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The Best Free Software Every Windows User Should Install

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The Best Free Software Every Windows User Should Install Your laptop is only as good as the software that it runs and even the most powerful laptop is of little use without great software. While you may think that the best software is often very expensive, you can actually find some of the very best out there available completely for free. Today, we bring you a list of some of the best software available for Windows that you can use to greatly extend the power of your laptop. All of the software on this list is available completely for free and can easily be installed in a matter of minutes so you can gain access to some of the best software around. Got an app you think should be on this list? No problem. Let us know about it in the comments below and I will add it straight away. Web Browsers Google Chrome The current leader in the browser wars, Google’s browser features one of the fastest load times of any browser and also comes with the ability to install a huge range of apps from the Chrome store that can enhance the capabilities of Chrome far beyond that of a traditional browser. If you want a fast browser that can be used for so much more, Google Chrome is the way to go. Mozilla Firefox For a time, Firefox reigned supreme as one of the fastest and most secure web browsers around. Although it has been surpassed by Chrome, it is still reliable and safe compared to many of the alternatives and also includes the ability to extend its functionality beyond a traditional web browser, although these extensions are not quite as advanced as Google’s Chrome browser. If you prefer to stay away from Google, then Firefox is the way to go. Opera Another often unheard of browser, Opera is fast and reliable and renders websites quickly and accurately. One of the best features you can find with this software, however, is the ability to open your email right in the browser. Running one piece of software you can surf the web and check your email without ever leaving Opera. Email Mozilla Thunderbird Hands down Thunderbird is the leader in free email applications out there. In many ways users actually prefer the interface to Microsoft’s Outlook application. It is easy to use, has the ability to connect to multiple email servers, and easily organizes multiple email accounts. PDF Utilities Adobe Reader Sure, there are other PDF readers out there, but you will be hard pressed to find one that is as feature rich as Adobe Reader. I know, it is a mainstream piece of software. But it is available completely for free and gives you full compatibility with almost everything you can do with a PDF – except create and edit them of course. If you do a lot of work with PDF files, Adobe Reader is simply a must have. CutePDF If you want to make PDF files, you don’t have to invest in Adobe Acrobat to create great looking PDF files. CutePDF installs itself as a virtual printer on your system. When you want to make a PDF, simply hit print and select it as your printer. In a matter of moments, you will have a PDF that you can send to anyone. The install process is pretty simple making it the perfect PDF creator software for even the most basic of users. Remote Desktop Controls TeamViewer Have you ever wanted to control your home desktop from your tablet or from your computer at the office? Now you can and it won’t cost you a dime with TeamViewer. Simply install it on your system and take note of the codes that it gives you. Using those codes you can install the software on your computer at work or on your tablet and use it to connect to your computer from anywhere. Virtualization VirtualBox If you have ever wanted to try other operating systems but don’t want to reformat your computer, then VirtualBox is the way to go. Using this software, you can easily create virtualized computers running almost any operating system you can think of. Want to try Linux? No problem. Want a test bed for Android? That’s easy. With just a few clicks, you can install almost every operating system right on top of your existing system. Compression Utilities 7-Zip My personal favorite compression utility, 7-Zip will compress and/or decompress virtually anything. I haven’t found anything you couldn’t open with this piece of software. On top of that, it’s compression utilities are some of the most efficient I have seen allowing you to really shrink down files so you can easily send them to other people through email without worrying about running into those pesky email caps. WinRAR Designed originally to open RAR files, today WinRAR is one of the easiest compression utilities you can find online. It will open almost every type you can think and you can use it to create complex archives with security if that’s what you need. Technically, WinRAR is shareware, and requires you to buy it after a certain amount of time, although the software continues to work no matter what. File Management Recuva Have you ever accidentally deleted a file that you shouldn’t have? Sure you have. We have all done it. Now, by using Recuva, you have a good chance to recover that file so you don’t lose it forever. This is assuming you used the standard deletion process found in Windows. Your experience may vary, but installing this software and giving it a shot is better than doing nothing if you screw up and delete a file that you shouldn’t. Defraggler Yes Windows does come with its own defragment application, but one look at it and you will know it is pretty basic. In fact, little has changed with that app over the years despite the vast improvements in both storage and operating system sophistication. Defraggler, on the other hand, is a much more feature rich application that allows you to not only defrag your drive, but also examine the health of your drive and even perform benchmarks so you know how well your drive is running. Security and Antivirus AVG Free 2015 The very first thing you should install on your laptop is antivirus software. But you don’t have to spend a lot to find good antivirus protection. AVG is one of the leading free antivirus systems out there and it does a great job at shielding your computer from attacks. CCleaner Over time, your registry will become bloated with entries that are no longer needed. Viruses and other malware can also add entries and other files that will slow down your computer. CCleaner will perform a malware scan and even clean up your registry so your machine runs much faster and free from any of the junk that can hurt your performance. Malwarebytes One of my personal favorites, Malwarebytes has found a way to continue to stump malware even after years of being on the market. Malwarebytes will easily catch a lot of malware that is often missed by traditional virus software, making it the perfect free program to add to anyone’s security suite. The free version allows you to perform scans and clean your laptop, but there is a paid version that also provides real time scanning to prevent infections from ever happening. Graphic Design Gimp While Adobe may have the market cornered on graphics, they are not alone. Gimp is a complete alternative to Photoshop and is designed with an interface that is almost identical in every way. This makes it easy for you to convert over to this free version so you can get started making incredible images that are beautiful and ready to be seen by everyone without having to invest half your life savings into Adobe’s Photoshop products. Cloud Storage Dropbox Dropbox was one of the early leaders in the cloud storage space and is still one of the most reliable on the market today. Offering compatibility across a wide variety of operating systems and devices it is one of the very best cloud storage options you can choose if you want to make sure you can access and store your files safely on the cloud. Google Drive Google Drive is another leader in the cloud storage market that offers 5 GB of storage at no cost. While you can store whatever you want on their servers, Google Drive really shines if you prefer to use Google Docs for all your work. It will easily sync to a variety of systems including PC, Mac and even mobile devices, and is easy to use. Audio/Video iTunes Some of you may wish I didn’t put this on the list, but with the sheer volume of iPods, iPhones and iPads out there, you are probably going to need it. Over the years iTunes has become rather bloated and it focuses more on the store these days, but it is still an easy way to manage all of your music and sync it to all of your i-devices that you have on hand. Spotify If you don’t have the space to store hundreds or even thousands of MP3 files but you have plenty of bandwidth both at home on your laptop and on your mobile phone, you could instead switch to streaming all of your music instead of storing it and organizing it yourself by using Spotify. The service itself is easy to download and install and it comes with only minimal advertising while allowing you to stream almost any song you can think of. By using the service, you will never run out of new music to listen to and enjoy. doubleTwist The perfect iTunes alternative, doubleTwist focuses on only one thing – organizing your music. The software allows you to quickly and easily organize all your music files and create playlists so you can listen to what you want, when you want. As an added bonus, it will also sync to your i-devices or even your Android smartphone or tablet so you can easily organize your music on your Android devices in a way that will be instantly familiar if you have ever used Apple’s iTunes software before. VLC Media Player Let’s face it, Windows Media Player just doesn’t cut it. In today’s world, there are so many different video formats that you can download and watch that it is tough to find a player that can do it all. Luckily, VLC Media Player is the answer for you. I haven’t found anything that it won’t play these days. Using this software, you can easily watch any type of movie you download and you can even use the software to create a library of your movie and television files as well. Windows Media Player Classic If VLC Media Player is a little too much for your computer, you could always go with Windows Media Player Classic. No, this is not software made by Windows. Instead, it is designed to look and feel much like one of the older versions of Windows Media Player. The difference? Like VLC, it will play virtually anything. Windows Media Player Classic is the perfect tool for watching television and movies if you are looking for a simply and lightweight piece of software that does the job right and stays out of your way while you enjoy the latest episode of your favorite television show. Conclusion This is by no means a complete list of free software available for PC, an article like that would take you hours to read through. The software on this list is some of the best that I have found out there and by installing and using this software you can gain access to some of the best features on your computer and do way more than you ever thought possible. Is there an application that didn’t make it on this list that you think should be there? If so, let me know in the comments and we will see about adding it to the list so we can create one of the most complete lists with the best free software for Windows.

Your laptop is only as good as the software that it runs and even the most powerful laptop is of little use without great software.  While you may think that the best software is often very expensive, you can actually find some of the very best out there available completely for free.

Today, we bring you a list of some of the best software available for Windows that you can use to greatly extend the power of your laptop.  All of the software on this list is available completely for free to compliment your budget laptop and can easily be installed in a matter of minutes so you can gain access to some of the best software around.  Got an app you think should be on this list?  No problem.  Let us know about it in the comments below and I will add it straight away.

Web Browsers

Google Chrome

The current leader in the browser wars, Google’s browser features one of the fastest load times of any browser and also comes with the ability to install a huge range of apps from the Chrome store that can enhance the capabilities of Chrome far beyond that of a traditional browser.  If you want a fast browser that can be used for so much more, Google Chrome is the way to go.

Mozilla Firefox

For a time, Firefox reigned supreme as one of the fastest and most secure web browsers around.  Although it has been surpassed by Chrome, it is still reliable and safe compared to many of the alternatives and also includes the ability to extend its functionality beyond a traditional web browser, although these extensions are not quite as advanced as Google’s Chrome browser.  If you prefer to stay away from Google, then Firefox is the way to go.

Opera

Another often unheard of browser, Opera is fast and reliable and renders websites quickly and accurately.  One of the best features you can find with this software, however, is the ability to open your email right in the browser.  Running one piece of software you can surf the web and check your email without ever leaving Opera.

Email

Mozilla Thunderbird

Hands down Thunderbird is the leader in free email applications out there.  In many ways users actually prefer the interface to Microsoft’s Outlook application.  It is easy to use, has the ability to connect to multiple email servers, and easily organizes multiple email accounts.

PDF Utilities

Adobe Reader

Sure, there are other PDF readers out there, but you will be hard pressed to find one that is as feature rich as Adobe Reader.  I know, it is a mainstream piece of software.  But it is available completely for free and gives you full compatibility with almost everything you can do with a PDF – except create and edit them of course.  If you do a lot of work with PDF files, Adobe Reader is simply a must have.

CutePDF

If you want to make PDF files, you don’t have to invest in Adobe Acrobat to create great looking PDF files.  CutePDF installs itself as a virtual printer on your system.  When you want to make a PDF, simply hit print and select it as your printer.  In a matter of moments, you will have a PDF that you can send to anyone.  The install process is pretty simple making it the perfect PDF creator software for even the most basic of users.

Remote Desktop Controls

TeamViewer

Have you ever wanted to control your home desktop from your tablet or from your computer at the office?  Now you can and it won’t cost you a dime with TeamViewer.  Simply install it on your system and take note of the codes that it gives you.  Using those codes you can install the software on your computer at work or on your tablet and use it to connect to your computer from anywhere.

Virtualization

VirtualBox

If you have ever wanted to try other operating systems but don’t want to reformat your computer, then VirtualBox is the way to go.  Using this software, you can easily create virtualized computers running almost any operating system you can think of.  Want to try Linux?  No problem.  Want a test bed for Android?  That’s easy.  With just a few clicks, you can install almost every operating system right on top of your existing system.

Compression Utilities

7-Zip

My personal favorite compression utility, 7-Zip will compress and/or decompress virtually anything.  I haven’t found anything you couldn’t open with this piece of software.  On top of that, it’s compression utilities are some of the most efficient I have seen allowing you to really shrink down files so you can easily send them to other people through email without worrying about running into those pesky email caps.

WinRAR

Designed originally to open RAR files, today WinRAR is one of the easiest compression utilities you can find online.  It will open almost every type you can think and you can use it to create complex archives with security if that’s what you need.  Technically, WinRAR is shareware, and requires you to buy it after a certain amount of time, although the software continues to work no matter what.

File Management

Recuva

Have you ever accidentally deleted a file that you shouldn’t have?  Sure you have.  We have all done it.  Now, by using Recuva, you have a good chance to recover that file so you don’t lose it forever.  This is assuming you used the standard deletion process found in Windows.  Your experience may vary, but installing this software and giving it a shot is better than doing nothing if you screw up and delete a file that you shouldn’t.

Defraggler

Yes Windows does come with its own defragment application, but one look at it and you will know it is pretty basic.  In fact, little has changed with that app over the years despite the vast improvements in both storage and operating system sophistication.  Defraggler, on the other hand, is a much more feature rich application that allows you to not only defrag your drive, but also examine the health of your drive and even perform benchmarks so you know how well your drive is running.

Security and Antivirus

AVG Free 2015

The very first thing you should install on your laptop is antivirus software.  But you don’t have to spend a lot to find good antivirus protection.  AVG is one of the leading free antivirus systems out there and it does a great job at shielding your computer from attacks.

CCleaner

Over time, your registry will become bloated with entries that are no longer needed.  Viruses and other malware can also add entries and other files that will slow down your computer.  CCleaner will perform a malware scan and even clean up your registry so your machine runs much faster and free from any of the junk that can hurt your performance.

Malwarebytes

One of my personal favorites, Malwarebytes has found a way to continue to stump malware even after years of being on the market.  Malwarebytes will easily catch a lot of malware that is often missed by traditional virus software, making it the perfect free program to add to anyone’s security suite.  The free version allows you to perform scans and clean your laptop, but there is a paid version that also provides real time scanning to prevent infections from ever happening.

Graphic Design

Gimp

While Adobe may have the market cornered on graphics, they are not alone.  Gimp is a complete alternative to Photoshop and is designed with an interface that is almost identical in every way.  This makes it easy for you to convert over to this free version so you can get started making incredible images that are beautiful and ready to be seen by everyone without having to invest half your life savings into Adobe’s Photoshop products.

Cloud Storage

Dropbox

Dropbox was one of the early leaders in the cloud storage space and is still one of the most reliable on the market today.  Offering compatibility across a wide variety of operating systems and devices it is one of the very best cloud storage options you can choose if you want to make sure you can access and store your files safely on the cloud.

Google Drive

Google Drive is another leader in the cloud storage market that offers 5 GB of storage at no cost.  While you can store whatever you want on their servers, Google Drive really shines if you prefer to use Google Docs for all your work.  It will easily sync to a variety of systems including PC, Mac and even mobile devices, and is easy to use.

Audio/Video

iTunes

Some of you may wish I didn’t put this on the list, but with the sheer volume of iPods, iPhones and iPads out there, you are probably going to need it.  Over the years iTunes has become rather bloated and it focuses more on the store these days, but it is still an easy way to manage all of your music and sync it to all of your i-devices that you have on hand.

Spotify

If you don’t have the space to store hundreds or even thousands of MP3 files but you have plenty of bandwidth both at home on your laptop and on your mobile phone, you could instead switch to streaming all of your music instead of storing it and organizing it yourself by using Spotify.  The service itself is easy to download and install and it comes with only minimal advertising while allowing you to stream almost any song you can think of.  By using the service, you will never run out of new music to listen to and enjoy.

doubleTwist

The perfect iTunes alternative, doubleTwist focuses on only one thing – organizing your music.  The software allows you to quickly and easily organize all your music files and create playlists so you can listen to what you want, when you want.  As an added bonus, it will also sync to your i-devices or even your Android smartphone or tablet so you can easily organize your music on your Android devices in a way that will be instantly familiar if you have ever used Apple’s iTunes software before.

VLC Media Player

Let’s face it, Windows Media Player just doesn’t cut it.  In today’s world, there are so many different video formats that you can download and watch that it is tough to find a player that can do it all.  Luckily, VLC Media Player is the answer for you.  I haven’t found anything that it won’t play these days.  Using this software, you can easily watch any type of movie you download and you can even use the software to create a library of your movie and television files as well.

Windows Media Player Classic

If VLC Media Player is a little too much for your computer, you could always go with Windows Media Player Classic.  No, this is not software made by Windows.  Instead, it is designed to look and feel much like one of the older versions of Windows Media Player.  The difference?  Like VLC, it will play virtually anything.  Windows Media Player Classic is the perfect tool for watching television and movies if you are looking for a simply and lightweight piece of software that does the job right and stays out of your way while you enjoy the latest episode of your favorite television show.

Conclusion

This is by no means a complete list of free software available for PC, an article like that would take you hours to read through.  The software on this list is some of the best that I have found out there and by installing and using this software you can gain access to some of the best features on your computer and do way more than you ever thought possible.

Is there an application that didn’t make it on this list that you think should be there?  If so, let me know in the comments and we will see about adding it to the list so we can create one of the most complete lists with the best free software for Windows.

By Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on our sister ShopNinja sites where he enjoys talking about anything and everything tech.

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