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Watch Out for Malware in Free Screensavers

The internet is full of free screensavers that you can download to your computer. You may want to think twice before you download any free screensavers though because you could end up inviting a virus or other malware onto your computer!  In 2006, a report from BBC found that the search term “free screensavers” was the most likely term to bring back links to types of malware.  Over the past few years, screensavers haven’t gotten any safer.  They don’t always have viruses but you can usually count on some adware to slow down your computer and bother you.


The reason that screensavers are so risky is because people knowingly accept them – even if their antivirus program gives a warning along the lines that it could be dangerous to open files from unknown sources. Also, screensavers often use the .scr file suffix which is more likely to get overlooked by antivirus programs than other suffixes.


So you want a new screensaver – ideally one that is free?  Don’t worry.  There are some precautionary methods you can use to prevent free screensavers from bringing malware to your computer.


The first thing you will want to do is avoid any free screensavers which just seem fishy.  These are the ones that have virtually no text or the text is written in very poor English.  At the bottom of the webpage offering the free screensavers, look for copyright information and a date.  The longer the site has been on the net, the less likely it is to be a source of malware.  Also, make sure that the site has at least some basic information.

Keep in mind that websites offering free screensavers have to make money somehow.  They usually do this by putting ads on their websites.  If there aren’t any ads, then you can wonder how they are making their money – and it could be from packing adware into the screensaver.  Avoid any sites which offer something for free without expecting anything in return, like your attention to some ads.


Before you download any free screensaver, you should type the name of the screensaver into a search and see what comments come up.  Usually the screensavers with malware will immediately bring up angry comments from people who have had to deal with them.   Another way to avoid malware when downloading free screensavers is to read screensaver reviews.  These reviewed products are usually a lot more reputable and this will also help you find some of the coolest screensavers. Before downloading screensavers, you will also want to make sure your firewall is turned on and that your antivirus, antimalware programs are up to date so, in case you do get malware from your free screensaver, you can attack it before it gets loose.

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