IDG’s PC World Knows Where to Find the Best Free Stuff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – MARCH 3, 2000 — These days, free is the word that makes the Web-and the computing world-go round. Free e-mail, free PCs, free advice, free shipping. Everyone wants to give us something for nothing. But freedom has a price: from spam and long-term contracts to the loss of privacy. Which is why PC World 's editors compiled the April 2000 Special Issue "Free Stuff 2000," a one-stop guide to shopping the free economy (online now at www.pcworld.com/apr00/free and on newsstands March 14).

First up is the "5th Annual Best Free Stuff Online," a comprehensive roundup of 50 great sites for downloads, freeware, Web tools, health tips, legal and financial advice, do-it-yourself resources, shopping coupons, games, bizarre time-killers, and more. Spanning the ESPN Fantasy Games network to free online medical record storage at AllHealth.com, the article also includes a list of the "10 Most Popular Downloads" from PC World .com's Fileworld, as well as information on where to find free shipping, rack up frequent flyer miles, and donate to charity.

Just what are "Free PCs?" Consumers are getting more than they bargained for, including: under-powered systems, long-term ISP commitments, no monitor, undesirable privacy intrusions, and annoying on-screen advertising. What they save in dollars, they lose via limited warranties and dubious tech support policies. In "Free PCs: The Price You Really Pay," PC World reads the fine print to uncover the hidden costs of so-called "free" computers. The editors test six systems to show performance is middling-and the price is far from zero. In addition, PC World .com reveals the actual price tag for similar rebate deals and ISP contracts for "free" peripherals.

Many PC users would pay any price for good technical support. But when vendor support fails, where can they turn? Now, some services offer it for nothing. "Free Support Free-for-All" reports on nine new third-party tech-support megasites, such as NoWonder.com and VirtualDr.com, that promise to troubleshoot consumers' thorniest computer problems online-at no cost.

"Beyond Free-Mail" evaluates 20 ad-supported Web-based services, including Internet access, Web hosting, backup storage, and personal information managers. The editors review the hidden costs, security concerns, privacy issues, and performance of these free services, and tells readers which ones offer real bargains.

The ultimate in free enterprise, "Running Free" examines the pros and cons of Web tools that assist with two basic tasks of every small business: some things are too good to be true, each article includes a "Gotcha

Watch" that exposes hidden catches connected with free stuff, such as:

— Get Paid to Surf? Maybe: Sites like AllAdvantage.com purport to pay consumers for active surfing online while its viewbar tracks their movements. The return for the loss of privacy? About 10 cents an hour.

— Read the fine print: Free PCs come with all kinds of surprises, including: shipping and handling fees, penalties for breaking the contract, warranty limitations on software, and potential toll charges for Internet access.

— Free today, maybe not tomorrow: Many sites don't charge for advice — but may not remain free for long. For more information, check out PC World 's April 2000 Special Issue, "Free Stuff 2000" at www.pcworld.com/apr00/free and on newsstands March 14.

PC World Communications, Inc. is the publisher of PC World (www.pcworld.com) and WebShopper (www.webshopper.com) and is a subsidiary of IDG, the world's leading IT media, research and exposition company. The winner of the 1999 Grand Neal Award for editorial excellence, PC World is the world's largest computer publication with a circulation rate base of 1.25 million. With more than 1.6 million unique visitors per month (Media Metrix, January 2000), pcworld.com is a leading online resource for PC-product buyers and users. IDG publishes more than 290 computer magazines and newspapers and 4,000 book titles and offers online users the largest network of technology-specific sites around the world through IDG.net ( http://www.idg.net ), which comprises more than 250 targeted Web sites in 55 countries. IDG is also a leading producer of 168 computer-related expositions worldwide, and provides IT market analysis through 49 offices in 42 countries worldwide. Company information is available at http://www.idg.com.