Are screensavers safe to use?
Screensavers are software programs that, in most cases, are freely downloadable from the internet. To install a screensaver, the file you download needs to be executed on your computer, which poses a security risk: if the publisher has bad intentions, your computer may be infected with a virus or slowed down by adware.
This bundling of software with advertising or "malware" is becoming increasingly common, and screensavers, due to their popularity, have always been an easy target. Screensavers are safe to download — but only if done right.
Safely downloading screensavers
One way to avoid getting infected is to always download your screensavers from a trusted source like Screensavers Planet. As outlined in our safety standards, every screensaver that is added to this site has been subjected to a comprehensive virus scan, and was manually reviewed for quality and unwanted behavior by one of our experienced editors. There may be other trustworthy download sites on the internet, but we obviously cannot vouch for them.
Even when websites claim that their content has been scanned for viruses and adware, they may still bundle their downloads with browser toolbars and other third-party software that users often unwittingly install. Therefore, you need to pay close attention when downloading and installing software: do not rush through the steps, but read every screen presented to you, and give special attention to checkboxes and "Accept" and "Decline" buttons.
If you expect to be downloading screensavers from websites other than Screensavers Planet, you should consider installing an anti-virus program such as Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows, ClamXav for Mac OS, or ClamAV for Linux. Such a program will scan every file you download for known threats. While this helps, it does not stop all unwanted behavior, so you will still need to be cautious when downloading and installing screensavers.
As with any other software program, a screensaver is compatible with a limited range of computers, and while most of them will either simply work or not work at all, there is a small chance that one will cause your system to become unstable. Generally speaking, however, screensavers themselves are relatively harmless applications, and therefore unlikely to damage your computer. If your system crashes or becomes unstable after installing or running a screensaver, it is best to reboot the computer, uninstall or disable the screensaver, and then look for another.
Take safety into your own hands
We take our responsibility in providing user-friendly downloads very seriously, but we can only vouch for ourselves. However, as long as you download from trusted sources or take the necessary precautions and pay close attention when downloading and installing, trying out new screensavers should be a safe and fun experience for you.