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Is it safe to try new freeware?

notes from ClifNotes, Apr 2006


How do I safely try new freeware? Trying out new free software is sometimes risky. If you've gotten your software from a trusted source, you won't typically have to go through a lot of preparation. I sometimes try out stuff that I don't really trust, and when that happens, I break out the big guns.


Some safety devices are always running on my PC.


Many people recommend using a software firewall and hardware firewall in tandem. This let's you know when new programs try to "phone home" to access the web. Two good free software firewalls are ZoneAlarm and Kerio. I don't use them, but I probably should.


Before installing


Before installing a new freeware program I don't trust, I do the following to make sure I remove any spyware or adware I wasn't aware I had.


Note: HijackThis should be used with caution. Incorrect use can crash a PC or create a whole series of hard to fix problems.


The above scans give me some confidence that I am malware free before I start installing.




  • Run Total Uninstall and use it to monitor the installation the new freeware program.


Total Uninstall will allow me to uninstall the files and registry keys the new freeware program puts on my PC. It will work even if the program doesn't include it's own good uninstaller.


After I've tried the software


I uninstall any software I don't want. I repeat the HiJackThis scan and compare it with the previous scan to see if anything unusual pops up. Then I might run the AdAware and SpyBot once again just to be safe. If I'm really paranoid, I might search for root kits with RootkitRevealer.


These procedures are not fool proof. A person in my business should keep good backups just in case something goes horribly wrong. A safer method to test software is to use a PC that is set up for testing software. This test PC would always start in a known good configuration that is backed up so that it can be restored to the same good configuration after testing. I've been told running new programs on a virtual machine also works well.


I hope some of these ideas or freeware programs help you out if you ever decide to download something off the beaten tracks.