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NetSonic's problems set in before you're done installing the program. The executable installer has its own ad-serving component, so you'll be seeing pop-up ads during installation. To make matters worse, clicking the No Thanks option on the first pop-up ad caused our test system to freeze up. We had to hard-reboot just to install NetSonic.
Once the installation process completes, NetSonic launches automatically whenever you launch your Internet browser. You'll know right away; a new ad banner appears in the top border of your browser, and the amount of individual pop-up ads increases at an alarming rate.
NetSonic supposedly helps speed up Web page loading by using a "proprietary caching system" that stores text and graphics for pages you have previously visited, speeding load time when you return. Unfortunately, our tests yielded no improvement using NetSonic. Regardless, the program works via technology that every Web browser has included as standard for years.
Ads, ads, and more ads
Although most download managers install or attempt to install some ad-serving software, none other is as intrusive or annoying as NetSonic. You'll see the Microsoft Exchange e-mail configuration window pop up for no apparent reason; NetSonic wants to e-mail your friends so that you can refer them to NetSonic. Worse, NetSonic sends you nagging offers via e-mail, serves constantly scrolling ads in the top of your browser, and provides frequent pop-up ads, even if your browser is turned off. If you do turn off NetSonic, ad-serving software running on your hard drive continues to pop up new ads.
Quite ironically, one of the NetSonic ads is AdProtector, an app that promises to rid your computer of intrusive Internet advertising and ad-serving software. We are skeptical of any ad-removing program that is itself advertised in ad-serving software. Instead, we recommend Lavasoft's free Ad-aware program for this purpose.
In fact, when we ran Ad-aware on our test system (a 900MHz Pentium III with 256MB of RAM, running Windows XP) after our NetSonic installation, it identified an astounding 35 ad-serving program components--after we answered no to every extra ad-serving software installation option that we could. Worse, NetSonic's uninstaller leaves 14 of these files and one Registry entry in place even after NetSonic itself is gone. Fortunately, Ad-aware will remove these.
Complete lack of support
You can register NetSonic and upgrade it to NetSonic Pro for $12.95, but we have no idea why anyone would want to. The Pro version promises to increase surfing speed and instantly load links--exactly what the freeware version promises and doesn't deliver. In fact, the entire list of features for the paid Pro version is the same as the list for the free version. At least NetSonic doesn't make any false promises about turning off the ads if you pay for the registered version--their ads are here to stay.
The one possible reason for registering NetSonic would be technical support; the free version doesn't even offer e-mail support. Instead, save your money and invest in a real download manager such as GetRight or Download Accelerator.