Shareware Vs. Freeware: A Comparison You Wanted to See

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Shareware Vs. Freeware

It is not uncommon to see people interchangeably using the terms freeware and shareware, even though they refer to two completely different kinds of software. In this Techspirited article, we will find out what shareware and freeware actually are, and examine the main differences between them.

Shareware and freeware are two important kinds of software which are freely available for download on the Internet. But being ‘free for download’ doesn’t mean that these programs are actually completely free. There are certain important points of distinction that are used to classify a software into one of these two categories. In the following sections, we shall find out what these points are, by running a shareware vs. freeware comparison.

Comparison Between Shareware and Freeware
There are certain parameters used to determine whether a software belongs to the shareware or freeware category. Some of these include the method of distribution of the said software, usage, permission for modification, etc. Let us examine both, shareware and freeware individually, based on these parameters of comparison.


Bob Wallace coined the term ‘shareware’. This term came before the birth of IBM personal computers. Shareware is a proprietary software, which is given to users on a trial basis without charging them anything. The functionalities available in this software are limited, in other words the complete software is not given to the users.

This software is available either as downloads from a hosting website or is distributed on compact discs along with periodicals or magazines. The words ‘trial version’ or ‘free trial’ is mentioned in the name of these types of software. Compatible shareware software is available for all computer platforms like Unix, Linux, Microsoft Windows and Macintosh.

The purpose of sharing a software is to make its important features known to a wide range of potential buyers. Customers are allowed to test the software and check whether the software indeed does meet their requirements, and then decide whether it is worth purchasing the license to get the full version of the software or not. There are some types shareware, which are available as full versions, but only for a limited trial time-period, at the end of which the software stops working. The full version license has to be purchased to get the software working again. There is no support, updates or help menus, which are made available with shareware. These become available after purchasing the license for the same.

If you are using shareware, it can be copied and circulated among friends and colleagues, while it’s still in its trial period. The trial period can range from anything between 10 to 60 days. There are some shareware trial software available, which can be used for a particular number of times. After which if the user wishes to continue using it, he will have to buy a licensed copy of the software.

The author of a shareware makes the software available free of cost, but he may request donations. In most cases, the software is either written by an individual or by small companies. Therefore, the support for the software will vary. This software is copyright protected. The source code of this software is generally not made available.

Once the software has been purchased, it is no longer a shareware. The buyer will receive a printed manual along with the updated copy of the software which will have additional features and also give the buyer the legal rights to use the program either at home or for the workplace. Examples of shareware include Winzip, Cuteftp, Getright, etc.


Andrew Fluegelman coined the term ‘freeware’. He created the very popular communication program called PC-Talk, which he wanted to distribute, without using the traditional methods of distribution. So instead, Fluegelman marketed it under a system called freeware, which he said was an experiment in economics rather than altruism as its name suggested.

A freeware is usually a fully functional software, which is available for an unlimited period of time. This software is distributed without any monetary benefits. It can also be in the form of a proprietary software, which is given at zero cost. A user of this software does not have access to the source code of the software. Therefore, often there may not be community or a development infrastructure available for a freeware. In simple words, one can make use of the freeware software as it comes, and not make any changes to the same.

The author of the software however, can withhold one or more rights, such as copying, distributing or using the software as a base to derive another software. This software can come with a restricted use license. It means that there will be restrictions in terms of use of the same. The author may impose that the program only be used for either personal, academic, commercial, individual, non-profit purpose, or a combination of one or more of these. For example a freeware license may say something like this: “free for personal, non-commercial use”.

A freeware differs from a free software in that a free software can be used, modified, studied without any kind of restrictions. A freeware usually doesn’t permit any modification to be made to it, and may require one to pay a fee if used for a commercial purpose.

So as to make the distinction clearer, the ‘Free Software Foundation’, has asked software authors to avoid the using the word freeware along with the free software. Some popular examples of freeware software are μTorrent, Pegasus Mail, IrfanView, Winamp, Adobe Reader.

Thus, freeware and shareware are different types of software that are designed for different purposes. Freeware are often made either by students or a software enthusiast as academic or hobby project, while shareware is a mid-sized application often made by a professional developer or a small-sized software company as a marketing strategy to popularize their original products.

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