CNET Downloads editorial promise

How we test software and games

CNET Downloads editorial staff dedicates itself to giving you the most unbiased, accurate, and useful evaluation of freeware and paid software. Every day, we write rated reviews of popular software in the Download.com catalog. As of March 16, 2010, we rate both full versions of paid software and freeware based on overall software quality. We also maintain a frequently updated blog, The Daily Download, to keep you up-to-date on the quickly changing world of software.

How we select software to review

For PC:

When one of the Top 100 most popular Windows products on CNET Downloads receives a substantial update or when a product enters the Top 100, we will write or update our review within 2 business days. Updates to products not in the Top 100 will be noted by CNET Downloads editors, who will use their editorial expertise to prioritize these reviews. CNET Downloads editors will also use their expert knowledge of the category to scout and select exciting new products for review on an ongoing basis. (Note: We do not review software in certain categories, including corporate security, drivers, and networking software.)

For Mac:

When one of the Top 50 most popular Mac products on CNET Downloads receives a substantial update or when a product enters the Top 50, we will write or update our review within 2 business days. Updates to products not in the Top 50 will be noted by CNET Downloads editors, who will use their editorial expertise to prioritize these reviews. CNET Downloads editors will also use their expert knowledge of the category to scout and select exciting new products for review on an ongoing basis. (Note: We do not review software in certain categories, including P2P products, networking software, and corporate security.)

How we rate software

CNET Downloads bases its ratings on four factors, each weighted according to its importance.

Installation and Setup (10 percent): Is the software easy to install? Does its registration put up too many road blocks? What are the limitations of the trial version, if there are any?

Interface (25 percent): How easy-to-use is the software? How clean and attractive is its interface? Is the software elegant, or is it cluttered?

Features and Support (35 percent): How well does the software do what it says it will do? Does it fulfill its promise? Does it offer truly groundbreaking functionality? How do its features compare to the competition's? When there is a problem, how much help does the software offer, and what kind?

Performance (30 percent): How does the software perform? Does it crash often? Does it use too many resources? Is it speedy?

CNET Downloads editors blend the scores from each of these categories to yield a five-star rating. A five-star product gets perfect scores in each category. A one-star product gets an average of one star based on the percentages above.

How to upload your software

Go to CNET Downloads