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Last Updated: Friday, 1 July, 2005, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Kate's downloading advice
Kate Russell
By Kate Russell
BBC Click Online Webscape-r

Kate Russell offers some tips about downloading software from the internet.

CD and computer
Spyware tries to stay on your computer for a long time

Whilst many applications offered for download online are completely legitimate, some free downloads might contain spyware, or even malicious code designed to hijack your browser, or infect your PC with a virus.

But that is not to say you should panic and never download from the web.

The inclusion of spyware is quite common, as it allows the software providers to make an income by selling the data it collects from its users.

Should you wish to remove spyware, using an up-to-date spyware scanner usually proves effective - though occasionally the application you've originally downloaded may not run if it detects the embedded spyware has been removed.

You would have to be very unlucky to hit a download that contains malicious code, and taking a few basic precautions should help protect you.

What do others say?

Before commencing a download, always check the validity of the software.

Are then any reviews on reputable websites? Find out what other people are saying about it.

Open up one of the popular search engines, type the download file name, the program name, and the word "spyware" into the search box.

If others have had problems you'll find plenty of results shouting about it.

Always scan a download for viruses before you double click to execute it - as once you do, there's no turning back.

And finally, it is also a good idea to back up your data regularly, so if it does all go wrong you can at least restore your system.

Registering online

Many websites require you to register to reach certain sections.

Giving personal details online is always a risk and you can find yourself awash with a flood of unwanted spam if you're not careful.

The golden rule here is read the privacy policy - especially if you are being asked to give more than just an email address and screen name.

Every website collecting personal details from its users is required to include a privacy policy section, and the link is usually to be found somewhere at the bottom of the registration page.

It is also worth noting that many websites will have an 'opt out' tick box for receiving data from third party advertisers.

Make sure you read all of the registration fields and make that adjustment before hitting the OK button.

As opening an email account is free, it may be worth considering using an account purely for the purposes of registering with websites.

That way you won't inundate your regular email address with unwanted emails - and in the process have a one-stop-shop for any information pertaining to the websites which you've registered with.

Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. A short version is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0645 and BBC One: Sunday at 0730. Also BBC World.


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