Difference Between Freeware and Open Source

Key Difference – Freeware vs Open Source

The key difference between freeware and open source is that open source has a visible source code, community support, a large program base that comes with the potential for improvement and is not owned by a person. Freeware is usually a small software that is free of charge but may be restricted by a license and cannot be modified. Let us take a close look at both software and decipher the difference between them.

What is Freeware?

Freeware can be classified as a proprietary software that can be used without any monetary cost. Although freeware can be used without any payment, it may come with restrictions. The software cannot be modified, reverse engineered, or redistributed without the author’s permission. Examples of this type of software include Adobe Acrobat reader and Skype.

Although the software may be offered free of charge, it may come with hidden benefits for its owner. This may encourage sales of a more premium version of the same freeware software. A typical feature of freeware is its unavailability of its code. Free software and open software are also offered free of charge, and its code may be made available. This  type of software can be used freely, modified, redistributed. There will be only one restriction, though. When the software is distributed, it may need to be used with the terms for free use known as copyleft.

Freeware should not be confused with free software. Freeware is a common form of software that is available for download on operating systems. As mentioned earlier due to copyright issues, the code may not be available for development purposes.  Free software can be distributed for a fee, unlike freeware. Freeware can be expected to come with limited capabilities when compared with free software.

Difference Between Freeware and Open Source

What is Open source?

Open source, in general, is referred to as a design that has public access. This design can be modified and shared by the public. The term open source is used in the context of developing software. This was a specific approach used in the creation of computer programs. Now open source has become widely famous in projects and products that encourage the open exchange concept and related knowledge. There are also advantages like collaboration among participants involved with the open source projects, rapid prototyping, community-based development, and transparency.

Open source software have also been built along the same concepts of open source. In open source software, the source code of the software can be modified, inspected and enhanced.

In most programs, the source code is the part of the computer programs that cannot be seen because they are hidden. This is the code that can be manipulated by the programmer in order to change the functions of the software . If the programmer has access to the source code, it will help in adding new features and fixing bugs.

In some software, the source code is only accessible by the person or organization that created it. The creators will only have exclusive control over such software. This type of software  is known as proprietary or closed software. Only the authors of the original software are able to copy, alter or inspect the source code. These types of software will display a license that the user will have to agree on when the software is run for the first time. The user of the software is permitted to make some changes to the software according to the  permissions granted by  the author. Some examples of such software are Microsoft Office software and Adobe Photoshop.

Open source software is very different when compared with proprietary software. The source code is made available to learn, alter, copy and share. Libre office is such a program. As with proprietary software, open source software also requires a license agreement but from a legal perspective, it differs dramatically.

The open source license will affect the use, study, modification and distribution of the software. Generally, open source software can be used for any purpose. Out of the open source licenses, copyleft licenses stipulates that the original source code should also be published when the code is modified and distributed. Some license also stipulates that when a program is modified and shared, a licensing fee cannot be charged for that particular program. One advantage of open source software is that it permits modification and incorporates changes into others projects. It encourages programmers to modify, view and share source code.

Key Difference - Freeware vs Open Source

What is the difference between Freeware and Open Source?

Characteristics of Freeware and Open Source:


Freeware : Freeware could be restricted to individual, academic, non-commercial use or a combination of these uses although it is free of cost. The program may be freely copied but cannot be sold.

Open Source : In open source, the source code can be modified and redistributed. During redistribution, some license may need to be adhered to. The user of the software may need to agree to terms and conditions during the installation of the program.

Source Code:

Freeware : Freeware can be downloaded, copied and used without restriction. The source code will not be visible to view, modify and share.

Open Source : The source code of the program will be available to be view modified and sometimes redistributed under certain conditions. Bugs can be fixed due to modification abilities.

Support and Communities:

Freeware : Freeware is free but cannot be modified. The author can only modify and change its functionality. Freeware is not supported by a community and does not have a development infrastructure.

Open Source : Usually, the application is free for the user as well as developers. Open source is supported by communities that collaborate with each other to develop it even further.


Freeware : Freeware is dependent on the author, organization or the team.

Open Source : Open source is not dependent on a single organization.


Freeware : Freeware is owned by the developer.

Open Source : Open Source  is not owned by a particular person, team, or organization.


Freeware : Freeware can be changed to a paid version if the developer wishes.

Open Source : Open Source  cannot be turned into a paid product.


Freeware : Freeware may not be improved.

Open Source : Open source has the potential to be improved with the help of community support.


Freeware : Freeware is a very small program

Open Source : Open source is largest free software in the world.

 Image Courtesy:

“VLC Media Player 2.1.6.” By Logevent – Own work (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia

“Skype.png” By Source (Fair use) via Commons Wikimedia