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50 free essential software to consider using

December 17th, 2006 by Zack Whittaker

Here is compiled a full list of software which must be downloaded. Yep, every one of them. All of these are brilliant in every way, shape and form and are just plain brilliance. OK you don’t have to download them, but all of these are free except where stated, and are just great. Download ahoy!

 = Download the software
 = Show information regarding the software

  1. Windows Live Messenger
Talk to your online friends, view your Live Space and join the biggest instant messenger network in the UK! Formerly MSN Messenger, you can video chat, transfer files and even talk using your mobile device.

  2. Adobe Reader (formerly Acrobat Reader)
“The reader of e-books” – allowing you to view the popular PDF format. Use it to view small tiny files which can contain rich content and images.

  3. Audacity
One of the best sound and audio editors on the market, and it’s 100% free. It’s open source so you can play with the program to your hearts content. Hosts many features and simple to use.

  4. Daemon Tools
Emulate ISO and other type of images as if it’s another disc drive in your computer. It’s fast, reliable and works brilliantly restoring files from images you’ve created previously, and ideal for installing Vista!

  5. Microsoft Virtual PC 2004
Virtually run an entire operating system from a small, compact and simple to use stable and reliable environment which has no impact on your actual system other than using memory and CPU. Brilliant!

  6. Microsoft Visual Express 2005 Editions
Free software for developing web pages, C++ applications, J# and the ever so popular C# programming language. Write visually rich applications and the code behind it aint so difficult to get either!

  7. Mozilla Firefox 2
This web browser being open source is free, simple to use and secure. You can search from any web page, and reads pages directly from the code behind it.

  8. Visual Task Tips
An XP program designed for emulating the “Live Thumbnails” feature in Vista. Any program in the taskbar will show up in it’s own preview window above the taskbar item to show you what it’s doing.

  9. Winamp
A small, compact and very handy media player. It just sits in the corner of your screen playing music, playing video and even streamed music over the web.

  10.Windows Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP Service Pack 2
The next Internet browser following on from the world’s most used browser. Simple, secure, has some brilliant safety features and works on all Windows machines.

  11. Windows Live Maps (and Virtual Earth 3D Beta)
Online maps are fair enough, but this is the Google Earth equivilent and runs directly from your web browser. You can see the contours of the landscape, advertisements on billboards and 3D-buildings.

  12. The Linux operating system
The free operating system – boasts some brilliant things such as plug-ins and styles.

  13. OpenOffice
If you’re a student or strapped for cash, use the OpenOffice suite – totally free and works with all the Microsoft Office filetypes. Brillant for opening and editing Word documents and it’s simple to use.

  14. Apache Web Server
The world’s most popular web server application. Host your own websites from your computer at home – drag and drop in your web pages and it’ll organise them and traffic easily.

  15. PHP Runtime
Superb backend server side programming language which lets web developers do some amazing things with their code. Highly dynamic and it’s all server side so it’ll work in any browser on any computer.

  16. Free Download Manager
Sick of your downloads failing or stopping for no reason? This free solution lets you start, pause, stop and manage your downloads and even preview them before their even done. Hense the name, 100% free.

  17. Sygate Personal Firewall 5.8
Although taken over by Symantec, this is one of the best free firewalls on the market. Simple to use, and protects your computer from incoming and outgoing traffic which could be malware etc.

  18. Windows Defender
Microsoft’s free anti-spyware tool. It runs in the background and constantly protects your machine from all kinds of nasty malware. It’s very easy to use and even for the most basic user it’s simple to manage.

  19. ClamWin Anti-Virus
The world’s free portable anti-virus. It doesn’t embed itself into your system, and doesn’t realtime scan so it doesn’t use loads of memory. However you can scan your system whenever you feel like it!

  20. LimeWire 4.13 (Beta)
Browse the world of peer-to-peer networking, download files from other machines and even download torrents using this software. Remember, play safe and don’t donwload something which has a copyright!

  21. WinRAR (free trial)
A brilliant software tool which lets you compress and decompress all kinds of files. It uses a popular RAR extension which is used worldwide and decompresses all kinds of file types – ISO, ZIP, TAR and GZIP.

  22. FLV Player (free trial)
A web Flash player which lets you convert any media file into a web standard. Instead of hosting hefty files online, simply embed this into your page and it’s small, efficient and easy for users to use.

  23. Windows Media Player 11
One of the world’s most used media players which comes as an Automatic Update in Windows XP and as a download. Enables you to download from an online store, organise your music, videos and pictures.

  24. Primo PDF
Forget saving everything as a Word or PowerPoint document, not everyone uses the Microsoft Office System. Using this software you can turn any Office file into a PDF so it’s small in size and portable.

  25. Password Safe
Loads of passwords? I know, so put them all into the Password Safe for memory’s sake and use one strong password to open it up again. Keeps all your passwords safe but helps you keep track of them all.

  26. Microsoft Office 2003 File Viewers
If you only want to view certain Microsoft Office 2003 documents, you can just view them with these programs instead of downloading or buying the full version of Office. Download the Word, Visio, PowerPoint, Excel viewers.

  27. Paint.NET
An excellence in image editing. Initially a project from Microsoft interns, this software has become huge. You can do almost anything with almost any image type and it’s amazingly simple to use.

  28. DynDNS Updater
Want to host a website but only get an IP address? Then DynDNS enables you to transfer your websites homepage IP address into an actual website – eg. =!

  29. Messenger Plus! Live
The world’s biggest Windows Live Messenger plugin. Forget standard instant messaging, with this you can send each other sounds, you can enhance your IM experience and set custom status messages.

  30. VLC Media Player
This media player will play absolutely anything and everything. It’s light, it’s portable and it works on almost any computer (from the download source anyway).

  31. Windows Vista Product Guide
Want to know more about Windows Vista before it comes out? Download the product guide – it is packed with information, screenshots, images and lets anyone understand the power of Vista.

  32. Microsoft USB Flash Drive Manager (Standard)
Got loads of USB devices? Then this software is for you – you can backup and restore entire drives and even rename them so when you plug them in, it’ll give you a handy description of it so you know which is which!

  33. Windows Live OneCare Family Safety
Protect your family and the kids in the house from those bad websites – this free software enables parents (administrators) to block categories of websites and individual websites out for the kids (clients) so that kids are protected from the online nasties.

  34. Windows Live Mail desktop/center
The replacement for Outlook Express – manage your Windows Live Mail accounts, your POP3 accounts, work email accounts and even your schedule with this free software. Say goodbye to Outlook for good!

  35. Windows Desktop Search
With this, you can search any aspect of your computer from documents, emails, pictures, and other types of media with the push of a button.

  36. HealthMonitor
A brilliant free and powerful system performance monitor which monitors CPU usage, memory usage, disk space and the Event Viewer and can inform users via email, popups or even through text message.

  37. Cheetah DVD Burner
The ultimate in burning software – it lets you burn pretty much any kind of media to disk and even sets options for bootable disks, setup disks, and disks which work in DVD players.

  38. Microsoft Research Group Shot
Free image manipulating software which overlays two similar pictures to expand the final image to a bigger and more beautiful image. Take two photographs and overlay them together for a brilliant finish.

  39. HijackThis
Lets you see right into your computer – what’s running and what shouldn’t be running. Kill processes, check your startup items, and browser hijackers. Very simple and powerful software for any user.

  40. Orb 2.0
Free remote access software which lets you stream music, images and video directly from your home computer to any other computer in the world and even over a mobile device.

  41. Skype
VoIP (Voice over IP) software which lets you make free phone calls to potentially anyone in the world. Excellent voice quality, video support and even instant messaging support. Works on desktop computers, mobile phones and mobile devices.

  42. Google Earth
Lets you search for any landmark or location and find it on a 3D map. You can browse through the 7 Wonders of the World and even find landmarks through the online submission forums.

  43. NetStumbler
Wireless software which lets you pick up information about any detected wireless network, and also helps protect the user against rogue access points. Any wireless user should have this software.

  44. Microsoft Sysinternals Suite
A collection of small unique programs and utilities which can help any system administrator or even the advanced user troubleshoot and help secure their systems.

  45. MediaPortal
This software turns your computer into a media center. It’s open source, works with most TV sets and allows you to share, store and record DVD’s and other file formats.

  46. WordPress
Free web-based database software for blogging with! Runs on any web server and is easy to use and install, and even has free plugins and themes for the user to change the style of their blog.

  47. Resource Hacker
A small utility to extract, view, modify, rename, add, delete and extract resources in Windows executables and resource files such as DLL files and other files with media attached.

  48. Azureus
A free, simple Java based torrent downloader which manages your torrents in any number of ways. Limit download speeds, upload speeds, handy icons to see what your torrent is doing – simply ingenious!

  49. IrfanView
One of the most popular image viewers in the world. Convert images to other file types, it’s small, compact, and opens files within micro-seconds.

  50. Zone Alarm
A free, simple to use personal firewall and lets users customise their computers inbound and outbound traffic so that they are significantly safer from online threats.

Posted in Daily Life, Windows Live, Windows Vista, Windows XP | 14 Comments »

This entry was posted on Sunday, December 17th, 2006 at 7:50 pm and is filed under Daily Life, Windows Live, Windows Vista, Windows XP. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

14 Responses

  1. Jordan M. Says:

    Nice List

  2. Patrick S Says:

    Wow Zack great list…that would have taken you a quite a bit of time to compile! I have allready had comments regarding 12 and 13 he he he :D.
    Great list!

  3. Daryl Nicholas Says:

    Hmm…Free trial is also considered as free???

  4. Daryl Nicholas Says:

    But…Nice list though…

  5. Geoffrey Says:

    Nice list. Though for reading PDFs I prefer Foxit reader, for creating them I use CuteWriter, for archives 7-zip and for torrents µTorrent.

    This might also be interesting for people looking for free security software:, but I haven’t tested them for very long.

    And some of the XP powertoys are quite good too:

  6. Brandon Says:

    I would recommend Foxit Reader ( ) over Acrobat. It’s much more lightweight, opens quicker, and isn’t bundled with junkware.

  7. Peekaboo / more software release joy. Says:

    […] In other news, I’m thoroughly abusing IE 7’s feature that allows me to subscribe to RSS feeds without needing additional software. I’m aware that it’s not the best around, but if this means not having to add more bloat to my computer, that’s one thing I’m willing to deny myself. And I know that I’ll be shaking my head at my foolishness pretty soon because there are tons of sites out there that have caught my eye. Actually, I’m being foolish in thinking IE 7 might be so robust as to handle the tons of sites I’m currently watching. I therefore think I’ll take Microsoft’s advice on recommended feed readers or any venerable commenter’s suggestions.  I don’t care very much for web-based feed readers just yet because *gasp* I’m on dial up and I’m broke enough to be loud & proud about it. So, something that’s installable on my computer is preferred. So, I subscribed to Robert Scoble’s gesture/link blog and a site he linked to (50 free essential software to consider using) caught my eye. I mean, this list is a veritable trove of free software although I doubt the essential part because I can think of some alternatives that are already on my computer. I’m a freebie fanatic and I’ve already downloaded some programs that I think will be worth my while. Thankfully, I’ve got a test computer to play with and I’ll test several of these programs out on it before trying to mess with my precious refurbished HP. […]

  8. cullen D Says:

    I find numbers 12 and 13 offending on the MSBlog site. Please strike through them.

  9. Brodie J Says:

    Great list, someone put alot of time and effort into it, appreciate it dude!

  10. Gard Says:

    Windows Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP Service Pack 2 obviously does not work on all Windows machines as you have written in number 10. By the way, who needs IE7 when Firefox2 is even better? Apart from IE7; great list!

  11. Joe Member Says:

    Picasa is a free software download that enables you and your students to find, edit and share all the pictures on your PCs. It also offers the Web Albums feature, which enables you to easily upload photos from your computer to the web for sharing with others.

    Gmail Notifier (+Gmail account)
    The Gmail Notifier is an application that alerts you when you have new Gmail messages. It displays an icon in your system tray to let you know if you have unread Gmail messages, and shows you their subjects, senders and snippets, all without your having to open a web browser.

    Mozilla Thunderbird is a free, cross-platform e-mail and news client developed by the Mozilla Foundation.

    The xp-AntiSpy is a little utility that lets you disable some built-in update and authentication ‘features’ in WindowsXP.

    NirSoft web site:
    NirSoft web site provides a unique collection of small and useful freeware utilities, all of them developed by Nir Sofer: Password Recovery Utilities, Network Monitoring Tools, Internet Related Utilities, Command-Line Utilities, Desktop Utilities, Freeware System Tools.

    DivX and XviD Codec

    Real Alternative and QuickTime Alternative
    Real Alternative will allow you to play RealMedia files without having to install RealPlayer/RealOne Player. QuickTime Alternative will allow you to play QuickTime files (.mov, .qt, .3gp and other extensions) without having to install the official QuickTime Player. It also supports QuickTime content that is embedded in webpages.

    GSpot is a video codec identification utility – identifies which video codec and audio compression method is used on .avi files, whether the matching codec is installed, and more.

    Media Player Classic
    Media Player Classic looks just like Windows Media Player 6.4, but has many additional features. It has a built in DVD player with real-time zoom, support for AVI subtitles, QuickTime and RealVideo support (requires QuickTime and/or Real Player); built-in MPEG2/SVCD/DVD codec.

    PhotoFiltre is a complete image retouching program. It allows you to do simple or advanced adjustments to an image and apply a vast range of filters on it. It is simple and intuitive to use, and has an easy learning curve. The toolbar, giving you access to the standard filters with just a few clicks, gives PhotoFiltre a robust look.

    AXCEL216 / MDGx MAX Speed WinDOwS Tricks + Secrets:

    1by1 and mp3DirectCut:
    1by1 is a small, fast and handy audio player which is not only small: it provides a smart and versatile environment to handle your file collection and listen to your tracks – with no need for playlists or databases. mp3DirectCut is a fast and extensive audio editor and recorder for compressed mp3. You can directly cut, copy, paste or change the volume with no need to decompress your files (e.g. to wav format) for audio editing. This saves encoding time and preserves the original quality, because nothing will be re-encoded. The built in recorder creates mp3 on the fly from your audio input. Using Cue sheets, pause detection or Auto cue you can easily divide long files.

    7-Zip is a file archiver with high compression ratio. Command-line and Windows shell utility for manipulating ZIP archives. Supported formats: Packing / unpacking: 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2 and TAR; Unpacking only: RAR, CAB, ISO, ARJ, LZH, CHM, Z, CPIO, RPM, DEB and NSIS

    Opera webbrowser
    Opera is a cross-platform web browser and Internet suite which handles common internet-related tasks, including visiting web sites, sending and receiving e-mail messages, managing contacts, online chat and Widgets.

  12. Kikker46 Says:

    FLV-Player freee !


  13. Rick Says:

    Yeah, this is a pretty MS-heavy list. That said, I might also include the Windows Live Writer from Microsoft. It is a stand-alone blog post editor that works with most major blogging platforms.

  14. Alex Says:

    I would recommend AVG Antivrus as it is more practical, lightweight, easy to use and very effective.