Beware downloading from CNET Download.com


We have recently been discussing the pros and cons of bundling extras with downloaded software, and freeware in particular. Nobody appreciates this somewhat nefarious practice but CNET Download.com has taken it to a whole new level!

It doesn’t matter what you download from Download.com, it will come down with additional material in tow. There are options to decline the extras of course, but that requires user intervention. The installation of additional items is enabled by default….what is known as an ‘Opt Out’ system. This, in effect, is taking advantage of unwary users who don’t take much notice of installer screens and tend to simply click Next, Next, Next.

When you download any program from Download.com, what you initially get is not the software’s installer—it is CNET’s own downloader. When you go searching for the software in your Downloads folder, you will find this instead:

Double click that entry to start the CNET downloader and you then get this screen:

As you can see, the actual installation is a 4 step process. Click on the Next Step button and…

Now we get to the essence of this protracted process; CNET want me to install the Babylon Toolbar, change my default search engine to Babylon and also make Babylon my new Homepage. All these extras are enabled by default and you must either decline or accept this “Special Offer” before actually being allowed to download and install the software you were after in the first place – unbelievable!!


This new installer method can only be avoided by CNET subscribers or by becoming a subscriber. Then one must log-on to CNET Download.com in order to access a small (and barely noticeable) ‘Direct Download Link’:

I can only imagine this will do CNET Download.com irreparable harm. Perhaps they believe they are beyond reproach, who knows!

What I do know is, the situation definitely reinforces the need for users to be particularly wary when choosing a download source for their software. I can only reiterate earlier advice; download all your freeware from a trusted source  such as FreewareBB, who are dedicated to providing the best and safest environment for all their users, and recommended by Daves Computer Tips.

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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.

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