Is the free screensaver safe to install?
There are many online websites that offer free screensavers for download. The question remains, is the screensaver safe? By downloading and installing a free screensaver called this, is there any harm in coming to your computer? This is a legitimate problem, which needs to be resolved before users think of installing a free screensaver.
There are several rogue programs that can be bundled with a free screensaver. This will mainly be viruses, spyware, adware and toolbars. There are several variations in these programs, but basically they are considered unwanted, unless the user specifically requests it. And outside of that list, the only thing you are considering installing is the friendly toolbar. But more about that later.
Below is a brief summary of each type of malware you want to avoid:
Viruses: This must be avoided in any way because it can harm your computer, often to the point of losing irreversible data. If you are afraid of being infected with a virus, only download software from a trusted site where the program is verified and tested, such as at Download.com. Download.com also hosts their own files, which means that software cannot be changed later on to include viruses.
Spyware: This is a program used to track and spy on your internet online activities. Data can then be sold to advertisers or used to change the function of your browser and computer. Spyware is one of the worst types of bundled software, and may be difficult to remove.
Adware: Adware is a little less scary than spyware, although it’s no less annoying for the average computer user. The Adware program will continue to display unwanted pop-ups and advertisements as you browse. Sometimes you might not even realize that you have adware unless you see excessive amounts of popups while surfing normally (where previously there were no popups).
Toolbar: Finally we have the toolbar, which is a mixed basket. Some toolbars are actually quite useful, like Google Toolbar, or some that offer an enhanced entertainment experience like the StumbleUpon toolbar. Because of this, there are other toolbars which are used as tools to display ads and are difficult to remove. Some of these unwanted toolbars are bundled with screensavers or free software, often from several large companies.
Make sure you read the small print. Not just what is on the download page. Sometimes they will say there is no spyware, but they don’t mention anything about adware. Are you ready to install some (or many) ads for free screensavers? Most people certainly can’t.