There are many places on the Internet to download free software, but not all of them are safe. Many sites take advantage of people looking for free downloads and send you malicious ads, fake virus warnings, or even spoofed files.
While good antivirus software will protect you from the worst sites, it’s best to avoid shady free download sites altogether and stick with trustworthy ones. Let’s look at some of the best and safest sites for downloading Windows software.
In addition to general reputation and personal experience, we have used URLVoid to verify website security. This tool compares sites to dozens of security software blacklists. Every website here scored at least a 34/36 (meaning all but one or two scanners found the site clean).
1. The seller’s official website
Before entering the sites that offer many different Windows software, it should be remembered that the safest place to download the most popular software is often directly from its official site. If you’re looking to download a browser, security suite, media app, or the like, it isn’t much more secure than its home page.
Some software may still try to force bundled unwanted junk files on you from their official website, but you can be sure that they are malware free. If you don’t know an app’s download page, a quick Google search for “download Spotify” or similar will bring up a box that will take you there directly.
Ninite is simple. The website presents you with a list of programs to select from and you check the boxes of all the apps you want. Then, by clicking the download button, you will download a custom installer file that bundles all the selected programs together so that you can install them in bulk.
Ninite is known for its safety and security. It automatically denies toolbars and junk files, runs in the background and does not require you to click Next again and again. Thus, there is no risk of malware or bundled garbage. Running the same installation file later will cause Ninite to automatically update whatever you originally downloaded.
Although there are only a few dozen apps on Ninite, it contains many of the most popular Windows software such as Chrome, VLC, Zoom, LibreOffice, etc.
Softpedia is one of the biggest download sites; it has delivered over three billion downloads over the years. The most popular apps are updated daily, so you get clean, malware-free software that is as recent as possible.
On top of that, it has an easy to use interface that makes it easy to find programs on any platform. You can browse what’s been updated recently or search using filters such as categories, last update, and cost. In addition to Windows, you will also find Mac, Linux, and Android apps.
Even though the site looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 1990s, MajorGeeks has been one of the more reputable software download sites for quite some time.
His list of Best free software choices is a great place to start, but don’t be afraid to scour the left sidebar and browse through all kinds of highly rated programs that you might find useful. Otherwise, the search will help you find what you are looking for.
FileHippo is a well known site with tons of active programs broken down into categories. It also has a web application repository, if you are not ready to download just desktop software.
Sometimes the site will ask you to download another app (like Opera) before the one you requested. But this is clearly labeled, easy to ignore, and doesn’t suggest shady software.
FileHippo goes further by also offering older versions of software. While you usually shouldn’t install outdated software (for security reasons), this is a useful option in case you run into issues with the latest version.
The Download Crew website stands out with its short but informative descriptions on every page of the app. These are written by real users, not just copied and pasted from the provider’s website. You will learn what each app does, its advantages and disadvantages.
The upper section has Featured Downloads, which makes it a good place to start. It also has a robust list of options for software licensing, including Open source, Test software, and more. This allows you to explore exactly what kind of free software you are getting.
FileHorse doesn’t have a huge software repository. Instead, this site focuses on storing the best and most useful programs. Each product page has screenshots so you know what to expect, version compatibility, a change log, links to older versions, and more.
Because the homepage is divided into a relatively small number of categories like Video software and Cleaning and tweaking, this is also a good place to find reliable alternatives to popular software.
FilePuma has a fairly basic interface and focuses on simplicity. Search for the software that interests you or browse its categories to find something new. Since the categories have the most popular tools right on the homepage, it’s easy to see what’s on offer.
Other than older versions and screenshots, there isn’t much more on the product download page. The only other noteworthy feature is FilePuma’s Update Detector, which makes it easy to check for software installation updates on your PC. However, at the time of writing, it is not available for Windows 10, which limits its usefulness.
SnapFiles is like a lot of the other download sites we’ve featured, but it has a few cool features that are worth checking out. One of them is the Choice of free software on the home page, which highlights software you may not have been familiar with. And under Following at the top of the page you will find a Random choice, which is also ideal for discovery.
There is also a dedicated page for Portable applications, useful if you want to run applications without installing them. SnapFiles also offers user reviews on software download pages, as well as warnings about apps that attempt to install bundled software.
It’s easy to ignore the Microsoft Store, which is home to Windows 10 for Modern Apps. And while a lot of its offerings aren’t particularly great, you can actually find some solid apps on the Store.
They also have certain advantages. Store apps update automatically. And more importantly, they’re sandboxed, so they can’t encroach on other areas of your system. Take a look to see if your favorite apps are on the Microsoft Store and you might be pleasantly surprised at what else you find.
Where do you download free software?
Remember, no site can ever be 100 percent safe. It is possible that malicious advertising will pass through, or the site may be hacked or sold to a malicious company. But in general, the download sites we have featured here are clean and trustworthy.
Use a little common sense and don’t throw anything that looks fishy. If a site offers a “faster” download manager, ignore it and use direct download instead. And before you start, make sure you can spot the ads disguised as download links.
Fake ads disguised as download links are all over the web. Here are some essential tips for avoiding ads designed to deceive you.
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