Free Software

What Does Free Software Mean?

Free software is a program used and distributed at no charge to the user. However, most free software licenses include terms prohibiting the sale, resale or commercial use.


Free software is often released for promotional purposes. For example, certain free software programs may require registration with an email address. The software owner collects these email addresses, which may be used to promote or sell other products.

Techopedia Explains Free Software

The concept of free software originally implied that when released the source code would be provided with permission to reuse the software within the public domain. However, this concept changed with the formulation of free and open source software (FOSS), which delineates the differences between free and free open source software.

Free software and freeware concepts can be confusing because some developers distribute free software with certain constraints. For example, a free software package may not include all features, and payment may be required to enable certain software functions. Freeware software works with full features and is usually not upgradable.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.