Avoid Unwanted Crapware with *Unchecky*


You could be forgiven for thinking we are on an ‘anti crapware’ crusade this week, what with Marc’s excellent How do you handle crapware article, my recent experience installing ImgBurn, and now this article, it certainly seems that way. The truth is, it’s all purely coincidental. It is, however, maybe a sign of the times… the way things are going with all this crapware constantly foisted upon us with almost every software installation, it was probably inevitable and is certainly topical.

Everyone here at DCT deplores the worsening situation involving software installations and bundling, and I suspect we are not Robinson Crusoe. Seems developers and vendors are bent on expanding this practice, and they aren’t averse to drawing from the sneaky tactics department either.

I first came across Unchecky a few weeks ago and my immediate reaction was… what a great concept! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve queried clients about toolbars installed on their machines and they’ve had no idea what it does or where it came from. This is just the sort of situation Unchecky is designed to help prevent.

Unchecky – The software

Firstly, to avoid any confusion, it should be noted that Unchecky does NOT get rid of crapware which has already been installed on the system, it is specifically designed as a preventative measure.

unchecky interface

Unchecks – Unchecky automatically unchecks unrelated offers, both saving you mouse clicks and making it less likely to miss a checkbox of an unwanted offer.

Warns – Installers often try to sneak additional programs as a natural part of the installation. Unchecky warns you when you try to accept a potentially unwanted offer, which makes it less likely to be accepted accidentally.

Unchecky – Download and usage

Everything about Unchecky yells simplicity; from the tiny 675KB download through to the minimalistic interface. There is nothing to configure, no settings as such. As the final installation message indicates, just leave Unchecky running in the background and it will simply do its thing:


unchecky installation message

And that ‘thing’ is preventing unwanted extras from being inadvertently installed on your machine. I tested Unchecky with 5 products renowned for bundling and it worked perfectly with all five, although not always in the exact same manner… more on that later. Out of the five, I chose the popular uTorrent as an example, because it involves no less than three separate ‘offers’.

Unchecky in action

The following screenshots show each offer without Unchecky followed immediately by the same screen with Unchecky enabled:

Without Unchecky

Without Unchecky

With Unchecky

With Unchecky

Without Unchecky

Without Unchecky

With Unchecky

With Unchecky

Without Unchecky

Without Unchecky

With Unchecky

With Unchecky

And if a program attempts to install additional crapware surreptitiously, Unchecky pops up with a warning which also includes a decline option:

unchecky warning message

To further demonstrate Unchecky’s effectiveness here is a neat little video created by the developer:

Bottom Line

Testing Unchecky not only confirmed that it is indeed a great concept but that it also works very effectively in practice. I, for one, am going to be installing Unchecky on ALL my clients’ machines. If you’re one of the many who have been plagued by unwanted toolbars and the like, I strongly suggest you also take a good hard look at Unchecky.


PLEASE NOTE

*Unchecky is still in Beta stage, which means the software is still undergoing refinements. However, I experienced zero issues during testing on my Windows 7 64-bit system.

*I mentioned earlier how Unchecky doesn’t always handle crapware in the same fashion; I found that in some instances Unchecky did actually uncheck boxes, as in the uTorrent example. But, in other instances, Unchecky completely removed all reference to the additional bundling/offers. In the case of ImgBurn, for example, which comes bundled with Search Protect and TuneUp Utilities, there was no mention of either during the installation process. In those instances, a post installation check confirmed that zero additional software had been installed on my system… all good!

*Lastly; although it can certainly be a great help, do not make the mistake of relying solely on Unchecky to prevent all unwanted crapware 100% of the time… there is still no substitute for vigilance and caution.

 

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About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

16 Comments

  1. Thank you for the great review. I will also install Unchecky in many of my friends’ computers.
    Nice, it is like an adblocker but for installation, at some occasions.

  2. Hi Jim,

    Again you advise ‘those who care’ another worthwhile programme, and I have a perfect situation in which to use it on a neighbours computer, the one who has a 5GB plan with a Telstra dongle, has mega email, his wife plays on-line games, his machine runs in sludge, and it’s the fault of everything else except the dozen toolbars on his screen which he reckons are OK when he looks for ”something”.
    I convinced him to sign up for a plan to suit their MEGA needs, from a recommended server and I have been nominated to HELP.
    After convincing his wife, (koff, koff), that I am not going to rob them of their pension dollars when I re-organize their one and only lap-top and remove the sludge.
    I will install several ‘goodies’ to keep them safe, Unchecky being one of them.
    Dare I say that my neighbour was an Australian Naval Officer.
    Keep well in Bundy Jim.

    Kind Regards,
    Jonno

  3. First time I have heard of this software. Think I will give it a try. What is the real story behind all this unwanted software? Who is making money when a unwanted toolbar is installed? Thanks.

  4. This program uses and auto-updates the hosts file which is OK with me but my AV (Webroot SecureAnywhere) by default prevents programs from modifying this. So I would have to uncheck that option which introduces an element of risk from unknown programs. I have suggested that the program provides for an update notification system that allows for manual updates …

    • Paul, Unchecky adds entries to the hosts file in order to block ad module servers, such as OpenCandy. These entries are maintained entirely separately and removed whenever the Unchecky service is stopped.

      Hope that helps,
      Cheers… Jim

  5. Yes, Jim, Unchecky is very good at what it does. I have been using it some months now, and it has proved itself.

    I like the warning it gives, besides it’s other main, unfailing function, which is to UNCHECH THOSE PESKY BOXES.

    I have a question please: PeaZip is a an excellent free and very useful “unzipper”, but has the adware-based PUP, Open Candy, securely tied in by the EULA. Is there anyway to bypass such forced-on-you PUPs?

    After a reinstall of my XP recently, I installed PeaZip, but along came Open Candy as well, which I got rid of in my own unique manner of using Everything Search along with RegSeeker, which cleaned all traces of OC from my PC, leaving me a clean PeaZip.

    Man alive! I do enjoy DCT!

    Hope you are having a good night’s sleep: here in sunny SA the sun is sure shining (alliteration?)

    • Hi ballyirish – The best way to avoid crapware is to hunt around for a portable version. Portable applications don’t require any installation at all, so it’s nigh on impossible to install anything extra. Of course, there isn’t always a portable version available, but in PeaZip’s case it just so happens there is. You can download PeaZip portable here: http://peazip.sourceforge.net/peazip-portable.html

      Cheers mate… Jim

    • No, sorry Andrew, it doesn’t. The following is taken direct from the article, just after “Unchecky – The software”:

      Firstly, to avoid any confusion, it should be noted that Unchecky does NOT get rid of crapware which has already been installed on the system, it is specifically designed as a preventative measure.

  6. Unchecky is undoubtedly worthwhile for all those who do not pay careful attention when they are installing programs. But I cannot remember the last time I accidentally let an unwanted program get installed by omitting to uncheck its box! I even uncheck them if it looks like doing so will prevent the original program from installing successfully – and they always do:-) So don’t be intimidated into leaving those check boxes ticked: if the original program won’t install without the add-ons, you don’t want it anyway! Search for a similar program that doesn’t try to bully you into installing unwanted software!

  7. Just another system builder here. I will be giving Unchecky a try. Thanks for the heads up Jim.

    My biggest concern is becoming complacent with it – more so for my customers. I’ve been vigilant for decades as a system builder about carefully monitoring setup processes (we don’t install and would never accept payment for installing crapware). I see you put in a disclaimer for complacency and I’m very glad you did.

    What are your thoughts about new users – some of which are older folks who struggle with the learning curve of PCs in general or the transition to a new operating system? Better to start out with such safeguards, or better to let them learn the hard way a time or 2 before using such tools? I’m leaning more towards people learning more through their mistakes, but I’m open to your point of view and respect your opinion.

    • Hi David. Most of my clientele are elderly and I know from experience that the majority of them will not learn, not even the hard way. I get rid of toolbars, duly give them the rundown on probably how they got there, and next visit the toolbars are back again. So it’s Unchecky for those folks I’m afraid. 🙂

      I imagine these are just the type of users Unchecky is specifically designed to help. I would certainly have no qualms about installing Unchecky on their machines from the get go.

      Cheers… Jim

  8. I just tried to install unchucky and got the following message from my antivirus program (Vipre).

    Access Denied: (unchecky_svc.exe (adware installer))

    I usually take heed of these warnings and stop trying to install programs that Vipre has a problem with. Vipre has been trouble free during the time I’ve been using it. I’ve had no problems with malware since using it.

    Any suggestions?

    • Geprge, Unchecky is safe and I imagine Vipre is giving a false positive because unchecky has references in the source code to the files normally used to install adware (i.e., search for adware_file.dll and look for checkbox located at X and Y).

      BTW, Daves Computer Tips will never publish a software recommendation that is not safe at the time the recommendation is published.

  9. After installing Unchecky from the website I kept getting periodic spyware alerts. I’m running MS Windows 8.1 and using the “Charter Security Suite” which I believe is actually F-Secure. So I uninstalled Unchecky and the spyware warnings stopped. I’m not really looking for a solution. Unchecky seems like a good idea as long as it doesn’t cause ANY other issues and is easy to set up.