When searching the Internet for helpful tools or games to download, you might have come across the terms shareware and freeware, but just what do they mean? And are they safe?
Freeware should be pretty apparent from the name. Basically, it is free software. Freeware may be used for personal or commercial use for an unlimited time at full functionality. Freeware is called freeware to differentiate it from free software, which is usually open source while freeware remains proprietary.
There are several reasons a company would release software as freeware; most of the time it is simple software with an overpopulated market, so they wouldn't be able to sell it. By releasing freeware, the company can gain itself some goodwill, and possibly the user will purchase further software.
Shareware is proprietary software which is essentially a trial. Shareware is designed to let you experience the software before buying it. It will usually give full functionality for a limited time or partial functionality to give you a taste of the software.
Most shareware will routinely alert you to the trial status of your software. It will remind you fairly often of your need to update. If you do purchase software after trying shareware, you will usually be given a key to enter to unlock the full functionality. These are usually delivered instantly through email, so there is no need to wait for the post.
Both freeware and shareware are legal to download. You are not breaking any copyright laws by downloading them.
When downloading any kind of software, you should always be aware of the source. Try to download from a reputable, well-known source, and put every file through at least one virus scan. It could be a malicious virus posing as a children's freeware game, or adware designed to send your browsing information to a marketing company so they can send you more spam.
When installing a piece of freeware or shareware, it should inform you if you are installing anything else. Developers get paid when you install browser tool bars or adware; some of them may be unethical enough not to inform you when they should. A virus scan should always be kept up to date and every freeware or shareware fully scanned.
If you want to convert AVI to DVD, freeware programs should be your first stop. Believe it or not, you can get those files off your digital camera or video recorder and onto DVD without spending a dime.