Best FREE Must-Have Software

There are thousands of free programs available on the internet. The list below is not a complete directory, rather it is a list of FREE programs that are highly useful and well written. As a rule, the less programs you have installed, the better your machine will run. However the FREE software listed, with few exceptions, are small and lightweight meaning they do not heavily weigh-down your CPU or processor.

Crap Cleaner

CCleaner - Crap Cleaner

CCleaner or Crap Cleaner is an extremely fast hard drive cleaner. Have you ever used UNDO? Of course you have, most any program periodically saves temp versions of the document you’re working on so that you can go back if you mess up. Those versions stay on your hard drive in Temp folders. Also, any website you visit downloads images, scripts all kinds of…well, crap on your hard drive. Use CCleaner regularly to free up hard drive space and keep things running clean.

CCleaner also has a registry cleaner and program uninstaller. It’s a favorite amongst professional graphic artists and video editors.

Spybot Search and Destroy

Spybot Search and Destroy - Anti-spyware, Anti-malware, Anti-adware

Spybot SD, still one of the best anti-spyware, malware and adware programs, and still free. Spybot’s advanced features include Immunizing your computer from known threat sites, control of your system start-up and running processes and control of your hosts file.

Ad-Aware – by Lavasoft

Ad-Aware Anti-Spyware

No one program can defeat spyware, malware or adware alone. Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware is the perfect compliment to Spybot Search and Destroy. What one misses the other catches.

PC Inspector – File Recovery, Smart Recovery

PC Inspector - Smart Recovery

As mentioned in an earlier post, files are not actually deleted from your computer, they’re moved to a different location and written over. PC Inspector’s File Recovery and Smart Recovery can recover accidentally deleted files. Has the Smart Card in your camera mistakenly been re-formatted? If so, Smart Recovery can recover your pictures and data files. It’s an amazing FREE program.

Amp Font Viewer

Amp Font Viewer

Ever want a seperate graphical representation to see what your fonts look like? Amp Font Viewer does that and more. Fonts are fun, but can also severely slow down your system if you have too many. With Amp Font Viewer, you can temporarily install the font for the application you’re working on, then delete it. It’s cool.

Amp Font Viewer
Screenshot of AMP Font Viewer

Irfanview – Image Editor/Viewer

Irfanview - Graphics Editor

Ever want to “Photoshop” an image, but can’t afford Photoshop? Irfanview is an excellent alternative.

Audacity – Audio Editor

Audacity - Audio Editor

Want to record your voice or convert your old cassette tapes to MP3’s? Audacity is a multi-featured audio recorder and editor. It supports multiple formats and has the ability to change speed and pitch, mix sounds together add effects and more.

Open Office Productivity Suite

Open Office Suite

If you can’t afford Microsoft Office, but want to create files that are compatible with MS Office, there is no better tool than Open Office. Unbelievably, OpenOffice (OO) offers Word Processor (Writer) , Spreadsheet (Calc) and Powerpoint-like (Impress) programs all for FREE.


FREE Guide to Internet Security

Is your computer running slow? Don’t pay for a solution when you can get it for FREE!

FREE Guide to Internet SecuritySimply put, almost every program you install on a Windows Computer requires Root Access. Root access enables spyware, malware, adware, viruses, root-kits and more to take control of parts or all of your Windows Computer System. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are a number of free programs you can install to protect yourself (or rather your poor unsuspecting computer) in the increasingly shark-infested virtual ocean waters we call the internet. But first:

Watch Where You’re Going!

The first line of defense is proper net surfing habits. Don’t click on flashy, thingy, “you’re the winner”, types of links. They are intended for idiots and you don’t fall into that category. Don’t open any attachments on emails from email addresses you don’t recognize. If you use Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express, I recommend turning the “Reading Pane” off. The bad guys are able to initiate malicious code in image files by simply displaying the image on your computer. The “Reading Pane” opens the image, and viola, you’ve just been infected. Also, pay attention to links in emails. Bad guys will change one letter or add a .de or something similar in a familiar looking link to trick you into clicking on it. When you mouse-over the link in Firefox, the link address is displayed in the bottom left corner of the browser, just take a look before moving forward. The next thing to look out for is FAKE system alerts. Watch out pop-ups that look like the following:

Fake System Warning – Pop up

Fake System Warning

Fake Spyware Warning

Fake Spyware Alert

Fake Critical Error Message

Fake Critical Error Message

Fake Internet Explorer Warning

Fake Internet Explorer Warning

Fake Infection Notice

Fake Infection Notice

Fake Spyware Ads

Fake Spyware Ads

People have gotten really good at FAKING system error messages and behavior. They trick you into believing you have some sort of infection, then offer a link to remove it. What they actually do is infect your system even more. Fortunately there are a number of free resources available to protect you.

FREE Resources

1. Spybot Search and Destroy – (download link)

Spybot has offered their excellent FREE anti-spyware software since 2000. I recommend this every time because it’s still the best. It is constantly updated and one of the premiere products of this type. It takes a few minutes to download and install, but has many features to keep the bad guys out. Here’s a few features:

Feature Default
Removal of adware and spyware
Removal of dialers

Removal of keyloggers

Removal of trojans and other baddies

Removal of usage tracks

Yes Yes
User-extendable database Yes Yes
Save removal of threats by shredding them Yes Yes
Backups of every removed problem Yes Yes
Exclude option to ignore specific problems Yes (1) Yes
Permanent blocking of threatening ActiveX downloads

Permanent blocking of known tracking cookies for IE

Permanent blocking of threating downloads in IE

Yes Yes
Command line parameters to automate tasks Yes Yes
Number of targets > 600 > 600
Number of detection files and entries > 10000 > 10000
Detailed information about problems found Yes Yes
Strict criteria to define targets Yes Yes
Integrated update function

Weekly updates

Update notification by mail

Yes Yes
Free email & forum support Yes Yes
Settings to automate scan, removal and update No Yes
System reports to locate even unknown threats No Yes
Skins to adjust interface to the users liking No Yes
2. Ad-Aware from Lavasoft – (download link)

No spyware, malware, virus removal software is all inclusive. I don’t care what their ads say. Ad-Aware from Lavasoft is the perfect accompaniment to Spybot. Between the two of them, you catch most of the junk out there. Here are a few more features from the Lavasoft site:

  • Improved Threat Detection
    • Spyware, Adware, Trojans & Hijackers
    • Fraud Tools & Rogue Applications
    • Password Stealers & Keyloggers
  • Enhanced Rootkit removal system
  • Faster Updates & Faster Scans
  • Less Resource Usage for optimal computer performance
  • Easy to Download, Install and Use
  • Lavasoft ThreatWork submission tool
  • Compatible with Windows Vista (32- and 64-bit)
  • Supported Languages: Dutch, English, Flemish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
3. AVG – Antivirus – (download link)

AVG is another tried and true FREE Anti-virus software package that is constantly updated and protects you against many of the nastiest bits of code prowling the net. A little more about AVG:

  • Automatic update functionality
  • The AVG Resident Shield, which provides real-time protection as files are opened and programs are run
  • The AVG E-mail Scanner, which protects your e-mail
  • The AVG On-Demand Scanner, which allows the user to perform scheduled and manual tests
  • Free Virus Database Updates for the lifetime of the product
  • AVG Virus Vault for safe handling of infected files

These three are a great start, however I will warn you that almost any anti-spyware, anti-virus, etc., will have an effect on system performance. Things will slowdown a little. Each of these programs attempt to catch the rogue code before it makes onto your hard drive. That means there are millisecond delays before pages load, emails appear, etc. so that’s the trade off. Paid for versions by Norton, McAfee and other are no better, in fact in most cases they are worse.

If you’re a pretty safe surfer and you don’t want to bog your machine down with a bunch of software than there are FREE online Scan alternatives. I refer all my friends to these:

TrendMicro – is a FREE online virus scanner. It’s completely trustworthy, effective and up-to-date.

Panda ActiveScan – is another great FREE online scanner.

A couple other safeguards are switching to Mozilla’s Firefox browser instead of Internet Explorer. Firefox has a number of builtin safety factors that IE is trying to implement, but just doesn’t do as well.

I hope this was helpful. Any comments are welcome of course.