With the extremely high security offered, often for free, by software providers for home computers, the term “virus” has largely become a misnomer. Software with malicious intent rarely or no longer carries out the defining activity every true virus exhibits: self replication. Instead, software producers who want their software installed on your computer have only one choice left – they will “trick” you into allowing your computer to install their software, using one of two methods:
- The vaporware will be “piggybacked” on legitimate software’s installation, often deceptively
- The vaporware will be disguised as software you want
Legitimate software providers will be paid to run one or more separate inline installations. The additional installation may not be disguised, exactly, but often it will not be entirely obvious that additional software will be installed. You must read each screen before clicking the next button. See the picture below. The AVG Free installer indicates that the “advanced” feature is for advanced users, when in fact this is a basic feature usable by advanced users and laypeople alike. This is a despicable and deceptive tactic and it makes my blood boil and red blinders come over my eyes. These people are manipulating you and taking advantage of this widespread ignorance. Worse – you, me, and anyone with access to the Internet have no excuse for allowing this to happen.
Software claiming to speed up your pc, fix registry errors, install drivers, find coupons or save you money are, in most cases, disguised deceptively as something that will benefit the user, but instead will hijack your browser, redirect the user to unwanted services, inject ads into legitimate web pages and eat up system resources that would otherwise be used for the users’ benefit. The worst cases of this type of software will use keyloggers in an attempt to retrieve your passwords, track your movements on the Internet and will force you to visit web pages you have no interest in. It’s all very shiny and attractive, but ultimately only benefits the companies that distribute it, not the end user.
How To Avoid Vaporware
- Read everything on your screen. These software developers are counting on your inability to parse onscreen messages and make correct decisions when it comes to beneficial software.
- Do not click next until you are confident you want this software.
- Research this software. With the power of Google, there is no excuse for not putting in five minutes to find out whether you want this software or not.
What To Do Once You Have Vaporware Installed
- Use the Windows Control Panel to uninstall unwanted software (Research before uninstalling, or face the consequences when you uninstalling something important!)
- Use third party removal tools – Careful with this! Sometimes this software is disguised as removal tools, but is in fact vaporware as well!
- Use your browser’s extension manager to remove unwanted toolbars and browser hijackers
Ultimately it is your responsibility to understand what is being installed on your computer. Vaporware creators are counting on apathy, lack of interest, the need for quick fixes and your own inclination toward shiny, “free” loot, but 99% of anything that’s free comes with an asterisk and a considerable amount of small print. That being said, there are many free & legitimate programs that add functionality to your computer and come with few or no drawbacks. However, even legitimate software like AVG will piggyback browser toolbars and hijackers; you will have the option, during the installation process, the select what you want installed.
This type of vaporware can be extremely destructive, will eat up already strapped system resources, and will burn up your time clicking through unwanted pop up ads and web pages. It also makes computer manufacturers look bad after selling a perfectly good computer, as it will cause said computer become laggy and unresponsive.