SEARCH FOR DOWNLOADS CAN LEAD TO TROUBLE

Looking for a news topic through a Google search is a great idea. Trying to find a download this way is a bad idea.

It turns out that quite a few sites exist just to trap you into downloading the wrong product. At best they only ask you to buy something you could get elsewhere for free. You may not think of that as “best,” but it can get a lot worse. In the worst situation, some of these sites take control of your computer and start downloading material you don’t want, never wanted, and will find hard to get rid of. Bob unknowingly acquired something called “I Want This” in this way, and he certainly didn’t want it. It was definitely hard to get rid of.

A lot of our readers wanted to download SmartDefrag, which speeds up your computer. They searched for SmartDefrag. Makes sense, right? It has become common practice because Google and other search engines are so good at finding stuff: If you only know the name, you do a search. 

Nearly all site managers are aware of this practice and some position their site to come up for lots of different search terms, especially searches for popular free programs. In this case, the readers who searched for the program we talked about in the column wound up at Softonic. Softonic has its own agenda and sends out just what they want you to see and use. Boom, that stuff is slugged into your computer at the speed of light. At the end of the content dump, they add a toolbar. It appears at the top of your screen, under or above the toolbars you normally use, like Google’s nearly blank search bar, or the bar for websites you frequently go to.

Avoid extra toolbars like the plague. Unless they are special purpose toolbars, designed to work with particular programs, such as Word, spreadsheets, graphics editing, etc., they simply slow down your computer and sometimes override your normal toolbars. In the case of the program we recommended, avoid any search result that has “softonic” in the address. The correct site for Smart Defrag is iobit.com. And be wary of any sites that try to charge for free programs. If we tell you it’s free, it means we went to the right site and the program was free.

We talked about the problem with our favorite tech guy, Kenny S. He says it’s easy to get spammed whenever you use a search engine to look for downloads. Even CNET, which owns download.com, a long-running and trustworthy site, has advertiser links that lead to spam-filled downloads. Kenny has started a Facebook forum to help address this and other problems. It’s free and open to anyone who has tech questions. He also does tech support for a charge, but unless you need a real workup on your computer, most advice there is free. The lead expert at Crossloop.com, you can now find him at HelpHelpNow.com.

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