3rd party apps will enhance your Windows experience. We’re not trying to disparage Microsoft: Internet Explorer is a decent browser, and Office is an excellent product suite. But the 3rd party community gives you more options, and often those other options are superior. How many people actually stick with Explorer instead of switching over to Chrome or Firefox?
It’s more than just alternatives, too. Sometimes you have a problem that Microsoft simply doesn’t offer a solution to. This is where software download sites come in handy: search and you’ll be able to find a program for just about every use you can imagine, usually for free.
CNET’s Download.com has been around for nearly two decades (launched in 1996) and is the most popular freeware site. The well-documented problem with Download.com and sites like it (Softonic, Sourceforge, etc.) is that they don’t make it easy to download just the software you want. Instead they’ll tack on extra programs you didn’t ask for because the developers of those extra programs are willing to pay download sites to do so.
Avoiding download sites is good way to avoid crapware (unsolicited programs you don’t need that make their way onto your computer). It’s ideal to get your software straight from the source.
But sometimes even when you download a program directly from its developer you still have to deal with crapware. Adobe is a prime example of this: they’re notorious for bundling McAfee with their products, which can cause problems when McAfee clashes with whatever antivirus software is already installed.
To stop Adobe and download sites from stuffing your computer with crapware, you should install AntiAdware. This is a greasemonkey script, so if you haven’t done so already you’ll have to download Greasemonkey (for Firefox) or Tampermonkey (for Chrome) add-on before you can install AntiAdware.
You should be aware that this solution only applies to download sites. It won’t protect you from any crapware hidden in the installer of the app itself.
The classic trick is setting up the default installation option to be “yes, please, go ahead and install a dozen programs I’ve shown no interest in”. If you just click through the installer as fast as you can, you’re going to get a few unwanted extras along with the app you actually want.
It’s only when you open up the “advanced” installation settings that it’s revealed your program is bundled with other programs and you have to uncheck some boxes if want just the original program (apparently it takes advanced technical skills to know you don’t want a toolbar you never asked for).
Be sure to pay attention when you’re installing a new program. For extra protection from adware you can use Unchecky, which is a tool that filters out unsolicited offers during installation.