Watch out for unwanted piggyback downloads

Everyone knows that as you use a computer it becomes clogged with miscellaneous programs and toolbars and steadily becomes slower and slower. One of the things that contributes to this is the high number of programs and toolbars that come with software that we download from the web.

Piggyback programs

I call these piggyback downloads because the companies don’t exactly ask for your permission to download the additional programs. Instead, they make it a part of the installation process. In many cases, there are checkboxes in front of the additional programs that you must uncheck if you don’t want them.

The Java example

This is the case with Oracle’s popular program Java. Oracle has deals with other companies to install its products along with Java. Every time you update Java, you go through an installation process. During that process, you will see a screen that will recommend installing the free browser add-on from Ask and setting up Ask as your default search provider. If you do not remove the checkmarks in front of these items, they will be installed just as surely as if you had requested them.

Java 645

Image credit: Sandy Berger


Antivirus program from avast!

If you install the avast! free antivirus program, the company will try to get you to install its EasyPass password manager by saying that it is a free trial. In this case you actually have to put a checkmark in the box, but it is even a little worse, since there is a trial period for that software and after that you will be reminded constantly to pay for it.

Avast 645

Image credit: Sandy Berger 

The AVG antivirus program

Sadly, many downloadable programs offer these piggybacking programs. In addition, the text on their installation screens attempts to get you to inadvertently install these extra programs. AVG’s free antivirus program has one of the most blatant examples of this. It asks you to select the type of installation — Express or Custom — knowing that most people will not want to be bothered with the details and will choose the Express installation. The Express installation is pre-selected and marked, “recommended.”  If you do the Express install, you will not only install the AVG Toolbar, but AVG will be set as your default homepage, new tab page, and default search provider. If you don’t want these added features, you have to do a Custom Install, which is labeled as “for advanced users.”

AVG 645

Image credit: Sandy Berger

If you’ve ever wondered how you accumulated so many toolbars on your browser or how your home page or default search engine was changed, now you know. It is not surprising that in this age of free software, even credible companies find tricky and creative ways to monetize its software. Although most people will still not take the time to read the legalese of the user agreements, they should at least carefully scrutinize every download and installation screen to avoid cluttering up their computers with unwanted programs.

Sandy Berger
Sandy Burger, based in Pinehurst, N.C., is a veteran tech journalist and regular contributor to Tech Page One. As senior editor at, Sandy covers tech tips and tricks, apps and gadgets in general. Email her at [email protected]
Sandy Berger
Sandy Berger
Tags: Productivity,Software,Technology