Most computer users would probably agree that the rise in recent years of adware and extras such as toolbars and other options while installing software has become a growing menace. The problem also isn’t just about inadvertently getting this junk installed onto your computer, in some cases such as the Babylon toolbar, it’s also about getting rid of it effectively again. Most people understand the need for developers to make money, but some software installers have become quite devious and all but trick ordinary users into installing their wares.
It was all the more frustrating when download portals started wrapping their software downloads in adware wrappers which means instead of you just downloading the setup installer like before, you download a small executable which offers various adware and junk before downloading the real installer for you. One of the biggest websites to implement this first was CNET and unfortunately several others have followed suit. Even the once respectable SourceForge has started using this method on open source software, which has dismayed users everywhere.
Of course, you can find other websites or the developer’s official website to download the program from if possible, but there’s no denying a website with a vast wealth of resources like CNET is still handy to fall back on every now and then. One good thing is not all software hosted on CNET is bundled with the “CNET Installer” so you’re not going to find it in your way every time you go there. If a software is being bundled with CNET’s installer, you will see a button that says “Download Now CNET Installer Enabled“.
If you move the mouse cursor over “CNET Installer Enabled”, you will get a popup box that explains:
The CNET Download.com Installer is a tiny ad-supported stub installer or “download manager” that helps securely deliver your downloads from Download.com’s servers. We also include offers for carefully screened software that complies with Download.com Software Policies as part of our Installer process.
Click on Download Now, and you’ll get the CNET Installer executable which when run will offer various junk such as toolbars, browser helpers (which change your default homepage or search engine) and other utilities that are rarely of any use. After you get through those windows by accepting or declining whether to install the extras, the installer will download the original setup installer from the CNET servers. The problem is the process is not reversible as there’s no back button, so if you accidentally click accept for one or more adware items, you cannot go backwards and need to close the window from the taskbar or task manager.
You don’t necessarily need to download the CNET Installer though as thankfully there is another option available on every download page where the wrapper is used. If you look just below the green download button, there is a “Direct Download Link” option where you can download the software directly from Download.com without the CNET installer.
Prevent CNET Installer Links From Showing
If you or somebody uses CNET quite often and would like some protection from downloading the CNET Installer by mistake, there is a way to do this if you use Firefox or Chrome via an extension. Firefox has an add-on called Greasemonkey which allows you to run custom users scripts on web pages, Chrome (and Opera) uses a similar extension called Tampermonkey. To install the CNET Installer blocker:
2. Go to the NoBadWare script page at userscripts.org and click the green Install button at the top right. When prompted click Install in your browser to install the script.
3. Now visit a page on CNET which has the adware Installer enabled on the download button, Nokia PC Suite is one such program that has it.
You should now see instead of a separate direct download link, it says “NoBadWare: CNET Installer link replaced with direct download link”. Clicking the Download Now button will download the real setup installer just like any other software page that doesn’t include the CNET wrapper! You no longer have to worry about checking the links for the presence of the CNET adware installer.
A Solution to Stop You Clicking on CNET Installer Buttons
Another option is to use a program to stop someone pressing the wrong button if they download the CNET Installer and run it by mistake. Although this might seem impossible, there was a tool released at the end of 2013 that can help. Unchecky was designed specifically to stop users clicking on the wrong options when installing software that contains adware. It does so by constantly monitoring your system and when it recognises your are launching an installer or in this case running an install wrapper, will uncheck the boxes to automatically install unwanted options or warn you might be trying to install adware.
Download and install Unchecky, then if you run a CNET Installer and accidentally click Accept, the Unchecky tool will attempt to warn you that you are potentially clicking on an option to install adware. This will at least offer a chance to think again before the Accept button registers the press.
The Unchecky program will work on many other setup installers that contain adware as well as other wrappers such as the one from SourceForge. Do be aware that Unchecky is currently still a beta version and is certainly not foolproof, so a degree of care should still be taken with ad supported installers.
If You’ve Installed CNET Installer Adware
If you’re unlucky enough to accidentally install any pieces of adware from the CNET Installer, most of them should be easily uninstalled from Control Panel using Programs and Features or Add and Remove Programs. To help clean up any leftovers, something like AdwCleaner can be used to scan and remove files and registry entries.
Another tool that can help you restore your browser default search engine and homepage while also removing unwanted toolbars the CNET Installer may have inadvertently placed onto your computer is called Auslogics Browser Care.
This free program currently only works on Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome but allows you to easily restore the options most adware supported setup installers might leave behind. Simply run the program and then check your start page, search engine and which addons are installed and enabled from within the program’s window. The layout and usage is easy to understand and each browser you have installed is located on a separate tab. Browser Care works on Windows XP up to 8.1.