Are software Installers just a means to collect data?


TheMystic

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When downloading a program, we often find one or more of the following options:

1. Actual program.exe file.
2. Installer.exe file (much smaller in size).
3. Zip file (for offline installation).

Developers are increasingly using the installer these days that serve no real purpose for the end user. Is this method being used just to collect data on the customer?

For example, if you want to install Macrium Reflect Free edition, you will only be able to download the installer from the site, after going through multiple screens asking for your email address and other information (which can be skipped).

This installer then downloads the actual program and other components and obviously requires an internet connection. Makes me think that this is intended to collect information from the computer that is downloading the program, and we have no control on what all information is collected in the process.

What do you think?

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jaree1961

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There is always the devil hidden in the detail, but is it harmless, data collection or a conspiracy theory.
That is a very good million dollar question, and everybody has their own opinion.
Developers use installers a lot of the time, because the average user (and I state "average user") has NO idea how to install, config/setup a program correctly and companies try and simplify the install process.

As the old saying goes "the biggest risk to security and giving away information is "ourselves".

All anybody can do is be vigilant and check out the finer detail before installing anything!

AND IMO, if they want information, they will get it one way or another.
I would be more worried about the information ISP's collect and use!
 

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TheMystic

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because the average user (and I state "average user") has NO idea how to install, config/setup a program correctly and companies try and simplify the install process
I don't think so. How is the installer different from the actual program which can do the exact same thing?

You could argue saying that the installer only downloads and installs specific components necessary for your operating system and hardware configuration. Just like we have on mobile operating systems (both iOS and Android). But is that true?

I don't think that it is the case with most programs. Because if that is the case, why not allow the user to decide what to download. Unlike a mobile device, most users aren't limited by storage space on a laptop or desktop.

In the case of Macrium Reflect, the installer does nothing apart from downloading the actual program.exe file. While it gives additional download options, an installer isn’t required for this purpose.
 
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Only advantage of a webinstaller is, that it will download the latest version. But for me, I prefer the offline installers (which contain the full program files).
 

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unifex

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Only advantage of a webinstaller is, that it will download the latest version. But for me, I prefer the offline installers (which contain the full program files).
I completely agree. I always (well, almost always - sometimes there is no such option, unfortunately) use full, offline installers and install the software offline - as in disconnected from the internet.

Perhaps I should clarify that I do so not because I fear some over-intrusive data collection, quite the opposite, I see nothing on my machine that such an installer could collect that would be perceived as harmful to me in any way. However, I firmly believe in buying a "complete product" that should be installable and working without the internet. Later, sure, it can be allowed to check for an update, but it should work as shipped. If the installer complains and/or stalls due the lack of internet connection, I always think twice whether I really need that software to begin with.
 

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clam1952

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Unfortunately, these days everyone is assumed to have an internet connection with no data limits and a reliable one at that, if you haven't, you are pretty much limited in what you can install on a PC.
Even supposed offline installers often need to phone home as part of the install process, you can't win.
 

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I normally download the program, close the browser and anything else open and install. It also depends on how reputable the site is and how worried you are about giving any info away ( if it does).
 

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In the case of Macrium Reflect, the installer does nothing apart from downloading the actual program.exe file.
Macrium Reflect is perhaps a poor example. The Firefox webinstaller would be a better one.

Macrium's one is not truly a webinstaller. What running the download agent does is to download a full offline installer. It offers a choice of the 32 or 64 bit installer and some option as to what is included in the installer. The option to run the installer after download is just that, an option. You can just un-tick that option and keep the offline installer for use later on this and/or any other PC.

1636476698477.png
 

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TheMystic

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Unfortunately, these days everyone is assumed to have an internet connection with no data limits and a reliable one at that, if you haven't, you are pretty much limited in what you can install on a PC.
Even supposed offline installers often need to phone home as part of the install process, you can't win.
With offline installers, you still have the option to block internet access and yet install the program. It is another matter if the program uses exploits to still connect to the internet.

But with an online installer (or more correctly downloader), you must allow internet access until the time that it downloads the actual program. There should be some reason why developers are adding this extra step, which isn't useful for the end user.
 

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TheMystic

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I normally download the program, close the browser and anything else open and install. It also depends on how reputable the site is and how worried you are about giving any info away ( if it does).
You can't use that if the actual program can only be downloaded via the installer.
 

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TheMystic

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Macrium Reflect is perhaps a poor example. The Firefox webinstaller would be a better one.

Macrium's one is not truly a webinstaller. What running the download agent does is to download a full offline installer. It offers a choice of the 32 or 64 bit installer and some option as to what is included in the installer. The option to run the installer after download is just that, an option. You can just un-tick that option and keep the offline installer for use later on this and/or any other PC.

View attachment 13125
The installer (or more correctly downloader) simply downloads the actual program. While it gives options to choose between architecture and additional components, it isn't necessary.

The actual program can be made available to download directly from the website. But there is no such option available.

The installer file (more correctly downloader), is at the very least a tool for the developer to track number of downloads/ installs. It could also be potentially uploading additional information without consent.
 

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Dru2

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When downloading a program, we often find one or more of the following options:

1. Actual program.exe file.
2. Installer.exe file (much smaller in size).
3. Zip file (for offline installation).

Developers are increasingly using the installer these days that serve no real purpose for the end user. Is this method being used just to collect data on the customer?

What do you think?.

I've never given it much thought. I just click the installer and keep it moving.

Yes, one should always be careful, but going overboard only prevents you from enjoying the thing you're trying to enjoy :wink:

My two cents.
 

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zooburner

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I often try and get the latest full installer, but I'm fine with installers that download the appropriate software for my computer, especially ones i trust like Macrium.

Almost all software gathers some data on the user I don't think making it an offline installer does not really help there it will often at some point connect and report even if only to check for updates.

Windows does it all the time and gives heaps of information about you, add your browser to that list and probably the bulk of programs on your computer. Your ISP collects every site you visit (and keeps a record) .. of course I could go on, i guess each person must make their own mind up.
 

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geneo

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When downloading a program, we often find one or more of the following options:

1. Actual program.exe file.
2. Installer.exe file (much smaller in size).
3. Zip file (for offline installation).

Developers are increasingly using the installer these days that serve no real purpose for the end user. Is this method being used just to collect data on the customer?

For example, if you want to install Macrium Reflect Free edition, you will only be able to download the installer from the site, after going through multiple screens asking for your email address and other information (which can be skipped).

This installer then downloads the actual program and other components and obviously requires an internet connection. Makes me think that this is intended to collect information from the computer that is downloading the program, and we have no control on what all information is collected in the process.

What do you think?

.

I think you are a little paranoid. LOL. For Macrium, there are not just executables, but dynamic link libraries that have to be installed and registered, services that need installed, tailoring for your system, required C++ runtime libraries, registering for uninstall, etc. A typical user can't do all of that (practically none of that actually), then also know/remember how to uninstall it all. Macrium really couldn't be installed from a zip file, as is true of lots of applications. Installers do have a real purpose.

We don't have very good privacy laws in the US compared to Europe, though we are getting the benifits to some level in web pages cookie settings transparency, not at the app level with telemetry that is not obvious - that is wherethere is a potential for invasion of privacy. That doesn't have anything to do with installers though.
Cheers
 
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    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Apple 13" Macbook Pro 2020 (m1)
    CPU
    M1
    Monitor(s) Displays
    2560x1600

pparks1

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Windows 11 Pro
When downloading a program, we often find one or more of the following options:

1. Actual program.exe file.
2. Installer.exe file (much smaller in size).
3. Zip file (for offline installation).

Developers are increasingly using the installer these days that serve no real purpose for the end user. Is this method being used just to collect data on the customer?

For example, if you want to install Macrium Reflect Free edition, you will only be able to download the installer from the site, after going through multiple screens asking for your email address and other information (which can be skipped).

This installer then downloads the actual program and other components and obviously requires an internet connection. Makes me think that this is intended to collect information from the computer that is downloading the program, and we have no control on what all information is collected in the process.

What do you think?

.
I have no concerns with using the stub file downloader from Macrium.
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 11 Pro
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Beelink SEI8
    CPU
    Intel Core i5-8279u
    Motherboard
    AZW SEI
    Memory
    32GB DDR4 2666Mhz
    Graphics Card(s)
    Intel Iris Plus 655
    Sound Card
    Intel SST
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Asus ProArt PA278QV
    Screen Resolution
    2560x1440
    Hard Drives
    512GB NVMe
    PSU
    NA
    Case
    NA
    Cooling
    NA
    Keyboard
    NA
    Mouse
    NA
    Internet Speed
    500/50
    Browser
    Edge
    Antivirus
    Defender
    Other Info
    Mini PC used for testing Windows 11.

The-Hive

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If any Installers gather Data, IMO the worst ones would be the ones with free software as you don't get anything for nothing
 

My Computers

System One System Two

  • OS
    Windows 11 Pro
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Alienware Area 51m R2
    CPU
    10th Gen Core i9 10900K
    Memory
    32GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Geforce RTX 2080 Super
    Screen Resolution
    1920x1080
    Hard Drives
    C: Samsung 2TB P981A
    D: Samsung 2TB 970 Evo
    Mouse
    Alienware AW610M
    Browser
    Chrome and Firefox
    Antivirus
    Norton
    Other Info
    Killer E3000 Ethernet Controller
    Killer AX1650i Wi-Fi Network Adaptor
    Alienware Z01G Graphic Amplifier
    Tobii Eye Tracker
  • Operating System
    Dual Boot Windows 11 Pro / Windows 11 Pro Dev build
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Inspiron 3501
    CPU
    11th Gen i-7 2.80 gb
    Memory
    16Gb
    Screen Resolution
    1920 x 1080
    Hard Drives
    512Gb SSD
    2GB External drive
    Browser
    Chrome
    Antivirus
    Norton

TheMystic

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Windows 11
If any Installers gather Data, IMO the worst ones would be the ones with free software as you don't get anything for nothing
Then companies should start replacing 'free' with 'Pay with Data'. Or they are just lying.
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 11
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    HP Envy dv7
    CPU
    Intel Core i7 3630QM
    Motherboard
    HP
    Memory
    16 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Intel HD Graphics 4000 & Nvidia GeForce GT 635M
    Sound Card
    IDT High Definition
    Screen Resolution
    1080p
    Hard Drives
    1 TB Crucial MX500 on bay 1.
    1 TB Seagate HDD on bay 2.
    Antivirus
    Windows Defender

ThrashZone

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Linux-Mint-Cinnamon-20.2 Win-7-10-11Pro's
Then companies should start replacing 'free' with 'Pay with Data'. Or they are just lying.
Hi,
I missed the os telemetry thread
Guess you're okay with MS only offering the minimum of basic sending but also making people dig in every mS app and defender to to find all it's sending.
I await more telemetry threads for all these MS apps on 11 and 10 you've hit on reflect a few times already lol :zany:
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Linux-Mint-Cinnamon-20.2 Win-7-10-11Pro's
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    asus x3
    CPU
    10900k & 9940x & 5930k
    Motherboard
    z490-Apex & x299-Apex & x99-Sabertooth
    Memory
    Trident-Z Royal 4000c16 2x16gb & Trident-Z 3600c16 4x8gb & 3200c14 4x8gb
    Graphics Card(s)
    Titan Xp & 1080ti FTW3 & evga 980ti gaming
    Sound Card
    Onboard Realtek x3
    Monitor(s) Displays
    1-AOC G2460PG 24"G-Sync 144Hz/ 2nd 1-ASUS VG248QE 24"/ 3rd LG 43" series
    Screen Resolution
    1920-1080 not sure what the t.v is besides 43" class scales from 1920-1080 perfectly
    Hard Drives
    To many to list
    PSU
    1000p2 & 1200p2 & 850p2
    Case
    D450 x2 & 1 Test bench in cherry Entertainment center
    Cooling
    Custom water loops x3 with 2x mora 360mm rads only 980ti gaming air cooled
    Keyboard
    G710+x3
    Mouse
    Redragon x3
    Internet Speed
    xfinity gigabyte
    Browser
    Firefox
    Antivirus
    mbam pro

BrianInEngland

Active member
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176
OS
Windows 11 Pro 21H2 (RP channel)
When downloading a program, we often find one or more of the following options:

1. Actual program.exe file.
2. Installer.exe file (much smaller in size).
3. Zip file (for offline installation).

Developers are increasingly using the installer these days that serve no real purpose for the end user. Is this method being used just to collect data on the customer?

For example, if you want to install Macrium Reflect Free edition, you will only be able to download the installer from the site, after going through multiple screens asking for your email address and other information (which can be skipped).

This installer then downloads the actual program and other components and obviously requires an internet connection. Makes me think that this is intended to collect information from the computer that is downloading the program, and we have no control on what all information is collected in the process.

What do you think?

.
You seem to have an unhealthy dislike for Macrium, you have another post on here about it as well. Are you sponsored by another backup software maker?
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 11 Pro 21H2 (RP channel)
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Gigabyte
    CPU
    AMD Ryzen 5900X 12-core
    Motherboard
    X570 Aorus Xtreme
    Memory
    32GB Corsair Platinum RGB 3600MHz
    Graphics Card(s)
    MSI Suprim X 3080 Ti
    Sound Card
    Soundblaster AE-5 Plus
    Monitor(s) Displays
    ASUS TUF Gaming VG289
    Screen Resolution
    3840x2160
    Hard Drives
    Samsung 980 Pro 2TB
    Samsung 970 Pro Plus 1TB
    Samsung 970 Pro 1TB
    Samsung T7 Touch 1TB
    PSU
    Asus ROG Strix 1000W
    Case
    Corsair D750 Airflow
    Cooling
    Noctua NH-D15S
    Keyboard
    Logitech G810
    Mouse
    Logitech G903 with PowerPlay charger

BunnyJ

Python Programmer
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Windows 11 Home 25115.1000 - Dev Channel
You seem to have an unhealthy dislike for Macrium, you have another post on here about it as well. Are you sponsored by another backup software maker?
I think you're right.
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 11 Home 25115.1000 - Dev Channel
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Banna Junior 7000 - X Series
    CPU
    Ryzen 7 2700X
    Motherboard
    Asus Crosshair VII Hero, X470
    Memory
    Gskill 32GB, 16GBX2 PC3000
    Graphics Card(s)
    GeForce GTX TITAN X 12GB
    Sound Card
    Realtek (R) Audio
    Monitor(s) Displays
    ASUS VP28UQG 28" 4K, Viotek 32" 1080p
    Screen Resolution
    4K 3840 x 2160
    Hard Drives
    Primary Samsung 256 SSD
    PSU
    EVGA BQ 700w 80+ Bronze
    Case
    NZXT 510
    Cooling
    Stock AMD cooler
    Keyboard
    Corsair
    Mouse
    Amazon Generic with Cord
    Internet Speed
    Download: 350.50 mbps Upload: 12.02 mbps Ping: 15ms
    Browser
    Firefox, Chrome and Edge
    Antivirus
    MS - Defender
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