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How do you determine if a free download is trustworthy?

by Marc Bennett CNET staff/forum admin / October 10, 2006 7:16 AM PDT

How do you determine if a free download is trustworthy?

By its popularity
Reading a product review
Getting it from a trustworthy online source
Reading user reviews of the product
Through trial and error
When it is recommended by a friend or family member
I don't do downloads

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I Download through trial and error!
by calzdbomb / October 10, 2006 2:20 PM PDT

I always find myself downloading tons of stuff off the internet. Seldom do i run into a virus, but that is what system restore is for!... is there anyhting wrong with this? Does restoring your system to an earlier date elimnate all problems with a free download that is really a virus?

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Trial & Error
by morninglory / October 12, 2006 12:42 PM PDT

I, too, download a lot of stuff, mostly games. I depend on my anti-virus to help me out. I also read the fine print before I download from an unknown source. Most of the game sites I go to are from well-known sources, i.e. Sony Pictures, PopCap, Yahoo, etc. If something looks (and smells) fishy, I don't download it. But hey, what's a computer for if you can't have a little fun on it?

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How do you determine if a free download is trustworthy?
by Raybarb5091 / October 10, 2006 3:08 PM PDT

I believe this may be one of my first responses to anything on this site, but I can't think of a better way to start then to answer this question.CNET has been one of the best experiences of my life when it comes to computing. If I have a question, and need answers I can trust, there is no place better to go on the Internet. Sure there are a lot of places you can surf to get answers, but this is more than just a personal choice. When you need reliability, when you need input, when you need answers that don't send you somewhere else, or waste your time with a bunch of high tech talk that you can't understand, then you need to try CNet a couple times. You will quickly realize how informative they are, and how it easy they make it for you to comprehend and reach your objective. The people are friendly and more than willing to help solve your problems. In my mind the words trustworthiness and peace of mind are synonymous with CNET. How do I determine if a free download is trustworthy? I signe into CNET.

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Trusted Source
by Rich131 / October 11, 2006 4:24 AM PDT

I have been dowloading from you for nearly 10 years and have had no problems. But just to be on the safe side I have Avec 7.5 and Ad Aware SE that go through the downloads at least once a day or as it is downloading.

Rich Harper

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How do you decide if a download is trustworthy?
by Jokhio_s / October 10, 2006 3:11 PM PDT

If I find it on CNet and there's been a number of previous downloads, I assume it's safe. If someone had been burned I'm sure cnet would take it off the site immediatly.

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I have several computers, one is a guinea pig.
by Nicon23 / October 12, 2006 4:27 AM PDT

Some downloads are fairly low risk such as text files, image files even most video files are low risk. But of course others executables in particular are always questionable. And some websites I visit are completely untrustable so those downloads go to my guinea pig laptop.

I also use this computer for first-time software installs since many original and legally purchased apps have unwanted garbage included like browser toolbars or other software they like to foist on you without telling you.

Also, now that Google has been good enough to install WiFi just across the street my guinea pig machine doesn't even go through my own broadband connection.

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Getting it from a trustworthy online source...
by SujaGeorge / October 10, 2006 3:32 PM PDT

I use CNet and several other sites I trust. I also get advice from other techie types for files not available on the major download sites. I used to do trial and error but got way too many "loaded" files.

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trustworthy ?
by s / October 10, 2006 6:00 PM PDT

this question is unanswerable ! Unless getting from Big name company how would anyone know what other source is trustworthy ? don't tend to download from music sites any more as have lost few hard drives that way in the past.Would be happy to hear from anyone who can say hoe to know if source is ok before downloading.

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trustworthy ?
by Justcauz / October 10, 2006 9:50 PM PDT
In reply to: trustworthy ?

I get my downloads from Cnet or Major Geeks. I then know they are not loaded or illegal, and they are working.

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Trustworthy Download Advice...
by GinaPA / October 11, 2006 4:07 AM PDT
In reply to: trustworthy ?

I rely on two resources-WorldStart at and Cloudeight at I subscribe to both of their computer newsletters and the apps they recommend have all be tested by them to insure there is no malware of any kind. Both also have a lot of information on their sites that I rely on for help. They also alert their readers to apps that are suspicious or outright bad. I especially recommend these two sites and newsletters to my computer newbie friends because they teach computer tricks step-by-step, which is easy for newbies to follow. Although I am already familiar with 95% of the computer tricks the newsletters, I still appreciate their input on new apps, since they check them out for a week or more before recommending them. I've never had a problem with any of the apps they recommended and they also saved me from downloading malware....Gina

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To trust or not to trust downloads...
by parikshat / October 10, 2006 5:49 PM PDT

Usually I respect warnings from my protective sw but at times, either out of curiosity, or because the title and narrative appear to be so attractive in features, I do take the plunge and hope for the best! If afterwards I regret doing what I did, I put the process in reverse and eliminate the new sw. To be effective in this last phase of "therapy" one has, at times,to utilize a selection of special sw. Thus my personal collection of these "medicines" is gradually expanding!

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by r_rayjr / October 10, 2006 8:29 PM PDT

I only do download from CNET's Download page. I hope that anything that they put on their page has been checked out. And that is how I determine if a free download it trustworthy. So I hope the CNET doest not let me down...

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(NT) (NT) CHECK THE SOURCE: Look at the publisher's site
by sponger2 / October 10, 2006 9:36 PM PDT
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Trustworthiness of downloads
by efmesch / October 10, 2006 10:22 PM PDT

There was a time, not sooo many years ago, when everyone who used the internet was out to do good for the other users. Then, money and "vandals" got involved and matters turned downright nasty in many cases. Unfortunately, there is no way for the unaided individual to know in advance if you've come across a "virtuous" doner of software or a knave who'se out to get you in one way or another. Fortunately, there are many advisors available and they are members of the group trying to do good. Cnet certainly belongs to the do-gooders. Before carelessly downloading, reading reviews of software is the only way to know reliably about how trustworthy it is. The number of downloads can be very misleading--just because others may have fallen into a trap, it doesn't mean that you should blindly follow them. A good review doesn't only tell you if a program is trustworthy but also it lets you know just what you can expect from the program. Thanks to many excellent reviews I've read before downloading, I've saved myself countless hours of wasted time, getting and learning programs that, in the end, would have turned out not to do what I needed or expected of them. If such a program had been downloaded, even if "trustworthy" (no viruses or spyware etc.) it leaves its scars on the internal workings of my computer.

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Trail and Error
by tompbl / October 10, 2006 10:57 PM PDT

If I think it may be infected like from a newsgroup site, I just make sure my anti-virus is up to date. Download what I want and try it. If the anti-virus goes off, I stop it and delete it. Once the program has installed, I run it once. Then run my anti-virus scan, and Microsoft's Defender.
This procedure is only used if I really want what is being given away. Happy

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by little.nanny / January 3, 2007 11:41 PM PST
In reply to: Trail and Error

you said yohave microsoft defender which one do you have i have windows live one care and the anti virus is defender i really like it it does everything for you it even defrags your computer when you want it to everything is done for you

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I use a combination of...
by clsmith / October 10, 2006 11:04 PM PDT

reading product reviews, getting it from a trustworthy online source (like and what other users have to say about it in 90% of the cases. The other 10% I will use the trial and error approach but I always try to go with products produced by names I recognize or products in the GNU arena.

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Trustworthy freeware
by Dave Bitar / October 10, 2006 11:08 PM PDT

I google the app's name. Usually any reports of malicious code in a freeware application will be found among the site listings on the first google page. Next I google for forums dealing with that app name to get news of any kind of problems with the app. I use a few freeware sites that I trust 100% but will still research a freeware product before trying it. Free apps from sites like ZoneLabs and similar I will just scan for viruses and spyware and install.

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I always use Venus Spy Trap.
by 1caroline / October 10, 2006 11:41 PM PDT

If you dare to dip there, use your e-condoms. And don't believe for a minute, Cnet, Microsoft, HP, whoever is perfect.

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Funny you should ask that...
by ctwd / October 11, 2006 1:23 AM PDT

This AM, while booting up, Norton advised me a trojan was attempting entrance & I refused to permit. Then here in my e-mail is C/net with its humongous list of polls (really, for whose benefit?) But, no, I trust C/net. So, to answer the current question, I only download from links from the major players, hoping for the best. A small app I particularly like is for stitching photos called autostitch from University of British Columbia.

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I trust Cnet's
by Mel King / October 11, 2006 1:43 AM PDT


If I can get it from then I trust it. You haven't failed me yet.

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Trusted source for free downloads
by RoRe / October 11, 2006 3:18 AM PDT

Kim Komando is my gauge for free downloads. If she has tested it and likes it, I feel comfortable that it's safe and useful to download.

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Depends on your computer!
by BoDo_56 / October 11, 2006 4:20 AM PDT

If you own a MAC you don't have to worry at all!!! I download everything and anyhting I want, when I want to. I don't have to worry about "the Windows bugs" that are floating around. So, all you windows users, make sure you buy your security hardware and install as much as you can. You never know when the "Windows Bugs are coming to get your harddrive!!!!!!!

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Reading user reviews of the product
by acoxon1274 / October 11, 2006 9:22 AM PDT

I read reviews and see what they say. I see if there is info on the file itself before I download. I do a search on the file and see if that leads to anything bad.

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Downloading through trial and error.
by farhansyed / October 11, 2006 10:27 AM PDT

I have an old Pentium III computer that I use for downloading "free" software, music, etc. It is not a computer that I care about, and no important data is stored on it. So if the download happens to contain a virus or other malware, no problem--I just reformat the hard disk and reinstall Windows 98. A full format and reinstallation takes less than 2 hours.

In practicality, this is very rarely necessary, as most downloads deliver what they promise. After the downloaded material has been checked for viruses, and verified to function properly, then I burn it to CD and copy the files to my good computer.

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all of the above
by sharee100 / October 11, 2006 1:58 PM PDT

I check it out in online forums, websites like cnet, friends, magazines, and anywhere else I can think of, then I download.

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user reviews
by hyper viper / October 14, 2006 2:33 AM PDT
In reply to: all of the above

I find reading user reviews for downloads is very helpful.....if i read reviews an get bout 90% good reviews......than i may consider downloading certain apps....the rest is trail an error......take your chances!!!!

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Free Downloads
by alliedrefrigeration / October 12, 2006 4:15 AM PDT

CNET Rocks!

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when do you know if a download site is good
by cynthiahm7 / October 14, 2006 7:24 AM PDT

when it is recommened by friends or family members

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by little.nanny / December 28, 2006 10:07 PM PST

it is full of bad files and you go to download something and it might be something completely different and we have downloaded virus from there the other day we got one that totally wiped everything off our computer even windows we luckaly had a back up disk or we would have been in trouble. i thought you all should know and watch out.

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