5 Free Microsoft Online Services & Apps You Didn’t Know Existed

Tina Sieber 12-11-2014

When you think of Microsoft, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Expensive software maybe? The much-hated BSOD Windows 8 Crashing? How to Easily Troubleshoot Blue Screen & Other Issues Windows 8 isn't perfect. That said, most blue screens and application crashes aren't Windows' fault. Our tips will help you identify exactly what's wrong with your PC and fix it. Read More ? Or the nightmare called Windows 8? It might take you a little longer to think of something positive. We’re here to help with that.


Microsoft does some really awesome stuff Stop Bashing Microsoft: 5 Ways In Which They're Awesome Microsoft doesn't always get fair treatment. When it comes down to it, they're a pretty awesome company. There's been enough Microsoft bashing, now it's time for some love. Read More and they share some of it for free.

Epic S**T From The Microsoft Garage

In 2009, Microsoft initiated an employee innovation programme called The Garage. The motto: Do epic s**t!

At The Garage, Microsoft employees share ideas with colleagues and turn them into real projects; all during their free time.

The Garage is where ideas at Microsoft can go when they’re a bit messy, a bit not-quite-figured-out and in need of a few people to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Any employee of Microsoft can bring an idea to The Garage. There they will find a community of over 2,300 people, each eager to look at, comment on and sometimes even contribute to making it a reality.

Source: Microsoft, 2011

In 2011, The Garage received a large new home on Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington campus. The new location provides space for their Science Fair, an event where teams can show off their work to fellow Microsoft employees.

Projects that originated at The Microsoft Garage include OfficeTalk, a micro-blogging style communication tool for Windows Server 2008, the Conversation Translator Add-In for Microsoft Lync 2010, and Mouse without Borders, a tool that allows you to control up to four computers from a single mouse and keyboard.


More recently, Microsoft has announced they’re planning to open The Garage and work with consumers to receive feedback. Meanwhile, they have developed a range of free apps, available from The Garage’s Workbench, including lockscreens, games, and useful tools for Android, Windows, and Windows Phone.

Microsoft Garage Workbench

Free Tools From Microsoft Research

Microsoft Research is a computer science research organization, employing 1,000 scientists and engineers, who do work in over 500 areas of research. The tools that originate from these research projects tend to be polished and highly functional; some, like AutoCollage, a tool to blend multiple photo into a seamless collage, only offer a free trial.


Most tools, however, are free, for example Socl, a website where you easily create collages to express ideas and share them on social networks, Photosynth, a tool to capture and view the world 10 Free Photo Editor Tools To Make The Most Of Your Shots Whatever happened to all the snapshots you've taken in the past? If you've got plans and ideas, here are some great Windows and some cross platform tools to process them with. Read More in 3-D, TouchDevelop, a cross-platform, web-based programming environment How to Create an Android App: Everything You Need to Know If you want to get starting making your own Android app, this guide includes everything you need. Read More , or AutoCollage, or ChronoZoom, a web-based tool for teachers and students to visualize the history of everything.


Free IT Training From Microsoft Virtual Academy

If you’re seeking for opportunities to upgrade your computer and IT skills, have a look into the Microsoft Virtual Academy. It works much like Coursera and other MOOCs 3 Best Websites To Get A University Level Education For Free The idea that you are never done learning has never been more true than today. The Internet has revolutionized the way we access information and knowledge - formerly a luxury accessible only to the rich... Read More (massive open online courses), only that the courses have a strict focus on IT, and naturally many of them revolve around Microsoft products.

Microsoft Virtual Academy


All courses are free, you can search them by topic or product, and by changing your location in the top right, you can access courses in different languages. Selected courses are delivered live, but remain available to be streamed or downloaded and watched at your leisure, no sign-in required. When you do sign in using your Microsoft account, you can register for upcoming courses, add courses to your learning plan, and track your progress.

Here is an interesting Q&A series on open source software (OSS).

Free Windows Evaluation Copy

Not only can you try Windows 10 Technical Preview for free 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 , you can also get evaluation copies of other Microsoft operating systems. In its TechNet Evaluation Center, Microsoft currently offers free 90 day Windows evaluation copies of Windows 8.1 Enterprise, Windows 8 Enterprise, and Windows 7 Enterprise.

Windows Evaluations


To download an ISO, you need to sign in with your Microsoft account and register for the version you want to download. Microsoft wants to know your name, purpose for downloading an evaluation copy, what operating system you are currently running, what version (32- or 64-bit) you would like to download, your current location, and your primary professional role. Under the expandable sub-headers Explore, Try, and Learn, you will find information and resources for the respective OS, including lectures from the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

Free PC Checkup & Support At A Microsoft Store Near You

When you run into issues with your Windows computer, you can use online resources to troubleshoot issues How To Troubleshoot & Repair A Broken Laptop Laptops tend to have a rather short lifetime. They are outdated within weeks of being released, they are notoriously hard to upgrade or repair, and by nature they are subject to gradual decay or fatal... Read More , like Microsoft’s Fix it Solution Center (our Fix It review Is the Microsoft Fix It Service Really Any Good? [MakeUseOf Tests] Have computer problems? Microsoft's Fix It service attempts to fix them for you. If you've browsed Microsoft's help pages, you've probably seen a variety of "Fix It" programs you can run to quickly fix a... Read More ), ask questions on support forums 10 Free Computer Tech Help Sites You Might Have Overlooked Read More , including Microsoft’s own Support Community, or you can ask your friends.

If your issue is software-related and you live near a Microsoft store, there’s a much better alternative. Instead of breaking your head, Lifehacker recommends you take your machine to a Microsoft store:

You can get tech support, diagnostics, virus removal, and tune-ups for free at any Microsoft Store.

Source: Melanie Pinola for Lifehacker, 2014

You can find Microsoft Store locations here and schedule a free in-store consultation via Answer Desk.

Microsoft Store Consultation

What Is Your Favorite Free Microsoft Service?

Microsoft has made a lot of apps and services available for free, including Office products 6 Ways You Can Get a Microsoft Office License for Free Free Microsoft Office licenses are hard to get, but they do exist. This article covers six ways to get Word and Excel for free. Read More and mobile apps like the photo sharing tool Share Your Photos, Not Your Phone With Microsoft Xim Sharing photos with a group of people just got easier. One person controls the show, everyone can join at their own devices via a link, and when all was seen, the presentation self-destructs. Read More Xim. Which free Microsoft products do you use and do you have a favorite?

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Weber
    November 14, 2014 at 9:07 am

    "Diese Anwendung ist in Ihrem Markt leider nicht verfügbar." (not available for your market) - what the hell does this restriction mean ? Why do they recommend apps which cannot be downloded and tested ?!?

    • Tina
      November 14, 2014 at 9:29 am

      Bei welcher Anwendung siehst Du diesen Fehler? Vermutlich ist die Anwendung in Deutschland nicht verfügbar.

      For which application / service do you see this error? It appears to be geographically restricted. Are you even located in Germany or a German-speaking country? If not, the service must think you are. Are you using a VPN?

      We write for a global audience. Unfortunately, not all services are available equally in every country.

  2. Tomas
    November 13, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    And thank you for your articles Tina.

    • Tina
      November 14, 2014 at 9:29 am

      Very welcome Tomas and thank you for confirming I haven't lost it, yet. :)

  3. Tomas
    November 13, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    No, I havent heard about. Regards T.

    November 13, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    I have not heard of it Chinmay therefore I am so grateful .....Tina.

    • Tina
      November 14, 2014 at 9:30 am

      Thank you Nelson and I very much appreciate your comments!

  5. Shawn Rosvold
    November 13, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    No. I hadn't heard of it. Thanks.

  6. Gavin
    November 13, 2014 at 11:14 am

    I will have a look at the Mouse without Borders software to control computers with a single mouse and keyboard. I currently use a software called Synergy for this purpose, but it has a few known bugs that make using the software difficult.

    • Tina
      November 14, 2014 at 9:32 am

      Would love to hear what you think about it. It's not a very recent project, curious whether it still works well. Might be an article idea. :)

    • j. farmer
      November 14, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      I hadnt heard of it.

  7. Chinmay S
    November 13, 2014 at 6:15 am

    Free Windows Evaluation Copy doesn't fit well on this article's title 5 Free Microsoft Online Services & Apps You Didn’t Know Existed. Who on this earth doesn't know about that super basic thing?

    • Tina
      November 13, 2014 at 9:41 am

      I doubt it's common knowledge, which is why I added it.

      Would love to hear from other readers: Had you heard of Windows evaluation copies before? Especially for Enterprise editions, which are always available and not just during a preview period. Let's hear!

    November 13, 2014 at 1:47 am

    In the last paragraph, the link to "photo sharing tool Xim" is broken.

    • Tina
      November 13, 2014 at 9:44 am

      Thanks for the heads-up! A title slipped into the link field. Fixed.

  9. Ian
    November 12, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    You missed out on several programs from the research labs, ICE Image Compositor Editor, a tool to compile and manipulate panoramas . Zoom It! A browser add on or program to large photo files. Deep Zoom again for photographs but on a grand scale for Gigabyte viewing.

    Systinternals Great set of tools! If you want to get to know Windows, it's processes and services etc, make this site your 1st port of call.

    • Tina
      November 14, 2014 at 9:33 am

      Thank you for adding more great examples, Ian!

  10. Angus
    November 12, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    "Mouse Without Borders" is interesting, but it pales in comparison to Synergy [ ] which is cross platform and actively developed. I have my Ubuntu box driving my windows laptop AND my iMac (running Yosemite). Now THAT'S epic s**t!

  11. likefunbutnot
    November 12, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    I can't believe that more students aren't aware of [Broken Link Removed]