How do I choose software?

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Thread Starter
Jul 28, 2013

I am wanting to learn how to know if software will be useful and mostly safe to install on a computer or a smartphone. I do not have a college degree that relates to anything to do with technology or computers. Besides experience how do you decide what software to use? What do you look for before downloading software to know if it would be good, useful, or mostly safe to use? What I mean by safe to use is that the software should not install anything that it shouldn't such as a virus or malware.

How does someone without much experience find out if software would be useful and not cause anything bad to happen to their device? What should I look for to decide if I want to install the software?
Currently the way I decide to use software is to read articles and article comments and user reviews. I do not download software from every article about software I read.
One other thing that helps me decide if I want to use the software is if it is free to use. Is that good enough to know if I should install the software?

As an example I read this article. After reading this I thought that using Privacy Pal seems like a good idea. I did not know if it would be good software or useful to have on my computer. I know I can ask on forums or do searches to find out others opinions/ideas about software that I may want to install.

Sometimes I will read in an article or article comment that will say that this software has malware or a bug or something similar. How do people know before they install software if it has things such as a virus or malware or similar things. How do people know if the software will cause any problems if they install the software?

What do you do to decide if you want to install and use any software?

What free online tools or websites if any do you use to find out if software is safe or good to use?

Any ideas, tips, suggestions are appreciated.

Thanks for your help.


Jun 27, 2014
You download from known safe sites.
This site is safe:
The two owners, Jim and Tim check out the software before they allow it on their server.
The also have tutorials for some of the software.
And top picks

There is also a forum where you can ask about software to solve a problem.

Avoid downloading from Cnet and Softonic. They added junk in the past so I've avoided them ever since.

Post in forums if you know what you want a program to do.
Something like, I'm looking for an audio player for my computer. What is good? You'll get posts of people mentioning what they use and probably posts of what to stay away from.

There is nothing wrong with using free software. Gizmo Richards devotes his site to free software.
The links posted there to download go back to the developer's site so they are safe to download.

About the only software I currently paid for is Malwarebytes Premium on our computers, ESET on my android tablets and phone and Office and WordPerfect Suite on my husband's desktop computer.
Me, since I don't use Office much, I've installed LibreOffice. (it's free)


Jul 19, 2018
ryrhino, plodr has some good tips to use. Personally, I am like you, I just look up information on the software. For example lets say I think I want to download Avast Antivirus. I look into a lot of forums about it, I type "avast antivirus news" in google when I want to know any national/international problems/or no problems about it. I go to the official website, and see what I think of it. You could also download it and scan it with a good antivirus to make sure, and look through it's properties.
Apr 2, 2002
There is no right or wrong answer to your very wide ranging question. I personally always try to keep in mind that nobody has to pass intelligence or lie detector tests before they can create a website or page and distribute software. My personal favourite download site is FileHippo and, as I look through many of the free items it offers, I do wonder about the number of things that claim to speed up or automate some existing function in Windows and wonder what I would do with the 10 seconds a day I could 'save' if I used them.

Free software will frequently be adequate for its purpose but you should always bear in mind that, in the real world, there is very little that is really free. For example, many of the sites that distribute it cover their expenses by 'bundling' other things with their downloads, sometimes without bothering to tell you, or the software you install may collect information about you or your computer to allow it to be sold on.

What may, or may not, be useful and safe software for you will depend on you and what you are trying to achieve with your computer. Is it your only computer, do you do work or school projects on it or store pictures or documents that are important to you, is there a backup system in place which would allow you to recover if some new software wiped your system out etc. etc.
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