Difference Between Adware and Freeware

There are various software on the internet that have different functions. The origin of every software and its intended use is different.


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The two different types of software that act as a door for monitoring operations of data are adware and freeware. Both the software have distinct differences.

Adware vs Freeware

The difference between adware and freeware is that adware requires monetary cost for operation and working while freeware does not require any monetary cost for operation and working. Adware was coined by Ethan Zuckerman while freeware was coined by Andrew Flugelman.

Adware vs Freeware

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Adware is a type of software that operates on the display of the advertisement. Adware allows users to generate revenue from the software.

Adware can also act as spyware as the software is capable of collecting information of the users and can be utilized for malicious requirements.

On the other hand, freeware is a type of software that operates without any specific set of licenses, rights, or EULA. The definition of the software is done unambiguously.

Freeware is a closed source and does not allow the users to access the source code.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAdwareFreeware
License typeOpen source Proprietary license
Payment for usage Adware may require initial payment in some cases, while it is not true in all cases Freeware does not require any initial payment or other forms of compensation and is enabled at no monetary cost
Tracking and recordingAdware can record and track the information of users and their different patterns of browsing Freeware does not keep a record of every detail of the users
Nature AmbiguousUnambiguous
AccessibilityAdware gives access to the source code Freeware does not give any access to the source code

What is Adware?

Adware is software that is supported by advertisements. The software was developed to generate revenue first through online advertisements automatically.

The medium of revenue generation is through the user interface of the software. Adware can also act as spyware if the data about the user is collected to be sold for user profiling or other targeted application.

Adware can be classified into mainly two types. The first process is through the display of advertisements and the other is through a pay-per-click basis.

The pay-per-click basis is applicable only when the user clicks on the advertisement. The implementation of advertisement in adware is through various ways like banner display, video, static box display full-screen popup ad, or through various other formats.

The advertisements through adware can possess risk in various forms like health, security, ethics, and even privacy. The Microsoft Encyclopedia of Security of 2003 has referred to adware as a form of malware that could install itself on the system without prior information to the user.

The software can be provided by the developer free of cost or at a charge which is reduced considerably.

The main function of adware is to recover the developmental cost and to actively generate revenue. The revenue of adware often motivates and allows the developers to persistently maintain, develop and upgrade the existing software.

The importance of adware has actively grown in businesses according to a survey of 2007 by McKinsey & Company.

What is Freeware?

Freeware is a software that is proprietary in license type and is distributed at the user end with no monetary cost. Freeware does not have any specific set of licenses, rights, or EULA.

The software is defined ambiguously. Every developer and publisher can define specific rules which are offered by the freeware.

The source code used in freeware is not available unlike other open source and free software which get distributed without any cost.

The unambiguous nature of freeware can be described by the modification, reverse engineering, and redistribution that is allowed by some publishers while audio publishers prohibit it strongly. The main aim of freeware is to benefit the producer.

An example of freeware benefiting the producer is the encouragement of sales through a capable version is shareware and freemium business models The derivation of the term freeware was in the year 1982.

It is coined by Andrew Flugelman and his objective was to sell the PC-Talk.

The distribution of the program by Andrew was done through a process which is termed shareware. The change of software types can change freeware into shareware.

The application of the term freeware was to software that was released without a source code in the 1980s and the 1990s.

Freeware could be used without the payment procedure. The operation of freeware is mainly of two types call whether fully functional for a specific period or can have limited functionality.

The limited functionality feature is usually a more capable version and is available commercially or even in the form of shareware. The rights of copying using, modifying, distributing, making derivative works are restricted by the author of freeware.

Additional usage restrictions are depending upon the license.

Main Differences Between Adware and Freeware

  1. Adware can include spyware programs while freeware does not include any spyware programs.
  2. Adware requires payment or other compensation while freeware does not require any form of compensation or payment for usage.
  3. Adware can generate revenue and act as a source of income while freeware does not generate any revenue.
  4. Adware can be installed to reduce the cost of the software while freeware does not affect the cost of the software.
  5. Adware is not a complete or functional software while freeware is functional as well as complete software.
Difference Between Adware and Freeware
  1. http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/courses/compsci725s2c/archive/2002/assignments/myip.pdf
  2. https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/1593254.1594684?casa_token=G2Vq0j7mKdcAAAAA:lCsjlcDwG-HkRRS5D3Y2Xr4RtavQrPTlSA_HOfW34l0SWgtYC-n8XQpESXBi4YPDqVqKXL7kUf8hcw
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