Foistware Warning


Foistware Warning

By Bob Rankin

A reader asks: ‘My browser is filling up with unwanted toolbars, and I can no longer search with Google. I have anti-virus protection, but these things still creep in somehow, and I don’t recall ever asking for them. Where do they come from, and how can I avoid this problem?’

What is Foistware?

Foistware is a term used for software that’s “foisted” on you, typically without your knowledge or explicit consent. Foistware isn’t technically malware, but it can range from marginally useful, to annoying, to malicious. Most often, foistware takes the form of browser toolbars, but it can also take over your browser homepage and preferred search engines. Some foistware pops up when you visit online shopping sites, and tries to steer you to certain vendors or offers.

Foistware almost always tags along when you download a program that you do want. Through various deceptive practices, the download process may try to add extra, unwanted software to your installation package. Usually it takes the form of a checkbox that’s already selected, and if you just click NEXT or CONTINUE without reading carefully, you’ll end up with this extra software clutter.


Sometimes confusing buttons, self-serving “recommendations” or items buried in the terms of service play a role. In other cases, a tag-along foistware product will be installed with NO prompt or warning. But thankfully, those are rare.

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Excerpt shared with permission from Bob Rankin.

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6 thoughts on “Foistware Warning”

  1. It has become rather difficult to download anything without have to carefully check for foistware…it's even included in Adobe Reader downloads.

  2. Browsing the web has become more tiresome than ever with these sly foisters and other stuff geared to fool the user into accepting rubbish or sales of something they don’t want.
    I hate using the damn thing these days, I end up with a headache and a sore temper!

  3. This article is SCAREWARE.

    Every app I’ve downloaded that has “FOISTWARE” displays a separate page for it, and gives you a chance to opt out.

    I’m not saying, though, that it is always obvious that the page is showing foistware and giving a person a choice. As your example shows, the heading is misleading, because you think you think you are continuing a normal installation, and not also agreeing to the foistware. The DECLINE button is not intuitive, and meant to fool you.

  4. In response to Linda’s remarks. I could not have said it better. Because of CNET’s practice of allowing this type of crap ware to be attached to software I have discontinued using CNETS downloads OR if I really, really, want to use them I READ EVERYTHING carefully

  5. Yes and SHAME on CNET for allowing this. Have frequently used CNET over the years because they were a more trusted site for downloading software. Have noticed more recently there are several added TOS screens for some types of downloads which are a warning in itself. CNET should provide a sector for downloading software with NO CRAP added… even with a small fee or perhaps a small annual membership fee to be able to download software eliminating the risk of having to deal with all of that garbage. Over time, removing junk wears down the disk faster not to mentioning slowing down your PC.

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