Difference between Freeware and Shareware

When coming across various forms of computer software, one will often see the labels “freeware” and “shareware”. Though the phrases are sometimes used interchangeably, they are two distinctly different forms of software. This article will help explain the difference between the two.



Freeware is software that anyone can download from the Internet to use free of charge. The authors/developers of freeware do not charge any fees to use the software, and the software will be free for an unlimited amount of time. Sometimes, authors may give the option to pay for additional features or bonuses, but the base software itself will not require payment. While freeware is, as the name suggests, free, it is still copyrighted in order to protect the intellectual property of developers. An example of freeware that is widely used is Skype. Skype, the logo for which is above, is a program that allows users to have video or voice calls with one another, and does not require a subscription. Skype offers a paid service for users who wish to call landlines or mobile phone numbers, however.


Shareware is software that offers users a limited amount of time to use the software before charging for continued usage. This limited amount of time is often known as a “trial period” or “trial run,” the length of this time varies depending on the software. Users can use the software for a limited amount of time in order to determine whether or not the software is suitable for them, and if they want to continue using the software after the trial period, they will be charged for it. One example is Adobe Photoshop, the logo for which is above. Adobe Photoshop is a graphics editor allowing users to edit photos and electronic visual files. Adobe Photoshop is a paid program, but offers a free trial on its website.

Comparison chart

Freeware Shareware
Free of charge. May offer additional services for payment, but base software is free. Free for the trial period, but when the period is over, shareware is not useable until the user pays.
No trial period, because the software is free to use. There may be a trial period for additional services, but base software is always free. Limited trial period to use the product. After the trial period, payment is required.

Freeware vs Shareware

What are the differences between freeware and shareware? Both are forms of software, but the main differences are:

  • Whether or not one has to pay for the software to use it.
  • Whether or not there is a trial period.

Freeware software requires no payment to use. Developers may offer premium services, additional features, or bonuses for payment, but there is no payment required to use the base software itself. Shareware, on the other hand, does require payment to use after the trial period.

Freeware has no trial period because it is always free to use. A trial period may be offered for additional services, but the base software has no trial period. Shareware allows users a trial period to determine whether or not they wish to purchase the software. After the trial period, the software is no longer useable until the user pays for continued service.

Skype is an example of freeware. Skype allows video and voice calls for free among users, but offers a paid service to phone landlines or mobile phones. Photoshop is an example of shareware. Photoshop allows its use for free during its trial period, but when this period is over, the user must pay for continued service.


The short animation below explains some of the differences between freeware and shareware.