Freeware is copyrighted computer software which is made available for use free of charge, for an unlimited time. Authors of freeware often want to "give something to the community", but also want to retain control of any future development of the software.
The term shareware refers to commercial software that is copyrighted, but which may be copied for others for the purpose of their trying it out with the understanding that they will pay for it if they continue to use it.

Comparison chart

Freeware versus Shareware comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartFreewareShareware
  • current rating is 3.96/5
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  • current rating is 3.61/5
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About Freeware refers to software that anyone can download from the Internet and use for free. Sharewares give users a chance to try the software before buying it.
Inception The term freeware was first used by Andrew Fluegelman in 1982, when he wanted to sell a communications program named PC-Talk. In 1982, Bob Wallace produced PC-Write, a word processor, and distributed it as a shareware. The term was first used in 1970, in InfoWorld magazine.
License and Copyright User license or EULA (End User License Agreement) is an important part of freeware. Each license is specific to the freeware. Copyright laws are also applicable to Freeware. Copyright laws also apply to Shareware but the copyright holder or author holds all the rights, with a few specific exceptions.
Features All the features are free. Most of the times, all features are not available, or have limited use. To use all the features of the software, user has to purchase the software.
Distribution Freeware programs can be distributed free of cost. Shareware may or may not be distributed freely. In many cases, author’s permission is needed, to distribute the shareware.
Example Adobe PDF, Google Talk, yahoo messenger, MSN messenger Winzip, Cuteftp, Getright
Advantage Freeware is free, and is covered by copyright Shareware is free, can be copied and is covered by copyright.
Disadvantage You can’t sell freeware software and modified software must be freeware. Shareware cannot be modified, and it may be either a cut down or temporary version.


In 1982, Andrew Fluegelman created a telecommunications program for IBM PC and named it PC-Talk. He used the term freeware for PC-Talk and that was how this word was coined. Within a few months of this, Bob Wallace developed a word processor, PC-Write and called it shareware. But Andrew Fluegelman initially did not distribute the software freely, thus making it a shareware.

License and copyright

The Copyright laws are applicable to both Freeware and shareware, and the copyright holder retains all rights. The authors or developers of freeware and shareware are programmers and their programs are of comparable quality. The software license may impose some restrictions on the type of use of software including personal use, individual use, non-profit use, non-commercial use, academic use, commercial use or any combination of these. The license may be "free for personal, non-commercial use."


The main difference lies with the method of distribution. For freeware, ideally there is no charge for using the software. Under EULA, the author gives the permission to copy and distribute the software, either to all or to a specific group. Freeware distribution gives users a chance to try software and continue to use it for no payment or some acknowledgement (Ex. a thank you note, suggestions, comments, user experience etc.).

Shareware distribution gives users a chance to try the software before buying it. If someone wants to use the shareware program for a long time then he may have to buy it. In shareware, the developer omits the normal distribution channel and the retail middleman and directly markets it to the end user. This results in a reduced end-user price. Also users of shareware are encouraged to copy and distribute unregistered versions of the software to friends, colleagues for the purpose of their trying it out with the understanding that they will pay for it if they continue to use it.


The main problem with freeware is the lack of support if a program does not run properly. Some freeware have inbuilt advertisements, through which adware may get installed in the users system.
Many shareware projects are not updated regularly or offer support for the program. Some software might not include all fully functional features.

Time Frame

While freeware is a no strings attached software with no time limit to it, shareware may just be a limited feature software to be used free for a certain period. After which the user may be asked to purchase it.


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"Freeware vs Shareware." Diffen LLC, n.d. Web. 27 Sep 2022. < >