Best Windows Freeware/Shareware Download Sites

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Recommended Sites
 
FileHippo: This is currently our top recommendation as they offer a wide collection of clean software with fast download rates without requiring a proprietry downloader. A unique and useful feature is they offer a full version history of most products.
 
MajorGeeks: This site carries only tech tools and utilities. Guidance is limited to brief reviews and user ratings. However, if you are looking for tech tools this is THE place to go. One of our favorites. 
 
FileForum-Betanews: Not the largest download collection, but if you're looking for the very latest products you'll find them here long before other download sites.
 
SnapFiles / WebAttack: Offers a huge collection, great organization and a refreshingly clean presentation. Products are briefly reviewed and carry site ratings, user ratings and user comments.
 
SoftPedia: A huge commercial site with an excellent collection organized by platform. It features site and user star ratings for products and user comments. The search engine doesn't display any ratings and this limits its use when selecting. The real selling point for this site is its "100% clean" guarantee.  For many that is a winning feature, but remember it is easy to claim a 100% guarantee but much harder to achieve it!
 
Other Sites
 
ZDNet and CNet Downloads: These two sites are just different faces of the same site. The site, however, offers the biggest collection of software on the web. Finding what you want is made easier by having the best file search engine of all the download sites. There are also user star ratings for most products and site star ratings for some. The user comments are handy but beware as they are sometimes stacked with comments made by the product developers pretending to be mere users.
 
The downside to these sites is they now require you to install their proprietary downloader. It is not only an unnecessary step, but also an intrusion into your privacy. See our information page here about the CNet wrapped installer.
 
Tucows: Huge collection with world-wide mirrors for fast downloading. The classic "cow ratings" for products are not as reliable as they used to be. I can't help but feel that this once class-leading site has lost its way a little in recent times.
 
ServerFiles.com: This is the old 32bit.com site re-launched as a site specializing in server software for network administrators and IT professionals. Quite a few products have ratings, some with full reviews. It's a unique offering and well worth visiting if you fit the target market.
 
No-Nags: This was once the best freeware-download site on the web, but they haven't really kept up with the competition. There is a free service and a more helpful premium service. The shareware side is slowly being added and is not particularly impressive.
 
topshareware.com: A good general interest download site that's competent. There are few rating or user reviews, but it's nicely organized.
 
5 Star Shareware: This popular UK site claims to feature only the best products in each category. It certainly started out that way, but over time has drifted towards more of a general purpose download site.  The strong commercial orientation does not give me a lot of confidence.
 
Shareware Junkies: Every product here is independently reviewed, though many of the reviews are becoming dated. Can be helpful when you are trying to decide what you need.
 
Allen's WinApps List: A fast and well organized site with a huge selection of software, but the search engine is woeful and there is little in the way of guidance.
 
WinPlanet: The aging remnant of the once excellent Stroud's CWS Apps site, it's now part of the Internet.com mega-site. It's still a useful site with many product ratings and some reviews. Overall, though, it is but a pale shadow of its former self.

 

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Comments

I have been downloading freeware since 2000
The best freeware sites that have stood the test of time, in my humble opinion, in 2018, are:

1)Softpedia
2)Majorgeeks
3)Snapfiles
4)Portableapps.com
5)Sourceforge (depending on the freeware)
6)Filehippo

Some of the other sites mentioned in this article, have had issues. One wellknown freeware site was bundling freeware with added spyware (ridiculous)

In summary, avoid these freeware download sites:
1)Freeware websites that deliberately make it hard to find the actual download link, and force you to click on junkware links
2)Freeware sites that dont make it clear which freeware is actually demoware (that you have to pay for)
3)Freeware sites that have freeware, but also a lot of demoware, and it is hard to just find the freeware without having to sort through demoware
4)Freeware websites that have downloads bundled with additional nonessential software
5)Freeware websites that include a lot of free software that is actually spyware and fails testing on virustotal.com - these sites are basically malware webpages

Over time, some previously reliable freeware sites can fail the above 5 rules, and then you avoid them forever. Once unreliable, always unreliable

Virustotal.com is your friend. Become well acquainted with it - it will tell you if a certain file is clean or very dangerous