Download full programs from Softonic, Cnet and other software repositories

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 22, 2012
Updated • Dec 26, 2012

Several large software repositories in recent time have started to bundle all programs that they host on their servers with a web downloader. Cnet's for instance started to bundle their own downloader with programs last year. The company received lots of criticism for it at that time because it failed to inform software companies and developers about the practice and did not offer full program downloads for some time on their site.

Most sites claim that web downloaders improve the reliability and security of the download, and even if that is the case, the fact remains that they bundle adware, toolbars and other software offers in the downloader to increase revenue.

The strategy has been changed slightly lately. Direct download links are nowadays also available on many - but not all - download portals.

Before we take a look at software download portals that use web installers to bundle third party offers, I'd like to take a moment to list a few portals that do not: Softpedia, File Hippo, Freeware Files and Major Geeks. If you need to download something, I'd suggest you check out those portals first.

Please note that I only checked the download options as an unregistered user.

cnet direct download
Cnet website, or, displays a direct download link right underneath the big download now button on download pages on the site. If you click on the big download now button, you will download the Cnet Installer which is only a couple hundred Kilobytes in size. You need to run the installer on your system to download the program that you wanted to download in first place. It is recommended to pay attention to each page of the installer to make sure you do not install unwanted software on your ysystem.

If you click on "Direct Download Link" instead, you download the full program version right away. This effectively bypasses the Cnet Installer and is the recommended option to download files from


softonic direct downloads
The Softonic website

The big free download / safe download button on download pages on Softonic saves a web installer to the system that you need to run on your system to download the application that you want to download from the download portal. The installer comes bundled with options to install third party software. If you use the installer, make sure you select custom installation and uncheck the offers on the options page.

To check if a direct download link is available, scroll down to see if you can find a link that says "Alternative Free ... download". According to Softonic, availability is not guaranteed.


Some downloads on Brothersoft come bundled with a web installer, while others do not. No direct downloads are offered for programs that come bundled with the company's web installer.


soft32 direct download link

Another popular download site that bundles programs that lets you download a web installer if you click on the big download now button. If you want to download the program directly, select the smaller sized direct link option that is listed right underneath the bigger button.


Tucows does not display options to download the full program version from the site directly. All you get is a web installer that will download the program once you have gone through the usual offers first that comes bundled with it.

Web downloader gallery

softonic downloader

cnet download com web installer

brothersoft web downloader

soft32 web installer



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  1. blather said on September 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    When I download freeware my SOP is:
    0) [general-purpose preliminary] hide. Run Tor, then run a VPN
    (or vice versa… not sure which is better). why bother letting the web site know your
    IP? do you know them?
    1) try to find the web site of the program’s original manufacturer
    2) when downloading, always shoot for the offline installer
    (plus I get the file for any later reinstalls)
    3) run several AVP on the file: Spybot S&D, MWB. why several? Downloading Youtube Downloader, MalwareBytes found PUP Toolbar malware but Spybot did not, for example)
    4.) disconnect. Turn off your wifi / internet connection. If the installer wants to send a message
    to North Korea like a bat out of hell – you blew the bridge.
    5.) after install, I look for suspicious behaviour: high CPU, windows mysteriously appearing
    or disappearing, etc.

    I live a tormented life.

    several people up in here wrote “ya! cnet’s #1! Thumbs up!” and each of them are ignorant &/or retarded. The guy who made CNET should be castrated and sentenced to a million life sentences.

  2. Lucien said on January 27, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    Cnet and Softpedia are the best ones, because they are the most well-organized; no other download directory has such neat sections (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.) and so many detailed categories which have in turn very detailed sub-categories….and everything comes under an easy-to-browse, clear interface.
    None of the other download sites mentioned in this article have those features thus they cannot be compared to and

  3. Thibauld said on November 27, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Good article. You can add to the list of “non evil” source for software. Allmyapps is not a download site per se but it is an App Store for PC that you install on your PC and from where you can then discover, install, update and reinstall all your software.

    Even if the Allmyapps software itself proposes you third party offer when you install it, all software you can get from Allmyapps is clean and are the same setup files you would find on the software editor page, without modification or third party applications bundling.

  4. Thomas said on November 23, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Thanks for the article, when I want to download my first option is always Softpedia and also FileHippo. They are great portals and contain everything that I need specially Softpedia! I left out Cnet since they’ve launched the new web installer, that’s a real mess!

  5. fokka said on November 23, 2012 at 11:47 am

    oh how i hate web-downloaders… i mean i understand the need of software-portals to create revenue, but a web-installer is the best way to drive me away from your site.

    even without these adware-ridden abominations, installing new software nowadays is a pain in the ass, because you never know if it installs half a dozen third party programs and toolbars and changes all kinds of other stuff without your permit.

    the newest trick seems to be presenting the user with a third party offer which you have to uncheck first and then still have to hit “cancel” to _continue_ the installation you wanted in the first place! i mean, come on! logic??

    oh how i miss the old days… ;)

  6. Roebie said on November 23, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Tucows? Holy crap! Where did you find that. Haven’t heard that name in years. You must be getting really old, Martin, to dig up a dinosaur like that.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 23, 2012 at 11:10 am

      It is still a fairly large site on today’s Internet ;)

  7. Shawn said on November 23, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Get Sandboxie.

    Run theses spyware infested crap tools in a new sandbox everytime and just save the real installation program.

    Would not risk running any of theses installers directly in my windows even if you opt out most of the time the files are still placed on your computer.

  8. Ray said on November 23, 2012 at 3:04 am

    Thanks for the information. Personally, I stay away from cnet and tucows (did not think it will still be around) and keep majorgeeks as my favorite bookmarked site.

  9. Chris said on November 23, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Great article Martin, especially to a newer computer user that may not know how dicey downloading from the sites you mentioned can get. In addition to the safe sites you mentioned, I’d like to give a nod to two more places to download from, SourceForge and SnapFiles.

    1. cezi said on November 23, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      Alas, sourceforge uses Akamai …. has even good “twin brother”

      1. Harry said on January 31, 2013 at 9:26 pm

        Thanks for that. Normally use FileHippo or Major Geeks but Filehorse is so clean and easy it goes to my number one spot.

  10. rickxs said on November 23, 2012 at 12:53 am

    lol tucows are still going ? I’d thought they had died –as for Cnet ,Dubonic Brothershaft avoid them big time. Filehippo is really good, giving older versions as well as current
    & Softpedia is also top of the pile

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