All of the software listed here is free for personal use, meaning:
- Any of this software can be installed and used at absolutely no charge, forever. There is no nagging, spyware, or anything else nasty.
- Because it’s totally free, sometimes there is very little support. You either figure out how to use it, or just get rid of it.
There is no reason to pay for security applications for your PC. Uninstall your Norton, McAfee, etc. and install these free alternatives. They use fewer system resources and save you money.
- Avast Anti-virus Home Edition – This is a great anti-virus program which includes tons of features and options. It works well and provides automatic definition updates. What more could you ask? If you don’t like Avast for some reason you can try Avira AntiVir PersonalEdition.
EDIT: I now recommend AVG Free once again. They had “discontinued” version 7.1 and told people they would have to purchase the full version if they wanted to keep it. But now they’ve released the free version 7.5 so I’ve switched back and recommend you do so as well.
- ZoneAlarm Firewall – This firewall isn’t perfect, but it’s the best I’ve found for free. Even if your router includes a firewall you should run this on each machine to ensure that you have “defense in depth“.
- Spybot Search&Destroy – Complete spyware protection system which will find and disable spyware as well as prevent it from even loading. Also includes a system startup manager that allows you to disable all that crap that is slowing down your computer whenever you reboot it, like MS Messenger and Apple Quicktime. (Use ProcessLibrary.com to help decide what to remove.)
- Spyware Blaster – Actually prevents spyware and other malware from even being installed on your system. The free version is completely functional but you need to manually tell it to update the definitions periodically which is no big deal.
- Startup Inspector for Windows – A program with a singular purpose. Allow you to research and disable software that is automatically starting when you reboot your system. Includes a great “Consult” feature which tells you exactly what most items are.
- Windows Defender – Microsoft’s version of SpyBot isn’t quite as comprehensive, but I run it as well in case one picks up something the other one missed. It’s free as long as you’ve got a legal copy of Windows.
- McAfee SiteAdvisor – This plugin for IE or FireFox will proactively warn you of sites known to have spyware and other nasty things. If you saw my previous post on this topic, that’s about 5% of all sites.
These applications will help you keep your system running in top condition.
- NT Registry Optimizer – This program does NOT change the contents of the registry in any way, nor does it physically defrag the registry files on the drive. It compacts the registry hives to the minimum size, then prompts you to reboot, which speeds up the entire system. One little warning, when you launch this app it goes right to work and it can take a few minutes. You can’t stop it, and it interrupts whatever you’re doing.
- Process Scanner – This little app catalogs all of the processes running on your computer then connects to the ProcessScanner.com site to give you a batch report of everything running in the background. It will help you find and remove malware and resource hogs. Can also be run off a USB drive.
Being the founder of HTMLHelp.com, I read HTML like Neo views the Matrix. :-) That being said, here are some of the tools I use to create Web pages.
- ColorPic 4.1 – An excellent utility which helps pick out the hex codes for any color displayed on the screen.
- FileZilla – Open source FTP program complete with a site manager, drag and drop, and support for SSH encryption.
- Homesite Freeware – Nick Bradbury wrote this years ago, and I helped with the beta testing and feature development. He since went on to sell the program and there is a much more comprehensive version offered by Adobe.
- Analog – The fastest and most popular log file analyzer in the world. I use it to produce readable statistics from our 25 million annual visitors to HTMLHelp.com.
The following applications improve the quality of Web usage exponentially as compared to Internet Explorer alone.
- Opera 9 Web Browser – Bar none, this is the fastest Web browser on earth. It does just about everything extremely well, and if I wasn’t so hooked on Avant I would switch to Opera in a heartbeat. It is my number two browser when things aren’t working right in Avant.
- Firefox Web Browser – Firefox has more unbelievably useful plugins than all other browsers combined. The browser is fast, stable and very versatile. My only complaint is that customizing it can almost require a geek. Installation is a breeze since it’s part of the Google Pack.
- Avant Browser – My main Web browser is based on the Internet Explorer engine, but that’s where the similarity ends. To me, this is the best browser out there and I’ve been using it for probably 5 years. In fact, I can’t even remember how long it’s been.
- Google Toolbar for IE – This toolbar adds spell checking, language translation and other features to your browser. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s especially useful if you run your own Blog. Installation is a breeze since its part of the Google Pack.
- Folding@Home – This tiny application runs only on the unused processing capacity of your PC and computes solutions to diseases such as cancer and ParkinsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s. Please help donate your machine’s spare time to the cause!
- Google Web Accelerator – Google Web Accelerator uses the power of Google’s network to make web pages load faster. All you have to do is download and install it, and from then on many web pages will automatically load faster than before. Unfortunately since it’s still in the Google Labs it’s not yet a part of the Google Pack so you have to get it separately.
These networking tools will help you get connected, diagnose connectivity issues, research domain names and keep your data synced and safe.
- NetStumbler – This is the best wireless network sniffer software around. With it, you can see every wireless network within range of your computer and it gives details such as SSID name and type of encryption being used.
- HyperTrace – Want to find out how many other computers your packets go through? Find out with the fastest version of traceroute available.
- Whois Ultra – Want to register a domain name, but don’t know if it’s in use? Or just interested in more info about an existing site… This tool will give you what you need!
- FolderShare – This service, acquired by Microsoft, allows you to maintain and sync duplicate information on multiple computers. My Favorites, documents and other personal files are duplicated across my laptop and desktop for convenience and redundancy.
- LogMeIn – This free Web application allows you to log in and remote control computers from anywhere you can connect to the Internet. I use this to manage several computers all over the US.
Use these tools to stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues.
- Skype – The defacto free audio and video conferencing and chat program. Also allows you to make low cost calls to normal phones and internationally.
- Trillian Instant Messenger – A fully featured chat client that supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, and IRC. Allows you to use all the services simultaneously without installing multiple programs.
- Plaxo – A program which allows you and your contacts to automatically sync changes to your contact information.
- SpamAware Outlook Add-in – This free application utilizes the excellent SpamAssassin engine to exponentially increase the Spam filtering capabilities of both Outlook and Outlook Express. It is a must-have if you use either of these for mail handling. And it’s as good, or better, than anything on the market you’d have to pay for.
These general applications make life more fun and efficient for those who rely on Windows.
- Google Earth – Google Earth puts a planet’s worth of imagery and other geographic information right on your desktop. View exotic locales like Maui and Paris as well as points of interest such as local restaurants, hospitals, schools, and more. Installation is a breeze since its part of the Google Pack.
- Google Desktop – Adds advanced search functionality, a sidebar which you can customize with all sorts of add-ons, desktop personalization and more. Installation is a breeze since its part of the Google Pack.
- PowerToys for Windows XP – These tools from Microsoft’s developers add a ton of additional functionality to Windows XP.
- PDFCreator – Easily creates PDFs from any Windows program. Use it like a printer in Word, StarCalc or any other Windows application.
Everyone needs tools to accompany the wave of digital camera usage that has swept the globe. Here are some of the best and easiest tools to get the job done.
- Picasa – Picasa is a free software that helps locate and organize all the photos on your computer, edit and add effects with a few simple clicks, and share your photos with others through email, prints, and on the web: itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fast, easy and free. Installation is a breeze since its part of the Google Pack.
- Google Sketchup – Easy 3D modeling program. With just a few simple tools, you can create 3D models of houses, sheds, decks, etc. Once built, you can place them in Google Earth, post them to the 3D Warehouse, or print hard copies.
- FastStone Image Viewer – An image browser, converter and editor that supports major graphic formats including BMP, JPEG, JPEG 2000, GIF, PNG, PCX, TIFF, WMF, ICO and TGA. It can be used for image viewing, management, comparison, red-eye removal, emailing, resizing, cropping, color adjustments, and much more.
- FastStone Photo Resizer – An image converter/resizer that allows you to convert, rename, resize, crop, rotate, change color depth, add text and watermark to images.
- FastStone Screen Capture – A powerful, flexible and intuitive screen-capture utility. It allows you to capture anything on the screen including windows, objects, full screen, rectangle / freehand-selected regions and scrolling windows/web pages.
- GetSpool – It is an unique and innovative app available for iOS and Android user that allow you to read your bookmark offline. Install and read anything for later.
The Internet is the new Television! With all the online multimedia content you’re going to need the right tools to access it. Here you go!
- Cole2k Codec Pack – Install the advanced codec package and you’ll be able to play any media file type on the planet! This is an absolute must have given the wide range of media formats floating around the Internet today.
- GTA6GAME – If you are fan of Grand Theft Auto and want all the mutimedia related information about that then you should checkout this awesome site.
- DVD Shrink – DVD Shrink is software to backup DVD discs. You can use this software in conjunction with DVD burning software of your choice, to make a backup copy of any DVD video disc.
- VLC Media Player – VLC media player the best multimedia player for video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, …) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.
- WinAmp – The granddaddy and still best Windows audio player.
- The Godfather – An excellent little utility to help organize your MP3 collection by creating play lists, editing tags, and batch editing. No MP3 collection is complete without it.
- dbPowerAmp Music Converter – Digitally Rip Audio CDs, compress to a multitude of audio formats and convert between audio formats while preserving ID Tags.
- AutoGK – I use this tool combined with cladDVD to make portable copies of my DVDs.
- cladDVD – I use this tool combined with AutoGK to make portable copies of my DVDs.
- Volumouse – Volumouse provides you a quick and easy way to control the sound volume on your system – simply by rolling the wheel of your wheel mouse.
Disk and File Management
After cataloging all those images and collecting all those videos, you’re going to need top notch file management tools to take care of your valuable data.
- Treesize Freeware – This useful little application scans your hard drive and gives you a graphical representation of where all your space is being used. Very handy for finding space hogs and cleaning up the hard drive.
- Quick PAR – Sometimes when you download software from the Internet it comes in pieces. The people who uploaded it use PAR to create recovery files in case any of the pieces are damaged. This software uses those to recover and rebuild the software.
- FreeRAM XP Pro – Freeware application to free and optimize your computer’s RAM, resulting in an increase in system performance and productivity.
- IOBit SmartDefrag – If you’re still using the crappy default Windows disk defragmenter you need to install SmartDefrag and set it to automatic mode. You’ll see major improvements in performance. This software is ad supported but not annoying.
- CydiaRepo.com – Complete search engine for all kind of paid and free Cydia application, repository, themes, files, ringtones and everything else.
- 7-Zip – The best free compression utility you can get. It handles all the major compression formats and integrates into your right click menu to make compression and decompression fast and easy. Another good alternative is TugZip.
If you are looking for other freeware I only recommend either:
Many freeware sites often have malware mixed in which can do serious damage to your PC.
As always feel free to leave comments or questions below. If you enjoyed this article I sure would appreciate it if you help spread the word with one (or more) of the social bookmarking sites beside the article title! Thanks!