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Windows is bathed in a sea of free applications. Which ones can you trust and which ones are the best?

Consult this list for ideas and discover apps you didn’t know existed. We’re continuously seeking out the best Windows software for all your needs. Almost all of the applications are free and you can quickly find what you need by browsing the listed programs by category.


Note that some installers pack bloatware Begin The Fight Back Against Toolbar Installer Bloatware! [Opinion] Begin The Fight Back Against Toolbar Installer Bloatware! [Opinion] Recently I had cause to install some free video conversion software and was amazed to find so many attempts to fool me into installing additional software, not to mention attempts to upsell at the end... Read More , useless adware that’s pre-selected to install. It’s the bane of freeware. Fortunately, bloatware can be removed How To Remove Bloatware & Avoid It On New Laptops How To Remove Bloatware & Avoid It On New Laptops Tired of software you never wanted consuming your laptop's resources? Your computer isn't free ad space. Here's how to get rid of bloatware. Read More . Just keep your eyes open during installation and remove checkmarks for “features & services” you don’t want. We have made an effort to point out the presence of bloatware where possible. You can help us out with a comment if we missed it somewhere.

Last updated: December 19 2014

Navigation: Antivirus | Malware Removal | Firewalls | Defragging | File Recovery | Uninstallers | Backup & Sync | PC Maintenance | Browsers | Email Clients | Communication Tools | Image Viewers | Image Editors | Audio Tools | Video Tools | Files & Drives | Online File Storage Tools | Text Editing | PDF Tools | EbooksProductivity | Optical & Disc Image Tools | Download Tools | Miscellaneous

Antivirus ^

Antivirus tools are a cornerstone in protecting your computer from external attacks. While it shouldn’t be your only protection, it’s important that you install a single antivirus application only! Installing several antivirus tools on the same computer can potentially cause issues, to the point where they lock your computer up.

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Avira Free Antivirus 2015

Lightweight and solid antivirus package. Awarded one of the best free antivirus suites in 2013 by AV-Comparatives and one of the best tools in their 2014 “real world” protection test. Security made in Germany.

AVG AntiVirus Free 2015

Comes with protection for your computer, web, identity, emails, and a firewall. Like Avira, it came out as one of the best antivirus packages in AV-Comparatives’ 2014 “real world” protection test.

Avast Free Antivirus 2015

Avast Free Antivirus

The free antivirus software from Avast Stay Protected From Every Type Of Malware With Avast Free Antivirus Stay Protected From Every Type Of Malware With Avast Free Antivirus Comprehensive malware protection doesn't need to cost a fortune. Many reputable free antivirus programs are equally effective as paid ones, and avast! Free Antivirus stands with the best Windows antivirus programs. Read More packs a lot of features into a clean interface. It provides all-around protection against viruses and trojans.

In a recent poll for best antivirus software What Is The Best Free Antivirus Software? [MakeUseOf Poll] What Is The Best Free Antivirus Software? [MakeUseOf Poll] Because no matter how careful you are when using the Internet, it's always advisable to have antivirus software installed on your computer. Yes, even Macs. Read More , we found that Microsoft Security Essentials was still very popular among our readers. Nevertheless, we presently advise against using MSE Why You Should Replace Microsoft Security Essentials With A Proper Antivirus Why You Should Replace Microsoft Security Essentials With A Proper Antivirus Read More . If you are running Windows 8 or up, you’ll be offered Windows Defender instead of MSE Five Tips For Managing Your Security In Windows 8.1 Five Tips For Managing Your Security In Windows 8.1 Read More .

Malware Removal ^

The following tools complement your antivirus application. While they might have overlapping features, both with your antivirus and each other, you can install one or more of these programs on a single computer.

Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes

The popular anti-malware scanner detects and removes worms, trojans, rootkits, rogues, spyware, and any other malware that infested your PC. If you’re not interested in the premium version, unselect the free trial option before completing the installation.

Spybot Search & Destroy

Spybot Search & Destroy

Spybot Search & Destroy’s free version targets spyware only Spybot - Search & Destroy: The Simple, Yet Effective Route For Cleaning Your PC Of Malware Spybot - Search & Destroy: The Simple, Yet Effective Route For Cleaning Your PC Of Malware With the ever-growing list of threats out there, one can never be too cautious. Sure you can watch what websites you visit and what you download, but even with those precautions, you should have some... Read More and compliments your main antivirus app. Home and professional versions include antivirus and other advanced features for a small annual fee. Spybot offers an ad-free download via its own mirrors.

Should I Remove It?

Should I Remove It?

Should I Remove It? scans the software installed on your computer Know What Software To Uninstall With Should I Remove It? Know What Software To Uninstall With Should I Remove It? Here at MakeUseOf, we've put out many articles reviewing and highlighting software that allows you to completely and cleanly uninstall applications from your system. One issue many of you run into is not knowing which... Read More and points out adware, bloatware, and other software worth tossing. It draws the information from a database of applications, fed with the wisdom of the crowd, to which you contribute by using the service. If you’re unsure which programs to purge, try this!

Dr.Web CureIt!

Dr.Web CureIt!

A standalone scanner for malicious objects that can be used alongside your existing virus scanner with no installation required.

Secunia PSI

If you frequently install and test software, you might want to take additional precuations. Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) scans over 3,000 third party applications and promises to close the backdoors they bring in.

Beyond this set of anti-malware tools, you might want to try SUPERAntiSpyware for tricky cases.

Firewalls ^

A good firewall completes your basic security setup.

Online Armor

Online Armor

Emisof’s firewall for a malware free world is considered one of the best firewalls out there. Your initial download is a 30 day free trial of the premium version, which you can downgrade to a free limited version once the trial expires. The free version comes with the firewall and a host intrusion prevention system (HIPS). On top of that, the premium version offers advanced controls and a banking mode.

Comodo Firewall

Comodo continues to offer one of the best free firewalls on the market. You can monitor in/out connections and manage traffic on your PC through an intuitive interface. Comodo offers Default Deny Protection (DDP) technology, which ensures that no malicious connection attempt escapes your attention.

PrivateFirewall

While the website needs a facelift, the application itself sports an intuitive user interface that quickly lets you handle its comprehensive features.

Other popular tools in this category:

  • ZoneAlarm Free Firewall, a popular firewall with comprehensive features.
  • PeerBlock, a tool for controlling your PC’s communication with ad or spyware servers

Defragging ^

Fragmented data can slow your computer down. Defragging restores order 3 Excellent Defrag Utilities & Why You Still Need to Defragment In 2012 3 Excellent Defrag Utilities & Why You Still Need to Defragment In 2012 Accessing files from the hard drive is a speed limiting step in operating a computer. Hard drives used to be a major bottle neck and fragmentation of data slowed them down even further. With the... Read More on your hard drive. Note that defragging a solid state drive 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD For years, standard hard drives have been the speed limiting factor in overall system responsiveness. While hard drive size, RAM capacity, and CPU speed have grown almost exponentially, the spinning speed of a hard drive,... Read More (SSD) can reduce its lifespan.

Defraggler

A portable defragging tool Defraggler: Better Defragmentation Software For Windows Defraggler: Better Defragmentation Software For Windows Alternative defragmentation tools have been mentioned for years and years now, as most people deem the default defragmenter that comes with Windows to be insufficient. There are plenty of different solutions that try to out-do... Read More , sporting solid features, paired with a pleasing and intuitive interface. You can benchmark your drive, view a file list and drive map, as well as examine drive health.

IObit Smart Defrag

IObit Smart Defrag

This defragger is easy to set up and runs in the background. Be sure to read our IObit Smart Defrag review IObit Smart Defrag: A Superb Hard Drive Defragmentation & Optimization Tool [Windows] IObit Smart Defrag: A Superb Hard Drive Defragmentation & Optimization Tool [Windows] Do you defrag your hard drive? If not, you should and you must understand the importance before you read on. There are some excellent articles on MakeUseOf which discuss defragmenting, but perhaps the best and... Read More for advice regarding setup and advanced settings.

File Recovery ^

Did you ever wish you could turn back time to recover your lost files Turn Back Time: 4 Tools & Tips To Restore Deleted Files In Windows Turn Back Time: 4 Tools & Tips To Restore Deleted Files In Windows One of Windows' biggest flaws could be your rescue, should you ever accidentally delete an important file: The Windows file system does not actually delete files. Until they are overwritten, deleted files can be restored. Read More ? With the following tools you need neither a DeLorean, nor a flux capacitor, a little luck will do. Just remember not to write any data to the disk you wish to recover files from.

Recuva

Recuva

The Recuva wizard can take you through the process of recovering files or you can manually pick drives to be scanned. Designed for intuitive use by the makers of CCleaner. To recover photos from digital camera memory, try TestDisk’s open source companion PhotoRec, which can recover a wide range of accidentally deleted files Recover Accidentally Deleted Files From Any OS With PhotoRec [Windows, Mac, & Linux] Recover Accidentally Deleted Files From Any OS With PhotoRec [Windows, Mac, & Linux] In June I switched over from a combination of Windows and Linux to pretty much using OS X solely, and being largely familiar with Windows software (and painfully aware of the lack of many Linux... Read More , including photos.

TestDisk

TestDisk

Open source tool that’s considered one of the best applications for recovering lost partitions or making non-booting disks bootable again. Is operated through a command prompt window, but comes with thorough documentation, which will allow even novices to compile information for recovery by a professional.

More recommendable applications in this category:

Uninstallers ^

Revo Uninstaller Free

Probably the most popular tool in this category. Easy to use and thorough, even comes with a hunter mode that will track down and eliminate programs based on icons or shortcuts on your screen. See our review of third party uninstallers 3 Best Third-Party Uninstallers & Why You Need Them 3 Best Third-Party Uninstallers & Why You Need Them To uninstall a Windows program, you can’t just hit 'Delete’ -- you need to run the software’s uninstaller. Unfortunately, the 'Uninstall a program’ option in the Windows Control Panel does not always completely remove it... Read More for more details.

IObit Uninstaller

Why would you want to install an uninstaller? The developers of IObit Uninstaller 2 must have wondered as much and made the tool a lightweight portable app.

Other tools in this category:

Backup & Sync ^

When your computer came with Windows 8, you don’t need a fleet of backup tools. Windows 8 has a built-in Time Machine backup Did You Know Windows 8 Has a Built-In Time Machine Backup? Did You Know Windows 8 Has a Built-In Time Machine Backup? We sometimes forget with all the focus on Windows 8's new "Modern" interface, but Windows 8 has a variety of great desktop improvements. One of them is File History, a built-in backup feature that functions... Read More and with OneDrive you can sync files and folders across devices. It never hurts to have alternative backup solutions 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 By now, we're sure you've read the advice over and over: Everyone needs to back up their files. But deciding to back up your files is only part of the process. There are so many... Read More though.

FreeFileSync

FreeFileSync

Open source folder comparison and synchronizaton tool optimized for ease of use. Also available for Linux and Mac and as portable Windows app. We thought it was a better sync tool Is FreeFileSync Better Sync Software Than Microsoft SyncToy? [Windows] Is FreeFileSync Better Sync Software Than Microsoft SyncToy? [Windows] Sync programs make local backups a snap by copying only changed files. Dropbox and other cloud storage systems are great, but they aren't as fast as a USB flash drive or removable hard drive to... Read More than Microsoft’s SyncToy. Be sure to deselect bloatware during setup.

If nags are a no-go, try the following alternatives:

EaseUS Todo Backup

EaseUS To Do Backup

Free backup solution that includes disaster recovery option. Can back up files and folders, create an image of the entire operating system, or clone disks to migrate data. Supports comprehensive full backup, incremental backup, and differential backup. See our EaseUS Todo Backup review Backup Your PC With Ease For Free Using Easeus Todo Backup [Windows] Backup Your PC With Ease For Free Using Easeus Todo Backup [Windows] Read More for more details.

Alternatives:

Box

Box Sync and Backup

10 GB free online storage & cross-platofrm sync included with a personal Box account. File transfers are encrypted with high-grade SSL and stored with 256-bit AES encryption. Desktop apps for Windows and Mac, mobile apps for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry available.

More apps in this category:

PC Maintenance ^

Third party applications can impact your system’s performance. They can accumulate temporary files and huge caches, launch with Windows and consume resources in the background, while getting outdated over time. PC maintenance tools can help you keep your computer running smoothly on the software side or analyze issues with your hardware.

CCleaner

CCleaner

CCleaner is the PC maintenance gold standard Optimize Your System To Run At Its Best With CCleaner Optimize Your System To Run At Its Best With CCleaner Over the last two years, CCleaner has changed quite a bit in terms of version numbers...up now to version 3.10 at the time of this writing. While visually the program actually hasn't changed much (it's... Read More . The award-winning optimization tool scores high points all around. Clean junk files, make your browsing safer, or speed up your startup times. If you absolutely have to use its registry cleaner Don't Believe The Hype: Registry Cleaners Don't Make Windows Faster Don't Believe The Hype: Registry Cleaners Don't Make Windows Faster Much advice has been given on how to keep your computer running smoothly, as well as how to fix it when it has become slow. We have even published a Windows on Speed guide, written... Read More , be sure to back up the registry 3 Tools To Monitor & Examine The Windows Registry 3 Tools To Monitor & Examine The Windows Registry The Windows registry is one of the most poorly understood parts of the Windows operating system. We show you tools that can simplify the registry and help you identify issues. Read More first.

PC-Wizard

PC Wizard

PC Wizard is a comprehensive benchmarking tool for your PC and its components. If you prefer a more selective overview, try CPU-Z (our CPU-Z review Learn Everything About Your Computer Specifications With Free, Portable CPU-Z Learn Everything About Your Computer Specifications With Free, Portable CPU-Z Even if you’re not overly geeky, you probably have a rough idea of how much memory and what sort of processor your computer has. But what about its other statistics? For example, do you know... Read More ) for basic CPU, mainboard, memory, and system data, GPU-Z (our GPU-Z review Get To Know Your Graphics Accelerator In Excruciating Detail With GPU-Z [Windows] Get To Know Your Graphics Accelerator In Excruciating Detail With GPU-Z [Windows] The GPU, or graphics processing unit, is the part of your computer in charge of handling graphics. In other words, if games are choppy on your computer or it can’t handle very high quality settings,... Read More ) for information about your graphics card, and SpeedFan (our SpeedFan review SpeedFan Tells All: A Free Windows App To Monitor Every Aspect Of Your System Temperature SpeedFan Tells All: A Free Windows App To Monitor Every Aspect Of Your System Temperature Just as shorting a computer out will ruin it, making it run in temperatures it was never meant to take will cause it to malfunction. SpeedFan is a free utility for Windows designed to help... Read More ) to monitor PC voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures. Watch out for bloatware from CPUID when installing PC-Wizard or CPU-Z.

If you despise installers packed with unsolicitated apps, try Speccy, an advanced and stylish system information tool for your PC, made by the creators of CCleaner.

SUMo

SUMo

Software Update Monitor, short SUMo, monitors your installed software for available updates and downloads them for you. Be sure to deselect the default homepage setting during installation and click Cancel when prompted for it again! You can also quit the survey.

In addition to the tools above, we also recommend the following:

Browsers ^

Chrome

Google Chrome

Google’s minimal design browser that went from zero to hero in record time. Best browser if you’re already sold onto Google products. Receives frequent automatic updates and supports extensions from the Google Play store. See our Guide to Google Chrome The Easy Guide To Google Chrome The Easy Guide To Google Chrome This Chrome user guide shows everything you need to know about the Google Chrome browser. It covers the basics of using Google Chrome and also outlines more than a few advanced tricks. Enjoy! Read More to find out about custom settings and hacks.

Firefox

Firefox

With  more than 6,000 add-ons, Firefox remains the most customizable browser 6 Customization Tricks Only Possible In Firefox 6 Customization Tricks Only Possible In Firefox Firefox is a great browsers for many reasons, but one of the most important reasons is how it can be customized. Here are a few important tricks that prove you should be using Firefox. Read More on the market, offering its users more freedom than Chrome ever will.

Opera

Opera has pioneered new features Five Irresistable Reasons Why You Should Take Opera 11 For A Serious Spin Five Irresistable Reasons Why You Should Take Opera 11 For A Serious Spin In truth, Opera 11 is an absolutely amazing browser. If you take Opera as a “secondary” browser and only use it now and then, you may just fall in love with it. Here are some... Read More like tabs or the speed dial. It’s working hard to remain the fastest browser on the market.

Email Clients ^

Thunderbird

Thunderbird

Mozilla’s trusty and easy to use email client. Supports tabs, add-ons, and is also available as portable app.

We also recommend Postbox (our Postbox review Postbox Express - A Free New Email Client to Challenge Thunderbird Postbox Express - A Free New Email Client to Challenge Thunderbird Read More ), which you can try for 30 days, then buy for $9.95.

Do you know of any other free desktop email clients worthy of this list? Tell us which ones and why in the comments!

Communication Tools ^

Skype

Skype

Microsoft’s ultra popular cross-platform VoIP application Skype - The Best Tool For International Video Conferences & Cheap Phone Calls Skype - The Best Tool For International Video Conferences & Cheap Phone Calls On the surface, Skype looks like an application for text, audio, and video chats, a great way to stay in touch with a friends. Only that it's more than that. Skype is a Voice over... Read More to stay in touch with friends and family. Has reasonable rates for calling mobiles and landlines and attractive subscription packages. In an effort to compete with Google Hangouts, Skype now supports group video chats for non-premium accounts.

Pidgin

Pidgin

Easy-to-use, cross-platform, multi-protocol chat client (our Pidgin review Combine All Your IM Accounts In One Application With Pidgin [Windows & Linux] Combine All Your IM Accounts In One Application With Pidgin [Windows & Linux] Pidgin is a free instant-messaging client that combines all your IM accounts in one simple application. Instead of running several different IM clients that display ads and eat up memory, just use Pidgin. All your... Read More ). Supports all major chat programs. Similar tools are Digsby and Trillian.

TeamSpeak

Built with the gamer in mind, TeamSpeak is a popular VoIP solution TeamSpeak 3: The Original Cross-Platform Voice Chat For Gaming Teams and Clans TeamSpeak 3: The Original Cross-Platform Voice Chat For Gaming Teams and Clans I’m a big fan of voice communication when it comes to gaming. Wearing a headset while gaming adds a social element that makes the gaming experience that much better. While TeamSpeak may have started off... Read More that works across a range of desktop and mobile devices. Similar tools are Dolby Axon and Mumble.

Image Viewers ^

FastStone Image Viewer

FastStone

All in one image browser, converter and editor FastStone Image Viewer - Undoubtedly The Best Image Viewer, Converter & Editor Bundle FastStone Image Viewer - Undoubtedly The Best Image Viewer, Converter & Editor Bundle Read More that has never let us down. Supports all major graphic formats, including RAW and other digital camera formats. The makers of FastStone Image Viewer also offer a Capture tool and a Photo Resizer.

IrfanView

IrfanView

Simplistic on the surface, but awaits with advanced features under the hub, yet remains intuitive and easy to use. Classic image viewer View, Resize, & Manipulate Image Files With Classic Utility IrfanView [Windows] View, Resize, & Manipulate Image Files With Classic Utility IrfanView [Windows] We all work with image files, all the time; be they graphics for the Web, corporate images for work, or just holiday snaps. These days there are more digital images than ever before. Windows comes... Read More , which you can also use for simple edits or batch-processing files.

XnView

XnView

Cross-platform image viewer, organizer, and converter XnView - A Free Image Viewer and Image Converter You Should Really Consider XnView - A Free Image Viewer and Image Converter You Should Really Consider Read More  that comes with a huge selection of filters and supports 500 different formats.

Image Editors ^

GIMP

GIMP

Advanced open source and cross-platform image editor, often touted as free Photoshop alternative. See our review for a quick GIMP walkthrough GIMP: A Quick Walkthrough Of Everyone's Favorite Open Source Image Editor GIMP: A Quick Walkthrough Of Everyone's Favorite Open Source Image Editor Read More .

Paint.NET

Paint.NET

Free image editing tool with an intuitive interface for beginners and comprehensive features for intermediate users. Supports layers, unlimited undo, special effects, power tools, plugins, and when you’re stuck you can rely on a selection of tutorials and an active online community. See our Paint.NET review Paint.NET: The Best Image Editor Available That You Should Download Paint.NET: The Best Image Editor Available That You Should Download We all edit images to some degree. Whether it’s a simple crop or resize, or maybe just adding some text, it’s nice to have an image editor that is reliable, fast, easy to navigate and... Read More for more insights.

Potential alternatives to GIMP and Paint.NET, with a focus on photo editing:

We also recommend the following image editors:

  • Picasa for organizing, editing, and sharing photos online.
  • Inkscape for professionally editing vector graphics.
  • XnConvert for batch processing images.
  • RIOT for quickly optimizing photos.

Audio Tools ^

foobar2000

foobar2000

Advanced cross-platform audio player with highly customizable user interface. Supports gapless playback, can rip audio CDs and transcode supported audio formats, and is best used with custom keyboard shortcuts. See our foobar2000 review Play Music Like An Audiophile With Foobar2000 [Windows] Play Music Like An Audiophile With Foobar2000 [Windows] Foobar2000 is the desktop music player of choice for audiophiles, tinkerers and anyone looking for a lightweight, efficient program. We have it listed on our page of the best Windows software for a reason, although... Read More for more details.

MediaMonkey

If you have a large media collection, MediaMonkey can help you keep it organized (our MediaMonkey review MediaMonkey 4: An Extremely Powerful Music Management Program [Rewards] MediaMonkey 4: An Extremely Powerful Music Management Program [Rewards] I recently got my hands on a copy of MediaMonkey Gold, the premium version of the free music player, MediaMonkey. This full-featured music manager was once known as Songs-DB back when it first hit the... Read More ). It manages video and audio files, playlists, and can fill in missing track information automatically.

Spotify

Streaming music service Music Streaming With Spotify: What You Get For Free Music Streaming With Spotify: What You Get For Free The long awaited streaming music service, Spotify landed in the U.S. last week. Unlike other streaming services, however, Spotify offers an ad-supported free option, which makes millions of albums and songs available to you through... Read More  complete with Facebook integration, iDevice management, and playing music to remote speakers.

Other notable applications in this category:

Video Tools ^

VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player

Free and cross-platform video player that can play almost any video file The VLC Media Player - Does it Really Play Everything? The VLC Media Player - Does it Really Play Everything? Read More . Supports DVDs, CDs, VCDs, and a selection of streaming protocols, including YouTube playlists Watch Entire YouTube Playlists In VLC, Here's How Watch Entire YouTube Playlists In VLC, Here's How Do you love YouTube playlists, but wish you could watch them outside your browser? You can use VLC for the job, thanks to a simple extension. Here’s how. Read More . It can also rip and transcode videos 6 Cool VLC Tips & Tricks You Might Not Know About 6 Cool VLC Tips & Tricks You Might Not Know About VideoLan's VLC media player is a real box of tricks and is just as effective on a Windows operating system as it is on Mac or Linux. Those of you who are already using VLC... Read More or record video from your webcam 7 Top Secret Features Of The Free VLC Media Player 7 Top Secret Features Of The Free VLC Media Player That VLC pretty much plays everything that you throw at it is old news. It is also a media genie when it comes to other things apart from playing movies. We looked at some of... Read More .

Alternatives:

HandBrake

Handbrake

Open source, cross-platform, media converter that can convert video files between many different formats.

Alternatives to HandBrake:

MakeMKV

MakeMKV

A cross-platform video transcoder Rip Your DVDs & Blu-Rays With Absolute Ease With MakeMKV [Cross-Platform] Rip Your DVDs & Blu-Rays With Absolute Ease With MakeMKV [Cross-Platform] If you ripped all your DVDs and Blu-Rays, you could create an amazing media center. Of course the main obstacle to ripping is the disk's copy protection. Enter our hero: MakeMKV. Read More that can read DVDs and Blu-Rays and convert them into free formats. The Blu-Ray feature is a free trial.

CamStudio

CamStudio

A high quality freeware screen capture utility with support for lossless video output. Perfect for creating screencasts Show, Don't Tell! 3 Best Free Screencasting Tools for Windows Show, Don't Tell! 3 Best Free Screencasting Tools for Windows They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a video must be priceless - and there are times when a video is more convenient and effective than simple words. A screencast, also known... Read More or video tutorials.

KODI

Formerly known as XBMC, KODI is a media center package for your Home Theater PC (HTPC). It can stream live TV How To Stream Live TV To Your XBMC How To Stream Live TV To Your XBMC Watch live, streaming TV on your XBMC media center – without a cable subscription. Here are some add-ons worth checking out. Read More , allowing you to cut the cord Cut That Cord! How To Ditch Cable Cut That Cord! How To Ditch Cable Have you been thinking about cutting your pay-TV cord? I want to show you some of the pros and cons of cord cutting: it's not all major sacrifices. Read More on pricey cable TV services.

An alternative to KODI is Plex, a media center based on XBMC Your Guide To Plex - The Awesome Media Center Your Guide To Plex - The Awesome Media Center Love your digital collection of movies, TV shows and music, but hate using clumsy interfaces to play them on your TV? It's time to check out Plex, the ultimate media center software. Read More and originally designed for the Mac. It now also supports movie trailers Get Even Closer To The Cinema Experience With Plex Movie Trailers Get Even Closer To The Cinema Experience With Plex Movie Trailers The cross-platform media server Plex now supports movie trailers and extras. We show you how to add those clips to your movie library. Read More . James Bruce thinks Plex is the best media center software around. Making The Best Media Center Better, With a Plex Pass [Giveaway] Making The Best Media Center Better, With a Plex Pass [Giveaway] Love Plex? You'll love a Plex Pass even more. With new and exclusive features only for Plex Pass holders, it's the best way to support development of the best media centre app around. Read More

Files & Drives ^

TeraCopy

TeraCopy

Copy and move files at maximum speed Move or Copy PC Files Lightning-Fast with TeraCopy Move or Copy PC Files Lightning-Fast with TeraCopy Read More and pause & resume file transfers. When an issue comes up, TeraCopy won’t terminate a transfer like Windows Explorer does. Instead, it will show you the failed files after the transfer was completed.

EaseUS Partition Master

EaseUS Partition Master

EaseUS Partition Master is an advanced alternative Manage Your Hard Disk Partitions Like A Pro With EaseUS Partition Master [Windows] Manage Your Hard Disk Partitions Like A Pro With EaseUS Partition Master [Windows] When you ask a tech crowd about disk partition managers, many people will agree that EaseUS Partition Master is the best tools for the job. Why? Because it offers many great features, yet remains easy... Read More to the built-in Windows partition manager How To Shrink & Extend Volumes Or Partitions in Windows 7 How To Shrink & Extend Volumes Or Partitions in Windows 7 In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, resizing your volumes or re-partitioning your hard drive has become a lot easier than in previous Windows versions. However, there are still a few pitfalls that will require you... Read More . It supports merging of adjacent partitions, copying partitions and disks, upgrading system disk to a bigger drive, and it can recover deleted or lost partitions from unallocated space.

FileZilla

FileZilla

A free, lightweight and robust FTP client Master FTP File Transfers On All Of Your Sites With FileZilla Master FTP File Transfers On All Of Your Sites With FileZilla A large number of FTP clients of old had hiccups when it came to large file transfers. The apps experienced the usual timeouts that you would expect when the computer sits there for 15 to... Read More for transferring files to and from the web.

MultiCommander

MultiCommander

A feature-packed alternative file manager Try Multi Commander As An Advanced File Explorer Alternative Try Multi Commander As An Advanced File Explorer Alternative In all honesty, Windows 7 came with a pretty decent file explorer. You've got an easy navigation pane on the left, with file and folder listings in the center, and a useful preview pane on... Read More to Windows Explorer that uses a dual-panel layout. If all you desire is a file explorer that supports tabs, we recommend Explorer++. For more options, see this article on alternative file explorers Fun & Useful Alternatives For Windows Explorer Fun & Useful Alternatives For Windows Explorer Windows Explorer – now known as File Explorer in Windows 8 – is a mainstay of the Windows desktop. No matter how many alternative programs Windows tweakers use, most people seem to stick with the... Read More .

Additional tools in this section:

Online File Storage Tools ^

You can never have enough storage space. The advantage of cloud storage is that you can access it from anywhere and as long as the service and your Internet are running, you have nothing to worry about. The following are the most popular and reliable options available.

Dropbox

dropbox1

Dropbox is available across platforms and allows you to sync folders and files to the web and other devices connected to your Dropbox account. Great tool to auto-upload photos from your mobile phone. It’s being challenged by Microsoft OneDrive Cloud Storage Remains Competitive - Dropbox & OneDrive Compared Cloud Storage Remains Competitive - Dropbox & OneDrive Compared OneDrive is trying to catch up to cloud storage heavyweight Dropbox. Recent improvements include increased free storage space and raised file size caps. OneDrive has turned into a viable alternative, but is it better? Read More , which offers more storage capacity and potentially better Windows integration.

Google Drive

Google Drive

The evolution of Google Docs keeps your documents synced between the cloud and your PC (our Google Drive review A Look At Google Drive, Google's Long-Awaited Cloud Storage Service A Look At Google Drive, Google's Long-Awaited Cloud Storage Service After more than 6 years of rumors and a long-ago cancellation because "files are so 1990", Google Drive is finally here. Coming with 5 GB of free storage space, a Dropbox-like desktop sync client, and... Read More ).

OneDrive

onedrive1

Microsoft’s cloud storage solution comes with 15GB of space How To Best Use Your 15GB Of Free OneDrive Storage How To Best Use Your 15GB Of Free OneDrive Storage OneDrive gives you a healthy dose of cloud storage for free. Let's take a look at what you can do with that. Read More for storing documents and images.

Text Editing ^

LibreOffice

LibreOffice 4.2

You don’t have to pay for Microsoft Office Save on Microsoft Office! Get Cheap or Free Office Products Save on Microsoft Office! Get Cheap or Free Office Products Reluctant to spend a few hundred bucks on a glorified word processor? You can get Microsoft Office for cheap and alternatives for free. You've got many options and we offer a summary. Read More  to get a professional productivity and office suite LibreOffice 4.2 Brings Major Changes To The Popular Microsoft Office Alternative LibreOffice 4.2 Brings Major Changes To The Popular Microsoft Office Alternative LibreOffice (Version 4.2) offers better performance and better interoperability with MS Windows, and further lays claim to its title of the best free office suite for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Read More , one which is open source and community-supported on top of that.

Kingsoft WPS Office

WPS-Office-References-Tabs-Writer-MS-Office-Ribbon-Comparison

Free cross-platform Microsoft Office alternative WPS Office For Linux Looks As Good As MS Office, Performs Even Better WPS Office For Linux Looks As Good As MS Office, Performs Even Better Read More with a tabbed interface and more reliable support for collaborative features, such as tracking changes and comments. Self-absorbed ads can be a little annoying, but are easily ignored.

Notepad++

notepad_plus_plus1

A Notepad alternative Soup Up The Notepad++ Text Editor With Plugins From The Notepad Plus Repository [Windows] Soup Up The Notepad++ Text Editor With Plugins From The Notepad Plus Repository [Windows] Notepad++ is a worthy replacement for Windows’ in-built and much loved text editor, and comes highly recommended if you’re a programmer, web designer or simply someone who finds themselves in need of a powerful plain... Read More with tabs and advanced features, useful especially for coders.

Windows Live Writer

WLW - Overview - Home

Compose your blog posts, add photos and videos, format everything, then publish to any of  the popular blogging and content management services with a click straight from Windows Live Writer Windows Live Writer: The Easiest Way To Blog, Right From Your Desktop Windows Live Writer: The Easiest Way To Blog, Right From Your Desktop There is something nice about being able to blog from your desktop and simply clicking “submit” and then having it appear on your blog. Of course since you are creating it locally on your computer... Read More .

PDF Tools ^

FoxIt Reader

Light PDF reader with advanced features. Supports tabs and will remember the files you had open when you close it to re-open them during your next session. Great alternative to Adobe PDF Reader.

Alternative:

PDFTK Builder

PDFTK Builder

Free graphical interface version of PDFTK to merge, split, decrypt, encrypt, watermark PDF files.

Alternatives:

Ebooks ^

Kindle

Kindle

Amazon’s Kindle app lets you read and manage your eBook collection from your Windows PC.

Alternative:

calibre

Calibre

Free and open source eBook manager Calibre: Hands-Down, The Best eBook Manager Available Calibre: Hands-Down, The Best eBook Manager Available Electronic media is no doubt more prevalent today than it ever has been. The Internet is at the core of it all, and because of it we have eBooks, web articles, and news from electronic... Read More . Comes with a library to  manage your eBooks, can convert eBooks from one format to another, syncs to your reader devices How To Manage Your Ebook Collection For The Amazon Kindle With Calibre How To Manage Your Ebook Collection For The Amazon Kindle With Calibre The biggest problem with an eReader like the Amazon's Kindle is that it requires unreasonable effort to move books between different devices. Before Kindle, I fell in love with Calibre. A bit on the heavy... Read More , downloads news from the web and converts it into eBook format, functions as an eBook viewer, and can edit eBooks.

Productivity ^

Dexpot

Powerful virtual desktop manager. Expand your screen with virtual desktops Expand Your Desktop Workspace With Dexpot - Cool Virtual Desktop Software [Windows] Expand Your Desktop Workspace With Dexpot - Cool Virtual Desktop Software [Windows] I was talking to one of my friends, who is an avid Linux user. He told me that one of the Linux features he simply can’t do without is "virtual desktops". I can now tell... Read More and use them to separate open windows based on tasks. A similar tool is VirtuaWin, a lean desktop  manager VirtuaWin - A Lean Mean & Free Virtual Desktop Manager [Windows] VirtuaWin - A Lean Mean & Free Virtual Desktop Manager [Windows] When I covered Dexpot some time ago, readers Colugo and Mick were quick to point me in the direction of VirtuaWin as a lightweight, fast alternative virtual desktop software. Encouraged by their feedback, I decided... Read More with a minimalist set of features.

Ditto

Ditto

Ditto is a clipboard manager The 3 Best Clipboard Managers For Windows The 3 Best Clipboard Managers For Windows The Windows clipboard can only hold one single item, so whenever you copy something else, the previous item will be discarded. If you didn't mean to lose what you had copied earlier that can be... Read More that allows you to keep a record of your Windows clipboard Hold That Thought: 5 Reasons You Need A Clipboard Manager Hold That Thought: 5 Reasons You Need A Clipboard Manager When you think about it, copy paste is kind of weird. You copy stuff, but there's no way to see it. And if you copy over what you had, it's gone – forever. Read More backed up for later use or sync clipboards across multiple computers. Also available as a portable app. Similar to ClipX and many other clipboard managers 5 Tips To Manage Your Windows Clipboard Like A Pro 5 Tips To Manage Your Windows Clipboard Like A Pro Better known as Copy & Paste, a tool for students to lift passages from Wikipedia, the Clipboard can save you loads of typing time. We'll show you how to use it like a pro. Read More .

Launchy

Launchy

A cross-platform utility that employs keyboard shortcuts to launch programs and files independently of Windows Explorer or the Start Menu.

Other notable applications in this section:

Optical & Disc Image Tools ^

CDBurnerXP

CDBurnerXP

Feature rich, yet easy to use burning tool CDBurnerXP - A Great Burning Tool For CDs DVDs, Blu-Rays & ISOs [Windows] CDBurnerXP - A Great Burning Tool For CDs DVDs, Blu-Rays & ISOs [Windows] Optical discs are not forever, but although they are losing significance, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are still a great medium for long term backups, given you store them right and don't use them as your... Read More for CDs, DVDs, HD-DVDs, Blu-Rays, ISOs, and bootable discs.

Alternatives:

bitRipper

bitRipper

Simple tool to convert DVDs to AVI or MPEG bitRipper : One-Click Free DVD Ripper for Windows bitRipper : One-Click Free DVD Ripper for Windows Read More  for backing up your DVDs on your local drive. Includes its own codecs and can re-use codecs installed on your system. If your DVDs turn out too big to be stored locally, try DVDShrink to reduce their size.

CDex

CDex

CDex rips audio CDs to MP3 and other formats. Supports a range of encoders and the source code is open.

Virtual CloneDrive

iso-tools-virtual-clonedrive

We’re thankful they didn’t call their tool Dolly, as it wouldn’t increase our confidence in its quality management. SlySoft’s Virtual CloneDrive allows you to mount image files Extend The Life Of Your Optical Discs With ISO Backups & Virtual Clone Drive [Windows] Extend The Life Of Your Optical Discs With ISO Backups & Virtual Clone Drive [Windows] There is absolutely no reason why you would still want to routinely run games, movies, or music from optical discs. Inserting, ejecting, and switching discs is a nuisance and subjects both the drive and the... Read More from your CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs and play them virtually. It supports up to 15 virtual drives, meaning you’ll never have to swap discs again. The tool is also ideal if you want to run optical discs on a Windows device that lacks the matching drive.

An alternative tool is WinCDEmu. The open source CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray disc emulator 3 Free Alternatives To DAEMON Tools For Mounting Image Files 3 Free Alternatives To DAEMON Tools For Mounting Image Files Read More supports ISO images and can create them via a context menu in Windows Explorer.

Download Tools ^

µTorrent

utorrent-schedule

Lightweight BitTorrent client µTorrent: Still Tiny, Still Powerful, and Still the Best Torrent Client µTorrent: Still Tiny, Still Powerful, and Still the Best Torrent Client Do a Google search for "BitTorrent Client" and it will come up first, but is µTorrent really the best client out there? In short: pretty much. Few other clients match µTorrent for features, which is... Read More with a staggering number of features packed into a tiny application. Ads can be an annoyance, but they can be turned off easily.

JDownloader

JDownloader

Free and open source download manager How to Download Files From RapidShare the Easier Way How to Download Files From RapidShare the Easier Way Read More . Allows you to start, stop, and pause your downloads, set bandwidth limitations, and auto-extract archives. Your antivirus may detect it as a threat, but rest assured it’s a false positive. Potentially comes packed with bloatware.

Other alternatives:

  • Mipony optimizes your Internet connection and comes with an embedded web browser.
  • FlashGet can download videos from various sources, collaborates with your antivirus, and optimizes system resources.
  • Free Download Manager supports HTTP, FTP, and BitTorrent. Can resume broken downloads and you can adjust traffic usage.

Miscellaneous ^

f.lux

f.lux

This utility helps you prevent eye strain and sleep better by adapting your screen brightness Use F.lux To Sleep Better After Late-Night Computer Activities Use F.lux To Sleep Better After Late-Night Computer Activities Read More and color saturation to ambient lighting. It also supports scheduling, as shown above.

Classic Shell

classicshell-start-style

Classic Shell is more than a Start Menu replacement for Windows 8 2015!? No Way Microsoft! How To Get Your Windows 8.1 Start Menu Now 2015!? No Way Microsoft! How To Get Your Windows 8.1 Start Menu Now Windows 8 won't get a native Start Menu after all. But why wait on Microsoft? Here's how you can help yourself with third party tools like Classic Shell or Start8 and other workarounds. Read More . Next to adding a customizable Start button and menu, it features tool- and status bars for Windows / File Explorer and Internet Explorer. Great productivity tool Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell Make Windows 8 usable for people who think it's not. Add a start menu to the desktop and tweak the way Explorer and Internet Explorer behave, all thanks to a piece of software called Classic... Read More to make Windows better.

VirtualBox

VirtualBox Create Virtual Machine

VirtualBox is the easiest way to create a virtual machine What Is a Virtual Machine? What Is a Virtual Machine? Virtual machines allow you to run other operating systems within your current operating system, but why does that matter? What are the pros and cons? Read More within Windows. You can install any operating system on your virtual machine and run it like it was a regular program. We have used VirtualBox to run Windows 10 on Windows 3 Easy Ways To Install Windows 10 Technical Preview 3 Easy Ways To Install Windows 10 Technical Preview You can try Windows 10 Technical Preview for free and help Microsoft polish its new flagship operating system. Before you install it, make sure you choose the best method for your needs. Read More , Linux How To Try Windows 10 If You're Running Linux How To Try Windows 10 If You're Running Linux Love Linux, but still depend on Windows occasionally? The Windows 10 TP is a stable test system. We show you how you can try Windows for free as a dual boot or on a virtual... Read More , and Mac How To Try Windows 10 On Your Mac Free & Easy How To Try Windows 10 On Your Mac Free & Easy Even as a Mac user you might need Windows from time to time, be it at work or a public computer. Here's a chance to familiarize yourself with Windows 10 for free. Read More . Refer to our VirtualBox guide How To Use VirtualBox: User's Guide How To Use VirtualBox: User's Guide Learn to use VirtualBox. Get virtual computers up and running inside your computer, without having to buy any new hardware. Read More for more information.

Alternatively, you can use VMWarePlayer to set up a virtual machine Run Multiple Operating Systems At Once With VMware Player Run Multiple Operating Systems At Once With VMware Player We’ve lavished attention on VirtualBox here at MakeUseOf, and for good reason. However, VirtualBox isn’t your only option for creating and using free virtual machines. VMware Player, VMware’s free product, is every bit as good... Read More on your computer.

TeamViewer

5 TeamViewer File Transfer 2

TeamViewer allows you to remote connect to another computer over the Internet, either to provide technical assistance or to access files and programs. By far the best free remote desktop connection manager 11 Tips For Using Team Viewer - The Best Free Remote Desktop Connection Manager 11 Tips For Using Team Viewer - The Best Free Remote Desktop Connection Manager Whenever you're in need of a free remote desktop client with advanced features, TeamViewer should be your first choice. Let us highlight its unique features. Read More you can get. It’s cross-platform and easy to set up, too.

Hiren’s BootCD

menutools

Hiren’s BootCD is one of those apps every techie should carry around Low-Cost Tools That Every Techie Needs Low-Cost Tools That Every Techie Needs It’s been ten years since I took my first IT job, and in that time I’ve collected a bunch of tools that have proved invaluable to me in resolving issues with computers, hard disk drives,... Read More . Burn the ISO to a CD or create a bootable USB with Rufus and you’ll always have a digital toolbox Hiren's Boot CD - The All-In-One Boot CD For Every Need Hiren's Boot CD - The All-In-One Boot CD For Every Need Read More with you to fix some common computer issues. Comes with recovery tools, can reset your Windows password, test hardware, compile hardware information, and much more.

KeePass

keepass-entry

Portable and open source password manager KeePass Password Safe – The Ultimate Encrypted Password System [Windows, Portable] KeePass Password Safe – The Ultimate Encrypted Password System [Windows, Portable] Securely store your passwords. Complete with encryption and a decent password generator – not to mention plugins for Chrome and Firefox – KeePass just might be the best password management system out there. If you... Read More  with plugin support. Helps you protect your online accounts with strong passwords. The app stores passwords on your computer or USB drive.

Eraser

OverwriteData02

You may know that deleting a file in Windows doesn’t actually erase it. How else would it be possibly to recover deleted files Why It Is Impossible To Recover Data From An Overwritten Hard Drive [Technology Explained] Why It Is Impossible To Recover Data From An Overwritten Hard Drive [Technology Explained] Recovering deleted data from a hard drive is generally possible because typically the actual data is not deleted. Instead, information about where the data is stored is removed. In this article I will explain how... Read More ? Eraser is an open source utility and portable app that permanently deletes files 5 Tools To Permanently Delete Sensitive Data From Your Hard Drive [Windows] 5 Tools To Permanently Delete Sensitive Data From Your Hard Drive [Windows] In a recent article I explained why it is impossible to recover data from a hard drive after overwriting it. In that post I mentioned that simply deleting files or formatting your hard drive typically... Read More by overwriting them with random patterns. Best used with hard disk drives since erasing data from a solid state drive How To Securely Erase Your SSD Without Destroying It How To Securely Erase Your SSD Without Destroying It SSDs can only be written to a limited number of times. This is a challenge, particularly for erasing data and doing so securely, which can vastly reduce performance and shorten SSD drive life. Read More can cause damage and other issues.

The End ^

Have you tested any of the applications above or have we missed your favorite software? Please tell us! We will improve the list based on our tests and your input. Please share your feedback in the comments.

  1. Eve
    August 30, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Hallo Tina. When is comming a new update.The last one is from 19 december 2014. Love from Holland.

    • Tina Sieber
      August 31, 2016 at 10:28 am

      We're working on the update in September and you can expect it in October the latest.

  2. James
    August 26, 2016 at 2:08 am

    Great list of amazing programs! I ran across a few I already Use and will also be trying a few out.

    I would HIGHLY suggest a Great Browser to check out and maybe consider after reviewing throwing it on a future list maybe.

    Maxthon Browser. Can be found at Maxthon.com

    It's super fast! I have used it 7 years and is my main browser, only other browser I sometimes Use is Chrome.

    If I'm not mistaken they have been around since 2003 but were under a different name not sure what it was or when they changed it but its AWESOME . Let me know what you think of it

    • Tina Sieber
      August 31, 2016 at 10:29 am

      Thank you for your suggestion, James!

      I'll be working on an update of the list in September and I might be able to include Maxthon Browser.

  3. siberya
    August 2, 2016 at 11:51 am

    nice list. i would replace foxit wth sumatra, much faster, open many formats including djvu, fb2 etc.
    For music I use Aimp, for archives 7zip, for texts notepad++, for task manager process explorer. lol Iam pretty sticky to your list.
    ALso recomend teleport if u need to download the whole site, "Sandoxie" to run some suspicous files in virtual space.
    For videoplayer only potplayer - better than vlc or medialplayer classic.
    And if we talk about not free soft, but the best ofc there should be adobe soft, like photoshop cs5 (not shitty cc), illustrator, indesign - absolutely unique and professional programs.
    And for musicians I recomend use FREE but EXTREMELY POWERFULL Reaper DAW.
    For 3d - blender is free and also very professional.

    • Tina Sieber
      August 3, 2016 at 7:44 am

      Thank you for those great suggestions, Siberya!

  4. Lukas
    July 6, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    I have been using Total Commander for many years and I am very happy with it. It is a dual window file manager and offers a lot of build in functionality like packing/unpacking or FTP access. If there is a functionality you are missing, like opening a special file format, there is probably a community made plugin for it. It can be found at http://www.ghisler.com (I am not affiliated with it in any way, I just like it)

  5. Matheus Souza Silva
    May 16, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    Good article, i use many programs from this list.

    • Tina Sieber
      May 17, 2016 at 11:23 am

      Are there any programs you would add, Matheus?

    • Matheus Souza Silva
      May 17, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      I recommend the SafeInCloud app, a software for password guard.

  6. Larson Ashcroft
    May 4, 2016 at 3:00 am

    In the web browsers, you forgot about vivaldi.

    • Tina Sieber
      May 4, 2016 at 10:58 am

      So many interesting and unique browsers, so little room. Thank you for the feedback!

  7. Ken
    February 4, 2016 at 3:27 am

    Great list, many of these programs I use and appreciate. I would like to recommend two other programs I have been using for many years. They are;

    Memento: A sticky notes program, simple to use for jotting down notes, also some semi-permanent information.
    Rainlendar: An unobtrusive desk calendar. One great feature is the ability to delude the age with a birthday reminder or how many years with a Wedding Anniversary.
    Ken

    • Tina Sieber
      May 4, 2016 at 11:02 am

      Thank you for the recommendations, Ken!

      Rainlendar is awesome! I wrote one of my first articles for MakeUseOf about Rainlendar (2007). We still decided to drop it from the list and I'm not sure why anymore (this article has aged well). Maybe it's time to bring it back on.

      What do you like about Memento that other sticky notes tools, like Windows' own Sticky Notes, don't do so well?

  8. Msrk Murawski
    January 21, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    very nice list

  9. Jack Arnott
    October 3, 2015 at 4:08 am

    I highly recommend:
    Malwarebytes - Anti Exploit (i use premium, but there is also a free version).
    Very effective, expecially in adding an extra layer

  10. Vijay Kakkar
    September 26, 2015 at 8:24 am

    With your New Look I am unable to see
    'Best of Windows Software, Apps. etc. which I found very useful

    OR is there a screen where these are available?.

  11. Jon Steedley
    September 25, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Hello, all.
    Great list, luv it, gotta' bookmark it.
    But w/ all the warnings about adware, bloatware, etc, I want to recommend something I think is absolutely vital: "Unchecky," a program that automatically protects against many unwanted installation add-ons.

    Have a GREAT day, Neighbors!

  12. commenter
    September 13, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    The print function doesn't work.

    I like to print out these lists so that I can make notes about the products for future use.

    The print function should also contain the comments since many of the comments consist of many other excellent suggestions.

  13. Anna Vladimirovna
    September 10, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Hello!
    I've been playing around with the applications of every sort for some time now and these are my choices of freeware software for Windows:

    Antivirus: Microsoft Security Essentials because it scans removable devices, it's lightweight and efficient. It does what it should, nothing more, nothing less.

    Malware Removal: mixed. Whenever I notice something odd I use Malwarebytes along with Spybot and IObit Malware Fighter. I use also ADWcleaner and ComboFix, when it's a though one.

    Defragging: well, I gave a shot to IObit Smart Defrag 4, but haven't tested more than once and I didn't set up an automatic mode. It uses around 1 MB of RAM when idle and replaces the Windows Defrag (as option).

    File Recovery: Asoftech software and Recuva.

    Uninstallers: IObit Uninstaller 4 and Absolute Uninstaller. I use both, because IObit has real-time monitoring and seeks for leftovers but it doesn't show everything. With Absolute I've found some apps I didn't realize I had, and the IObit nor built-in uninstaller didn't show them.

    Backup & Sync: I have Total Commander fo syncing and it's also great for copying big data and FTP.

    PC Maintenance: for many years I had CCleaner but now I'm testing System Ninja and IObit Advanced System Care 8. They just can do much more. System Ninja also has plugins and is definitely more efficient than CCleaner (and obscure too).

    Image Editors: Autodesk Pixlr. It's fun!

    Screen Recorder: GifCam. It's super lightweight, easy and it has an AVI & GIF export feature.

    Files & Drives: EaseUS Partition Master, Total Commander, WinRAR, Filedrop - free, cross-platform file sharing through WiFi, Smart Folders - when I drop one file on another it makes a new folder.

    Productivity: Remembr - a simple clipboard manager, much better than Ditto. I've noticed Launchy on the list but in my case it took too much RAM. Keybreeze 4 is faster.

    Development: Brackets with Extract. It has many plugins, themes and looks nice. Color-Cop as a color picker.

    Optical & Disc Image Tools: I've been using Virtual CloneDrive and thought there's nothing better, but I've tried WinCDEmu and changed my mind. It mounts CD/DVD images within two clicks, lets to choose a drive letter and after ejecting the image it disappears from My Computer.

    Download Tools: I used uTorrent when it was usable. Now I have Transmission-Qt. It's light and has all the necessary options.

    Miscellaneous: f.lux is a must, Dashlane for passwords and it's cross-platform with browsers' plugins, CacheMyWork for bringing back all the applications I've had opened before rebooting, Fliqlo Screensaver, MediaHuman YouTube to MP3 Converter, RecycleBinEx for automatic emptying the bin after a certain time, Unlocker of course, WizMouse for scrolling inactive windows and make them active automatically.

    That would be all the freeware, for now :)

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 10, 2015 at 7:12 am

      What a wonderful list! Thank you so much for this reply, Anna :)

  14. Harald Stoll
    September 1, 2015 at 9:09 am

    uTorrent? Do some research on this once great application. Nowadays it's a cesspool of ads and it adds your computer to a botnet for rent.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 1, 2015 at 9:42 am

      This post was written when uTorrent was still the software we all loved :) Things have obviously changed now, we'll revisit this soon.

  15. Meljay Barcenas
    July 2, 2015 at 3:56 am

    How about 'INTERNET DOWNLOAD MANAGER'
    it is the best and the fastest downloader software ever and it's for free. :)

    • Jake
      April 7, 2016 at 8:37 am

      It Most Certainly is Not Free!! Plus, it will Destroy All Your Internet Settings. Will Not be able to download Anything Ever Again!! Had to Re-install Windows. Thanks-but-no-Thanks!!!

  16. Nirav patel
    June 17, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Wareferret.com let's you search the top four open source sites at once.

  17. Dylan Meyers
    June 8, 2015 at 6:24 am

    I can't believe AIKIN Desktop HyperSearch isn't on here. I just started using it and it's phenomenal. Desktop search seems to have languished the last 6-7 years but this app does some really impressive stuff like semantic content search. It's like I finally have a google-ish search on my desktop because it doesn't require me to remember exactly how something was named or written. I can just type in what i remember and it finds it more often than not.

  18. Seinfeld
    May 12, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Hi Tina.
    You've absolutely forgotten SyMenu. It's the best start menu replacer, portable menu launcher and, lately, the best program suite organizer, I've ever seen.
    All my Windows programs are now depending on it.
    And it is completely free.
    Have a look at it (http://www.ugmfree.it)

  19. Batharoy
    May 11, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    This is a great list, thanks for compiling it.
    I would like to nominate Sumatra PDF http://www.sumatrapdfreader.org/free-pdf-reader.html as a PDF and/or Ebook application.

    "What is Sumatra PDF?

    Sumatra PDF is a free PDF, eBook (ePub, Mobi), XPS, DjVu, CHM, Comic Book (CBZ and CBR) reader for Windows.."

  20. Erik
    May 10, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Actually strange that there is no Icecream Ebook Reader in Readers section. I'd say that the ones listed are 'dinosaurs' of eBook reading. IER is free, has most understandable and comfortable UI for reading. And btw it is translated to 19 languages :) Surely worth reviewing..

  21. Davis Brown
    May 7, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Here is one other windows software that should be on your list that I am currently using for themes and template design is this templatetoaster. This is an advanced software for web designer and web developer. The software is a desktop based application and generates templates or themes for all the popular content management systems i.e. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, Prestashop etc.

    • Tina
      May 8, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks for the suggestion, Davis.

      We focus on free software and generally don't recommend paid applications, unless the tool is a must-have for the majority of users. That's not the case for templatetoaster.

  22. Sagar Shah
    April 26, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    I like to recommend mailbird for an alternate email client.

    • Meljay Barcenas
      July 2, 2015 at 3:59 am

      try OUTLOOK

  23. Itsapainfulworld
    April 17, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    I'd like to ask that Open Office ( https://www.openoffice.org ) be looked into as a Microsoft Office alternative. Used faithfully by myself and my mother ever since MSOffice/Excel/Word/Powerpoint stopped shipping with with purchases of a Windows OS and was made into a standalone product.....shame really.

  24. M.Khalaf
    April 7, 2015 at 9:43 am

    woow!! Tina that is really good list and i like ... one thing you didn't mention is my favorite player KM PLAYER...good job waiting next version of apps
    Thanks alot dear.

  25. KimE12
    April 6, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks for your list ! Have installed 2 programs so far.

    Forgive me if I have missed it, but after about 15 years of computers I am now using Bvckup for my backups and it is by far the best I have ever used !

  26. aew3
    March 23, 2015 at 5:03 am

    also there are some better screen recorders out there- I use fraps (paid) but some good free ones are-
    obs
    screen recorder (from Microsoft, don't know if you can still find it...)
    and there's plenty of good productivity programs/chrome extensions, but i feel like they belong in their own article!

  27. aew3
    March 23, 2015 at 5:00 am

    utorrent has gone down hill in the past couple of updates- I recommend qbittorent, which is open source, but there are some other good alternatives.
    Despite being feature laden I find vlc heavy. I prefer smplayer- not as feature rich, but uses less system resources.
    I always find makeusof writers do research and know what they are saying. Good job!

  28. Benyamin Limanto
    March 14, 2015 at 2:48 am

    Opera Mail must be in the list actually for mail client...

  29. Ucef_Dz_25
    March 8, 2015 at 10:19 am

    you may also like to add :

    Security :
    | Shadow Defender
    | Process Explorer (Free)
    | USB Disk Security (Free)

    Burning :
    | AnyReader (great tool to recover CD/DVD media)
    | Img Burn (Free)
    | Power ISO

    Driver :
    Driver Tool | Driver Easy
    Driver Tool | IObit Driver Booster
    Driver Tool | Driver Slim

    Edication :
    Babylon Dictionary

    Net :
    Down | EagleGet (Free)
    Filter | Golden Filter Premium (Free)
    Tool | TCPView (Free)

    Utilities :
    Compres | WinRar
    Compres | 7 Zip (Free)
    Bureau | Rocket Dock
    Tool | FileTypesMan (Free as i remember !, i use it to change extensions icons as : .rar .iso ...)
    Tool | Speccy
    Tool | Universal Extractor (Free)
    Tool | Synei (Free)
    Tool | CPU-Z (Free)
    Utilities | AVG PC TuneUp

    Peace! :3

    1..2..3.. Viva l'algerie .. :3

    • Tina
      March 8, 2015 at 11:28 am

      Wow, lots of great suggestions! To be honest, we have removed some of the ones you mention in an effort to shorten the list, for example CPU-Z, which is now only mentioned. Nevertheless, will check out this thorough list and see which apps we can adopt.

  30. Richard
    March 5, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    You should definitly add these softwareprograms to the list:

    OBS (https://obsproject.com/) Video Recording/streaming
    Easy7Zip (http://www.e7z.org/) The easy "winrar" lookalike version but then 7Zip
    Privazer (http://privazer.com/) Excellent cleaning software.
    Adwcleaner (https://toolslib.net/downloads/viewdownload/1-adwcleaner/) Malware-remover
    Bleachbit (http://bleachbit.sourceforge.net/) Ccleaner competitor

  31. Kamal
    February 24, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    where the hell is IDM?

    • Tina Sieber
      February 25, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      Possibly returning in a future update of this article. :)

    • Jake
      April 7, 2016 at 8:35 am

      IDM Sucks!! It crashed my Computer. Not allowing downloads. Can't uninstall it Completely. Had to Re-load Windows!!!

  32. carson
    February 20, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    You can think of the Modern UI as something like a full screen program launcher. It gives quick access to more item then you could pin to the task bar. A lot of folks find the transition jarring but I find it easy to move between the two environments.

  33. GS
    February 8, 2015 at 5:36 am

    Keynote-NF is the indispensable tool. using it for many years. not bloated , small file that's encrypted, can be backed up automatically.

  34. John
    January 28, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Great list! Really found this useful for setting my new laptop. I've been using VLC for the longest time, glad to see that they're still relevant as always.

    In terms of security, I've always tried different ones from the last 3 computer changes I did (computer hardware sure ages quick these days).

    I've gotten around AVG, Kaspersky, and Panda. This time around I've found Secureaplus (www.secureaplus.com), and it seems secure & lightweight enough for a laptop. Not too sure about their offline anti-virus, but the rest works really well.

    Anybody else has experience with them?

  35. Kevin
    January 27, 2015 at 12:12 am

    Is there a reason why the format of these "Top Lists" have changed from the previous "tiles" to one long list? I don't know if it's just me, but I thought the prior format was much more convenient to comprehend. Plus, less scrolling is always a plus!

    • Tina
      January 27, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      We changed from a page to article format with more thorough and (hopefully) helpful descriptions for each tool. You can use the arrow at the end of each header to jump back up to the navigation menu. Maybe that helps.

  36. jase
    January 19, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    I am dismayed that no one has ever heard of Helium Music Manager for audio. It is feature rich with a great interface and it's the only audio app that handles custom fields for sound tagging in addition to the standards. And without a doubt, the best download manager I have ever used is Down Them All! It's amazing, but it's only for Firefox. It's so good that I actually broke down and installed Firefox the other day. Now if I can just get Google to offload all of my downloads to FireFox...anybody know of a FF Tab like IE Tab? Great list, thanks for the great suggestions.

    • Tina
      January 19, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      Thanks for the suggestions, jase.

      I will check out Helium Music Manager for the next revision of this list.

      We have a separate list for Firefox Plugins and DownThemAll is on there. :)

  37. rifrish
    January 17, 2015 at 9:14 am

    For email client try Mailbird. Their app has a nice design i believe.

    And for download manager try Free Download Manager.

  38. Jamie M.
    January 16, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    I would recommend Glary Utilities by Glarysoft (http://www.glarysoft.com/) for PC Maintenance. I've been using it for years and it's what I recommend to everyone.

  39. Dennis
    January 12, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    For backups I use Macrium Reflect Free. It works great!!! Much better than Microsoft's apps.

  40. Mike Poorman
    January 7, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Wheres the media servers? I've been using PLEX to go threw my PS3. I think it works with PS4 and android phones as well. Vuse works pretty good too.

    • Tina
      January 8, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      We might add Media Servers in a future update. Thanks for the suggestion!

  41. Daniel
    January 5, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    CDEX has just started bundling unwanted bloatware into their installation program. When I ran the setup program (downloaded from the CDEX site) it tried to install 5 different bloatware programs as well, each of which I had to opt out of individually. That is really low. Time to find an alternative ripper.

    • Tina
      January 5, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      That's really too bad. Thanks for the heads-up Daniel!

  42. sahil jadhav
    January 1, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Thanks !
    I think its a very helpful list

  43. Bill in SD,CA
    December 31, 2014 at 7:03 am

    Very comprehensive list. Some good amount of time went into putting this together. Thanks! I will look into “Unchecky” as posted by s0lj0n

  44. Azus Smith
    December 31, 2014 at 6:20 am

    In my opinion, Microsoft Security Essentials is reliable for Windows OS. It is also available for latest versions like Windows 8 and 8.1 .

  45. Hector
    December 29, 2014 at 12:53 am

    Nice list, I have most of these programs installed and I usually recommend other to use them...

  46. Richard Borkovec
    December 28, 2014 at 7:07 am

    This would be awesome, but it'd be great to see a list like that that's worked towards the new small hard drive computers. I just got a Stream 13, and seeing this list broken down to what would run and not fill the hard drive, now that'd be a challenge!

  47. sid
    December 25, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    I'm using Audacious as audio player (http://audacious-media-player.org)
    simple player. knew it from linux and after foobar and winamp blown up to real media players some years ago I really like audacious now. Nothing for people who need a music library but for those who have their own folder structure. Also no need to install, just run it and go.

  48. ken pasco
    December 25, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Spybot is awesome, been using it for years. Dropbox is great also...

  49. Pranav
    December 25, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Thanks The list is awesome ! Many of them proved very helpful to me :D

  50. s0lj0n
    December 25, 2014 at 1:16 am

    Hello, all.
    Additions to this;
    RE: "best" defrager; Puran's Defrag.
    RE: "best" backup/image/clone tool; Macrium Reflect Free.
    RE: "best" 'burner'; BurnAware Free.

    Have a GREAT day, Neighbors!

  51. s0lj0n
    December 25, 2014 at 1:02 am

    Hello, all.
    RE: "some installers pack bloatware."
    A really *GREAT* freeware solution to "bloatware" is "Unchecky."
    It automatically "unchecks the box", so "bloatware" doesn't install.
    I love it, wish I'd starting using it years ago; its that good.
    Anybody that uses 'freeware' *needs* "Unchecky" NOW,
    before you install anything else.

    • Tina
      January 19, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      Great tip and can't believe I missed to add it! This will most definitely make it into the next revision of this list. Thank you! :)

    • chameera geeth
      May 1, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      gimp....:D

  52. Ian
    December 24, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Slimimage is worth a mention as a back-up option that uses native Windows applications and presents them in a very easy to use interface, allows for multiple O/S image back-ups and data files in two sections, it's still in beta after 2 years tho'!
    Faststone, Image editor, similar to many but has some nice features, including non-destructive jpeg rotation, % of image quality retained shown after editing jpegs, a straightening tool that is the easiest to use ever!
    Nero wave editor is a great tool for editing sound, host of effects and allows recording from any source. Has a transcoder inbuilt and supports plug-ins.

    • Tina
      January 19, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      Thank you for the suggestions, Ian!

      I think we used to have Faststone Image Editor in there. We had to drop a couple great apps because the list was so huge. Will re-consider it for the next revision.

      Will also look into SlimImage and Nero Wave Editor. Thanks!

  53. Doc
    December 24, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    "Commodo offers Default Deny Protection..." One too many M's here. #whoops

  54. amit
    December 24, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    somebody plz give me the name for a free pdf editor!

    • Jay
      December 25, 2014 at 8:17 am

      Foxit. Say goodbye to Adobe and don't look back.

    • ken pasco
      December 25, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      I use Foxit by Firefox

  55. Krish
    December 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    AV Comparitives dot org has rated Bitdefender as among the top (Advanced+) in real time protection. I have been using it and it is a minimalist AV, Firewall, Spam Blocker and Web protection all in one with negligible system resources at use. I cannot believe that the above list excludes Bitdefener. Easeus applications are good and practical and I like them but when I installed one of their HDD clone software apps, it damaged my DLL files. It also tried to evasively install something called "My Radio". I do not like program trying to install apps like that.

    • Tina
      January 19, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Thanks for the feedback, Krish!

      Yes, it sucks when an installer tries to sneak in bloatware, especially if it's a security app; doesn't make it seem trustworthy, does it?

      I will look at BitDefender again for the next revision and see whether we can re-add it.

  56. Ronnie Beaujolais
    December 24, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Notepad replacement: Programmers Notepad (http://www.pnotepad.org/)

    Cloud Storage: Copy (http://copy.com) Cross platform, 15gb free and extra for referrals.

  57. Arpit Kharbanda
    December 24, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Stupendous List! But,DAP(Download Accelerator Plus) should deserve a position/rank/mention in this list.

  58. connecticut472
    December 24, 2014 at 7:00 am

    Great Tools !
    I am mostly used all tools and thanks for sharing for useful information.Keep sharing in future.

  59. ReadandShare
    December 24, 2014 at 7:00 am

    Gratifying to see some of the apps I use on this list -- and great to discover a few more good ones. Always a joy discovering great (and free) software. Thanks!

  60. Tim
    December 24, 2014 at 3:30 am

    VLC should've made it into audio as well, but good list

    • Tina
      January 19, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      I didn't want to list it in both and went with video. Should probably mention it's benefits as an audio app regardless. Definitely something to change in the next revision. Thanks Tim!

  61. R3
    December 24, 2014 at 3:07 am

    http://ejie.me/
    Slightly nicer looking (imo) alternative to Explorer++. Also supports theming via .crx files.

  62. Horace
    December 24, 2014 at 1:24 am

    Great list. For disk usage i'ld add http://www.saleensoftware.com/FilePro.aspx .

  63. portableman
    December 23, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Text editor: Notepad2-mod

  64. SteveMcBill
    December 23, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    DVD Authoring/Creation software - DVD Styler is excellent and beats a few of the paid for variants I have on my machine - see over at: http://www.dvdstyler.org/en/

    • Tina
      January 19, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks for the suggestion, Steve. I will check it out for the next revision.

  65. KT
    December 23, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Very comprehensive list. I like spybot a little better than malware bytes. And If you use firefox with a lot of ad blocking, AVG plays better with it than Avast.

    • Tina
      January 19, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      What's better about Spybot, anything specific?

      Thanks for the tip regarding AVG and Firefox.

  66. RWD
    December 23, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    CCleaner also has a built in uninstaller. I don't know how it compares to the ones mentioned, but it sure seems to work for me.

    • Tina
      January 19, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      That's true, RWD. I should probably add that if you're using CCleaner, you don't necessarily need another third party uninstaller. Good tip!

  67. David
    December 23, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    That's a great list. Very useful. Thank you!

  68. ed
    December 23, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Great list! Thanks!

    Also -

    Text Editor: Sublime Text (especially for coders)
    PDF viewing: PDF-XChange Viewer

    Both come as portable apps too.

    • Tina
      January 19, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks Ed! We also have a list for portable apps. Saw that you mentioned Sublime on there, too. Will keep it in mind for both lists.

  69. Darryl
    December 23, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Nice list but under file backup, I'd have listed CrashPlan as the best option. Their app is free, and there are many options for backup destination, including paid cloud options and free options such as an external drive or even another computer running CrashPlan, so you and a friend could share backup space on your computers (solving the challenge of offsite backup).

    CrashPlan deserves consideration here.

    • Tina
      January 19, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      We used to have CrashPlan in the list. I'll consider re-adding it for the next revision. Thanks for the input, Darryl!

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