[RECOMMENDED] Seven Free Software Downloads

Category: Software

An AskBob reader says: “I just got a new computer, and I want to do two things. First is to remove all the non-essential programs that came preloaded. Next, I want to load the best freeware for everday computing. I'd love to know what free software you recommend and use on your own computer.” I'm happy to oblige, read on!

The Best Free Software

It's true... when you get a new computer, it usually comes loaded with a bunch of software you don't want or need. Most of them are free trials or crippled versions, designed to persuade you to upgrade to a paid version. In my article How to Clean Up Your Hard Drive, you'll find some tips for cleaning out this computer clogging "crapware" and reclaiming that space on your hard drive.

As to your second question, I'm happy to talk about freeware. There are thousands of free programs available online. But there are only a handful that I consider essential, and I download them to every new computer. From security to web browsing, to graphics, productivity, and troubleshooting, here are seven of the most popular and useful free downloads.

Google Chrome: the world's most widely used Web browser, with a commanding lead over Microsoft's Edge and Mozilla Firefox. Unlike some of its competitors, Chrome is available for multiple operating systems, including macOS, Linux and mobile versions for iPhone/Android devices. Other competitors include the Apple Safari and Opera browsers. Chrome's main selling features are speed, and a wide selection of free add-ons and extensions.

Top Freeware

NoteTab is a text and HTML editor for Windows. At its most basic, NoteTab makes a good upgrade from the Windows NotePad text editor. But NoteTab can also handle complex Web projects with its ability to create templates, extensive formatting features, exhaustive search/replace, and vast capacity for multiple large files. NoteTab also competes with third-party editors such as UltraEdit, Notepad++, and TextPad. NoteTab comes in three versions. The Lite version is free, even for commercial use. The Standard and Pro versions add additional features and must be purchased after a 30-day trial. The Standard/Pro bundle is $39.95.

LibreOffice is the free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office. LibreOffice has just about everything you'd ever need in a productivity suite: word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, HTML and XML document support. It can create and import files in Microsoft Office formats as well as PDF and others. LibreOffice is an amazingly sophisticated piece of software, and it's hard to believe that it's totally free!

IrfanView is a freeware multimedia viewer and editing program. With this utility you can view, convert, optimize, scan and print virtually any kind of graphic image. You can crop, resize and edit photos, create slideshows, play movies, and much more. Legions of fans around the world have developed plugins for IrFanView, making it almost infinitely extensible.

Avast Free Antivirus is one of the most popular free antivirus solutions. It includes a fast antivirus scanning engine; real-time protection for email attachments; technology to vet websites before you visit them; and much more. In early 2021, NortonLifelock bought Avira, a competing antivirus program. Months later, Norton purchased Avast, which had bought AVG in 2016. Bottom line, Avast, Avira, and AVG are all owned by Norton, and the future of these three popular tools (and whether they will remain free) is unclear.

I still use Avira for occasional malware scans, but my preferred internet security tool for the past few years has been PC Matic. (See PC Matic 4.0 – My Review) It does cost $50 a year for up to five computers, but I believe the whitelist approach it uses provides superior protection from malware, including zero-day exploits, rootkits, cryptominers, keyloggers, fileless script attacks, and ransomware.

LastPass is a cloud-based password manager. First you install LastPass on your machine, then you create an account on the cloud server. LastPass syncs all of your passwords in its heavily fortified, encrypted database. Optionally, LastPass will delete all the locally stored passwords on your hard drive so no malware can steal them. Now you can log in to any site with just one click, or even have LastPass log in for you. LastPass versions are available for Windows, Linux, and Mac. LastPass competes with products such as RoboForm, Dashlane, and KeePass.

Advanced System Care Free is one of the best system cleanup and optimization suites available. It keeps your PC running lean, mean, and fast. This program defragments your hard drive, cleans the registry, finds and eliminates spyware, plugs security holes in system settings, fixes broken shortcuts, deletes junk files, and erases browser tracks.

I can recommend all of these programs without reservation. But it's by no means an exhaustive list of the best freeware. I welcome your comments and suggestions on this topic...

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This article was posted by on 21 Oct 2021

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Most recent comments on "[RECOMMENDED] Seven Free Software Downloads"

(See all 38 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Bob S
21 Oct 2021

Thanks Bob for all your useful information.
In one or more of your past articles you have mentioned KeePass for a password manager. I've used it for years and years and like it because all the information stays on your computer and not in the cloud. But I must admit I blow that concept by having it in Dropbox so that I can use it on my phone as well. And as you have mentioned, without your master password for the password manager, all the data is securely encrypted. Keepass is available for Apple(IOS)devices as well as Android phones. However, I have used KeepassX and not the IOS version of Keepass (without the X) only because KeepassX came out first for the IOS systems. I believe they each have some advantages over the other.

Posted by:

Bob K
21 Oct 2021


Bob provides a host of free information on a daily basis, so he has to be compensated somehow. This compensation comes from some of his "plugs", such as PC Matic. I understand and I don't blame him, I just ignore him on some of his obviously bias advice. I've used Malwarebytes for years, and as such PC Matic is a non-starter with me.

Posted by:

Nightwish Fan
21 Oct 2021

I used to be a devout FireFox user. I loved all the optional features it had that Chrome and Internet Explorer(Edge) did not have.

Then FF got squirrelly several years ago. I don't recall the exact reasons why, but there were quite a few FireFox users who walked away during that time (geeks too, not just normies like myself). So I switched to Chrome then and it suited me very well for many years.

A little over a year ago, I switched to Vivaldi. I like the built-in Capture feature because it is so easy to use. It is highly customizable and practically drives itself. I'm just beginning to learn all the things it can do. Seriously, I am in love with Vivaldi. I still use Chrome for some things, like utility-maintenance chores, like going into my NAS software, Plex updates on the NAS, etc.

I have been a Premium LastPass user a very long time, since it was $12 per year. Now it's $36/year. To me, it is still worth every penny. I'll always use LastPass. I've learned all its quirks and tweaks. I'll never leave it.

I didn't mean to go on and on. Thanks for listening to my rant. Have a good day everyone. 🤘😎🤘

Posted by:

21 Oct 2021

And one I use almost as often as Firefox (how could I have left it out?):
email - Thunderbird

Posted by:

Stuart Berg
21 Oct 2021

Hi Bob,
You never seem to mention that there are other whitelist antivirus programs besides PC Matic! For example, there is VoodooShield (https://voodooshield.com/) which is "FREE FOR NON-COMMERCIAL HOME USE". I've been using it for years and find it very effective. It's perfectly safe to use VoodooShield while also using a conventional antivirus. I've been using it with Kaspersky antivirus for years. They play well together.

Posted by:

Brian B
21 Oct 2021

Bob, very good article for anyone "opening" a new computer.
@ Mike. Why not recommend the antivirus program using the very best rationale available, whitelisting?

@Bob K. A bit unkind. You're implying Bob takes back handers for telling his followers what he uses on his own computer. You are entitled to your opinion, and and thanks for sharing it wit us. BTW, how much do you donate to this site to keep it running?

Posted by:

21 Oct 2021

Aren't you concerned about all the personal data mining Google surely does? There's a reason a commercial enterprise offers a free program, and it sure ain't going to be altruism!

Posted by:

Earl J (Maui Boy)
22 Oct 2021

Aloha y'all... (and our favorite Latin lurker, et al.)
I remember the days when you bypassed walking us through the difficult times and the Internet speed bumps by simply driving us there on the Internet Tourbus... those were the days!
Dial up speeds and phone modems for connectivity...
Yes, indeed... we've come a long way, baby (like Telly Savalas used to say...)
* * *
Thanks for volunteering to drive and bringing your own gas card... You are the greatest!
* * *
Until that time. . .

Posted by:

22 Oct 2021

Advanced System Care Free = potentially unwanted programs galore. A screen recorder, VPN, and more were installed without asking.
The installation uses a distinctly unfriendly colour scheme: dark navy blue on black (or the other way round).
No details of what various "improvements" do to the PC.

Posted by:

23 Oct 2021

Question: I'm a senior citizen and own a Chrome book. Will any/all of the applications you recommend work with my Chrome OS?

Posted by:

23 Oct 2021

LastPass has proved a headache for me. So many problems & I spend ages retrieving PW's that frequently don't work. Could not sign in to Google yesterday. Lastpas showed three PW options some used a month ago.
I'd be better off with Kaspersky PW manager though clearly not as secure. I have grown to hate LastPass. Never mastered its quircks.
Stay clear is my recommendation.

Posted by:

Wild Bill
23 Oct 2021

@Barbara - As a Chrome OS user, you probably don't need most of these programs, as their functionality (and Chrome's) resides in the "cloud" (online, that is). Most of these programs primarily target PC users, although there are enough Mac and Linux users around to support separate forks. Most dedicated Chrome OS hardware lacks the storage for local operation. The Google app store would be a suggested source for appropriate software

Posted by:

Jay B
24 Oct 2021

I second Richard's mention of
GIMP for bitmap drawing and
Notepad++ for text/code editing
as well as Bob S's mention of KeePass for passwords storage/management.
I would also add Foxit Reader for PDF viewing/form filling. Although I do not use it as much as I used to before Acrobat Reader implemented form filling it is still useful for those rare occasions when a PDF was not created as a fillable form.

Posted by:

Mike Davies
25 Oct 2021

Re Advanced System Care Free. You shouldn't defrag Solid State Drives (SSDs). The way data is written to SSDs is different to the way it's written to Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). SSDs have a limited number of rewrites in their life cycle, defragging them cause a rewrite of the drive, you'll kill it earlier. Defragging is good for HDDs though.

Posted by:

Mike Davies
25 Oct 2021

More about Advanced System Care Free. I've just been to their website, their use of English is very poor so I can't trust it.
They say this about their defragging tool, "Your hard disk is lack defragmentation... Advanced SystemCare can always fix them within one shot and optimize your PC with 30+ troubleshooters. Speedup, we mean it".
I'm not touching it with a barge pole.
Sorry, Bob.

Posted by:

Norman Rosen
25 Oct 2021

I have been using Thunderbird, IrfanView, Gimp, and MalwareBytes for over 20years and recommend them also. Be aware that MalwareBytes will irritate you with pop ups to get their paid program. VLC video player is also an excellent program. I also agree with Bob's recommendation for PC Matic.

Posted by:

25 Oct 2021

Thanks Wild Bill! I appreciate the advice and your knowledge. Adios amigo....

Posted by:

R Wilsdorf
27 Oct 2021

Do I care if the browser I like is available on "multiple platforms"? No, so long as it's available on the platforms *I* use.
I've used Vivaldi for a couple years now. Its features beat Firefox and especially Opera hands down (my opinion). It also has more native features (like tree view of all open pages) which require an extension in Chrome. That makes support better, because you can ask questions of the Vivaldi team & other users instead trying to get support from a half dozen different extension developers. Also, Vivaldi is based on Chromium so lots of Chrome extensions work with it.

Posted by:

Arvind Bhate
31 Dec 2021

My list of favorite freebies contains - Chrome, Bitwarden (passwords), Q-Dir (4 pane directory tree), Air explorer (multicloud manager), Greenshot (screen shot), CCleaner (disk cleaner), Everything (file finder), Wise program uninstaller among others.

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr.
31 Dec 2021

Thank you, Stuart Berg! I saw your comment saying that you use VoodooShield (https://voodooshield.com/). I went to their website and read everything they have to say about their product. I liked what they had to say, and how they presented the information - in a clear, concise manner. I downloaded and installed VoodooShield today, so I'll see how it works in practice. After I have used it for a while, I'll post my impressions here.


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