"Free" vs. "Free to try" downloads


While most downloadable software is considered a "free download" by the publisher, the software license determines whether or not the product is 100% free to use or a limited trial. Download.com categorizes all types of software on our sites as either Free, Free-to-try, or Paid downloads.


Free software products are copyrighted, 100-percent fully functional software you can download and use as often as you like, with no requirement to pay and no option to purchase it or a different version of the software with more features. Donation-ware also falls within this category because users are never required to pay for the product and there are no limitations or disabled features. Although free downloads do not carry traditional registration fees, they may include some form of advertising within the program itself to support the product's development. Download.com allows these types of ad-serving components, as long as they comply with our Software Policies.


Free to try, trial, or shareware software products can be categorized into two types of software: demo versions of programs sold through retail channels, and try-before-you-buy software packages that include free downloads with functionality limitations, trial periods, or features that are only available via the purchase of a registered key or another version of the software. You can download try-before-you-buy software freely and try it out within the limitations of the trial. However, if you want to remove the functionality limitations or if the trial period has ended, you are expected to register and pay for it or eventually delete it from your system. All free to try products in our library may never request a credit card number before the user can experience the product, and all products must comply with our Software Policies.


Paid software products (including subscription products) require a purchase to register and use them. An example of paid software is Microsoft Office 365. In order to download and install it (and similar programs), you would need to have purchased a license key from the publisher. All paid software products must also comply with our Software Policies.

If you were billed and need a refund, or need a license key or registration code sent to you, please contact the product publisher. Click here if you need help finding contact information for the publisher.

You can also look for their contact information on your credit card billing statement, or in any email receipt they may have sent.


Whatever the software license is, to be sure you're always receiving "Free" or "Free to try" content that has met Download.com's screening criteria, click on official Download.com listings instead of "Sponsored advertisements". For example, on Download.com, the official listings always have our green "Download Now" icon, a date added, and the software's total number of downloads. Clicking the product name should take you to the official Download.com product page with our green shuttlecock logo in the upper left corner.

As a rule of thumb, you should never give your credit card information to any company before you are able try their downloadable products or their service for free.

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