When software is updated, changes generally come in the form of upgrades. Web browsers can be pared back to save milliseconds, word processors can introduce a new file format that boasts smaller file sizes, and media players may gain integration with other services.
Such upgrades are typically welcomed, although it does not disguise the fact software development is highly involved work that is not always profitable. Thus, developers may choose to monetize their work – and understandably so!
There are several websites chronicling the development of various programs and their last freeware versions. Naturally, if you intend to use a specific program repeatedly, we would encourage you to show the developers your support by purchasing the latest version – it could have some great new features!
Of course, there are also products which have remained freeware since their launch, and these options are worth your time as well.
321 Download deals only in Windows software and has a misleadingly old-school appearance. Don’t be fooled by the outdated ‘What’s New’ section for the information in the column on the right suggests the site is still being updated.
321 Download’s main limitation is its lack of a search bar. Rather than searching in the conventional sense, you’ll have to use the buttons found on the left of the site. By far the most useful option is “All LFV” which will display all of the programs the site lists in alphabetical order. The other “pages” are of little use since they will display the same information, albeit with a brief description of the program.
The site’s author provides a “Links” option which proves interesting, linking to other sites dealing with older freeware. You are welcome to check out these sites in your own time, though we have only covered Freeware Asylum from this list.
A+ Freeware is similarly dated in appearance to 321 Download, but it is worth your time as well. The site is thoughtfully laid out despite its age and again tackles only Windows software. Along the left are various categories to filter results and find what interests you, but the site also has a search facility unlike its competitors.
Pleasingly, the site does not only list programs which have moved on to paid distribution; programs like AbiWord are also listed despite still being in active development. Where possible, the download links for software still in development point to the respective website, meaning that modern programs can still be found and used.
Downloads hosted on the site come in the form of compressed .zip files, shrinking the overall download size and speeding up your reception of the files you want.
Of the three websites, Freeware Asylum (formerly Freeware Arena, and referred to as such on some websites) manages to be the most modern in appearance, and paradoxically the least-recently updated. At the time of writing their last update was 2013 – a surprising change for a site in operation since 1997.
The site tackles listings in the form of blog posts, giving a brief description of the software, compatibility information, download size and several links to use for downloading.
Unfortunately, all of the links may not be functioning still after two years, and they are not always totally consistent. Some are hosted on the site, and there are some which simply point to MajorGeeks, CNET and sites of their ilk. This is a major limitation given that no future is assured for files stored outside the site’s control. If they are deleted or otherwise rendered unreachable, they’re gone for good.
Direct downloads work nicely, and the file is once again delivered as a .zip. You may wish to exercise vigilance with any CNET links: some are delivered through CNET’s proprietary downloader which includes “offers” for software you may not want.
The actual selection on the site is not as vast as it should be, with some pages returning this error message.
Freeware is a great way to get software capable of fulfilling a task without breaking the bank, and these sites manage to collate a variety of programs that were once free alongside those always given away in this manner.
There is the potential for the three sites listed to have different software in their archives, meaning it can be worth your while to check them all if you’re in pursuit of something specific. None are operated by large companies, meaning updates come as-and-when the site authors have time or content to provide.