had in mind.
It’s what you notice later on that will raise eyebrows.
The insidious creep of NCH Software will spread across your PC slowly at first. Perhaps you’ll launch an MP3, only to find it is playing in a completely different app: an NCH Software one, of course, and perhaps even one you weren’t aware of installing. File extension hijacking is pretty low, don’t you think? Certain malware scanners certainly do, highlighting some of NCH Software’s apps as malware.
Alternatively, you might notice the hijack of your context menus. Every time you right-click, something will happen, but the menu will take a while as the NCH Software entries are added.
Ultimately, you’ll realise that NCH Software has somehow taken over your PC. While McAfee and WOT don’t list these apps as malware, they’re certainly borderline and we wouldn’t advise installing any of them, free or otherwise.
Also, NCH Software insists on bundling third party apps in its installer, taking you longer to install and run the app you were looking forward to use. The practice of adding bloatware to installers really should be banned. Sometimes they’re toolbars, other times, Google Chrome, which of course, you’re already using.
By now you may be thinking “surely NCH Software know about their software’s shortcomings and have provided support for users to deal with these issues?” It’s a reasonable point of view. Sadly, NCH has a pretty poor support system, with bug reports usually going unacknowledged.
This isn’t to say that bugs aren’t resolved – they are. However, to benefit from updates to the NCH Software that you have purchased over three months previously, you’ll need to pay for it again.
Yeah, just re-read that: pay for it again.
Problems Uninstalling NCH Software
One of the major complaints levelled at NCH Software is the difficulty users encounter when trying to uninstall the applications after discovering a bug or becoming fed-up with having other software installed.
For some reason, the standard method of uninstalling an app from NCH Software just doesn’t seem to work reliably. While their website includes steps that you should use, there are other methods that can be considered reliable. However, don’t put any money on these actually working – even if the software has been removed, the Windows Registry may remain tarnished, resulting in problems running other apps of a similar type.
You can use a slightly complicated method of uninstallation that involves browsing to c:\Program Files (86)\NCH SOFTWARE and renaming it to XXX.NCH SOFTWARE, using a familiar, easy to remember term for XXX.
From here, open the directory, and find the uninstaller program in the subfolder corresponding to the application you wish to remove. Once done, open the Windows Registry editor (WIN + R > enter regedit > OK - if this doesn’t work, press WIN + R > enter CMD and from the command prompt enter regedit) and with Computer selected open Edit > Find and run a search of the registry for NCH.
Once NCH has been found, right-click, select Rename and change this to XXXNCHXXX, where XXX is something memorable. Press F3 to repeat this action on all appropriate registry entries with that name. After you see the message “Finished searching through the registry” you can close all open windows and reboot your computer, hopefully safe in the knowledge that the NCH Software applications have been completely purged.
NCH Software? No Thanks!
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is avoid NCH Software. It might not be malware, but you’re unlikely to have a good experience. If you really must use it, perhaps install it in a virtual machine, so you won’t have to deal with it as part of your daily computer use.
Are you using NCH Software? Have you had any problems with it, or has your experience been remarkably pleasant? We’d love to know what you think, and any solutions you’ve developed to dealing with this company’s applications.
Hit the comments!