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

Aaron Couch 05-07-2012

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

safe free software

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.


Mind The Check Boxes

safe free software downloads

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 Revo Uninstaller Will Hunt Down Your Bloatware Read More . 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

A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk Sponsored software Trillian Resized

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.

A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk Ask Search toolbar home page override Trillian Resized

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 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 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, set it as your home page manually.

A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk Installation Successful Trillian Resized

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


Ninite has been covered before by MakeUseOf Ninite - Easily Install All Your Favorite Free Apps In One Go Read More , 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.

A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk Selecting Programs Ninite Resized

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.

safe free software downloads

Open the downloaded file and it will prepare to install…

safe free software downloads

And then download the program or programs…

ad free software

And then install the programs…

ad free software

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.

safe free software

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.


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?

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Mike
    April 1, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    One thing, sometimes these programs grab an internet connection and do nasty things to you.

    So, download an offline installer if you can and do an offline install, that way if Mr. Nasty shows up he can't grab an internet connection to do you further damage.

  2. david
    November 11, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    i was trying to get a game that my friend was playing but when i downloaded it my whole computer crashed, shut off, and now it wont system restore. it said my hard drive cant be located and it refuses to boot up at all. it just keeps repeating the booting process.

  3. Nikhil Chandak
    October 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    amazing !!

  4. Dr.Flay™
    October 9, 2012 at 7:11 am

    ? I'm lost for words ?

    Trillian is NOT a 64bit program !

    Are you so ignorant of the reasons for the 2 different system folders, you over-ride installers, based on the fact "you don't like having 2 folders" (better stay out of the user-hives).
    It may be tidy for your head, but it is not tidy for Windows.
    Why have folders anyway?, you could have every single file put in C:\Windows.

    Do you do the same with C:\Windows\System and C:\Windows\System32 ? or the other multitude of system folders ?
    No, because these aren't the places you access your files.
    As you point out, during install to add the start menu items, because that is where users access their programs.
    If you are poking around at that level, it is because something is wrong.

    Since Windows 3.11 the issue of moving from 16bit to 32bit was dealt with the same way, and is not an odd freakish event that happens to some PCs.
    It has been planned this way, so developers and users don't f*ck-up.
    So don't f*ck with it. It is fine, and allows for easy updating from one to the other, whilst still being able to run both.

    As for your issues with Trillian's installer, I think after scrutinising the images you supply, you are over-doing it.
    Nowhere in any of those images does it say that the user "needs" or "must install" any of the extras. It just says "what they do".
    They are both clearly labelled as separate things in the top of their windows. One being a video downloader (obviously not a part of any IM program), and a toolbar (which would be for a web-browser).

    ? As for your miss-use of the word bloatware, the geek in me wants to slap you, and the hippy wants to sit you down with a fatty ? and take you back to geek-school.

    Bloatware is not unwanted software.
    Yes that will bloat your computer, but is just "unwanted-ware".
    Bloatware is software like iTunes ?
    It installs well over 130MB of bloat for a media player that doesn't support many formats for either reading or writing, and has very limited control or options, and few addons.
    But that also needs the massively overweight QuickTime to run it as well.

    The pair of them exemplify "Bloatware", but you could argue, as many people could not live without them, this is somehow OK.
    On the other hand WinAmp which would no doubt have a similar article here, as it spams you with extras during install (depending on version) would probably have a similar harsh review. Even though it is a fraction of the size and supports more formats than you can shake a proverbial stick at, including iPods and other portable media devices iTunes cannot.

    The Ninite application seems a nice idea and useful for a few apps, but the choice is limited (I guess it is young).
    Note: Opera does not offer extras during install, but does offer the ability to install to USB. It also always installs US instead of other English languages (Opera's fault).
    So I couldn't recommend using it for Opera with non-US English speaking people, or anyone who wants to update their portable version.

    Looking through the list, I also note that not many there come with "extras" anyway.
    Adobe are one of the worst offenders.
    I also note they don't have the best free antivirus, Avira which does come with an optional toolbar.

    ? You could have written the article short, like this;

    1) If you want to make sure you do not install any hidden extras with your freshly downloaded Shareware application, temporarily disable the internet on your PC or router (whichever you find easier).
    2) Install the software, then switch your internet back on ?

    Any extras still able to be offered, that you accidentally select, will NOT be installed.
    This also speeds-up the installation process, as it is not waiting for a site to respond.
    This also works for Microsoft downloads that want to check for "WGA".

    Far simpler, you don't need a special downloader, and works with downloads from any site.
    This is also Multi-OS, as you can do it no matter what breed of PC you favour.

    If you want a safe, central portal for the latest software submitted by the authors, then there is [Broken URL Removed] which always has a link back to the author's site, where you can read any extra useful info.

    Just to make it clear that the reverse is also true.

    • Aaron Couch
      October 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I'd like to respond to a few things.

      First, I am slightly misinformed about the significance of 32-bit and 64-bit and because of that I didn't phrase it in the correct way, thus creating some confusion. I apologize for that.

      That said, I looked into Trillian and couldn't find any indication prior to installing it that it was a 32-bit program. Honestly, I feel you're overreacting a bit and I say that with the utmost respect because at the same time you do have some valid points and I can see that you're knowledgeable. As far as the 32-bit vs 64-bit issue is concerned, I couldn't find any information that supported your argument that you shouldn't put the programs in a certain folder. I said it wrong in the article when I stated that I put them all in the same folder - I don't. That said, in my research I couldn't find anything validating the reason to do so.

      If you have some information to help with this, feel free to share it.

      I wouldn't say my article would have been able to be shortened to what you suggested, however I do like what you offered in terms of turning off the internet while installing the program. I have yet to try this to see if it works, but I'm a little suspicious that the "additional software" wouldn't be installed. To my knowledge it's a part of the installation process regardless of the Internet connection. But I will try this and see if it works.

      Scrutinizing my choice of using "bloatware" seems a bit unnecessary. Again, not trying to degrade your opinion. But I've always used bloatware and crapware interchangeably and there is a broad range of software that can fall into those categories. When isolating a fragment of this article without considering the rest of what is said, sure bloatware might mean one thing, but when it is encompassed with the rest of the relevant information, it can be easily understood that it means something a little different. I agree that iTunes or Norton or some of those other programs are "bloaty" as well.

      Again, I appreciate the comment and the time you took to share your thoughts. Feel free to pass along any information regarding the importance of 32-bit vs 64-bit.

  5. Mike Green
    July 28, 2012 at 9:59 am

    *Sigh* don't disable startup entries using msconfig.

    Use a dedicated startup manager, msconfig is for temporary removals ONLY!

    • Aaron Couch
      July 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm


      Thanks for sharing. Can you elaborate as to why msconfig should only be used for temporary removals?

      I do use CCleaner to remove programs from the startup as well, but I didn't mention that in this article. The one reason why I prefer to not have a startup manager is because that is one more program running in the background when my computer starts up. Unless you're referring to one that you just use to remove entries, but don't run it constantly.

      Looking forward to your thoughts on this. Thanks again for sharing.

  6. Muhammad Ahmad
    July 13, 2012 at 7:48 am

    I installed Kaspersky Internet Security Beta version on my Windows 7 desktop computer, My hard drive was being filled with unnecessary space, When I checked the kaspersky folder , it was taking more than 6GB of space.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 13, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Wow that's pretty big! I believe it though. Some of these security clients are quite hard on a computer's resources. Have you tried Microsoft Security Essentials? It's what I use and recommend to everyone.

  7. Edgar Meixueiro
    July 8, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    You just have to read all the way!

    • Aaron Couch
      July 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      You're exactly right Edgar and it's hard to believe how many people simply don't do that.

  8. Sameer N
    July 5, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Thank you. Just learnt about Ninite. Very useful that it doesn't annoy with changing the browser homepage, default search bar etc. And this will be very helpful after a system resinstall.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 6, 2012 at 2:39 am

      Yep! That's one of the times when it's most helpful. Glad you found this useful!

  9. Dann
    July 5, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    i use ninite after all windows instalation. you tick what you need and ninite make the work. is a great program. i recomand to all.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 5, 2012 at 11:03 pm

      I agree Dann! Thanks for reading!

  10. Eric Swank
    July 5, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Some software even adds start-up services to your system that can remain even if the program has been uninstalled. If you haven't checked your running services in a while you might be surprised what you may find, especially if you experiment with a lot of software...

    • Aaron Couch
      July 5, 2012 at 11:03 pm

      You're completely right Eric. Which is why I always recommend Revo Uninstaller to remove all software. Then I do a scan with CCleaner and then I use Everything to search my computer for any other folders/files related to that program. And then I check the startup to make sure there aren't any unwanted services or processes staying behind.

      I'd say that's a pretty deep clean. Do you do anything like that or more than that?

      • Eric Swank
        July 6, 2012 at 1:34 am

        That sounds about right if you want to keep the TSR's out. Thanks for the info on Ninite, checking it out now...

  11. Dany Bouffard
    July 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I use Ninite and I like it. Its always a hassle having to watch every checkbox and statement to not get unnecessary software installed.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 5, 2012 at 11:01 pm

      Totally agree! I wish Piriform wouldn't have pulled CCleaner and their other programs from it though -- kind of a bummer.

  12. Laga Mahesa
    July 5, 2012 at 8:28 am

    "Being aware".

    I think that point alone will catch most people out. Go back to your editor and scrap the rest of the article. ;')

    • Aaron Couch
      July 5, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      I completely agree Laga. But I had to get a minimum of 500 words somehow :P

      Kidding. I do agree though. I just wanted to walk some people through the process -- although it's hard to believe there are some, such as my dad, who are even nervous about installing software. One main objective in this article was to give them the confidence to do it and the knowledge to know what to look for.

      But again, that's all for not if you're not aware.

  13. Ben
    July 5, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Some free software does not let you opt out of bloatware. Did not know of Very good site!

    • Aaron Couch
      July 5, 2012 at 10:58 pm


      Then I don't install it. That's my own personal policy. If it's going to try to control what I do... then I just won't use it. There's always a better alternative and software like that typically doesn't have a very large user base because of it.

  14. jessemanalansan
    July 5, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Trying out :) thank you!

    • Aaron Couch
      July 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm

      You're very welcome! Let me know if you have any questions.