Essential Free Software You Can't Afford to Miss
No cost, no regrets. Our picks cover security, diagnostics, browsers, games, and entertainment.
Mon, October 07, 2013
PC World — Free doesn't have to mean cheesy, especially when it comes to freeware. A developer's passion project can become something you can't imagine being without, and the fact that you don't have to lay out any cash to acquire it is a major bonus. Some developers accept donations to further development, so consider giving what you can if you find value in their efforts.
Here are some of our favorite freebies. Please tell us about yours in the comments section.
It's imperative to secure your PC against the nasty stuff it will encounter on the open seas of the Web. Fortunately, it's easy to assemble a bullet-proof security suite for nothing.
The free version of Malwarebytes is excellent. Upgrading to the pay-for edition delivers additional features, including protection from zero-day malware (which is new enough to confound traditional AV programs).
Microsoft Security Essentials or AVG AntiVirus Free EditionA are other good, no-cost options. Choose only one, though, because it's usually not a good idea to install two AV programs on the same PC (they'll suck up system resources and might conflict with each other).
Passwords are a hassle to remember, so many people memorize just one and use it for everything. That's a huge security risk! LastPass will log you in to all your password-walled sites with a single click, and it will store your information locally to keep it out of the hands of anyone but you. You can use LastPass on your smartphone or tablet, too (Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and other mobile operating systems), but you'll need to purchase the retail version to get that feature.
File-archiving utilities make big files smaller and easier to manage, and there's code for creating those archives--and opening existing ones--right inside Windows. But third-party alternatives are faster and more efficient (meaning they create smaller archives). WinZip and WinRAR are two popular examples, but they're trialware (meaning you can use them for free for a limited time, but you'll eventually need to purchase a license). 7-Zip is just as good, if not better, and it's absolutely free (although the developer does accept donations). It can even secure the contents of a zip file using 256-bit AES encryption.
USB thumb drives are handy for carrying documents and other files with you, but storing files in the cloud saves you some schlepping--as well as the risk of loss or failure.A Dropbox is one such service, but we found SugarSync to be even better when we compared cloud-storage services last year.