Are you ready to download a file? Don't--until you've read this column. I'll tell how to download files efficiently and safely, and share a trick for transferring download-resistant videos onto your PC.
The Hassle: I download lots of free software, but I'm worried about picking up adware. What do you suggest?
The Fix: Fire up your standard defensive shields (firewall, antivirus, and antispyware); then add an extra coat of armor. I recommend giving Cyberhawk Basic a try. Unlike antivirus software that checks for virus signaA-tures, Cyberhawk watches for and blocks suspicious behavior as it occurs.
But Cyberhawk doesn't play well with all computers, so I have two alternatives that thwart malware by running your browser, e-mail, and instant messaging apps in a protected sandbox. That way, you can end a session and easily reverse potential damage to your system. GreenBorder Pro with SafeFiles throws a border around your browser and puts downloaded files into a special folder, so that you can run them in a protected session. At $30 per year, it's not dirt cheap, but you do get a 15-day free trial. Or try Sandboxie, a free but complicated tool that quarantines downloads and their installation routines in a sandbox until you decide they're not harmful. Warning: Be sure to try each program separately.
The Hassle: I'm an avid downloader, but I hate downloading files one at a time.
The Fix: You need a download manager. FlashGet is a remarkable free tool. Click a link to download a file, or just copy the link into the clipboard, and FlashGet pops up to perform the download. Even handier: Drag and drop multiple links onto the program's floating dropzone. The default setting can download ten files simultaneously and resumes the transfer if it's disrupted midstream by, say, a browser or unlikely (ha!) PC crash. If you have a manager but it won't work with Firefox, use FlashGot.
Quick Tip: Have you ever happened across a site loaded with zillions of images or videos that you wanted? Forget download managers: The tool you need is WinHTTrack Website Copier; it saves an entire Web site to your hard drive.
The Hassle: Is there a good way to download YouTube or Google video files?
The Fix: Many sites contain Flash-based streaming videos that are yours for the taking. Just use the Web-based toolsat KeepVid.com or VideoDownload.com. Both sites have links you can add to your browser's toolbar to handle drag-and-drop video downloading. For multiple YouTube videos, download TubeMe. To watch the files, use VLC or FLV Player--or convert the videos into AVI files at the Online FLV Converter site.