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Windows 7: Minitool Partition Wizard FREE now secretly installs Web Companion!

30 Jan 2019   #1
dsperber

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)
 
 
Minitool Partition Wizard FREE now secretly installs Web Companion!

Can't believe this. Minitool started this discraceful process back with Partition Wizard Free version 10, and promised me (when I complained) that they were going to remove it with the new version 11 being released at the start of 2019.

Well, it's now the start of 2019, and version 11 of Partition Wizard FREE is now released. And they HAVE NOT CHANGED ANYTHING!

What they do with the free version during the installation dialog is give you an opportunity to set the checkbox to OPT-OUT of the installation of AVAST (which is pre-checked ON so that it WILL be installed by default unless you un-check it). There actually is a page in the dialog advising you that AVAST is going to be installed unless you opt-out.

What is NOT TOLD TO YOU is that SECRETLY a product named Web Companion by Lavasoft WILL ALWAYS BE INSTALLED, because you are installing Partition Wizard FREE!! This is browser hackware which takes over your home page and browser search engine settings.

WHAT AN OUTRAGE!!! Absolutely should disqualify Minitool's otherwise excellent and long used product for managing disk drives and partitions from being recommended in the future... at least in its free packaging.

The non-free Pro version is priced at $39 for a lifetime usage license, with a right to get any version upgrades which are released within 1 year of purchase. Or, you can instead opt to pay $59 for a lifetime usage license, along with a lifetime free upgrade to any new versions released in the future. So this pricing is not at all unreasonable for a very very fine product that I myself have used forever, and consider it one of my standard cannot-live-without-it set of tools (along with non-free Macrium Reflect Home Edition and NovaBACKUP PC).

But slipping this sneaky secret install of a hack to your browser for a piece of software you are not alerted to or provided an opt-out from (as at least you are for AVAST)... this should be criminal in today's world. You can of course then go to Control Panel and immediately uninstall it (and have the unintall restore your browser home page and your browser default search engine settings), but if you didn't know that until the first time you used your browser after installing Partition Wizard FREE I'm sure you'd be very very annoyed.


So... you've been warned.

I have emailed Minitool to protest as adamantly as I could while still remaining civil. I urge others to do the same, so that maybe they will get the point that their folly will not serve them well. This is not nagware to get you to buy their non-free software version. This is hackware that secretly gets installed with no opt-out and overtakes your browser and requires you to then uninstall it once you see that it's now present.

Disgraceful.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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30 Jan 2019   #2
Lady Fitzgerald

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit
 
 

How do you know Web Companion is being installed on your computer? I have version 10 of Minitool on my computer but I couldn't find Web Companion anywhere.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
31 Jan 2019   #3
dsperber

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)
 
 

This is very very strange.

First, I'm actually installing on a Win10 laptop, so I apologize for posting in the SevenForums. But this is where I actually "live" so it was force of habit.

Next, the knowledge about Web Companion came from an install of PW Free version 10 back in December on my cousin's new Win10 desktop. I didn't want to charge him for the non-free Pro version so I decided to just go with the free version. During the install dialog I opted out of AVAST (which was visibly offered) and completed the rest of the steps, launching the program.

And after the program launched I noticed there was a new "hidden" taskbar notification area icon active, which when I looked was an unrecognized never-before-seen icon for Web Companion. Obviously this had somehow come from my install of PW Free 10.

I then happened to open Firefox, and noticed that my home page was no longer my normal home page, but was something related to Web Companion.

I then opened Control Panel and sorted by install date, and sure enough there was Web Companion by Lavasoft that was right up there with PW Free 10. I uninstalled it using Control Panel, and wrote an email to MiniTool complaining. They replied it would be removed in the next version coming out early in 2019.


Ok, I have now received a reply from MiniTool regarding my hysterically angry email to them today, complaining that Web Companion by Lavasoft had again been installed, even though I was installing the just released PW Free 11. Again, there was that icon in the taskbar notification area, and again it was in Control Panel and I had to uninstall it.

In fact the uninstall was supposed to restore my original home page and default search engine in Firefox (so the uninstall dialog advised me), and in fact it didn't actually restore things correctly. So I'm 100% sure I did all this earlier today, to recover from Web Companion by Lavasoft being installed.

And I absolutely know that when I launched the PW Free 11 program I saw the new user interface (I also have PW Pro 11 installed on other machines, so I'm familiar with the cosmetic differences from version 10). So I'm absolutely sure I ran PW11-free.exe to install, rather than accidentally running the older PW10-free.exe where I'd first seen AVAST and Web Companion.

MiniTool wanted me to please re-run the install and send them screenshots, because apparently I was the only one who'd reported this. So I uninstalled what I currently had installed, ran REGEDIT to purge any MiniTool keys from the Registry (which were there), and re-ran the PW11-free.exe installer.

Miraculously, this time I did NOT see anything about AVAST! Instead, I saw a new offer to install McAfee WebAdvisor (with an opt-in/out checkbox) that I absolutely had never seen before. And when the install completed, I no longer saw any evidence that Web Companion by Lavasoft had been secretly installed! No active Web companion icon in taskbar notification area, nothing in Control Panel.

I honestly can't figure out why this second install went totally differently than the first install. Perhaps the installer has a dynamic linkage to MiniTool (and their "business partner") to provide a dynamically downloaded 3rd-party software package, and maybe per my email to MiniTool and their contacting the "business partner" to address my complaint, maybe they fixed this in the past hour or two. How else could I have a visibly different 3rd-party software offer this time (for McAfee WebAdvisor, last time for AVAST) and no secret install of Web Companion by Lavasoft???

I can only say that this second install has now gone the way I would be completely tolerant of with no complaints. It's reasonable to offer a package of 3rd-party software (to support the "free" PW), as long as I can opt-out which I could. And no secretly installed software or hackware, which definitely was NOT installed this time.

Very very strange, unless as I speculate the MiniTool "business partner" does actually have dynamic control over the 3rd-party software offered and/or installed by the PW installer file.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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31 Jan 2019   #4
dsperber

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)
 
 

Just heard again from MiniTool, in response to my second email to them describing the differences I noticed in my second PW Free 11 install today from the first time I ran the identical installation file earlier today.

They are agreeing with most everything I said or speculated, including agreeing (I believe) about my notion concerning "dynamically adjustable at the moment of install" 3rd-party software offers). But they do feel that Web Companion by Lavasoft might somehow have been installed from some other "free" product I might have also installed (around the time I installed PW Free 10) and not noticed until after installing PW Free 10.

I suppose that might be possible, but I can't recall. As I mentioned earlier this all first came about when building the new Win10 desktop machine for my cousin. But every piece of software I was installing, free or otherwise, was actually software I'd installed many times in the past on my own or other machines... and never had seen Web Companion until installing PW Free 10 on this latest machine.

They sound genuinely concerned, and now I feel somehow guilty.

And, for absolute sure, this occurred TODAY on my own Win10 laptop absolutely installing what I thought was the latest PW11-free.exe (not back in December on my cousin's Win10 desktop machine when I absolutely know I ran PW10-free.exe since PW 11 was not yet available). And I absolutely know for sure that Control Panel showed Web Companion by Lavasoft installed on 1/30... which is today. And this is the only software i installed on this machine today, so it had to come from the PW11-free.exe, in my opinion.

I'm still suspicious of IronSource swapping out the 3rd-party offer package sometime today after I did my first install and before doing my second install. How else could AVAST disappear and McAfee WebAdvisor appear??? And Web Companion now not get installed, when for sure it did a few hours ago requiring me to uninstall it?

=======================================================

"Hi Darryl:

Thank you for the details.

Our third-party is IronSource and we've working with them recently to offer third-party application during installation of MiniTool Partition Wizard. You are correct this integration will promote different software during the installation process based on your PC settings. McAfee and AVAST are one of the offers we suggested to people if you have not installed above anti-virus software. We are sure this process will not install any unwanted software to users computer without concern. Our software engineer and manager are contacting IronSource to verify adware such as Web Companion by Lavasoft is not on our list. However, we do know Web Companion by Lavasoft are very aggressive and they might install to your computer by other applications. Did you ever upgrade or install any other free software recently?

At this time, we are still waiting for confirmation from our business partner. One thing we can confirm with you is MiniTool Partition Wizard installation never integrate adware to client PC. We never do this in the past and will not do this in the future.

Best regards."
My System SpecsSystem Spec
31 Jan 2019   #5
Lady Fitzgerald

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit
 
 

Ironsource sounds similar to Open Candy except they may not be as "honorable" as Open Candy was when it comes to always allowing one to opt out of an "offering". Programs like these are called PUPs: Potentially Unwanted Programs. If you were running an AV and something like Malwarebytes, the unauthorized installation shouldn't have happened since most AVs and Malwarebytes are excessively paranoid about PUPS, assuming all of them are actually Unwanted instead of potentially unwanted without an option to opt out. Malwarebytes is really bad about it becasue it will automatically block and remove them without giving one an option to say yea or nay; you have to go into Malwarebytes and go through a tricky process to put in an exception for the program installer (mutter. mutter, mumble, mumble).
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 Feb 2019   #6
Pete4

win7hp64
 
 

Another reason to use portable edition of a program, if such exists, instead of installer. I used free portable editions of minitool partition ver 9.1, 10 and 10.3 and have not seen anything installed or changed. My AV program found one file in 10.3 folders that it considered a virus, so I deleted it, before running anything, but it could have been false positive. Now that you mentioned it, I went to their website and can't find portable edition of v11 anymore, so I will download installer and try to extract programs from it without running installer. If that doesn't work, older version works just fine. Thanks for heads up.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 Minitool Partition Wizard FREE now secretly installs Web Companion!




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