What is foistware?
Our CompuClever support team is dedicated to assist our customers who experience a noticeably slower PC in terms of performance. Recently when performing our initial investigations with the use of our support tools we have frequently come across common changes that result in poor PC “health”. Examination revealed that these changes were the result of what is currently considered foistware.
Having foistware on your PC can range from a mild annoyance to a real impediment. Having additional browser toolbars foisted onto your web browser is a bit like having advertisements in a YouTube video; it competes for space. The real impediment comes not only when performance is compromised but when attempting to revert the changes. How these items become installed provides some insight as to why they are appropriately named. The term “foist” means:
The following screenshot demonstrates the state of a web browser that has been victimized by foistware. There are three areas that are affected.
- The Home page URL was changed to search.conduit.com a third-party search engine that profits from every web search you perform.
- Extra browser toolbars and add-ons were installed to attract your attention, lure you to install more software, and bring you to other affiliated online services from whereupon the foistware benefits from “referral fees”.
- Blinking ads with scare tactics to entice you to download so-called PC optimization or cleaning software.
Another example is the annoying 24×7 PC support foistware. There is a man or woman’s face attached to every program window of your PC. No matter what you do, you can’t get rid of this face that always appears on whatever active window you have open. This little gem is the 24×7 PC Help software link and it is very much in your face and on your nerves.
In most all these cases you install this software without explicit knowledge of it or without knowing what the results will be. There are other instances of foistware that are more aggressive and capable of doing more harm to your PC.
The Condition: Foistware is known as software that gets installed in addition to another software install typically without your full knowledge. Typically these fly under the radar by being bundled with software you install and, if you take the time to look closely, you can see how it’s done on one of the install screens where a checkbox is selected so that unless you clear the checkbox you will install the additional item. Most often the result is an additional browser toolbars – those items that get added onto your browser toolbar that include searches or quick links. Frequently the change that occurs to your PC happens automatically as soon as the foistware has been installed. Other examples include changing your default search engine (for example, from Google to Bing), or changing your browser homepage. Some of the more invasive instances involve displaying pop-ups with scary messages like “Back up your PC or lose it”, or “Your computer has 1000 errors”. Even if you were to uninstall the original software, these changes would still remain. In some cases there can be more than one of these items on your toolbar. It is not uncommon to see three or four toolbar add-ons. When this happens you can notice a difference in PC performance.
- Search engine changes
- Homepage changes
- Pop-ups come up luring you to click to download
- PC performance slow down
Why? The reason for this is a simple one – money. Often companies that offer freeware (software that is considered free in that you do not have to pay to use it), will come bundled up with other software. These companies can profit from this as they are paid by the foistware companies. The manufactures of the foistware get on your system and can provide advertisement or benefit from you clicking to their site.
Is It Legit? The reason that this practice isn’t considered to be malware (or malicious) is that you have the option of not installing it. However, most users go quickly through the installation process clicking through the pages of the installer wizard, and do not even see the items that are checked on by default. To be fair, we often are given the recommendation to keep the settings that are presented during an install and there is an implicit trust built into this procedure. This is why software manufactures that are more reputable need to build their install wizard with pages that include an “opt-in” process. That is, one where you can choose to install these extra items by checking the box and accepting the additional item rather than having to clear it. In the case of browser toolbar add-ons… we recommend that you do not choose to include these as you can experience a performance loss.
Who Are the Offenders? Surprisingly, even reputable companies can download bundled packages in this manner. One website has included Adobe and Skype in their hall of shame. Another website includes Adobe, Sun’s Java, CCleaner, Foxit Reader, and more. Given pressure, these companies can make more ethical installations of their software. We hope that these websites help to steer them in the right direction.
In order to detect that you have suffered from a foistware “hit” you can follow this line of questioning:
- To your knowledge, have there been any recent installations to your PC?
- If “Yes”… did they include any foistware items? (We’ll come back to this point.)
- Have you noticed any unusual changes such as more items added to your browser toolbar, a new browser homepage, a new search engine, or other changes such as popup messages?
- If “Yes” you can take note of the names of these items and we can identify these for the purposes of removal (as presented in our next article). One example could be “Conduit Toolbar”.
Point 2 above may be difficult to answer. However, if you did install something recently you could try installing it again to see if there are any extra pages which give you the option to install something extra (including a checkbox that is selected). You can then take note of this and cancel the installation.
Once you have some names of software add-ons you can check online to see if it is best to remove them. We recommend this site: http://www.shouldiremoveit.com. Once you open the webpage you can use the text field at the top right to enter the item and search for it. We like this site as it has a very good database of software and it includes a very visual representation of the percentage of people that remove the software once having it installed. This will give you a good idea as to whether you should remove the item. Of course, if you never intended it to be on your system in the first place, that would be good reason to have it removed. We will speak to removal in the companion article for those of our readers who have these items and need to remove them. Before we do, we think it is best to look at ways to prevent getting them in the first place.
With respect to prevention, the best advice to pass to you is to be prepared when you install anything to your computer. There are instances when you can be the victim of downloads without even knowing it such as in the case of drive-by-downloads. In cases such as these you can get items downloaded to your PC or mobile device simply by visiting a web page that is compromised. In these cases the software is likely malware or a virus and you need adequate software to remove the item and to either update your system to patch the security hole or to block the occurrence from happening.
In the case of foistware, you can detect and remove the item in a more straightforward manner as we have described above. Prevention comes from paying close attention to what you are installing. Here is what you have to do:
In the case of downloading “free” programs – pay very close attention to what is offered.
Removal and Restore
If your PC has been affected with foistware, don’t panic. Under most circumstances, you can completely remove foistware and restore your PC back to its original state. We have prepared a comprehensive guide that shows you how to get rid of foistware and restore your PC:
It’s been our intent to shine light on what our experiences have been when assisting our customer base. Providing you the tools and the know-how is a top priority for us as we are invested in bringing about a positive PC experience for you and your family.