FileHippo, Softronic and Download.com are megamarts for snagging software but how safe are the goods?
Today I wanted to conduct a little experiment to see what would happen if I installed the top five programs from FileHippo.com
The results were astounding…
First up on the list is the ever popular CCleaner.
After my download finished so did my browser.
FileHippo gave IE a hard right-hook to the jaw and knocked it silly.
I couldn’t do anything and was forced to abort the browser because Internet Explorer wasn’t responding.
I managed to grab the CCleaner installer after canceling the application and retrying.
During the setup process I played the role of “Average User” so I intentionally didn’t read any of the software licenses and didn’t scan for hidden opt-in offers.
Ooops it looks like I just unwittingly installed the stupid Google Toolbar along with Chrome and set it as my default browser.
Now let me ask you a question: why is this enabled by default?
Don’t get me wrong: I like Chrome, it’s actually one of my favorite browsers but why is the option box checked by default? It’s one thing to give the user the ability to choose it’s another to choose for them hoping they don’t notice. The latter is pure chicanery and completely unacceptable.
But it gets worse.
After installing CCleaner, I was presented with the option to run the program.
Guess what happened after I ran CCleaner on my system?
Yup, CCleaner pooped on itself and fessed up to installing junkware on my system.
But is CCleaner entirely to blame?
Technically I should read each installation screen before clicking Next. This is just one example why it’s so imperative to read before clicking.
Alright, with CCleaner out of the way, I decided to go down the FileHippo list: Adobe Reader! Whoohoo.
But wait, which Download link am I supposed to click?
The homepage shows three. I’ll pick… um – the first one.
Hopefully it’s not a stupid ad or something…
It turns out that was the wrong link.
The instant I clicked it, a new Window sprouted with some buffoonish zip program with another green download link.
The page just keeps looping
Over and over and over and over again…
Don’t stare at that image too long or it’ll give you seizures.
This time I tried the second Download link from the FileHippo.com page and that seemed to do the trick.
After the download raced to my hard drive, I double-clicked the Adobe Reader and blindly answered yes and next to all prompts.
I checked my installed programs list and it didn’t appear that I scooped up any smuggleware. Adobe Reader was really just Adobe Reader.
Next up, uTorrent.
Unfortunately, I was suckered into installing a few unwanted bundles.
We really need to be cognizant of these screens.
The Accept Offer button is strategically placed where the Next button sits.
Alright, we’ve got two more programs to go.
Let’s get the best video player on earth: VLC Player.
VLC Player actually finished without a cinch. It was about as clean as Adobe Reader and didn’t make me jump through any hoops.
Finally, I installed Avast.
A few months ago I showed you what happened when I installed Avast, but this time it completed without any issues.
I’m pleased to say that the Antivirus Software:
- Wasn’t a virus itself
- Didn’t come bloated with spyware or superfluous offers
Of course this could change but for now I would say that FileHippo surprised me in a good way. I was expecting more hassles, more download-bars, more junk to wade through but instead 3 out of 5 of the most popular programs did what I expected.
The Bottom Line
There’s a reason why CCleaner is the most popular download on FileHippo. It’s because people are trying to scrub the muck from unsavory publishers.
Using a little discretion, you can circumvent disaster by paying attention to download links and unchecking unwanted offers. It’s a shame that we have to do this though. To be honest, it’s a little disquieting that software doesn’t always perform as advertised. I only tests 5 of the most popular programs on FileHippo but I don’t think that means we can infer that the rest are safe. The world of free software is a dynamic stage where advertisers are constantly trying to gain attention and distributors are constnatly seeking rewards for that right. We have to vigilantly stay on guard against the bad guys so we can keep our systems running smoothly.
Have you ever been a victim of smuggleware or clicking a fake download link? Please share your story in the comments.