back to article Ten... freeware gems for new PCs

Reg Hardware PC Week If you’ve just purchased a spanking new Windows PC, what to slap on there often leaves pause for thought. The trial bloatware that inevitably came with your machine might keep you busy for a while until the payment nag screens start. Yet those costs and curses aside, there are plenty of free apps out …


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  1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Some more suggestions

    A good list. Here are some more:


    Winsplit Revolution


    1. Silverburn

      Re: Some more suggestions


      I'd replace the wastebin one with BulkReplacer, but it may be a bit specialised for a general utility list like this.

    2. Paul Westerman


      Treesize looks great, but seems I have to pay $25 for it?

      A quick vote for Defraggler while I'm here, great little defragger from the CCleaner people

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Freeware?

        There is a free version of Treesize - the only limitation is that it won't let you scan network drives, which may or may not be an issue for you on a home machine.

        1. Paul Westerman

          Re: Freeware?

          Ah, found it now - thanks, sorry for Googlefail.

      3. garetht t

        Re: Freeware?

        Windirstat is a great alternative to Treesize - free, and you can scan network drives.

        1. aThingOrTwo

          Re: Freeware?

          Good call. It is based on KDirStat algorithm. There is a Mac version called Disk Inventory X as well.

          All of these are free:

          Windirstat (PC):

          Disk Inventory X (Mac)

          KDirStat (Linux)

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Freeware?

        Don't need an external defragger with Win 7, it's wonderful, runs automatically in the background, keeps 0% fragmentation.

      5. Jaques Croissant

        Re: Freeware?

        Hmm, I was shocked at how crappy Defraggler was, as a happy CCleaner user. "MyDefrag" is also free, and far more effective.

    3. xenny

      Re: Some more suggestions

      I actually prefer jdiskreport to treesize. It has the disadvantage of being a java app, but disk directory sizing is I/O bound so that's no so bad, and it has the advantage over treesize's free edition that it will size mounted network drives.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Interesting list

    Intersting list, few I wouldn't of picked but after seeing that playlist in VLC I'd not question them further.

    One ommision I feel you should of had in there was InfraRecorder - nice burning software (InfraRecorder is a free CD/DVD burning solution for Microsoft Windows. It offers a wide range of powerful features; all through an easy to use application interface and Windows Explorer integration.

    InfraRecorder is released under GPL version 3.)

    I'd also say CygWin as well, but I'm sure others will.

    Also I'd say I do prefer applications I can just run of a memory stick, why install anything onto windows with that option.

    I'm sure others will add there gems they didn't see on the list.

    1. DRendar

      Re: Interesting list

      *twitch* *twitch*

      What an unusual mix of correct apostrophe usage, fairly good spelling, but terrible grammar! Red Biro at the ready...

      "Intersting list, _A_ few I wouldn't _HAVE_ picked"

      "One ommision I feel you should _HAVE_ had in there was InfraRecorder"

      "Also I'd say I do prefer applications I can just run _OFF_ a memory stick, why install anything onto windows with that option _?_"

      "I'm sure others will add _THEIR_ gems"

      1. Sir Cosmo Bonsor

        Re: *twitch* *twitch*

        I love how you're perfectly happy with "Intersting" and "ommision".

        If you're going to be a pedantic dickweed, at least do a decent job of it.

        1. Stubar
          Thumb Up

          Re: *twitch* *twitch*

          you owe me a keyboard!

        2. DRendar

          Re: *twitch* *twitch*


          So I correct someone on their intentional misuse of grammar, ('Could of' / 'Should of' etc) and omit the obviously simple typo's.

          You pick up on said minor typo's and accuse me of being a pedantic dickweed.

          *I* love how by doing this, you actually prove the opposite, and prove yourself a hypocrite! That's a two-for-one - Well done sir!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: *twitch* *twitch*

            "typo's" ? Whoops - you blew it ...

            1. DRendar

              Re: *twitch* *twitch*

              Nope, perfectly acceptable.

              "Typo's" as in a contraction of "typographical errors"

              The apostrophe in this instance indicates missing letters, not possession.

  3. AndyMM
    Paris Hilton

    Libre or Open Office ?

    I was under the impression from most reviews that Libre was a cleaner and more mature package than Open Office.

    Or is Open Office back to being the main alternative ?

    Any comments welcome

    1. xpert_con

      Re: Libre or Open Office ?

      OpenOffice have made a new version that is quite clean. But seen as the Devs jumped ship and created LibreOffice I think that is still my Open Source office of choice.

    2. jrd010

      Re: Libre or Open Office ?

      Since virtually all of the "non-corporate" developers, who were in fact the core contributors to "Open Office" are now contributing to "Libre Office", that's the one I'd pick at the moment. It's also pretty telling that virtually all Linux Distro's now ship "Libre Office", not "Open Office".

      There are supposedly going to be a lot of contributions from IBM (for one) entering "Open Office" in later releases, which may make it interesting, but they aren't there even in the first Apache release.

      It's also worth remembering that the Apache license allows code to be moved to a GPL project, while the GPL license does not allow the reverse. So - it's possible that any improvements to "Open Office" will find their way into "Libre Office" - if it's something they want...

    3. jaduncan

      Re: Libre or Open Office ?

      LibreOffice is better now, and is likely to remain so as the patches are going in to it. OpenOffice have been backporting patches to their new release, the momentum is with LO.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Libre or Open Office ?

        libreoffice is nice but a pain to configure on mass rollouts. Previously you could copy config files but the new version wont let you. OO is still enterprise friendly in that respect.

  4. Forget It

    Cobain Backup 10 isn't going out of beta to paid anytime soon

  5. Edwin


    By far the best antivirus package, and the voice notifications don't bother me overmuch since I usually have the speakers switched off, but the 'add-ons' (the browser plugin, the widget, etc) are an incredible annoyance - switch all those off too!

    1. joeW
      Thumb Down

      Re: Avast!

      Last time I updated Avast!, it installed Chrome without asking and made it my default browser. Needless to say, I've switched back to AVG.

      1. Alan Gauton

        Re: Avast!

        You can't have been paying attention - or used an automated installer.

        I've installed Avast many times over the years, and it's always asked if you want to install chrome.

        1. joeW
          Thumb Down

          Re: Avast!

          Nope - I paid full attention, as always. I had a bit of a google-search after I'd recovered from the shock of it all, and there were a lot of other users with the same complaint. Maybe all of us weren't paying attention?

          1. The Indomitable Gall

            Re: Avast!

            Same here. It installed Chrome and made it my default browser. That's malware behaviour, that is.

          2. MDevonB

            Re: Avast!

            I'm inclined to think all of you weren't paying enough attention. Even looking for it, it takes a while to catch my focus. Nowadays it's on the first screen of installation below "Express Install" and "Custom Install" where I usually click one of the two without thinking anything. I remember it being on a separate page a year or so ago, but still placed in a way I never really caught it until I was just about to click. I wouldn't say it's at malware level, but it's still a tad bit disingenuous.

            1. David Simpson 1

              Re: Avast!

              Installing the world's most secure browser is the act of malware ? Who knew ? Avast has still never managed to do this to me so pay more attention next time.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Avast!

      I'd recommend Avira AntiVir over Avast!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forget Avast, it will nag you after a year. Microsoft security essentials is free for home users and small businesses with up to ten PCs.

    OpenOffice or Star Office or whatever it's called is great if you want a reverse-engineered copy of Office 97. But if you work for a large company, it is very likely they'll have Microsoft's Home Use Program as part of their licensing agreement, in which case you can download a proper legit copy of Office 2010 for less than a tenner.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Right, then you renew Avast every year. It's a much more modern AV solution than MSE, which last time we compared AV produces was particularly weak on the heuristic/sandboxing front. Even the paid-for MS AV product was outperformed by Avast, Avira, and AVG's FREE products.

      BTW OOo started life as StarOffice, made by a German firm - I have a German colleage who used the DOS version (StarWriter) in the 90's - and OOo still opens his old document files.

      1. RAMChYLD

        re: Avast

        I agree with AC on this one. All you need to do is renew Avast every year. No big deal, just renew it on the day of expiry.

        Also, I should note that you do in fact get the sandbox protection in the free version of Avast, just that it's not as flexible as the paid for version.

    2. handle

      "OpenOffice or Star Office or whatever it's called"

      Sorry - I'd read your posting but I'm too busy compiling my Linux kernel in order to get the command line to work.

      You're comical.

    3. King Jack

      Avast, it will nag you after a year?

      No it won't. You just re-register it. It takes 5 seconds and you don't even need a real email address.

      I would like to suggest Imgburn for burning DVDs and CDs. It's free, flexible and fast.

    4. Avatar of They
      Thumb Up

      Hmmm MSE

      MSE comes up with false positives too many times to be considered safe for my liking. Half the games in Steam seem to be riddled with trojans if you believe MSE but AVG and Avast both find no problems.

      And MSE is an MS product which means the company that wrote the bad OS software is also the one I trust to fix it? I would rather not have all eggs in one basket.

      Avast has an annoying voice over but works and isn't bloated like AVG.

      Back to the list, piriform who do CCleaner do 4 pieces of useful software. One for cleaning up rubbish, one for defragging hard drives, one for specking your machine and one for recovery of files. All well worth it.

      1. Shakje

        Re: Hmmm MSE

        I have a couple of hundred games on my Steam account, and MSE hasn't flagged a single one.

        When it comes to dealing with the deepest recesses of Windows, I'd far rather that MS was the one writing the code with internal documents to help, than someone else dealing with undocumented functions. That doesn't mean MSE is the best solution, just that your argument that it should be shunned because a different coding department of the same firm wrote something that you think is bad yet you still bought is a pretty rubbish reason not to use something.

      2. Cave Dweller

        Re: Hmmm MSE

        The only 'games' I've had flagged byt MSE is an build of my hobbyist project, which isn't using the Direct3D10 API quite right when switching to fullscreen mode (anyone got an answer? It's always going 1680x1050 instead of 1920x1080...).

        I moved from Avast! to MSE a few years ago and never looked back. I've never had any malware issues with either AV, but I prefer MSE because of how straightforward it feels. Little green castle in my notification area = 'salright.

      3. ACcc

        Re: Hmmm MSE

        Have to say I had to remove MSE from a low spec laptop and go to avast - MSE was taking up 100 meg memory, and on an XP machine with only 360, that was killing it.

        And while I'd have used Lubuntu for my own machine (and have had it running nicely enough on an even lower spec laptop with 160 meg & 600MHz Processor) the machine wasn't for me, so had to be XP.

        1. David Simpson 1

          Re: Hmmm MSE

          If you still have an XP machine with 360MB of RAM do the decent thing and put it in a skip.

    5. illiad

      yes, avast will nag you, but will STILL cost NOTHING...

      all you have to do is enter your email address, that is ALL .. WTH is the problem, lazy????

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      Indeed, MSE is scoring very well these days, as according to the rolling 28 day live testing at West Coast Labs. Avast is doing great too, but in my experience it's more resource hungry than MSE. As a fail safe I also ponied up only $25 for a lifetime license of Malwarebytes Pro. Great combo, and cheap!

    7. Paul 129


      I need more Microsoft Security Essentials deployed out there.... It brings me in much more business... Mind you avasts firewall configuration, often causes issues for small business users. For home use though its fine.

  7. Suhana

    And for those of you wise souls running a non-windows setup...

    Is the world really that firmly entrenched in the "Windows is Best" rut?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I sort of thought

      that the phrase "windows PC" in the title sort of gave the game away!

      When we have a "Non windows based PC" freeware list, i'll look forward to reading your input.

      Hopefully, it will be more constructive than this little off topic gem....

      Bloody linux fanbois.....

      1. Tom 7

        Re: I sort of thought

        To be honest it doesnt mention Windows in the title. It does say new PC. Which just does to show how entrenched things are - a new PC is expected to be windows. And not another

        The firs sentence does mention windows but since you've made all the effort to click to get here from the front page... And the poster doesnt mention linux so your ability to recognise a penguin may suggest some progress is being made.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: I sort of thought

          I can recognise the ebola pathogen, doesn't mean i want anything to do with it!!!!

      2. Michael Nelson

        Re: I sort of thought

        "I sort of thought ... that the phrase "windows PC" in the title sort of gave the game away!"

        Erm... It isn't in the title!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not now mate!

      I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Linux/OSX fan but this is a WIndows only article and I read it as I sometimes get asked to offer advice on software for my Windows owning friends and family.

      I don't judge my friends for their O/S "choices", I simply try my best to help them cope with their unfortunate circumstances until they arrive at the age of reason! Ha ha!

    3. Bill Neal

      And for those of you...

      There should have been a few 'nix distros on the list, if only to use as file recovery when the free av fails to catch anything REALLY bad/annoying. The only program on the list that I have used is VLC. Probably the only one on that list I will ever use. (well, I used OOo until the fork) At home I just keep the Windows boxes off the internet at all times. My cat could probably update Facebook with linux. Its not that difficult.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sure it's been mentioned before

    The excellent Richcopy is deserving of another mention.

    Heard of most of these (and use them too) but Bvckup looks an excellent addition to the toolbox, thanks.

  9. Ralph B
    Thumb Up


    IrfanView is a great little picture viewer/modifier.

    1. Basil Fernie
      Thumb Up

      Re: IrfanView?

      Since M$ dropped proper thumbnails in Win7, IrfanView with its Thumbnails has pretty well supplanted The Gimp on my systems.

  10. Torben Mogensen


    This image viewer and editor is one of the first things I download when I or one in my family gets a Windows PC. Personally, I don't use Windows much myself anymore, but Irfanview is one of the few programs I miss.

    1. simmondp
      Thumb Up

      Re: Irfanview

      FastStone Image Viewer - Not only a great viewer, with slide show, and dual-screen support, but edit, copy and scanner support.

      Absolutely essential freeware IMHO.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Irfanview

      Runs OK on Linux/Wine.

    3. Chris 244

      Re: Irfanview

      I've been using Paint.NET, how does Irfanview compare?

      1. F Seiler

        Re: Irfanview

        Irfan View: more of a viewer with limited editing

        (fast start, can set minimal interface, walk folders with space/backspace, crop, rotate, adjust curves/gamma/brightness, *no* drawing (lines etc), supports something like 9000+ formats e.g. also custom specified raw interpretation) more of a lightweight editor ("mini-PS/PSP")

        you know what it is

        I use

        -Irfan for viewing, batch conversion, simple stuff like rotate and resize photos

        -PDN for labeling stuff on screenshots, collages (at work)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Irfanview

      Due to license restrictions, irfanview can't be used in a corporate environment, so it can't really be called freeware.

  11. AOD
    Thumb Up

    Another security related suggestion...

    Excellent suggestions, I'd also add Secunia PSI to this which will monitor your installed apps and ensure they're kept up to date (in some cases automagically updating them for you). It helps reduce the chances of being hit with an exploit for an old version of a piece of software, especially if they're not good at managing their own updates.

  12. stu 4


    I wouldn't bother with VLC - it's an old dog.

    Best go for something like media player classic home cinema edition and FFDSHOW.

    unlike VLC they support hardware acceleration, so on a newish PC you'll notice massively less CPU, etc.

    And VLCs mkv support is rubbish.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: mpc-hc

      vlc is a bit cakey, for example it stutters playing some videos I've downloaded recently, but it's a good way of getting round the region lock on windows pc dvd players!

    2. Sooty

      Re: mpc-hc

      I use media player classic as my main player (windows media player 6.4 was really nice, clean and easy to use) but it's still worth having VLC for those odd files. It's ability to play practically anything can come in handy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: mpc-hc

      VLC supports hardware acceleration, and has for some time (at least v1.1).

      You might find it's turned off in preferences.

      Also, mkv support is not rubbish, whatever that's supposed to mean.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        VLC preferences?

        I seemed not to get hardware accelerated video in Windows until I disabled Aero, then it was much more satisfactory. Maybe there's a "Heck with Aero" preference to tick.

        Less satisfactory playing certain PVR files, or converting them to MP4 last time I tried. Audio out of synch!

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


        ...oh, and I like being able to speed up or slow down media playback in VLC.

        Also worth getting is smplayer 0.8, a nice Windows interface for mplayer. I have PVR files of "radio" programming that VLC won't touch but smplayer takes.

    4. King Jack

      Re: mpc-hc

      MPC the regular edition uses even less cpu cycles and is just as good.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: mpc-hc

      "I wouldn't bother with VLC - it's an old dog."

      Agree, for displaying video on a TV, XBMC (xbox media centre) beats everything else hands down. Honestly, you won't regret installing it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: xbmc

        "Honestly, you won't regret installing it."

        I did.

        I just don't get it. At all.

        It's very shiny, but beyond that?

    6. David Simpson 1

      Re: mpc-hc

      If you notice video playback eating a lot of CPU cycles on a newish PC then you have a problem !

  13. stu 4

    spacemonger and MyDefrag

    another essential - the old version is freeware and does the trick.

    And MyDefrag is also free and a great defragger

  14. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I use just three of those applications:

    Open Office, Avast, and Notepad++.

    The others I have no great need for, since Windows is used only because I have a couple of windows-only development suites, but nonetheless a good selection I think.

    No recommendation for a browser, though? Or a PDF viewer? Surely not Adobe...

    1. KjetilS

      Re: I use just three of those applications:

      Foxit Reader for PDF files!

      1. David Simpson 1

        Re: I use just three of those applications:

        SumatraPDF is much better and never nags.

  15. Semaj
    Thumb Up

    My 3

    Some cool ones there but I can't believe you didn't put in - it's a wonderful little replacement for paint. Great for quick bitmap graphics.

    And backup I'd say Cobian is better too as someone mentioned earlier.

    As for text editing, I prefer SciTe because of it's configuableness though notepad++ is decent.

    1. David Simpson 1

      Re: My 3

      We call that raster now-a-days.

  16. Inspector71
    Thumb Up

    Goodbye Adobe...

    For PDFs, I have used Foxit Reader for years, much faster than Adobe's bloatware. There is even a version for the penguin fans.

    1. Goldmember

      Re: Goodbye Adobe...

      And of course cutePDF for PDF creation (printing)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Goodbye Adobe...

        I've stopped bothering with PDF printers. All the programs I use on a daily basis are capable of producing PDF files relyably on their own. If you are after a lightweight PDF viewer then both Sumatra and Evince are excellent choices.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Goodbye Adobe...

          FTR, none of the free pdf drivers produce documents with hyperlinked tables of contents.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Goodbye Adobe...

      Foxit started out streamlined but it too has become more bloated over the years. Also, the Firefox plugin has a tendency to crash, at least on my systems.

      I now recommend Sumatra PDF to people. It starts almost instantaneously and its Firefox plugin seems more stable.

      1. TheMidnighToker

        Re: Goodbye Adobe...

        foxit seems to have very recently dropped the Ask crapware from the install, so it's probably worth having another look at :)

    3. Michael Kean
      Thumb Up

      Re: Goodbye Adobe...

      . and I'll put in a vote for the free PDF-Xchange program. The main advantage being that you can edit PDFs (typewriter, stamp tool) for free, and save them too.

      No more print, sign, scan, email! Just one click of the stamp tool (with your signature as a stamp) and you're done.

  17. Goldmember
    Thumb Up

    Good list

    I use several of those. Also on my list are are GIMP, a surprisingly powerful photo editing software package (and no, I'm not a designer, I use it mainly for manipulating ebay pics :o) and imgBurn

    1. Miffo

      Re: Good list

      I've got GIMP and Irfan view on my PC. By the time GIMP has started up, I can do a quick crop and lossless rotation in Irfan view! So for your ebay changes you might want to try it. Obviously very basic compared to GIMP which I only roll out for the big jobs!

      Actually, I recently (1 year ago) started using Picasa - That's great for organising your photos and I like the straightening tool (I must be holding my camera wonky!) and the "I'm feeling lucky" adjuster that just sorts out the colour balance etc. nicely.

      I guess they only had 10 slots to fill though!

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Good list

        I use Picasa a lot, it's very slick and makes organising photos easy - through the use of 'albums' - and its fast for editing - changes are made 'virtually' and only applied when pictures are exported. For croppping, straightening and other 'eBay photo' fixes its great. Fast for some batch operations, too.

        However, this week I have been dealing with TIFFs with alpha layers. Picasa displays the alpha layer as black, so within Picasa I have had to right-click > open with > Irfan View. PNGs with alpha similarly confuse Picasa.

        Irfan View displays - and exports- this layer correctly. And Irfan also handles more obscure formats, such as Radience (.hdr) files. However, it could do with more polish (can't get quick zoom to 100%, for example)

        Have both, they play well together.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: correction

          Apologies, in my above comment I said that IrfanView can view HDRI (.hdr, .exr) files. It can't. Sorry, I could have sworn blind that it does. Ho hum.

          HDRview (by University of Berkeley) can.

          1. philbo

            Re: correction

            IrfanView lets you add plug-ins for different file types, though - you might have had one of those installed?

            I use IrfanView as the image file viewer integrated into Total Commander (shareware, but completely uncrippled if unregistered.. and my licence file from when I registered my copy in 1998 still works).

    2. David Simpson 1

      Re: Good list


  18. Locky


    I'd use Crashplan for a free backup system, it let's you backup to remote machines and is as close to TimeMachine for idiotproofness.

  19. Snark
    Thumb Up


    Bvckup looks like a great little tool, very simple and clean and does exactly what you want, I've just switched to using it. I'd second Secuna PSI and also add Evernote. For keeping my lists, notes and otherstuff together whichever machine I am working on it's great and the amount of free space given is more than enough for most peoples needs without paying for more.

  20. noroimusha


    If it is free and lightweight music player then it must be foobar

    beer because cant wait for pub o clock

  21. DF118
    Thumb Up


    I use it to mirror my data drive. Simpler than full backup for home use, easy to set up excludes for folders containing large transient files *cough* torrented movies *cough*

  22. Lamont Cranston

    My picks:

    - Spybot S&D and COMODO, I have been virus and malware free for years, which is nice.

    - SumatraPDF is nice - a lot nicer than Acrobat, anyway.

    Must say, though, that I'm slightly surprised that one of the suggestions for a new Windows PC wasn't some variant of Linux!

    1. dotdavid

      Re: My picks:

      "Spybot S&D and COMODO, I have been virus and malware free for years, which is nice."

      Not knocking your tools (I use Spybot although have never used Comodo) but if hypothetically-speaking they were crap they would also claim you were virus and malware free ;-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My picks:

      Thunbs up for comodo, but I've gone off sypbot recently - to processor hungry and slows down FF start-up (a LOT).

      I would add Trucrypt to the list though (as well as SRIron).

    3. Darryl
      Thumb Up

      Re: My picks:

      I've been using Spybot S&D for years - mostly on friends' PCs. You know - the "This f-ing thing is too slow. Should I go buy a new one?" crowd. When I install and run Spybot and it removes a few thousand toolbars, smiley-face generators and tracking cookies, all of a sudden the thing is magically much faster.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Problem with VLC

    "Not only does it play absolutely everything, VLC can capture media streams and also transcode between nearly every format and container under the sun, so you can turn that pesky file into something readable by your other devices."

    Yeah well maybe it does run everything, except it didn't run any of the Portal 2 videos I downloaded via Steam and the forum pointed me to a "fixer" applet that let me "fix" those videos... one at a time, as it had no batch capabilities whatsoever. So using Zoom Player quite a bit now.

    (I have no idea if this is a general problem of VLC not being able to play Steam videos or if it was something specific about the Portal 2 videos. The devs didn't seem to care, and so I won't, either.)

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Problem with VLC

      Handbrake (freeware) could probably convert it for you. The only problem with the later versions is they've dumped .avi and xvid to be all modern.

  24. Martin

    Well, someone has to say it...

    Surely the best piece of freeware you can put on a Windows PC is a new install of Linux?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well, someone has to say it...

      Wise men speak when they have something to say.

      Linux fanbois speak because they have to say something...

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Well, someone has to say it...

      I've always Windows user - the software I use is only available for it. Linux vs Windows is a complete non-argument for me.

      However, the first thing I did when I got this PC was to create an additional partition and put Ubuntu on it. I haven't used it much at all, but its good to know it is there- saves carrying around a Linux live CD for 'just in case' situations. Or if I suddenly need functionality only offered by a Linux-only application. But really, its there to indulge my geeky side- the Scientific section of the repository is great - a 3D molecule designer!

    4. Martin

      Re: Well, someone has to say it...

      Oh well.

      When I put the post in, I had to decide between the joke icon or the penguin. Judging by the number of downvotes, I chose the wrong one...

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Well, someone has to say it...

        I agree with what you said, but the way you put it could be read as being akin to the old "Windows is rubbish, just use Linux" cry.

        An install of Linux on a Windows machine is handy for its recovery tools, or as a dedicated OS for online banking... Any more suggestions for 'Uses for Linux on a dual-boot Windows machine'?

  25. Alex Walsh

    I'd add a few suggestions like:

    Always on PC- useful virtual PC application to easily bypass work site filtering

    DVD Dycrypter- still working my way through ripping my DVD collection :/

    Boxee/XBMC-- useful if you're hooked up via HDMI to a telly. My nettop is :D

    AnyVideo Converter- just found this and it's rather good for converting formats AND downloading videos off YouTube easily (just paste the URL). Free version isn't very limited at all.

    Calibre- ebook management, conversion and server software. Very useful indeed.

    Now, can anyone recommend a decent PC UPnP media server? I currently use Twonky but was wondering if there's anything out there that's free?

    1. james 68

      small goof

      always on pc is NOT free

      1. Alex Walsh

        Re: small goof

        The PC client is, the smart phone app isn't. At least that was the case when I signed up?

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      VLC can run a media server that transcodes on-the-fly

      But it's not getting good press round these parts...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "...can anyone recommend a decent PC UPnP media server?"

      PS3mediaserver does just that - it's not only for PS3 boxes:

  26. Andydude

    Dropbox alternative

    I've been using Dropbox for ages, but then noticed if you have an old hotmail address you can upgrade skydrive free to 25GB! The app isn't as great IMHO as Dropbox, and there isn't an android app (although you can use it with browser apparently) but that's a lot of free space!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dropbox alternative

      MS Skydrive 25 GB upgrade is, sadly, no more. I managed to upgrade my very old and operational hotmail address, and then, surprisingly, a very new and hardly used hotmail address. Then I went to do the same for my wife and - why did she choose hotmail?! - children's hotmail addresses. Alas, no more and they're all stuck with 7 Gb. That said, the arms rance is only going to get faster and we'll probably see the upgrades from all providers, including that new, funny one from google, the one that says: it's your stuff, but we can make full use of it. Or something.

  27. g e


    Another vote for this great app.

    It's looks great and is the only media player I've found on 'doze (and Linux come to think of it) that easily lets you browse standards-compliant non-Microsoft DLNA media servers.

    Never got Mediatomb/Ushare to show up under VLC/Media Player/Rhythm Box/Banshee

  28. Calum Morrison

    And how to install them? will install pretty much all of these apps for you - with the irritating options disabled - and then allow you to quickly and easily update them with a single click. It's saved me hours!

    1. dotdavid
      Thumb Up

      Re: And how to install them?

      I do like Ninite, but a way of saving your preferences for some common configuration options (like "don't create a bloody desktop shortcut please", for example) would be nice.

      It would also be nicer if the range of software it supported was more extensive. I tried to suggest some other free/open source apps but heard nothing back.

      But definitely recommended.

  29. MJI Silver badge

    I have a few of those

    But I would add ImgBurn - very usefull and is a lot more reliable than the burning routines in the video editing packages, mind you I did pay for Tsunami MPEG encoder instead of the built in ones.

    I use Notepad++ for non IDE work, since my new work PC cannot use TSE.

  30. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Some more

    Super AntiSpyware running alongside Malwarebytes.

    CutePDF and Unlocker (just echoing those mentioned above).

    Eclipse, grepWin, and WinMerge if you're into that sort of thing.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Some more

      Oh, and HashTab.

  31. tekgun


    MSE > Avast

    Apart from that nice list.

  32. SomeoneOutThere...

    Open office

    Appears not to have a British English download, and I don't want English (US).

    Will stick to my old version of OO I think, at least it is in the right language!

    1. handle

      Re: Open office

      The LibreOffice on this Ubuntu box uses UK English. Don't know how it was installed as it all happens automatically. You could look for LibreOffice instead which, as has already been stated, is considered to be superior to OpenOffice at the moment.

  33. Toby Poynder

    Some more

    As mentioned above, Irfan View is a terrific image viewer

    ImgBurn is a very competent CD/DVD/Blu-Ray burner, I've found it can do things that Nero can't manage.

    NirSoft have a load of cool little utilities, check out their website.

    Macrium have a free edition of their Reflect disk imaging software which works really well.

    Thanks to all the developers who create this stuff and give it away!

  34. Patry

    another suggestion, once all the security and basic utilities (pdf, openoffice..) have been installed : Fence (

    This is an application that allow to regroup icons on the desktop in movable pseudo-windows. Allows for a organised desktop.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Fences

      I installed it. I liked it. It worked... for months. Then, one day my icons broke free and scattered themselves all over my desktop again (Win 7 x64). The Fences still work (icons can be dragged back in) but maybe it needs a 'sheepdog' companion to round things up again?!

      Recommended, though.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Wow WFW again

      We had this in Windows for WorkGroups

    3. deviAnt Ostrich

      I downloaded a number of Stardock widgets including Fence and a number of other windows customising utilities (allowed me to alter all the system icons and themes etc.) I paid for a years worth of updates. I then reinstalled my machine sometime after the year was up, and lo and behold - because stardock utilised a downloader for all its software - this downloader was the only installer I had for it all. So I reinstalled the downloader - signed in - and it wouldn't let me download and install any of the software I had previously paid for as my year was up and I no longer had access to their software updates...

      I must say I never contacted them about this - I wasn't overly bothered TBH - only lost about 40 quids worth of software. But it has made me wary of being forced to use a downloader for software which I have paid for. Maybe all I needed to do was find where the original downloader had plonked the installers on my drive before wiping my system - but it wasn't something I had thought of at the time and I thought I'd at least still be able to re-download all my previous purchases... If I pay for software - I want to manually download each installer so I can manage my own backing up of them - and not rely on a downloader which will lock me out after a set period of time.

  35. Mike Taylor
    Thumb Up

    Sound and music editing

    Has to be audacity, doesn't it? On linux too, and it's ace.

  36. A J Stiles

    Being pedantic here .....

    At least 7-Zip, and VLC are not Freeware, but Free Software.

    Free Software gives users four basic freedoms: The freedom to Enjoy using it for any purpose without let or hindrance (freedom 0); the freedom to Study how it works (freedom 1); the freedom to Share it with your neighbour (freedom 2); and the freedom to Adapt it to suit your own purposes (freedom 3). This requires for it to be released under a licence which permits these activities which the Law of the Land would ordinarily curtail, and with the Source Code (the human-readable form, as used by programmers) available to all users.

    "Freeware" is software which is offered gratis, but without some or all of the above freedoms. Freedoms 0 and 2 can always be taken by force if necessary; but access to Source Code is what directly enables Freedoms 1 and 3 and in its absence, users may be hamstrung.

    The term "Open Source Software" is often used as a mealy-mouthed, politically-correct alternative to "Free Software", since it (1) avoids potential confusion between £0 and freedom, and (2) avoids implying awkward things about non-Free software.

    Whatever name you are going to call it, this drum needs banging, because people are still too keen to sell their freedoms until it is already too late.

    1. Danny 14

      Re: Being pedantic here .....

      not sure why the downvotes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Being pedantic here .....

      Actually, you may find you're using terms in a manner most people don't. "Freeware" and "Free Software" are not terms generally used in the way you've described by the majority of the world. You may think that's what those terms mean. The majority don't share that opinion.

      So, being pedantic, that's a load of bollocks.

    3. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: Being pedantic here .....

      "because people are still too keen to sell their freedoms until it is already too late."

      What "freedoms"? The ones the Church of Stallman invented out of thin air?

      There's a damned good reason why that clichéd shepherd-and-flock metaphor keeps popping up in threads like these, and it's not what the religious think either:

      It is impossible for a single person to know everything there is to know about everything. Therefore, people prioritise. Most people who have to use computers have no idea how they work, any more than most drivers know how to strip down and rebuild their car by themselves. In each specialism, only a few can be the shepherds. The rest will be sheep, because they have different priorities.

      Stop wasting your time trying to teach sheep how to dance the polka as it only wastes your time and annoys the sheep.

      Personally, if I'm going to give something I've made away for free, I'll put it in the Public Domain, thanks. I don't believe in attaching strings to my gifts.

      Bollocks to the Church of Stallman.

    4. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Being pedantic here .....

      If you want to play the pedantic game, you're wrong : 7-zip etc are freeware, and may also be Free software. They're not, though. 7Zip is LGPL. Freedom does not restrict what you are permitted to do, whilst the GPL and LGPL apply various conditions to their usage.

      The principles you list are great, but the GPL/LGPL and various other licences don't satisfy all of the above principles - everything beyond the first paragraph isn't precisely true. Source code helps an awful lot, but is not what enables 1) and 3). Suggesting the use of the GPL over closed source merely exchanges one set of (commercial) interests for other forms of self interest.

      That may align with your own personal philosophy, but it's still not freedom.

      1. A J Stiles

        Re: Being pedantic here .....

        "They're not, though. 7Zip is LGPL. Freedom does not restrict what you are permitted to do, whilst the GPL and LGPL apply various conditions to their usage."

        By which logic, people in a country where slavery is permitted are freer than people in a country where slavery is not permitted (and thus people are denied the freedom to enslave others).

        Maybe the freest person in such a land would be more free than the freest person in a non-slave-owning country; but one must suppose that the average person would be a lot less free where slavery was permitted.

        Similarly, a country whose government is not bound by a written constitution is not necessarily freer than a country where the government's powers are restricted by a written constitution.

        The fallacy is to assume that the power (not freedom; see to do what licences such as the GPL do not allow would always be used in a benign manner. History has shown consistently that such expectations are naïve and unrealistic.

        After all, whyever should anyone want the power to rob others of their freedom, if they were not going to exercise it?

        1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

          Re: Being pedantic here .....

          You are blinded by your own philosophy and equating slavery to software licensing carries more than a whiff of Godwin, but I'll spell it out :

          Yes, if software is issued under a completely free license it's entirely probable at some point it will be taken, monetized and enhanced without returning anything to the original authors. The GPL/LGPL is one way of enforcing an evolving software ecosystem, but not the only way.

          A third party taking code and not releasing enhancements is not depriving the original author of 'freedom' - it is merely refusing to sign up to the same viewpoint on how software should be distributed.

          Neither is a third party taking code, putting a fancy skin on it and selling it in closed source form to users depriving them of as much freedom as the GPL would assert. After all, the original free source is still there. The users are equally able to search that out. If the enhancements the third party make are trivial then it should be equally trivial for the authors of the majority of the source code base to create an open source alternative, whilst if the enhancements are major then frankly I don't think there's a real case to answer.

          Enforcing how code has to be used is pushing a particular viewpoint on others. This is not freedom.

          Now, it's entirely possible that by using other licences such as BSD, Apache etc, the growth of a software ecosystem is not as fast as GPL/LGPL proponents would prefer, but history proves that growth still does occur.

          History also proves that the GPL/LGPL is an effective philosophy for creating a large base of software, but don't dress it up as freedom when it's merely pushing a particular viewpoint.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Being pedantic here ..... @ A J Stiles

          Please stop now. Bringing this up at all is, as you said, being pedantic. For no valid reason. (Massaging your ego by thinking you're educating the ignorant masses is not a valid reason.)

  37. joeW


    Regarding use of the 35-pass Gutmann algorithm, Mr Gutmann himself has this to say -

    "In the time since this paper was published, some people have treated the 35-pass overwrite technique described in it more as a kind of voodoo incantation to banish evil spirits than the result of a technical analysis of drive encoding techniques. As a result, they advocate applying the voodoo to PRML and EPRML drives even though it will have no more effect than a simple scrubbing with random data. In fact performing the full 35-pass overwrite is pointless for any drive since it targets a blend of scenarios involving all types of (normally-used) encoding technology, which covers everything back to 30+-year-old MFM methods.... If you're using a drive which uses encoding technology X, you only need to perform the passes specific to X, and you never need to perform all 35 passes. For any modern PRML/EPRML drive, a few passes of random scrubbing is the best you can do. As the paper says, "A good scrubbing with random data will do about as well as can be expected". This was true in 1996, and is still true now."

    Plus, CCleaner can do multi-pass overwriting to delete data - maybe that slot in the top ten should go to an Adobe-alternative PDF reader?

  38. Mystic Megabyte

    File managers?

    Surely none of El Reg readers are using Explorer?

    Total Commander is free if you don't mind selecting one button from three on startup, which would be once a day in my case.

    1. philbo

      Re: File managers?

      Thank you.. I was getting worried that I was the only Total Commander convert on el Reg (which would surprise me, TBH). First thing that goes onto any PC I use (I've asked ninite if they'd be so kind as to include it, but no joy so far).

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. sam bo
        Thumb Up

        Re: File managers?

        Total Commander PowerPack makes it even better. You quickly forget that it handles everything transparently - until you have to use a machine with just Explorer on it. Feels like working with both hands cut off . just copy the whole directory to a USB stick and you can run it from there.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: File managers?

      Explorer++ is excellent for tabbed views of different drives, as is Cubic Explorer.

      But the the killer feature of both is the ability to copy file pathnames easily (for pasting elsewhere).

    4. MichaelBirks

      Re: File managers?

      Heh. I actually paid for WIndows Commander before the rename.

      The UI's a little dated looking now, but I still love it in terms of functionality.

      1. philbo

        Re: File managers?

        > Heh. I actually paid for WIndows Commander before the rename.

        Me, too :-) And the latest version still works with the (14-year-old) wincmd.key

        The UI is skinnable, but after playing with a few different looks, I've gone back to what I'm used to: I don't use TC for what it looks like, but for the incredible power of what you can do with it.

  39. Blacklight
    Thumb Up

    And then...

    All the Piriform apps (not just CCleaner) are worth getting. Defraggler (as mentioned), Speccy & Recuva (damned handy).

    Also - consider photorec - free deleted file recovery tool which is very thorough and useful when things go wrong.

    If you use Eraser (as you suggest), why not grab Sandboxie too, to further bolt down web browsing and ensure no little nasties get to remain on your machine via Flash/Java etc, without having to block their usage. It also uses Eraser (if you have it) to clear itself up on exit.

    Then of course there is Soluto - for optimising boot, and Secunia PSI to keep track of what needs patching and again increase security.... :)

    1. Duncan Idaho

      Re: And then...

      Zero Assumption Recovery is amazing for recovering images from memory cards for free. I bought the full version after using the free a few times. Well worth it. There might be other more full-featured free programs but for flexibility in dealing with images it does seem to have everything.

  40. thesykes

    Media converter that works?

    The kids got a triple play dvd for Christmas, so thought I'd give the digital copy a go. The only thing I can get to run it is Media Player, making it not all that useful.

    Anybody know of a utility that can convert a digital copy to comething more useful? Just tred VLC player on the strength of the review here, only to that, not only will it not convert, it can't even open the file.

  41. Psymon

    VLC? Pah!

    Yes, as several others have pointed out, VLC's a tired old dog. One of the most annoying features is when you hit pause, theres a delay.

    What, am I watching this on VHS?

    Media Player Classic is a truly well rounded app, but to get around the codec issue, simply download the K-lite codec pack, and choose "Lots of Stuff" during the install, and you get MPC.

    Voila, you have high functionality media player, with codecs to to play just about anything, even the Bink and Smacker A/V codecs EA and Codemasters commonly use as the format for their in-game videos. Crucially, because they are system codecs, your other player apps can use them too, improving overall system flexibility.

    For disc writing, I've sworn by Ashampoo Burning Studio (ver. 6, the free one) for years, and can count the number of writer drives more easily than the the number of discs I've worked through. Tiny memory footprint, extremely stable, fully featured, delightfully lacking in bloatware and I can run multiple instances, writing to multiple drives simultaniously.

    I've used XBMC, and while I have no argument over cross platform issues, the interface is appalling unintuitive for novice users. I know this because I had a system with it set up for my parents in their living room.

    No matter how much I tweaked the preferences or themes, they found it just too difficult to navigate.

    The solution came with MediaBrowser, an open source plugin for media player which combines similar functionality, incredible beauty, and crucially, ease of use which means my parents, rather than watching telly, frequently browse through the 2TB of movies and TV using the media center remote, with the same ease that they use the DVD player

  42. moonface

    My Admin favourites

    Primitive File Size Chart

    Very quick to use, shows you the 50 largest files and 50 largest folders in specified disk or folder. No install just a small .exe file. Helped me numerous times tracking down rogue processes filling up system hard disks. Only downfall is that you can't export the results to text on the version I have.

    SysExporter utility

    Allows you to grab the data stored in standard list-views, tree-views, list boxes, combo boxes, text-boxes, and WebBrowser/HTML controls from almost any application running on your system, and export it to text, HTML or XML file.

    Absolute life saver when used with standard Window searches, etc. Just export results straight into Execl spreadsheets.

  43. KitD

    Good stuff

    7zip, OO and Avast were the first things I put on a new Win PC recently. Not heard of Bvckup, must try it.

    Don't like VLC on windows. Too flaky

    For editors, I'd recommend PSPad over Notepad++ any day. It is particularly good at handling large files. I work with log files a lot, some Gb in size and it can handle them with no problems. Also lots of search&replace functionality, syntax highlighting, FTP access, macros, diff, block highlighting, etc. Well worth the money (!!)

  44. Danny 14 needs an honourable mention. As does ImgBurn. Putty is useful too. EaseUS has a freeware backup that will schedule bare metal capable backups that can be stored on a network location that doesnt have to be NTFS (unlike the MS one)

  45. John Burton


    Does openoffice still need java installed? Because, you know.. who wants that on their machine?

    1. Anonymous IV

      Re: Openoffice?

      Yes, and so does LibreOffice!

      But LO is working to eliminate the need for the Java Runtime Environment... (yippee!)

  46. uncle sjohie


    I would add Soluto to the list. That program lets you delay or pause the starting of programs during windows-boot, and speeding up the process.

  47. FIA Silver badge


    One more for the list....

    ClipX is a nice small clipboard history utility I find it increasingly hard to live without. Useful when coding, and the keyboard short cuts to google or browse to the contents of the clipboard.

  48. Zech Lim

    Q-Dir file explorer

    Best damned free software explorer replacement, wish there was one for linux. Up to 4 panes, multiple tabs, recursive folder sizing (best ever feature), built in viewers, x86, x64 and PORTABLE versions.

  49. Drakkenson

    some alternatives

    Synkron for folder mirroring and backup

    Notepad2 for notepad

    Daum PotPlayer for mediaplayer (it is a Korean free soft, but it is localised in English, lots of options)

    SumatraPDF for pdf reader

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First thing you do when a relative gets you to help set up their new PC is delete that Norton trial crap that PCWorld keep insisting on installing.

    NotePad++ can be infuriating if you have (or had open) files from across a network share, as it is always checking them for updates.

    A nice simple paint application is

    FreeMind is useful for firing down thoughts at the start of a project.

    Virtualbox for getting all flavours of Windows, OS/2 etc. to run.

    DosBox for your old games.

    For an XP machine, the Royale theme can brighten up the desktop a little, makes the blue slightly shinier.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      PC Decrapifier

      That should sort out the PCWorld crapware.

  51. Drakkenson
    Thumb Up

    Q-dir seconded

    I use it exclusively, with three panes and lots of tabs in each pane.

    It remembers the last used folder in eache tab, and has lots of other neat features, too.

  52. JimmyPage Silver badge


    no one has suggested LastPass - which I find invaluable.

    And mobilepcmonitor is a pretty neat app, if you need to monitor your PC over the web.

  53. Captain Underpants

    A few more

    CDBurnerXP - I prefer it to Imgburn, though both are good

    Paint.NET - I find its menu structure more straightforward than GIMP, plus there's a good community developing plugins that extend functionality a lot

    Audacity - best free sound editor going, IMO

    Virtual Clone Drive - since Windows still can't do much with ISOs natively, this creates a virtual loopback device so you can mount & manipulate them

    GSMART control - querying SMART data from installed drive

    Acronis Drive Monitor - handy little drive monitoring tool

  54. Helix

    Funny how an article for *new* PCs has screenshots that look like they're made on Windows 2000.

    My suggestion for the list:

    xnview, for image viewing and adjustments

  55. Bill Gould


    I used to use Avast but I've moved to Clam for myself. Most users will be fine with Microsoft Security Essentials. If you're only dealing with .zip file then Windows handles them natively, same for burning. NVidia actually cleans up it's driver refuse if you choose a clean install now which removed my need/desire for CCCleaner. VLC: damn good. Open Office...? Still no. I use MS Office myself but I've used Google Docs quite a bit and it's better than Open Office.

    Still, a good list. Gets people thinking about and looking for alternatives.

    1. Youngdog

      Re: Hrm

      Read your post and had to ask - how many of us here (or know people we work with who) insist on calling it "C-C-Cleaner" when it blatantly isn't called that!

      Great little utility but unfortunately was blacklisted in my corporate environment due to its ability to uninstall software that the in-house Client Management system had marked as un-uninstallable - he he

  56. Dave 126 Silver badge

    More suggestions

    Other nominations:

    F.lux - adjusts the colour temperature of your display according to the time of day. Obviously not for image editing etc, but good for when using web browsers.

    MagicISO - A virtual DVD dive.

    HDRview - views HDRI (.hdr, .exr) files. Despite my previous comment, IrfanView can't do this - maybe there is a plug in?

    VirtualDUB - does loads of video encoding stuff. Turning a sequence of still images into an AVI, for example. Many people might be better served by a specific converter for their needs though. (eg just to get a video onto their PMP)

    CoreTemp - tells you how hot your CPUs are. So you put some more books under your laptop in the hope of increasing airflow.

    Nice feature of Picasa is that if it is open when you hit PrntScrn, the screengrab is automatically saved (you don't have to manually paste it into Paint etc)

  57. DvorakUser

    My additions

    CDBurnerXP ( - A free awesome CD burner. Works better than some of Windows' own tools.

    Nero KwiKmedia ( - Same as above, only Nero.

    LibreOffice ( - already been mentioned

  58. teacakes





  59. jason 7


    Is next to useless now.

    Use to work great a year or so ago but now it rarely detects anything while the other products I use still find stuff.

    As for SpybotS&D thats great if you like using software that looks like it was designed for Win95. Pus it's got way bloated now.

    All those extra Spyware detectors are a waste of time. All you need is a free AV and thats it.

    The reason being is that once you are infected you cannot clean off those drivebys etc. using those apps on the PC. They don't work. They might delete a few files but they wont get rid of it all.

    The only way is to remove the HDD and scan it in another machine with about 4 different products so installing Spybot/Malwarebytes etc. are largely a waste of space.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Libre Office

    Gimp, FastStone Image Viewer and Karen's Replicator for me. All four are "must haves" in my book.

  61. ScarabMonkey
    Thumb Up and Irfanview

    Surprised you didn't mention and Irfanview - 2 of the best photo tools available for Windows. has almost all the features you are likely to need from Photoshop and is totally free.

    Irfanview provides a slick interface to paging through masses of photos.

  62. get off

    Backup - Karen's Replicator

    No mention of 'Karen's Replicator.' It used to be mentioned a lot.

    Backup across network, schedule, autostart...... It runs. I don't even notice it (exactly how it should be) and my backups are on my other machine.

    Free. Bigger than Bvbackup but worth a look...

    More functionality? I dunno....

    1. Duncan Idaho

      Re: Backup - Karen's Replicator

      I've been using Karen's for years. Bigger? Dunno. More features? Dunno. Always been free and always worked well for me.

      1. gherone

        Re: Backup - Karen's Replicator - try TeraCopy

        Tried Karen's Replicator, Microsoft's SyncToy, RapidBackup, SyncBack, Yadis file Sync, RichCopy from Microsoft, etc. all fail on large data sets (1.5+ TB total size and over 100K files) transferred over a network. The only one which did not quit is TeraCopy - there is a free version, and it is the only copy / sync utility I found which generates CRC 32 for the files it copies/checks and does not quit with very large datasets (NAS to NAS or local disk to NAS). free for non-commercial use only. FastCopy also deserves an honorable mention for handling large file sets.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3 wrong

    Avira is probably better than Avast

    Dropbox has privacy issues, so not a service I would consider.

    LibreOffice is the real successor to the old OpenOffice, not the 'OpenOffice' on Apache.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 3 wrong

      Well, my wife's PC (Dell mini with XP) has Avira and it's a naggy bastard that pops up a message that needs to be killed via taskmgr. Maybe I'll try a reinstallation.

      LibreOffice, yes, although there's a bug in the keyboard handling (first noticed when using the Formula Editor) such that you have to use the plus on the keypad instead of the shift-equals to get it to behave properly at times.

      I might also suggest people give KDE for Windows a try. ( Basically it's porting the KDE infrastructure and applications to Windows. It's up to KDE 4.8 and has continued to get closer to Linux quality*. Running the software will load the KDE libaries, but if you find multiple pieces of software in there useful the overhead is shared. All Free (beer and speech).

      Anyway, I was glad to see 7Zip as number 1 because it was my first thought.

      * Don't. Just don't.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Possibly the best text editor ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GVim

      GVim is only the best text editor if you've travelled up the steep learning curve to use it properly.

      PSPAD is far more intuitive for Windows users and is more powerful than Notepad++.

  65. austerusz
    Thumb Down

    Somebody should note that OpenOffice was shelved by Sun, the new "open" is called LibreOffice.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: OpenOffice was shelved by Sun

      The OpenOffice developer community was messed around by Oracle, so the bulk of the devs left to set up LibreOffice. Oracle since gave OpenOffice to Apache, and that development is supported by IBM. Because of the different licenses of the two projects you can expect new OpenOffice features to appear in LibreOffice, but not vice versa.

  66. Dick Emery


    VLC is terrible. At least if you want to use it for home cinema playback. MPC-HC all the way! Mind you my setup is rather esoteric (ffdshow, MAdVR, LAV etc). I have way to play nearly every format in exactly the way I want (like auto switching HDTV refresh etc for PAL, NTSC etc).

    I personally use AVG which works fine. I tend to switch based on the latest reviews though. I prefer XNViewMP beta over Irfanview right now (It displays transaparent PNG's correctly) although it can be a bit buggy on occasion.

    I am not sure 7-zip adds right click context menus to Explorer. I like the way in Winrar you can right click and 'extract here'.

    Oh and therer is some issue over whether Eraser will actually erase data on solid state storage such as flash drives due to the way wear levelling works. You may 'think' you erased the data but it cold be hiding in the redundant data portion of the memory still. just so you know.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: VLC?

      "I am not sure 7-zip adds right click context menus to Explorer. I like the way in Winrar you can right click and 'extract here'."

      Yes, it does.

  67. AlexS


    Software reviews on a hardware portal.

    Keep it up ;)

  68. mb2038

    text editing

    Crimson, now emerald editor is a very good programming grade plain text editor... its an older and no current dev sadly; but don't let that stop ya from trying.

    1. St3n
      Thumb Up

      Re: text editing

      Crimson.. Wow, that's just brought back some memories! I used to use that in the 90's!

  69. Simon R. Bone
    Thumb Up


    very fast universal image viewer and manipulator

    1. Simon R. Bone

      Re: XNview

      oh and Classic shell

      for those of us who believes GUI's peaked at windows 2000

  70. This post has been deleted by its author

  71. Duncan Idaho

    Karen's Replicator

    Another free backup utility, don't know about how all of it compares to the one mentioned, is Karen's Replicator. I've used it off and on throughout the years, it still handles a nightly incremental backup for me on my Windows 7 system.

  72. heyrick Silver badge

    VLC is nice... that it can usually be relied upon to play stuff nothing else will touch (though I find the transcode to be rather flakey), however the UI is horrible. I prefer SMPlayer, though it seems like later MPlayers are more finicky in what it'll play.

    +1 for Avast, the sandbox does work in the free version, you just need to be running the file off a removable drive. Yes, it hassles you to renew each year. It is dead easy, just find the renew button, click it, and give an email address.

    What I would appreciate is something that can join up multipart RAR files. It seems 7zip can't do that. Yet?

  73. ZenCoder

    I use 9 out of 10

    Most of these can be automatically installed via, otherwise I'd probably only be using 7 out of 10 :)

  74. Tom Melly

    No fans of TrueCrypt or PGP?

  75. Iainn


    I like FreeMeter, so I can quickly see what my 'Net connection is up to. Sits in the systray and at a glance I can see graphically how much bandwidth is being used. It's old now and crashes on system startup but I still like it - any alternative solutions welcome.

  76. Adam Comben
    Thumb Up

    First thing on a new build...

    Is to run it through

    Quite simply one of the most useful websites I ever found! As a techy, it's amazingly simple when you can't be arsed to keep a local repository of installers on the company NAS.

  77. SimonWWW


    XPLORER: Another one that's never mentioned but it's WONDERFUL!!


    It's a Windows Explorer replacement but it does so much that I use it continuously. It's main strength is the twin-pane approach with tabs on each pane to different folders. If you do a lot of work in folders this is for you.

    It also does overwrites like Eraser, Mass rename for photos, previews for images, amend file attributes - lots more, and that's only in the free version. The paid version does even more.

    I can't praise it highly enough, and clearly it needs a wider audience.

    Just try it.

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Agent Ransack - file search utility

    Best free search utility bar none. Way better than even advanced Windows 7 searches.

    Finds filenames and contents using Boolean or Regular Expression criteria.

    So good, I bought the paid for version - Filelocator Pro, which is better again (tabbed searches, can save results, outputs results in various formats for further analysis).

    Highly recommended.

  79. Clive Galway

    I ditched 7-Zip...

    ... as it does not play well with shell integration and windows 7 it seems.

    Also, it's algo to name the folder if you uncompress a zip to a was not good.

    I now use IZArc

    For windows 7 peeps, I also always install 7 taskbar tweaker ( )

    1. RAMChYLD

      Re: I ditched 7-Zip...

      You sure you're using the version of 7-Zip that corresponds to the architecture of your OS? Installing the 32-bit version of 7-Zip on a 64-bit version of Windows will result in shell integration problems (as I witnessed back in the early days of 64-bit computing. Ran XP Pro x64 on one of my rigs, but at that time 7-Zip was only available in 32-bit). Shell extension started working properly once they came up with 64-bit native versions of 7-Zip.

  80. Richard Lloyd

    Some obvious ones not mentioned

    Apart from the article dubiously recommending OpenOffice instead of the more featureful LibreOffice (does anyone with a new PC bother installing OpenOffice any more?!), here's some "obvious" ones left out:

    * Microsoft Security Essentials - a free download (even SMEs can use it on up to 10 PCs for free) and actually does its job quite unobtrusively and is lightweight too.

    * Daemon Tools Lite - useful for mounting ISOs as a drive (amongst other features). Bizarre that Windows 7 *still* can't do this, ho hum.

    * Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome - anything but IE, surely?!

    * ImgBurn - again, does a lot more than the standard CD/DVD burning stuff baked into Win 7.

    * puTTY and/or FileZilla - essential tools if you ever have to transfer files or login remotely to another machine that isn't running Windows (yes, shock, there are non-Windows machines out there).

    * VirtualBox - so you play with VMs (often running Linux) to see what "real" operating systems are like :-)

  81. The Envoy

    Full of suggestions!

    After dowloading all suggested freeeware in the comments my computer is a mess of programs scattered all over the harddrive.

    I'll get my coat and go buy that Windows Office bundle...

  82. Piro Silver badge

    Save time

    Just use that when setting up a PC. Makes things so much nicer.

  83. AOD
    Thumb Up

    Full disc encryption goodness

    +1 for TrueCrypt which I used on my previous XP machine and now on my current (Win 7 Pro, HP Elitebook) rig.

    It will do full disc encryption and can take advantage of AES hardware acceleration found in many newer Intel CPUs to help keep the performance up. Even on a Win 7 install with multiple partitions (boot, main win 7, recovery, tools) you can encrypt the main partition without any problems. Even if you don't have the shiny AES instructions available, the performance is still very respectable.

    Continuing the disc related theme, a mention has to go to Clonezilla which allows you to perform bare metal backup & recovery. It will also perform deployments and can use multicasting to boost performance. I used it to transfer my Elitebook from the stock HDD to an SSD and once I'd resized the HDD partitions before cloning to the SSD, the process ran like clockwork.

  84. Michael Sage

    What about putty,, gimp.....

    All things that go on my machine! :)

    1. Michael Sage

      Oh and cdburnerpro, magiciso disk, chrome, virtual box....

  85. Unicornpiss
    Thumb Up


    I haven't read through all the comments, but haven't seen that anyone suggested Imgburn. Imgburn is free, powerful CD/DVD/BD recording software that is lightning fast and will burn anything from CD audio to bootable media. It even has the ability to extract a boot image from other media, such as floppies, for making a bootable disk. It's not so good with movies, but there are a lot of specialized movie making apps out there. It has dozens of tweaks and pro features that most will never understand, much less use. And it has a goofy comment every time you launch it for the first time. What's not to love?

  86. Jason.Cole

    Terra copy

    it is a replacement for the file copy dialogue. It will queue up multiple copy/move jobs, instead of running them all at once. It has a reasonable estimate of how long it will take to work, and it can check hashes too.

  87. mrcreosote



  88. Neoc

    VLC or not VLC...

    Personally, I prefer to use Media Player Classic - Home Theatre (MPC-HT - *not* Microsoft's Media Player) with the CCCP codec pack.

    It has played everything I've thrown at it, although I admit VLC is perfect as a stand-alone player on a USB stick.

  89. Martin Maloney

    What about PowerDesk?

    OK, it's not free, although it is, right now, on a promotion:

    You can get either version 7 or 8 -- or both. They will email you a license.

    It's a file manager, a file finder, an archiver and even an FTP program.

    I've used it since version 2.x on Win 3.1, and I consider it essential.

  90. Rob Davis

    PFrank File Renamer, ImgBurn, Fast Duplicate File Finder, Picasa, Folder Size, Truecrypt

    PFrank File Renamer

    - Probably the most powerful and flexible Windows-based filename renamer there is and it's free. Well supported in forums. Powerful regex, derived names, generate logs of the renames, etc, undo, with built-in commonly used presets - all done from a Windows application.


    Reliable CD,DVD,Blu-ray burning software, burn files direct to disk, or make image files and burn those. Very comprehensive logging, preset Wizard quick guides. Well supported in forums. Free.

    Fast Duplicate File Finder

    Free basic non-trial version (pro, paid for version provides extra features). Find same files with different names. Uses CRC. Exclude folders from being purged as duplicates (i.e. define the master location).


    Photo image browsing across multiple folders. Define which folders get looked at by the program. Free.

    Folder Size

    Adds the missing folder size feature to Windows 7 - see how much space the contents of folders are taking up. Free basic non-trial version. Paid version provides extra reporting.


    All this talk of erasing sensitive data using Eraser or CCleaner. Use truecrypt instead to encrypt the data before it gets written to the hard drive in the first place. Transparent and integrates with Windows, requires you to define a password that you enter once on boot up or if accessing an encrypted drive. Free.

  91. Sandtreader


    Genius name for a company making fixing-Windows-cruft utilities. Blimey, Fred, it's all gone piriform!

  92. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Thanks for the apps !

    Big fan of VLC player since installing that - no more codec issues for anything I want to play. Thanks for the app suggestions in the article and in the comments.

  93. Anonymous Noel Coward

    VLC? Seriously?

    VLC is terrible!

    I prefer MPC-HC. [ ]

    And why no mention of uTorrent?

  94. get off

    MS own back up - accross network - Free too

    Just discovered this, for anybody who wants a free MS version of a back up utility. Don't laugh at me, somebody might like it. It has big buttons and can be scheduled. Karen's Backup runs all the time, remember, in the sys tray.

    32 and 64. Runs very happily on win7 too, although it's from the XP download 'toy' page. At least that's where I originally found it.

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