45 Best Free Windows Apps
Sometimes, the best things in life are free, and that's especially true in the software world. Between the explosion of freeware for the desktop and open source programs, there's a whole world of excellent free apps out there. Here are our favorite free downloads for Windows users, whether you're running Windows 8, Windows 7 or XP.
Avira Free AntiVirus 2015
Recommending a good free antivirus program is always going to be contentious, with a strong field of free, feature-packed options. That said, we like Avira Free AntiVirus 2015 for its consistently solid antivirus capabilities. Avira covers the basics with on-demand and real-time virus scanning, as well as anti-adware and anti-spyware features. New to Avira is a cloud-based real time scanner that can forward suspicious files to compare with known and emerging threats, increasing defenses against potential zero-day viruses.
MusicBee is a free and extremely feature-packed music player that can make life easier for the everyday listener and power user alike. MusicBee supports a variety of formats, from the ubiquitous MP3 to more unusual ones such as OGG, FLAC and APE. The app also sports solid library management, with tag and metadata editing, as well as support for synching devices such as iPods and Android phones. In addition, MusicBee also sports a variety of themes, customization options, plugin support and advanced audio features.
Ultimate Windows Tweaker
Ultimate Windows Tweaker (Windows 8) is a neat little piece of freeware from The Windows Club that allows users to apply an incredible variety of tweaks to the Windows interface. UWT starts by displaying a wealth of system data to the user, while offering options to tweak the Taskbar, File Explorer, as well as Internet Explorer, performance and security related tweaks. An older version also exists designed for Windows 7 and Vista users looking to customize their system. Make sure to create a system restore point before going all out with tweaking, in case you accidentally bork your system.
Valve's Steam is a gaming digital distribution juggernaut, serving as an all-in-one games marketplace, discovery engine and launcher utility. You can buy games from Steam's massive selection of triple-A releases, classic titles and indie gaming gems, and download directly into your machine, complete with automatic updating and built-in screenshot tools. Steam's infamous seasonal sales and wealth of social features such as messaging, trading, and gifting make it a great addition to any PC gamer's desktop suite.
An easy-to-use standalone screen capture and image editing tool by Evernote, Skitch allows users to quickly edit and annotate screen caps, and then save or share them online. Skitch's emphasis is clearly on ease of use, with a clean, simple interface; the toolbar on the left side of the app puts all your editing tools within easy reach. Images can be saved locally, uploaded to Evernote, or shared to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Rainmeter is a free desktop customization tool for Windows that allows users to add "skins", compact applets that float on top of the desktop, much like Microsoft's old Windows gadgets. Rainmeter skins can provide a whole range of functions, from RSS readers, system resource use, battery life, email, and weather forecasts. A rich online community has developed a wealth of Rainmeter skins and themes that you can apply to your desktop, and the program itself also allows you to create your own.
Comodo Backup is a free and thorough backup tool that provides both scheduled and on-demand backups with a variety of settings and options. Users can set Comodo Backup to create full, incremental, or differential backups, with a smart profile mode that lets you categorize and selectively target photos, documents, music and videos for backup. The program is packed with a variety of features, such as support for Volume Shadow Copy, various levels of data encryption, backup versioning, as well as the option to backup to Comodo's own cloud storage.
Ninite is a great way to batch-install and update some of the best free software available online. Users log into the Ninite website and choose from a checklist of popular software, from browsers, media players, image editing tools and more. Once done, Ninite generates an executable file that functions as a download and installation manager which then runs through your entire list of programs and then installs them hassle-free to your drive or updates them when necessary. Ninite installs to the default location, downloading from the official site of each publisher, while avoiding bundled crapware.
Razer Game Booster
While Razer is best known for its high-end gaming peripherals, it also provides a host of free software of use to gamers, such as Razer Game Booster, a system optimization and game management tool designed to maximize your system resources for the demands of gameplay. The Boost tool can selectively shut down unnecessary processes and programs, while a Tweak utility applies a series of easy system tweaks. Selective defrag tools let you defrag a game's file folders, and additionally, Game Booster comes with an FPS meter, screenshot manager, and game launcher.
FastStone Image Viewer
FastStone Image Viewer is a fast and resource-light image browser that comes with a host of editing and conversion tools. An explorer style interface makes navigating, managing, and tagging your image collection a simple affair, with support for a variety of image formats as well as RAW data from a selection of digital camera brands. Editing tools let you crop, resize, and apply numerous corrections and operations to clean up your photographs. FastStone is still in constant development, and new features are being continuously added and tweaked.
DAEMON Tools Lite
Tired of popping your installer and movie DVDs in and out of your optical drives again and again? With DAEMON Tools Lite, you can rip your optical discs into .ISO image files, which you can then store in your hard drive to mount into virtual drives in your system. The program supports up to four simultaneous virtual drives, and can mount a variety of image file formats such as .BIN and .CUE, as well as create .ISO, .MDF and .MDX image files.
Evernote is a powerful note-taking and Web-clipping tool that allows users to save and sync text, images, audio and video clips and even entire webpages into notebooks that they can access across a broad range of devices. The desktop application in particular works great as a control center for your Evernote experience, as it's loaded with numerous search, tagging and organizational tools for viewing and organizing your content into a comprehensible whole and synching across your computers and devices.
Piriform's CCleaner is an excellent maintenance utility. It clears the contents of your Web browser's cache, history and temporary internet files. Plus, the program clears the Recycle Bin and registry. Simple, free and powerful, CCleaner is a great tool that should be in your maintenance toolkit if not part of your daily browsing habits.
A powerful, portable uninstall utility, IOBit Uninstaller is a must-download. This app is designed to uninstall programs and search for widowed files and registry entries, even without installation monitoring. IOBit Uninstaller allows you to classify programs by install date, as toolbars, etc, making it easy to track down a particular program. Additionally, this tool's portable nature lets you keep it on a USB drive so you can take it with you anywhere.
Thanks to a marketing push by Google and genuinely useful functionality, Chrome has made its mark on a market long dominated by the David and Goliath of browsers. Google's Web browser offers an appealing alternative to Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer. A minimalist interface, true separation between the browser and the vulnerable parts of a PC, fast load times and a rich library of extensions and apps are among the reasons for Chrome's growing appeal. Google continuous to add standout features, such as excellent synching between the PC and mobile versions, and the introduction of Chrome packaged apps.
Secunia's Personal Software Inspector is a free system update manager that focuses on the safety of any software you have installed. PSI scans software that are frequent targets of attack and flags those that are in need of updates or no longer maintained and potentially unsecure. PSI can automatically run some driver and Windows updates but for most other programs you'll be given download links to do the install yourself. Reliable, simple to use, and best of all, free, Secunia PSI is an excellent update management tool for the security conscious user.
Speccy is a light and functional system information tool brought to you by Piriform, the same team behind CCleaner and Defraggler. This nimble monitor quickly brings up system information on your OS, manufacturer and models of your CPU, motherboard, GPU and hard disks, and other technical details. Collapsible views let you be as detailed as you want to be when hunting down specific information like CPU temp or disk drive SMART information.
Recuva is a free data recovery tool by Piriform, the same company behind the excellent CCleaner and Defraggler utilities. Recuva is a free and user-friendly tool for recovering deleted files, Recycle Bin content and deleted emails, as well as damaged or formatted hard drives. A quick start wizard allows you to perform simple file recoveries quickly, while a more powerful 'Deep Scan' is available for more thorough or troublesome