Best Free Antivirus Software:
Avira AntiVir – Download
“My top pick if you’re looking for the best protection against virus, spyware and rootkit threats. AntiVir is very light on resources and the detection rate of malware is outstanding, better than almost every other antivirus according to tests.”
High Quality Alternatives:
Provides an essential layer of protection from a multitude of virus, trojan, worm, spyware, adware, dialer, keylogger and rootkit infections. Most current antiviruses have at least reasonably good detection rates of all forms of malware. We recommend using only one antivirus program for real-time protection.
Best Free Firewall:
Comodo Internet Security – Download
“The security effectiveness of the firewall and application monitor (Defense+ HIPS) exceeds the performance of many commercial products. On the minus side, it’s rather talkative and this may alarm or annoy users.” The antivirus component is optional and not recommended.
Firewalls not only filter incoming traffic to your computer but they also increasingly help you to control the activities of Internet facing applications on your PC. The ones that provide the most control and security, typically require the most user involvement to answer popup alerts. If all the popup alerts are meaningless to you, then at a minimum remember to enable the windows firewall. In any case, only install one software firewall.
Best Free Adware/Spyware/Scumware Remover:
SuperAntiSpyware – Download
“Top of the list once again in detection and removal of malware, with a fairly lightweight download and simple installation.”
Additional scanners/removers will often find additional unique threats. Regular on-demand anti-malware scanning is still a must.
Best Free Intrusion Prevention and Detection Utility (HIPS Software):
ThreatFire – Download
“It has now bounced back to the top of the pile and is far less capable of causing system problems. It provides behavioral based detection and runs from the box without the need for additional configuration. Be aware that automatic updates are not provided with the free version if you elect to “opt out” of the ThreatFire Community.”
If you need a lite HIPS alternative, try WinPatrol.
If you use a simple firewall (such as the built-in windows firewall), then a HIPS program provides a potent second layer of defense. But some anti-virus/anti-spyware programs have a behavioral component too.
Best Free Browser Protection Utility:
Sandboxie – Download
“Creates a special sandbox environment on your PC [either for web browsing or any program]. So that within the virtual sandbox provided by Sandboxie the vital portions of your PC are totally isolated. If set correctly, any spyware, Trojans, keyloggers or other malware products that ‘infect’ your PC while browsing will be eliminated. It can cause problems on some PCs so backup before installing.
Alternatively, you can isolate your browser and other Internet facing applications with GesWall. It provides excellent security and is a worthy alternative to Sandboxie” (see the review above).
Browser protection utilities like Sandboxie and GeSWall can greatly increase your defenses against drive-by downloads and other vulnerabilities. Instead of only reacting to malware, they use proactive technology to protect your computer.
Best Free Anonymous Surfing Service:
Cyber Ghost – Download
“Cyber Ghost VPN is a VPN client offered by S.A.D. GmbH and their servers are based in Germany. They use 128-bit AES encryption on all connections to ensure a high level of anonymity and use data compression to make connections to their servers faster.
For their free service, they offer 1 GB a month which is more than enough for surfing the web. You must register in order to use this service.
It’s GUI is very basic. attractive and user-friendly. They have just recently hit half a million users and are growing fast. I am very pleased with this product. It’s well worth a look.”
Anonymity services safely transmit information with little risk of local interception, making them ideal for surfing on open Wi-Fi networks or in hotels while traveling.
Ashampoo WinOptimizer – Download
“It’s very easy to use and has a sleek interface. Allows one-click cleaning for disk, privacy and registry cleaning tasks, and has an excellent tweaking tool.”
Note that it requires registration and some components are not as advanced as other products, such as the disk defrag and disk cleaner.
Intended as an all-in-one PC performance optimizer and tweaker to simplify system tasks that typically require many separate specialty programs.
Wise Registry Cleaner – Download
“The most satisfactory product I have come across. It allows you to backup the Registry before you start and it doesn’t check areas where most Registry tricks are played. I caution against changing the default settings unless you have a good understanding of the Registry and how applications use it.”
If you use registry cleaners such as Wise, CCleaner, or WinOptimizer, be sure to backup and image first. Registry cleaning mistakes can quickly lead to the need to completely re-install windows.
Auslogics Disk Defrag – Download
“The latest release is way ahead of the competition. I found the defragmentation time to be incredibly fast, and for the first time in a while, the long process of defragmenting my hard drive was shrunk to minutes.”
Defragmenting your hard drive on a regular basis is a sound housekeeping habit. It can greatly increase system performance and relieve stress on your hard drive.
CCleaner – Download
“Quickly and effectively remove unused or temporary files, unwanted cookies, and other unneeded files that accumulate from applications.”
Additionally, it can scan the Windows registry for issues, securely erase, manage the startup, uninstall software, clean system restore points, and run automatically at startup or as a task.
Eraser – Download
“Highly effective at wiping the free space, leaving behind only unrecoverable nonsense file names on modern size hard drives. It erases the unused disk space (or “free space”), cluster tips (or “slack space”), individual files or folders, and data in the recycling bin.”
Normal file deletion doesn’t prevent a common file recovery program from recovering your files, so eraser utilities are helpful to permanently delete any personally identifiable or unwanted files to protect your privacy.
Revo Uninstaller – Download
“It is the only freeware product I know of that will make a decent job of cleaning up a failed install. It finds leftover files and registry entries to help uninstall more cleanly, but it doesn’t always find everything.
An alternative technique (requiring more work on your part) allows you to monitor before and after an installation to completely remove files and registry entries. For this, try ZSoft Uninstaller. But there is always the slight chance it will remove unwanted entries, so use caution.”
The Windows control panel has limited uninstalling capabilities, but freeware programs like Revo and ZSoft allow for better deletion of programs by removing many files and registry entries that are usually left behind.
Autoruns – Download
Besides startup/logon management, Autoruns also allows you to manage services, drivers, sidebar gadgets, scheduled tasks, image hijacks, Winlogin entries (that many other startup managers miss), and more, but use it carefully.
Alternatively, average users could use Starter, CCleaner, Revo Uninstaller, etc.
If you have a system full of programs running in the background that don’t do very much (and a start menu full of near useless tray icons), then startup managers are especially helpful for increasing system performance. Run programs when you want, not when they decide.
Bullzip PDF Printer or PDFill Writer
“Both have more of the options I need (encrypt and password protect PDF files, add watermarks, append files, adjust output quality, edit metadata), and have worked flawless for me.”
PDF writers act like a pseudo printer on your system. When you want to create a PDF document from pretty much any application you just choose to print it to the PDF printer and it creates a PDF document.
PDFill PDF Tools – Download
“Clean and nice user interface, includes most features such as merge, split, reorder, rotate, header and footer with page number, watermark, encrypt and decrypt, convert PDF to images or vice versa, convert PostScript to PDF.”
Some programs in this review are designed to combine merging, splitting and other capabilities in a single application (like PDFill), but some perform a more specific task (see the Specific Tools section in the review).
PDF-XChange Viewer – Download
“Loads reasonably fast, can print PDFs, allows basic annotation without watermarking, good text clarity, allows you to fill and save Adobe PDF forms, extract text and images, magnify text, and export PDF pages or documents to BMP, JPEG, TIFF, PNG formats.”
Third party readers like PDF-XChange help you to replace the slow and bulky Adobe PDF Reader.
OpenOffice – Download
“OpenOffice covers the basics of office document creation: word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and databases. It allows you to save your documents in many choices of file formats, so you’ll have no problem exchanging documents with MS Office.”
Free substitutes for MS Office like this go a long way to meeting the needs of home users, small businesses, and many others.
LiberKey – Download
“Liberkey has 305 applications to choose from including most popular ones. If you know what you want I would suggest installing Standard suite and adding other apps to your taste. ”
Software suites is a great way of having your favorite applications in one place and it is completely portable.
Picturenaut – Download
“If you are looking for straight forward images without excessive tone mapping this has to be your top software. Provides image alignment, exposure correction, color balancing, noise level compensation, and derivation of the camera curve from the source images.”
HDR photography combines several photos of the same scene, taken at different exposure settings, into one photo. The details of dark areas (from a longer-duration exposure) are combined with the details of brightly lit areas (from a shorter-duration exposure). The result is a single photo that is correctly exposed and also looks more dimensional.
LightBox Image Editor or Paint.net
“Lightbox is my top pick for basic image editing because it has an attractive user interface and it’s simple and straight forward to use.
Paint.net is a very good choice for mid-level photo retouching because of its excellent design and attractive interface. It also has options and tools comparable to commercial software, but it requires you to install Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or newer.”
See here for related online apps and services.
Basic editors like Lightbox allow you to quickly make small adjustments to the overall lighting, colors, and tones of your images (along with other tools: cropping, sharpening, red eye correction). But editors like Paint.net offer more advanced tools (layers, captions, shapes, selective adjustments, artistic effects, etc.). See the review for editors comparable to professional programs.
Zoner Photo Studio Free – Download
“It is organized into a manager, a fullscreen viewer and an editor, and is perfect for the needs of average users. It reads many formats, generates thumbnails in a blink, complete with a powerful search with many filters, a lot of display options, full shortcut customization, the ability to temporarily rotate pictures and to straighten them by drawing a horizontal line. You can also organize pictures into albums, geotag, build calendars, stitch panoramas, make 3D pictures and more.”
High Quality Image Viewer Alternatives:
Apart from the basic viewing and browsing functions, digital image viewers offer loads of features like editing, filtering, batch processing, organizing, publishing, etc.
PicPick – Download
“A powerful and user friendly screen capture tool with a plethora of features. Captures full screen, active window, and other regions (rectangular, fixed, or freehand). Supports auto-scroll, dual monitors, sound effect and multiple formats. An image editor is included, plus several extras: color picker, screen ruler, protractor, cross hair and whiteboard.”
As an alternative to the utilities that come with windows, free screen capture products like PicPick cover many useful features and functions: capture full or selected areas, auto detect windows, snap scrolling windows, allow delayed captures, etc.
Opera – Download
“Close behind, once a paid software, Opera might be the most feature rich browser ever. Its eye candy interface combined with speed, security and lightness gives us a rich browsing experience.
High Quality Web Browser Alternatives:
Mozilla Thunderbird – Download
“Intuitive user interface and highly customizable and expandable through add-ons. More secure than Outlook Express and, unlike the latter, is still being actively developed.”
In addition to sending and receiving email, email programs like Thunderbird can manage your contacts and calendar, read news groups and RSS newsfeeds, and even integrate with various web-based mail systems like GMail and Hotmail.
Best Free Bittorrent Client:
qBittorrent – Download
“Low and stable RAM and CPU with all the necessary features. Performs excellently on torrents and is unlikely to cause any issues”
You may also want to browse the related guides, Optimizing qBittorrent for Speed and Optimizing Bittorrent Clients.
Bittorrent quickly became an important download format for its speed, efficiency, and cheapness in distributing content over the Internet. Learn more about Bittorrent here.
Best Free Download Manager:
Free Download Manager – Download
“A popular download manager and a good choice for its stability, nice user interface and support for various browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari.”
There comes a time when you are downloading a large file and the download stops part of the way through. Specialized download managers like Free Download Manager will allow you to resume a download, start several concurrent download sessions, and dramatically improve download speed.
Best Free Remote Access Software:
TeamViewer – Read Review
“The first and highest rated product in the ‘unattended’ category is TeamViewer. I made it my top pick for a couple of reasons. It is very reliable, allows both attended and unattended control and has great features. There is a portable version of the viewer if you want to use an application or they also have a web-based control site that requires no installation to remotely control computers. The web-based version uses HTML and Flash so it is useable even if the browser or firewall doesn’t allow Java or ActiveX.”
Remotely administer another computer for off-site troubleshooting or for accessing your home PC while traveling.
ImgBurn – Download |
“Most powerful burning application with advanced features, support for every modern optical disc from CD to Blu-Ray, more than 10 image formats, authoring rewritable discs, etc.”
Whether backing up data, preparing an audio mix CD, or creating a bootable Linux disc, finding the right burning software is essential.
Best Free Media Player:
The KM Player – Download |
“Easy to use and install, awesome playback, and no need for extra codec packs, making it easy to use for those with less experience. Other features include setting multifarious audio and video effects, slow down or increase playback speed with regular tone, etc.”
Capable of playing multiple types of media files, including various digital audio and video formats, CDs, and DVDs.
Best Free Music Player and Organizer:
Jaangle – Download |
“The library is impressive for organizing music, the download capabilities enhance the music experience (get artist and album photos, reviews, bios, etc.), and the auto continue (or “auto DJ”) mode chooses songs based on many tag categories (artist, genre, all music, etc.). It achieves a good balancing act between lightness, resource efficiency, and feature support for music lovers.
If you need more music managing features all in one program, try MusicBee.”
Music players like Jaangle and MusicBee serve as excellent MP3 players and play most popular audio formats. As music centric programs, they may inspire you to rip or download music, organize your music collection, or learn more about your favorite artists or songs.
Best Free MP3 Tag Editor:
TagScanner – Download |
“Supports basic and extended tags, complete with Music Renamer and Tag Processor. It allows you to preview tag information and cover art from online databases like freedb or Amazon.
But if you prefer a more normal user interface then Mp3tag is a good alternative.”
Useful for when you need to playback audio files with their tag information shown correctly or to organize a large music collection based on tag information.
Best Free Audio & Video Format Conversion:
iWisoft Free Video Converter – Download |
“Simple polished interface, file and preset editing allowed, good device presets. It even has a few pleasant surprises, such as a basic editing suite built in. In short, this program is an outstanding choice for almost any device conversion.”
Despite its name, it converts a huge number of both video and audio formats, and as a nice extra also provides some video editing.
Converters like iWisoft make many different audio and video formats compatible for use with common devices or programs. Most devices will only take a few specific formats; for example, a DVD movie will not play on an iPod without being converted into an MP4 file.
Best Free Video Editor:
Avidemux – Download |
“My personal favorite for multi-purpose video editing and processing because of its simplicity, wide range of tools, and well documented tutorials. Supports many file types including AVI, DVD compatible MPEG files, MP4 and ASF.”
Video editing is becoming ever more prevalent and crucial; both to the aspiring young director and to the mom who just wants to save old memories.
Best Free Audio Editor:
Audacity – Download |
“It does all the recording and editing I need, and is much simpler and faster to use than a lot of pay products. It easily applies noise profiles and saves in multiple compressed formats.”
Excellent free products like Audacity give a professional touch to your recordings. For example, podcasting enthusiasts use them to record, edit, mix, and save sound on their PCs. They may even make entire downloadable shows that sound almost as good as a professional production.
Best Free Online TV Viewer:
JLC’s Internet TV Viewer – Download |
“A simple, but effective TV streams viewer that doesn’t have much overhead. The channel guide is maintained by users and is very complete. User ratings help you choose good streams, and a favorites category helps you corral the streams you like. Requires Windows Media Player, Real Player, or VLC.”
Get Podcasts, video on demand, reruns of past shows, and live video streams. Many TV stations make their over-the-air broadcasts available as Live streams, but quality can vary. You may also find independent and international networks that aren’t carried by cable companies.
Best Free CD & DVD Emulation Software:
Gizmo Drive – Download |
“Support up to 26 virtual drives, create ISO image, burn ISO files or folders to recordable disks, complete with Gizmo Manager and Image Wizard to perform tasks.”
Emulation software allows users to run a CD/DVD image directly from a hard disk after mounting the image to a virtual disk drive. This works the same as or even better than the traditional way of running a CD/DVD from a disk drive.
Best Free Streaming Media Recorder:
Jing – Download |
“Comes with an eye-catching interface, and outperforms the competition in the quality of its recorded stream. Allows you to manually select a recording area on your screen, capture images, play videos, save to vendor servers, and create links for public viewing.”
A good option for most users is to use a free web service to record streaming media (such as ZamZar, SplanDoo and YouConvertIt), and if that fails, simply record the streaming media while it is playing on your PC.
Best Free CD Ripper:
Exact Audio Copy – Download |
“Rips CD imperfections and scratches with ease. Of 800 or so CDs, I only had 7 tracks that EAC couldn’t rip perfectly. Given the condition of some of my CDs, that’s a mighty impressive performance. Rips to WAV, MP3, OGG, FLAC, APE, and more audio formats.”
Digitize your music collection to use on a computer or other player.
Backup Maker – Download |
“Here is a personal backup software that is easy to understand and use, while still offering a very good set of features. It has a slick modern interface that makes it easy on the eyes, as well as to navigate. It has setup wizard that takes you step by step through the job creation process, with the choice to show or hide advanced options.”
You might also be interested in Real-Time Continuous Backup Freebie.
Backup software like GFI has wizards and step by step guides to make the process painless, giving you confidence that it will continue to work behind the scenes to protect your data. They include support for scheduling and backing up to local and online storage locations, verification of backup archives, and easy to use restore functions.
Best Free Drive Imaging Software:
Paragon Backup and Recovery Free – Download |
“Overall a reliable program with some great features to handle the needs of most users: fast complete backup and restore, basic partitioning, differential backups, individual file restore, cyclic backup, hard drive cloning, and good compression options.”
Disk Imaging has rapidly become a must have tool for most users because of its convenience, speed, and ease of use. It nearly eliminates any reason at all for going through the painful process of completely reinstalling, re-updating, and re-customizing Windows. A user can quickly recover from a system crash or a bad virus infection by simply restoring to a backup image.
Best Free Software Update Monitor:
Software Update Monitor (SUMo) – Download |
“This is perhaps the best software update monitor for expert users. It’s faster than Secunia’s PSI and easily adds portable software. It’s not restricted to any one download site. However, it doesn’t provide direct download links.
Warning: choose the download link.”
If you have many scattered programs and programs that don’t automatically check for updates, then an update monitor lets you know when new versions come out. They also allow you to scan custom folders to include portable apps. You can then update old software to get the latest features or security fixes.\
Best Free Folder Synchronization Utility:
PureSync – Download |
“Over all I was very pleased with its numerous features and ease of use, and heartily recommend it to the average user. It has a good preview of what files are going to be copied, updated, or deleted when performing a sync job. Supports scheduling and auto syncing.”
Synchronization utilities are important in helping you keep identical versions of your files or folders, say, on both your home computer and office computer.
Best Free File Manager:
xplorer² lite – Download |
“Offers more functionality and customization than Windows Explorer, but with an interface sufficiently similar to Explorer that most users will find it easy to learn and use. Supports dual panes and folder tabs.”
Best Free File Encryption Utility:
TrueCrypt – Download |
“Use this seasoned encryption program when you want an encrypted container that mounts as a virtual drive. You simply mount its encrypted files/volumes and then use the content like any other drive. TrueCrypt’s open source status allows peer review of the source code, adding to its trustworthiness. It also comes with a ‘Traveler mode’ for portable encryption.”
Encryption is normally used to protect highly sensitive documents, but it’s a good way to stop people from looking at your personal stuff.” Learn about other important steps/cautions beyond encryption .
Best Free Partition Manager:
EASEUS Partition Master – Download |
“Intuitive and user-friendly interface, features include resize, move, copy, create, delete, hide, unhide, convert, explore and format partitions with a single step.”
One of the objectives of having multiple partitions is for the separation of user files from system files. By keeping user files in a separate partition from the operating system, user files can usually remain intact if the operating system needs to be reinstalled.