4 Download Portal features I dislike

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 24, 2016

While download portals, sites that list and offer software downloads, have lost some appeal over the years, they are still highly popular on today's Internet.

Sites like Download.com, Softpedia, Softonic or Majorgeeks are popular and used by millions of users each day despite the fact that many became less user-friendly over the years.

I have visited many download sites over the years and found them useful services: they list new and updated software, and may provide downloads even if the developer site is no longer around or unavailable.

While they have their uses, many have changed over the years to introduce features that are not user-friendly.

Download Portal features I dislike

The following list is my personal view on the state of download portals. I have to admit that there are still some gems -- like Majorgeeks or Freewarefiles -- around that I value highly, but those are far and few between.

1. Adware installers

The download sites that implement adware installers don't call them that for obvious reasons.

Instead, they advertise the download as "secure", "safe" or "more reliable" because of the wrapper they are offering to users.

The practice started to spread years ago when Cnet's Download.com started to offer downloads offered on the site with its own download wrapper that served third-party offers to users.

While it is understandable that these sites need money to pay employees and the running costs, doing so at the expense of their users is a shortsighted way of doing business.

Ad-blocking extensions like uBlock are blocking many of the popular download sites that distributed adware currently.

2. No reference link to the developer

developer site

Some sites try to keep users in their ecosystem from start to finish. This means that they don't provide reference links at all that point to other Internet sites or the developer's site.

I understand that this is not always possible, for instance if there is no developer site or if one could not find it after research, but refusing to link to developers is one of the worst habits of download sites that I have come across.

It means that I have to find the developer site on my own if I want to find out more about the program or the company behind it.

Some sites seem to hide these links as best as they can instead of not listing them at all. Softpedia for instance does not list links to the developer site on the software's profile page. To get there, you need to know that you have to click on the specifications tab on the page, and there on the developer name.


This leads to a list of programs by the developer on Softpedia where you need to click on the developer name again to get to the external website. The name is not highlighted in any way to reflect that it links to the developer's site.

In fact, one could argue that it is disguised and not easily detectable.

3. Bogus, copied or incomplete reviews

no information

Keeping track of thousands of software updates and releases each week requires a large team, or a narrower focus to cope with the immense number of releases.

Sites try to add value by reviewing software programs but those often leave a lot to be desired. Some download sites may simply copy the developer's description which is not impartial for obvious reason, while others may publish reviews that are short, incomplete or lacking when it comes to the information they provide.

The IOBit Malware Fighter page on Download.com offers no information besides the developer's own description and release notes. There are user reviews and ratings, and lots of ads on the page but that is about it. I can visit the developer's site directly and will get the same information.

Others may simply rewrite the developer's description without adding any value to the review which is equally bad.

4. No What's New listing


I like to browse the what's new sections of download sites as I may discover a new program, app or browser extension that I find interesting enough to take a closer look at to maybe review it here on Ghacks Technology News.

Google, and Microsoft as well, removed options from their web stores to browse new or updated browser extensions or applications.

Both offered the feature previously but decided to remove it with updates. That's actually one of the main reasons why you don't see that many Chrome extension reviews here on Ghacks as Google's handpicked selection of extensions does not change often and is severely lacking because of it when it comes to discovering new apps or extensions.

Now You: What are your download site annoyances?

4 Download Portal features I dislike
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4 Download Portal features I dislike
The article lists four features of download portals that I dislike and consider bad practice.
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  1. PhoneyVirus said on March 8, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    This is the main reason why all of us end up coming here, the reviews Martin. I have the same problem and knew exactly where you were going with this article. I too, hate it, when the developers website link ant listed under their software. Then again I usually re-link dead links to places like Softonic, Freeware files, Softpedia, MajorGeeks etc when the developers stop updating there applications and the website shuts down.

  2. Rajeev said on February 27, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Softpedia.com was used to be user friendly, now got worst since last 2/3 years.

  3. BMO said on February 26, 2016 at 5:15 am

    Giant icons that take up most the screen, no option to sort by anything… I’d say it makes no sense, but when it comes to a company like Google or Amazon it makes a lot of sense. Promoted apps and algorithms that pinch a little bit of profit. Drives me crazy.

    …and even if there is an option to sort, it doesn’t even sort properly. Newest should mean newest, not randomly arranged dates. I really, really wish there was an application that restored the ability to sort properly in stores that have removed the ability.

  4. doe said on February 25, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    I also like freewarefiles.com. In my usage over the years, I have found it to be fast and easy to use. It posts only freeware unless one sneaks through. Since I am usually updating my current free programs this does not present a problem for me. The author’s link does not always go to the program’s home page but when you get to the download page…just right click and SAVE AS on most of the links.

  5. Tom Hawack said on February 25, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Just visited MajorGeeks to find out they’ve decided to link their pages to openx.net which, if blocked, prevents part of the pages to display. openx.net is an add server, blocked here system-wide by both my HOSTS file and PeerBlock, and Firefox-wide by uBlock Origin … triple ace.

    Well, a pity because the site was nice, anyway: bye-bye MajorGeeks.

  6. Sukhen said on February 25, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Softpedia is my most favorite DL site. The ad blockers simply remove all the junk stuff. Once you know where to click, it’s too easy and fast. No adware bundle. I have practically no issues with them.

  7. wybo said on February 25, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Yeah a lot of tricky download portals out there. As I use Glary Utilities I get my downloads from their affiliated ‘Filepuma.com’ which so far as not given me any PUPs and what you have.

  8. Mike said on February 25, 2016 at 6:56 am


    -they have a policy against bundle crap, use an ad per page, the link to the official homepage of each software is listed first and the download is faster for me compared to all the other download sites.

    I started using them 2 years ago when looking for a free video editor and never looked back. Their software collection is great.

  9. Matthew Borcherding said on February 25, 2016 at 1:21 am

    Note that pushback against forced bundleware seems to have had some effect.

    Sourceforge stopped their bundle/crapware efforts recently:

    But avoid Download.com. And be careful. Installing and running Unchecky can’t hurt, either:

  10. Matthew Borcherding said on February 25, 2016 at 1:09 am

    I’ve been using Majorgeeks.com and Filehorse.com for the past couple years. No bundleware. Majorgeeks has decent writeups, the author link actually go to the author’s website, they mirror a lot of the content (which is useful for products that have gone defunct), and there’s a full “what’s new” list of software. Works great for me.

    I used to use Filehippo.com, but then it ventured into bundleware crap. Filehorse is mostly a clone of Filehippo, but without the crapware. It’s a lot less encompassing than Majorgeeks, but that’s not always bad. All the important / canonical stuff should be on Filehorse, too. The author links there do actually go to the author site. There’s a what’s new list, but it only goes back a few weeks.

    So Majorgeeks is now my go-to site, with Filehorse being my backup.

  11. Graham said on February 24, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    I tend to avoid download portals whenever I can. The developer’s website is just a simple Google search away; I just go there and download it from their servers instead. It’s the safest way to be sure.

  12. Hadschihalef said on February 24, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Snapfiles.com, never had a problem with it. Also techsupportalert.com (Gizmo’s freeware reviews). Can recommend both without a doubt.

  13. PaulSowhere said on February 24, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Snapfiles.com – oldest software portal since 1997; offers both freeware and shareware downloads, some OpenCandy bundled software available but they warns you about crapware so is OK.

    CodecPack.co – good if you are looking for the latest free / open source audio-video software; great because the Zero-tolerance policy against bundled crapware; bad cause the site design is not responsive so if you don’t have a 1920×1080 screen may look like crap.

    FileHorse.com – nice alternative to FileHippo nothing to add about.

    1. juju said on February 25, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      snapfiles used to be called something else…

      1. sirpaul2 said on February 26, 2016 at 5:05 am

        It also goes by ‘Webattack’ – but not so much anymore.

    2. seeprime said on February 24, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      Thanks for the tip on filehorse.

  14. rahul said on February 24, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Filehippo is another gem.

    1. seeprime said on February 24, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      Filehippo has cleaned up their act, if you use an adblocker. Just pause the stupid videos that they autorun before starting a download. The downloads are fast and they still have many older versions available, for the occasional instance where one might be working on an XP computer and the “official” download won’t work.

  15. insanelyapple said on February 24, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    I did once years ago fell into download.com “offer” that did more damage to my Windows installation than actually give me in return – since that accident I was downloading programs at developer/creator home page but then, even there some were throwing additional ask.com or google chrome offers inside installers; so I had to set firewall to be more restrictive and monitor even more incoming and outgoing connections.

  16. Rodrigo said on February 24, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    One thing that annoys me is a bigger download button than the download button to the software I want but pointing to another software.

    1. Croatoan said on February 24, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      This is the main reason why I use ad blocker (bogus links).

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on February 24, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      That’s a good point actually Rodrigo, one that i missed.

  17. Pants said on February 24, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    I have to be honest, I haven’t used a “DL portal” for 3 or 4 years. Sourceforge, Fosshub could be classified as that, I certainly grab files from them (not any with wrappers, but because it’s where the developer have there repositories or mirror download sites). Essentially, I get ALL my software directly from the developers’ sites – if the developer’s only DL links to sourceforge or fosshub etc, then that is where I get it from. ALL my software (excluding MS Office, Photoshop and of course some small utilities such as f.lux etc) are portable. In the root of each portable software folder, I have a URL file pointing the developer’s website/software page.

    I also have a folder dedicated to install files, and I also stick a link to the site Eg, in the Synergy folder (multi cross-platform single mouse/keyboard control), I have a link to the free downloads page which is not easily found or advertising, as well as the windows and linux install packages.

    In order to keep up with updates of my portable software (which is in the realm of 350 to 400 programs, utilities), I have RSS feeds on a number of portable sites. (And some portable software can update itself, and some like Nirsoft can be done using other tools). This is where I also can discover new software – in my QuiteRSS feed. Or I may actively seek something out using my “special uber-awesomeness on the web wizard skillzâ„¢”.

    I also have a tab in my Speed Dial in FF for a number of sites, such as portableapps, portablefreeware, donationcoder, pendriveapps, winpenpack, securityXploded, FF addons (which I can sort by most recent), and so on, in which I can have a noisy around once a month when I have time. Otherwise, it’s sites like here when Martin writes an article, that I can also find something new (or better than what I currently use).

    tl;dr: All software is portable from the developers site. Each software folder has a link to the developer’s site. All discovery or update info comes from RSS feeds from tech sites and specialized portable software sites etc. If it ain’t portable, I don’t want to know about it.

  18. Henk van Setten said on February 24, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    … tricks?

  19. juju said on February 24, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    you shouldn’t use word “features” to describe what you called “features”. That is not right word.

  20. John M. Fox said on February 24, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    FindMySoft.com is pretty sketchy as well.

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