Is free software trouble?

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. I found a Web site that has lots of free software. I was wondering what your thoughts are about a site like that. Is it okay to download a bunch of programs just for the fun of it?

A. My feeling is that there's nothing to be gained by installing multiple programs simply because they exist, or because they're free, as tempting as that may be. Instead, I would suggest evaluating your need for any program. If there is a program that addresses a specific need you have, then it would be worthwhile investigating and possibly installing.

As subscribers of my weekly newsletter know, my philosophy when it comes to computing is to keep things as simple as possible. For all intents and porpoises, the days of carefree software installations are gone. While there is nothing inherently wrong with installing new software, many disreputable freebie programs contain malware, so caution is well advised. I would suggest limiting installations to programs that you believe you will actually use on a regular basis, rather than because a given program happens to be available.

I test hundreds of applications each year, but I do that on a computer that I use exclusively for testing. As a result of all that testing, I have to frequently reinstall Windows due to software-caused problems.

Because I am frequently asked what programs I use, I maintain a list of my favorite applications at http://tinyurl.com/6m5v9, which you are welcome to review at any time. I keep the list updated and include a brief profile of each program, as well as a link to its site should you be interested in obtaining additional information or downloading it.

Q. When I try to remove programs and the question appears, ‘Do you want to remove a shared file?’ should I answer “Yes” or “No”?

A. A shared file displays the extension .DLL, which means it's a Dynamic Linked Library file. That’s just a high-falootin’ name that lets you know that the file in question is possibly being used by one or more other programs. For example, a word processor and another program may share a .DLL file; therefore, removing that shared file may cause another program to malfunction.

You may have had occasion to be eyeball to eyeball with a message that states that a certain file cannot be found. When that message appears, it’s usually because the missing file was removed when a shared file was deleted as the result of uninstalling another program.

When you’re asked if you want to delete a shared file, just say “No.” It won’t hurt anything to leave the file alone, and it’s better to err on the side of caution rather than risk accidentally disabling another program.

Mr. Modem's Sites of the Week:

Will it Blend?
Finally, an opportunity to explore the world of extreme blending, where participants attempt to blend inedible items such as Glow Sticks, diamonds, toy cars, cassettes, and even annoying Valentine gifts, in supercharged blenders. Visitors can watch videos of these intelligence-defying blending experiments, which are divided into "Try this at Home" and "Don't Try this at Home" categories. I won’t say this is the dumbest site I’ve ever seen, but it certainly is a contender.
www.willitblend.com

World Rulers
Pop quiz! Who is running Turkmenistan these days? No, silly, it’s not Kaikhaziz Sardarovich Atabayev. Where have you been? It’s Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. Okay, I’ll give you a chance to redeem yourself: Who was King of Burundi during the swinging ‘60s? That’s right, it was Mwambutsa Bangilicenge. Good job! This site is a terrific online resource that lists the heads of state and government, de facto leaders, presidents, and dictators of all the countries and territories, dating back to 1700.
http://rulers.org

For plain-English answers to your questions by email, plus helpful PC tips, subscribe to Mr. Modem’s Weekly Newsletter. For information, visit www.MrModem.com.