Downloads FAQ

Welcome to PC World's Downloads library, and to the Download Store. This article offers answers to the questions we're asked most often. If your question isn't covered in these pages, please send it in an e-mail message to PCWorld.com Customer Service at webmaster@pcworld.com.

What are the PC World Downloads library and the Download Store?

Getting Started

How to Find and Download Files

Handling Downloadable Files

Installing Screen Savers, Icons, and Themes

General Questions

Problems Downloading

Developers & Copyright Concerns


What are the PC World Downloads library and the Download Store?

The PC World Downloads library

The Downloads library offers freeware and trial shareware for download, as well as some "Buy Only" titles. Downloaded trial versions include information on how to purchase the full product should you decide to do so after trying it.

Many of the files in the Downloads library have been reviewed by members of PC World's award-winning editorial staff, who give you their frank opinions to help you decide which products will meet your needs best. On browse lists, files that have been reviewed are marked with a "PCWorld Reviewed" logo. On a reviewed file's information page the editor's review will appear under a PC World Reviewed tab.

Other files available in the library haven't been reviewed by PC World. On an unreviewed file's PC World Downloads information page you will see a Description tab with a description provided by the developer. No PC World Reviewed tab will appear on those information pages.

Absence of a review is no reflection on the quality or possible pros and cons of the software. It simply means that PC World editors haven't reviewed it, so we can make no recommendation about it one way or another. (The Downloads library offers thousands of files; we simply can't review all of them.) Our editors make every effort to review the most important programs, as well as the most popular ones.

Click the User Reviews tab on a file's information page to see how members of the PCWorld.com community rate it and what they say about it. User star ratings are summarized by the Avg. User Rating toward the top of the page. When you see a zero star rating and "Be the first to review" under User Reviews, that means no user has posted a review yet. If you've used the file yourself, you can post your review of it when you're signed in as a PCWorld.com member.

The PC World Downloads library acts as a point of distribution for freeware, free trial software, and "Buy Only" files, but of course our editors can't provide individual user support for those thousands of files. When we review a file, we include an 'Author' link to the creator or developer. You can use that link if you have questions or comments about a particular file. (If you find an 'Author' link that doesn't work, please let us know by writing to webmaster@pcworld.com.) We encourage developers (or their agents) who provide their own files to include an 'Author' link; not all of them supply such a link, but many do.

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The PC World Download Store

The Download Store, powered by our partner Digital River, gives you an easy opportunity to shop for and purchase downloadable software, often at reduced prices.

As with all advertising and shopping on PCWorld.com, products available for sale may or may not have been reviewed by PC World editors. A program's availability in the Store is never permitted to affect the content of an editorial review, and should not be construed as an editorial recommendation by PC World.

To learn whether PC World has reviewed a particular product, return from the Download Store to the Downloads section of PCWorld.com itself by clicking the Downloads link at the top of the page in the red PC World banner. Then use the Search for field in the Downloads banner. (The Search function at the top of the left column on Download Store pages searches only the Store itself.)

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Download Store Customer Service

Questions, problem reports, and other concerns about items and purchases in the Download Store itself should be sent directly to Digital River via the Digital River Customer Service page. (You'll also find a link to it at the bottom of Download Store pages.) The Customer Service page includes a Quick Order Lookup function and also links to the answers to the Store's frequently asked questions. At the bottom of that page is a Contact Customer Service link that will take you to an e-mail form for submitting your question, report, or comment directly to Digital River Customer Service.

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What is PC World's financial relationship with shareware and "Buy Only" developers or vendors?

PC World may receive a portion of the fee that users pay when purchasing either the full version of trial software they've downloaded from PCWorld.com or "Buy Only" software purchased through the Downloads library. PC World also receives a share of sales made through the Download Store.

The financial relationships don't in any way affect the content of PC World editorial reviews of those products.

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Getting Started

What is the difference between shareware, freeware, and "Buy Only"?

Shareware is downloadable software that you can try before you buy. Aside from the "Buy Only" products, all files in the PCWorld.com Downloads library are downloadable free of charge. Some are free to try (shareware), and others are completely free (freeware). Freeware is noted as 'License Type: Freeware' and 'Price: Free' on the file description.

Shareware files are noted as 'License Type: Shareware' on their file descriptions. They're free for evaluation with no obligation. If you like the result of your evaluation and decide to keep the file or to purchase the full version, the 'Price' notation on the file description page tells you what it will cost. Information on how to purchase or register the software will be included in the download itself, too, usually in a Readme text file.

Files designated 'License Type: Buy Only' offer the full product for purchase only.

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Do I need to make any preparations before I download software?

Downloading is usually easy. Sometimes, though, you might download a file and forget where it is on your hard drive. (Don't worry, this has happened to all of us!)

To avoid this problem, we suggest you create a special folder for your downloads. You can name it anything. ("My Downloads" is a popular choice because it uses the same naming convention as "My Documents," for example.) You can place your My Downloads folder wherever you wish, but we suggest that you put it within the My Documents folder, on your desktop, or in the root of your C: drive. Wherever you place it, the folder should be easy for you to find and reach.

Some people don't realize that once a program is installed, you don't necessarily need the original file you downloaded. Unless you plan to install the program again on another computer, you can keep your hard drive tidy by deleting installation files after you use them. On the other hand, you'll have to download the program again if you ever need to reinstall Windows or your applications.

Before you start downloading, you may also need to install an unzipping utility. For more information, see "Handling Downloadable Files".

Keep in mind that programs that work fine on one computer may not work well--or might even cause problems--on another. Think of it like food allergies: One person could eat peanuts all day long, but a less lucky individual might be sent into anaphylactic shock by just a fleck of peanut butter. Here are a few guidelines to protect your PC from potential damage:

  • Before downloading software, read compatibility information carefully. Software designed for Windows XP or Vista may not run properly on a Microsoft OS from last century.
  • Before you install your new software, make sure your system is clean. Run your antivirus program and your spyware checker. If you don't have one of each, browse the Downloads library for antivirus tools and free antispyware programs. Once you're satisfied your PC is free of spyware, create a system restore point.
  • If you think you might need tech support, check to see if any is available. Vendors may not support their older programs. (We include on the file's information page the date it was added to our library.) Most freeware vendors don't have the resources to offer prompt and personal tech support (this is one of the arguments for sending donations to freeware writers). Many of them do answer e-mail when they can, though, and some host online support forums.
  • PC World runs each software file through a spyware checker and a virus checker in the course of reviewing it. However, new malware is identified every day. No matter what the source of the file, it's smart to check for spyware before and after installing a new program--and if you find any spyware, to remove it and use the restore point you created.

Here's how to create a restore point in Windows Vista:

  • Open the Control Panel and click the System icon.
  • On the "View basic information about your computer" screen, click the System Protection link. That will take you to the System Protection Tab under System Properties.
  • Click the Create button to create a restore point. At the prompt, type the description you want, then click the Create button again. After that, the process may take a few minutes.

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What do I need to download files?

Since you're reading this, you probably have everything you need. The primary requirements are Internet access, sufficient hard-drive space to store the files, and browser settings that allow you to download files. (See "Problems Downloading" for more assistance.) Broadband access is best; you can download if you use dial-up access, but keep in mind that it'll take longer.

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How to Find and Download Files

How can I search for a Downloads file?

First, click the Downloads link at the top of any PCWorld.com page to go to the Downloads main page.

If you have a specific program in mind, enter its name in the 'Search for ____' field in the light blue Downloads bar. Click on the name of the file in the search results to go to its information page.

Search tips: When entering your search, try to spell the program's name accurately so the search function can find it for you. If you aren't certain what letters are capitalized in the name, try using all lowercase; the search will then consider all lower and upper case possibilities. Some product names may be two words closed up to become a single word (such as "ZoneAlarm"), so if your search term is unsuccessful spelled as two words, try spelling it as one.

You can also use the Search field at the top of any PCWorld.com page. Using that site search will return results in a variety of categories, with Downloads files under the Downloads heading on the search results page.

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How can I browse the Downloads library?

PC World's Downloads library is organized into categories and subcategories, such as 'Utilities, Antivirus & Security,' and many more. You can see them in the category list under 'Browse Software by Category' on the Downloads main page. To go to a category list, click on the category or subcategory you want. You may find still more subcategories on the destination page to help you narrow your search. Toward the top under the light blue Downloads bar there'll be a "bread crumb" line to show you where you are. (Downloads 〉〉 Utilities 〉〉 System Resources Tune-Up," for example.) You can click any of the elements in that bread crumb line to back out to that page.

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