CNET Download Review – Is It Reliable?

CNET, which stands for Computer Network, is a tech review and news site that also offers a download section, where you can download over 100,000 free and paid software programs.

However, you might be wondering if CNET Download is safe? Is it a reliable source for software downloads?

In this review, I will explain why you should never download a program from CNET. Even though it’s a big name in the tech industry, it is not safe, and it’s best to avoid CNET Download altogether.

Also Read: iGetIntoPC vs GetIntoPC

Verdict

Our Rating: ⭐✩✩✩✩

CNET is a software aggregator that offers free, trial-based, and premium software products for download. It has a track record of bundling malware together with its downloads.

It was also caught publishing false information on its blog. Instead of downloading from CNET, which is not reliable, always download software from the original developers.

Pros

  • You can use it to research the most popular software programs in different categories.
  • It is legal to use.
  • Its tech reviews can sometimes provide useful information about a product or software.
  • You can sort products by Free, Free to Try, and Paid.

Cons

  • It is not safe.
  • It can not be trusted.
  • It has been proven to bundle adware with its downloads in the past.

What Is CNET Download?

Download was formerly known as Download.com. It offers over 100,000 programs for download, including entirely free programs, paid programs, and “free to try” programs that offer a free trial or a free version.

CNET itself is owned by Red Ventures, which also owns sites such as Lonely Planet and Healthline. It had many owners over the years; for a long time, it was owned by CBS before it was acquired by Red Ventures.

CNET Download is a subdomain of the CNET site. If you have ever searched for tech reviews on Google, you likely came across a CNET review at least once.

I wouldn’t blame you if you were fooled into thinking that CNET is a reliable source of information and downloads. However, it absolutely is not, and here is why.

Also Read: Is GetIntoPC Safe?

Is CNET Reliable?

CNET is not reliable. That goes both for its reviews and its download section, which you should avoid at all costs.

The site damaged its credibility in multiple ways, and I would not trust it, not even for informational content.

CNET Published False and Plagiarized Information

The site was exposed by Futurism for publishing AI-generated content that was not fact-checked and which contained many factual errors. It’s one thing to use AI to assist with publishing, but it’s another thing to not bother fact-checking what you are publishing.

That shows a serious lack of standards at CNET. Furthermore, some AI-generated articles were found to contain plagiarism, copying work from CNET competitor sites.

While CNET backtracked on using an AI journalist and corrected those errors, the damage was done.

However, CNET has never been a trustworthy site, even before it started using AI to publish content. For years, CNET bundled malware, adware, and all kinds of unwanted software into the downloads on its site.

CNET Download Has a Track Record of Bundling Adware With Its Downloads

Back in the day, CNET introduced an installer for its downloads that would bundle unwanted toolbars and adware into software downloads, without the consent of the original software developers, as reported by Tom’s Guide.

It would trick users into accepting these unwanted downloads by misleading them into thinking they were consenting to download the original software.

Not only that, but ZDNet revealed that CNET was openly recommending a known adware program at the time as a recommended program in its Antivirus Software category.

That was just the start of the problems. CNET Download has a long history of bundling unsafe and unwanted software into the downloads offered on its site.

In 2014, the US Computer Emergency Response Team warned users that CNET and other sites were bundling insecure software into its downloads, including AVG’s Secure Search, which (while misleadingly named) was found to contain a serious security flaw at the time.

That flaw allowed attackers to download and execute code on the user’s device after convincing them to view a certain HTML page.

A short time later, Emsisoft, which is a popular antivirus software, listed CNET as the worst of 10 popular download sites when it came to bundled software. Emsisoft tested the top 10 applications on Download.com and found that all of them contained bundled programs.

In 2015, HowToGeek reported that programs on CNET Downloads were installing fake HTTPS certificates that would force all secure traffic to go through the wrong server.

This certificate would allow attackers to show you ads even when you were connecting to supposedly secure sites, like your bank website.

You might think that things must have changed since then, but that’s not the case. At some point (around 2016), CNET, aware of the negative press it was receiving, did attempt to clean up the PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs) and adware on its site.

However, it’s still not safe.

In 2020, Dr. Web, a security firm based in Russia, found that hackers were using malicious downloads on CNET to launch attacks. VSDC, which is a popular video editor, was offered on CNET Download but compromised with malware, as reported by Hackread.

According to the security firm, the download link on CNET led to a false site, which offered the real VSDC software for download but together with extra malware that would thwart Window’s built-in antivirus capabilities.

Whether the editors on CNET were aware of this or not is unclear. In either case, though, it demonstrates that you can’t rely on CNET to be safe and provide the software you request.

And, as mentioned, as late as 2023, CNET was publishing factually incorrect information on its site, seemingly without any sort of fact-checking process in place.

CNET has ruined its reputation enough times in my eyes. While it’s not as problematic as it used to be for software downloads, I wouldn’t trust it all.

What Are People Saying About CNET?

Reviews of CNET tend to be negative, and for good reason. On Trustpilot, it has an average rating of 1.7 out of five stars from over 140 reviews, placing it firmly in the “bad” category.

Most of the bad reviews mention things such as poor navigability on the site, the lack of a good search function, and misinformation/poor journalism.

On SiteJabber, CNET Download has a rating of 1.89 out of five stars from over 25 reviews. Reviewers complain about bad software, malware, bloated software, and other issues related to software downloads.

CNET Download Pros and Cons

The Good

I can’t, in good faith, recommend CNET Downloads for software downloads. It merely takes popular software and reposts them; you could always download the same exact software programs directly from the developers.

When you download the programs directly from the developer sites, you won’t have to worry about viruses, malware, and other unwanted programs bundled together with your downloads.

Still, CNET Download can be useful if you want to find popular programs in any particular category. It lists the top programs for different operating systems, such as Windows, macOS, and Android, including the most popular software in different categories.

You can also use filters to sort for only free programs or programs with a high rating.

For example, let’s say you’re interested in the best productivity software for Windows. Head to the Productivity section and check out the most downloaded productivity programs on CNET.

If you’re interested in the best screensavers and wallpapers for Windows, simply head to the Screensavers & Wallpapers section. If you want only free screensavers, check the Free box on the left side of the screen.

As you can see, CNET is great for research – but only for research. I would not download any of those programs from CNET directly.

Instead, if you want to download LibreOffice, for example, type LibreOffice into Google and make sure you are downloading it from the official site (LibreOffice.org). Do the same for any program you come across on CNET.

Not Good

CNET isn’t as bad as it used to be, but I wouldn’t trust it. It has a track record of corrupting downloads with adware and viruses.

There is always the possibility of software downloads on CNET coming bundled with unwanted programs. To be on the safe side, stick with trusted download sources and avoid all sites that are not owned by the original developers.

For Android and iOS, in particular, never download apps from CNET. Stick to the official app stores of the respective operating systems.

Finally, take editor ratings on CNET with a grain of salt due to CNET’s track record of not properly fact-checking content.

Conclusion

CNET Download has been around for a long time (since 1996, in fact). However, that doesn’t mean it’s trustworthy.

It has a known history of tricking users into downloading unwanted programs that display ads and interfere with their productivity. It has also been shown to cause users to download malware, including viruses and adware.

You shouldn’t download programs from CNET. There’s no reason to when you could get the same exact program from the developer directly.

Most people who download from CNET simply don’t know better. If you come across a program on CNET, close the browser tab and use Google to find the original developer instead.

About Author

Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing.
Tom has been a full-time internet marketer for two decades now, earning millions of dollars while living life on his own terms. Along the way, he’s also coached thousands of other people to success.