Is there a downside to those Internet trial CDs?

A number of new and prospective PC users have asked for advice in choosing an Internet service provider (ISP). In particular they want to know if there are any pitfalls in using one of the disks that offer a number of hours free. This is a fairly large area to cover, but we'll try to show you the things that you might later say you wished you'd known.

TANSTAAFL

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. People don't give Internet time away unless they expect to get a return from their generosity, at least over all the people who take advantage of it. The simple fact is, many people who try a free trial disk end up staying with the ISP, at least for a few months or even years.

Remember that no two offers are exactly the same, and it's up to you to investigate the features, limitations and obligations of the offer you're thinking of taking up. Let's take an imaginary offer from Dingo.com which offers 75 hours of free access.

The credit card

Most offers require you to give your (or your dad's) credit card details. What you'll be saying is "If I don't specifically tell you to cancel this membership on the last day of the free month, I agree to pay a monthly fee for all future months I remain a user." You usually have to pay a whole month even if you go a day over the free period. Sometimes you also have to pay a joining fee, even to get the free month. It's a sad fact, but you have to check your credit card statements very well to make sure they do accept your instructions to terminate the contract. And if you do stay a user, it probably doesn't hurt to check your bills from time to time, both online and on the credit card statement.

Free hours

75 free hours are only 75 hours if you use them up within the first month. You can't carry them over into the next month. You'll also start paying for any hours in the first month that are in excess of 75. On the other hand, you can have a lot of fun exploring the Web in 75 free hours.

Getting stuck

One thing that new users don't think about is what they'll use as their e-mail address. People who sign up with Dingo.com will get an e-mail address like onionfeatures@dingo.com.au. The longer you use it, the harder it is to give it up, as all your friends and all of the mailing lists you've joined will have to be told when you change. That is, if you decide to stop using Dingo as your ISP you will have to give up the e-mail address. The alternative is to use one of those free e-mail accounts such as Hotmail, or get your own permanent e-mail address that allows you to change ISPs as often as you like. You still need an ISP, but your mail comes via your permanent address.

Take a look at www.mailbank.com. It offers you an e-mail account like fred@jones.com but there's a degree of luck involved, as Mailbank may not have been able to register the domain jones.com so it can't sell the subdomain "fred" to you. It's well worth a look. It costs $US20 to set it up and $US5 a year thereafter.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Zucker

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?