The major criteria for a good freeware download site is accuracy and safety.
- Reliable sites don’t require you to install adware to install a program.
They don’t bundle another developer’s freeware into their own adware wrapper. There are other, better ways to monetize your site than to take advantage of and exploit developers and/or your visitors’ trust. Don’t use download sites run by people with no integrity.
- Reliable sites investigate and remove malware from their listings, when it is reported to them.
They will also ban a developer if there are too many malware complaints about multiple apps. Don’t use download sites that don’t care if their listings are known to cause harm.
- Reliable sites describe programs accurately, including if a program is an adware, trial, or demo version.
They don’t need to lie about the applications they list, just to make it seem as if they have more freeware to offer, or perhaps to make people think they have an exclusive, special free version of something people normally would have to pay for, except it’s the same demo or shareware you can download from just about anywhere else. Don’t use download sites run by liars.
The following sites are considered reliable, at least at the time they were added to this list, and offer freeware downloads and/or reviews for a wide range of different types of applications.
If a site on this list violates one of the above rules, please let us know by leaving a comment, below. We’ll investigate it and remove the site from this list, if necessary.
And of course, if I have missed any sites that you feel should be on this list, please leave a comment and let me know.
Donation Coder (last evaluated: Jul 24, 2019)
Donation Coder prides itself on providing free and clean software in exchange for optional, voluntary donations. And if you need a tool for a specific purpose, and can’t find any freeware that will do the job, you can request custom made freeware, on the Coding Snacks section of their forum. Their members are software fanatics and will either provide you with a link to where you can get a freeware application that will do the job, or one of their developers may volunteer to build it for you, then offer it to the public, free of charge. (Disclosure: I have been a member and developer there, for over 10 years)
FOSSHUB (last evaluated: Apr 16, 2019)
FOSSHUB is the home to a wide assortment of free open source software projects, in which the developers are dedicated to providing clean downloads, free from adware, spyware, malware, or unwanted software bundles, with a minimal amount of advertising on their pages.
Freeware Home (last evaluated: Apr 17, 2019)
Freeware Home has provided reliable listings of freeware for the last 22 years. In most cases, they link directly to the developer’s website, and will provide a warning in the application description if it is known to come bundled with any crapware in the installer. If you report an application as containing an undisclosed crapware installer, they will remove the application from their site, pending further investigation. Don’t look for “Download” buttons or you may end up clicking an ad. Everything you want is in the description box for each application, including the links to the developer’s website.
Gizmo's Freeware (last evaluated: Apr 16, 2019)
This is a community driven site run by a team of dedicated volunteers, that scour the web looking for the best freeware in just about every category imaginable. You’ll also find a lot of good software reviews and active discussions. They cover Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, and iOS software, as well as web apps.
Gratilog (last evaluated Aug 27, 2019)
[FRENCH] Gratilog is a hand curated listing of over 2000 freeware applications for Windows, that are free of malware, and other unwanted behaviors. The site is in French, but you can use Google Translate to translate the pages to English. Many of the applications do support English, once you download, install, and run them. Occasionally you’ll find ones that the application is also in French. They do have a French language forum where they discuss the applications, where users can report any malicious behaviors that might have slipped through, but from what I can see everything in their listing is good, clean, reputable freeware.
MajorGeeks (last evaluated: Aug 27, 2019)
Major Geeks has had the reputation for almost 20 years, of providing good clean downloads of great software applications, sometimes even long after an application disappears from other download sites. They will frequently host the last known freeware version of something that went shareware, or the last known version of a freeware application that was abandoned by its developer(s). Sometimes you will even find the last Pro version of an application, with a working license key, that was graciously provided by the developer. I recommend using an ad blocker when you visit, since the site is heavily loaded with ads that contain confusing “Download” buttons that could lead you astray.
Ninite (last evaluated: Apr 17, 2019)
Ninite is one of the best ways to safely download and install a whole lot of good, free applications at once, and is a MUST VISIT for any new PC owner. You just check the boxes for everything you want, then download a custom installer that contains only the things you picked, without any added crapware. The apps they offer are sometimes even cleaner than downloading them direct from the developers, and is a great way to avoid some of the crapware that normally comes bundled with some of the software they list. (I’m looking at you, Java!)
Snap Files (last evaluated: Aug 27, 2019)
Snap Files has built a reputation of only listing good clean downloads, free of spyware, malware, popups, home page hijackers, and other harmful stuff. However, you may find some software bundled with browser toolbars, so please be cautious when installing, and opt out if you don’t want any. They offer both shareware and freeware, but the link provided above goes directly to their freeware section. I recommend using an ad blocker, since some of their ads can be mistaken for download buttons.
The Portable Freeware Collection (last evaluated Aug 27, 2019)
Everything you will find on The Portable Freeware Collection is hand curated, tested to ensure it does not contain anything malicious, that you can really use it for free, that it is portable, and that it is not adware. How you define “free”, “adware” and “portable” may differ from their definitions, though, and you can see the rules they follow for consideration on their FAQ and About pages. They also have a forum where they discuss the applications they have added, and whether or not it should be kept or removed, if it falls on the borderline between what they define as freeware or not, adware or not, and portable or not. Ultimately, they let the community decide in many cases, with a vote.