Several years back a computer was enough to keep up with the latest technological trends, however, today, a working internet connection is compulsory if you don’t want to be left behind. Things have been progressing pretty fast, and not only in terms of hardware innovations and high speed connections (by the way, did you know more and more internet service providers are making the new IPv6 protocol available for testing?). But let’s focus on the software element for now.
Here are a few things you need to be aware of before we proceed with the top five free software download sources.
Why isn’t all software free of charge?
Hardware performance also asks for improvements in software development. A computer would be practically useless without the necessary software and visual interface to facilitate the communication between users and processors (even if you spoke binary, you still wouldn’t be able to read your mail or watch movies!). But software involves writing thousands of code lines, which takes time, effort and, obviously, human resources. Economically speaking, it is still an investment. Something you can sell. This is why users usually have to pay for software.
Shareware is something in between free and paid software. Shareware will offer you a free, limited license you can take advantage of to test the product. After the trial period expires, you will be prompted to buy the software if you are satisfied with it.
How about open source?
Some companies and software developers have other ways of obtaining the financial support they need to continue their software development activity. They might have sponsors or other sources of income besides selling their own work, or they can simply afford to release free versions from time to time. Besides, the program can be too simple to require an extraordinary effort or intricate coding, so it would be a little exaggerated to ask money for it. Therefore, the web is packed with software that end users can obtain without paying.
Most software developers usually release two versions of the same program:
- – The “lite” version, which includes basic features and is free of charge
- – The “pro” or “full” version, which comes with extra features and functionality. These extra features are a bit harder to implement, and this is why the user will have to pay in order to benefit from them.
How to tell the difference between open source and piracy?
When we talk about free downloads, we can’t keep ourselves from thinking about the pirate software temptation. Writing code for an original piece of software is just like writing a book. It was your idea, so you are the only one who has the right to decide what to do with it. You are also the only one to decide if others will have to pay in order to make use of your work. Since it really is a mad world out there, let’s talk about the way developers protect their work from unauthorized use.
Developers include security measures (such as unique codes, certificates, seals, holograms etc.) to prove the user has made a payment to receive the software. These codes activate the software copy after purchase. However, hackers always find ways to crack executable files and delete the sequences responsible for security checks. They are also able to find the pattern used to generate unique codes and trick the security algorithms.
Open source software (freeware) will never ask you for a CD key or any other proof of purchase. You will be able to install the software as is. However, if your software comes in a package and there is no sign of seals, holograms or certificates, then you have a reason to suspect it is not genuine. Contacting the vendor is the best way to set things straight.
Also, if you download software and you find any folders named “Crack” or files containing CD keys you know you didn’t pay for, then you can rest assured that you are breaking the law by installing and using the package – assuming it is virus free…
Get free software – Legally!
Not all software downloads are illegal. “Open source” literally means the software code (source) can be used by anyone (open) free of charge. However, this doesn’t mean it can be also reproduced! For your own safety, take note of these five trusted websites you can use to download free software legally:
CNET is one of the largest software databases out there – it has even outgrown Softpedia! Their software is scanned regularly using a powerful antivirus, so you shouldn’t worry about security. Their database includes about 100,000 free applications for all operating systems. Moreover, if you are in doubt, users’ ratings and reviews will help you make a decision!
Unlike CNET, ZDNet Downloads doesn’t have any user feedback options, but it is 101% safe and has a wide range of both free and paid software to choose from. And it’s been around for about twenty years!
Tucow’s Butterscotch proposes a completely different approach to free software downloading. It has a very warm and friendly interface. Butterscotch is the perfect place to be if you wish to safely and legally download the most popular applications (unlike CNET and ZDNet, popularity seems to be a priority over performance). Delicious downloads!
Brothersoft is very similar to CNET and ZDNet. If you wish to be up to date with the latest software news, feel free to check out the Editor’s Blog. They also have a large software library, either paid, shareware or freeware.
The Freeware Files library contains free software only. If you are looking for freeware, you won’t have to waste your time sorting or refining your search results.
Here they are! Your top five trusted download sources. Hopefully, you are now aware of the dark side of piracy. Besides breaking the law, you also risk damaging your computer, as you might get into viruses, spyware and all sorts of nasty things! So keep an eye on your downloads!