Downloading a software program is a straightforward process, right? You visit the developers website or a third-party download portal, click on the download link, wait until the download finishes, and install the program on your system afterwards.
While that works out well, especially for paid programs, you may benefit from looking around first on download pages or websites before you start the actual download.
A couple of examples: If you go to the popular portal download.com, you often download the company's own installer instead of the full installer of the program itself. Why? Download.com says it is to improve security and such, while many believe that it is just for throwing adware at you while you are installing software so that they can make a couple of bucks from that in revenue.
If you plan to install Java by Oracle or Adobe Flash Player, you may get additional software included with your download. Adobe integrates McAfee Security Scan Plus if you do not uncheck the box there, while Oracle the Ask Toolbar.
And if you go to KC Softwares, you find a total of four different installers for some of their products.
If you search on those websites, you find additional installers that you can use that are clean and come without additional, often unwanted, programs.
If you search around, you may find full offline installers for a particular product, or portable versions that do not even need to be installed at all.
- Rule 1: Net or Stub installers ship more often with third-party offers, while offline installers do not that often. While that is not always the case, it is in your best interest to pick the offline installer whenever available, as it reduces the risk of getting an installer with adware, and also provides you with the full setup file that you can run as often as you want on as many machines without re-download.
- Rule 2: If a portable version is offered, it is usually best to pick it as portable programs are not installed and therefor won't run third-party installers when you run the program.
- Rule 3: Some download portals wrap programs in third-party installers. The best way to avoid this from happening is to not use those portals, but to search for the programs you are interested in on other portals that do not use this practice.
Security software such as the new Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 2 picks up on potentially unwanted programs (PUP) more than a couple of years ago. It can happen that installation is blocked when third-party offers are noticed in the installer.
One of the interesting aspects of this phenomenon on Windows is that this is not exclusive to shady developers who by to earn revenue by pushing third-party programs on user systems, but that large companies use the very same methods for the same goal.
These larger companies on the other hand usually make available versions of their applications without third-party offer.