I have posted a couple of free software lists over the past couple of years so I decided to do an updated one. In this post I have collected these programs for windows that I think are the best. Now you might not agree so if you think that you know of a better program please let me know in the comments. 🙂
Best Free Audio Editing Software for Windows
“It does all the recording and editing I need, and is much simpler and faster to use than a lot of pay products. It easily applies noise profiles and saves in multiple compressed formats.”
What’s it for? – Excellent free products like Audacity give a professional touch to your recordings. For example, podcasting enthusiasts use them to record, edit, mix, and save sound on their PCs. They may even make entire downloadable shows that sound almost as good as a professional production.
Best Free Audio & Video Format Conversion for Windows
Freemake Video Converter
“With Freemake, you can convert most any format of video or audio with this handy piece of freeware, along with DVD’s, photos, and even web embedded media from sites like YouTube, Google, and Vimeo. There are lots of presets and quite a few options, giving the software best-in-class capabilities.
The visual cues are easy to follow, pretty much guiding you from start to finish on any conversion task and providing a more user-friendly experience than most other software.”
What’s it for? – Converters make many different audio and video formats compatible for use with common devices or programs. Most devices will only take a few specific formats; for example, a DVD movie will not play on an iPod without being converted into an MP4 file.
Best Free CD / DVD Burning Software for Windows
“Most powerful burning application with advanced features, support for every modern optical disc from CD to Blu-Ray, more than 10 image formats, authoring rewritable discs, etc.”
What’s it for? – Whether backing up data, preparing an audio mix CD, or creating a bootable Linux disc, finding the right burning software is essential.
Best Free CD & DVD Emulation Software for Windows
“Support up to 26 virtual drives, create ISO image, burn ISO files or folders to recordable disks, complete with Gizmo Manager and Image Wizard to perform tasks.”
What’s it for? – Emulation software allows users to run a CD/DVD image directly from a hard disk after mounting the image to a virtual disk drive. This works the same as or even better than the traditional way of running a CD/DVD from a disk drive.
Best Free CD Ripper for Windows
Fairstars CD Ripper
“Fairstars CD Ripper is an excellent utility to rip audio from a music CD in a variety of formats including WMA, MP3, FLAC, OGG, APE, WAV and the not so common VQF”
Best Free DVD Ripper for Windows
“Copy the audio and video content of a DVD to a file in MP4, MPEG, or other video formats. Edit, backup, share, or playback without the need to load a DVD.”
Best Free Media Centre for Windows
“Highly intuitive and usable features for listening to music, viewing photo albums, or watching digital videos. Organizes your media files intelligently (handling some that Windows Media Center does not), and downloads online information about them. Specially designed for better image and sound quality on big screens or while ‘sofa surfing’.”
“A refined version of the KMPlayer with faster startup, less resource consumption, more versatility and stability, and regular updates. It’s intuitive, easy to use, and provides awesome video and audio quality.
PotPlayer has a wide variety of configuration options and settings. Supports most every audio/video format, GPU acceleration, seamless media playback, and autoresume.”
High Quality Media Player Alternatives:
- VLC Media Player: “The Swiss Army knife of media playback software that marvels you with compatibilities and capabilities. Available on multiple platforms (including Mac and Linux).”
- The KMPlayer: “Special mention — feature wise it outwits every other media player.”
What’s it for? – Capable of playing most types of media files, including various digital audio and video formats, CDs, and DVDs.
Best Free MP3 Tag Editor for Windows
“Supports basic and extended tags, complete with Music Renamer and Tag Processor. It allows you to preview tag information and cover art from online databases like freedb or Amazon.
Related: If you prefer a more normal user interface then Mp3tag is a good alternative.”
What’s it for? – Useful for when you need to playback audio files with their tag information shown correctly or to organize a large music collection based on tag information.
Best Free Music Creation Software for Windows
LMMS – Linux Multimedia Studio
“Full featured, versatile, and well supported standalone music creator. It lets you choose from many built-in instruments and effects. And it has many forums, wiki style user guides, and tutorials to help you figure out the program features.”
What’s it for? – Make music with these composer and sequencer programs.
Best Free Music Player and Organizer for Windows
“Jaangle has an impressive auto continue (or “auto DJ”) mode that chooses songs based on many tag categories (artist, genre, all music, etc.). It comes with excellent organizing and download capabilities that enhance the music experience (get artist and album photos, reviews, bios, etc.)
Music players like it achieve a good balance between lightness, resource efficiency, and feature support for music lovers.
If you need more music managing features all in one program, try MusicBee.”
What’s it for? – Music players like Jaangle and MusicBee serve as MP3 players and play most popular audio formats. As music centric programs, they may inspire you to rip or download music, organize your music collection, or learn more about your favorite artists or songs.
Best Free Online TV Viewer for Windows
JLC’s Internet TV Viewer
“A simple, but effective TV streams viewer without much overhead. User ratings help you choose good streams. Get Podcasts, video on demand, reruns of past shows, independent and international networks, and live video streams. Requires Windows Media Player, Real Player, or VLC.”
Best Free Streaming Media Recorder for Windows
“Comes with an eye-catching interface, and outperforms the competition in the quality of its recorded stream. Allows you to manually select a recording area on your screen, capture images, play videos, save to vendor servers, and create links for public viewing.”
What’s it for? – If a free web service (such as ZamZar, SplanDoo and YouConvertIt) fails, you can use a recorder like Jing to record streaming media and add it to your media collection.
Best Free Video Editor for Windows
“In the world of video editing VirtualDub has always been there. It’s a very reliable program that with the right amount of knowledge can accomplish just about any task. VirtualDub is licensed under the GNU General Public License , meaning you can use it for free. No risk involved, and the whole source code is available if you want it.”
Cleanup, Tune and System Utilities
Best Free Disk De-fragmenter for Windows
“It is simple yet has a lot of customizable options through text files and scripts via two mouse-clicks. Not only is the defragmentation super fast, but also you are not going to notice it’s working!
You can keep doing your things while UltraDefrag does what was born to do… defrag. It performs so well you gonna want to carry it in your wallet. A lot of varied boot defrag commands. If your goal is to optimize your system startup at maximum, this is what you need.”
What’s it for? – Defragmenting your hard drive on a regular basis is a sound housekeeping habit. It can greatly increase system performance and relieve stress on your hard drive.
Best Free Disk Space Analyzer for Windows
Analyze disk space; find space hogs.
Best Free Duplicate File Detector for Windows
Detect duplicate files.
Best Free File Cleaner for Windows
“Quickly and effectively remove unused or temporary files, unwanted cookies, and other unneeded files from applications.” Chosen for Gizmo’s 9 great freeware.
Additionally, it can scan the registry for issues, erase, manage the startup, uninstall, and clean system restore points.
Related: Also runs automatically at startup or as a task.
What’s it for? – Over time unnecessary files accumulate, which can be removed with a disk cleaner to maintain system performance.
Best Free Process Viewer for Windows
Investigate your system: view active processes, end processes, view resource use of processes, and much more.
Best Free Program Uninstaller for Windows
The Windows control panel has limited uninstalling capabilities, but freeware programs like Revo and ZSoft allow for better deletion of programs by removing many files and registry entries that are usually left behind.
Best Free Registry Cleaner for Windows
Wise Registry Cleaner
“To decrease the likelihood of causing problems, it allows you to backup the registry before you start and (by default) ignores areas where most registry tricks are played. I caution against changing the default settings unless you have a good understanding of the registry and how applications use it.”
What’s it for? – The effectiveness of registry cleaning is controversial and can lead to the need to completely re-install windows, but for computer savvy users it may help reduce potential conflicts from the leftovers of a few kinds of uninstalled software.
Best Free Secure Erase Utility for Windows
“Highly effective at wiping the free space, leaving behind only unrecoverable nonsense file names on modern size hard drives. It erases the unused disk space (or “free space”), cluster tips (or “slack space”), individual files or folders, and data in the recycling bin.”
What’s it for? – Normal file deletion doesn’t prevent a common file recovery program from recovering your files, so eraser utilities are helpful to permanently delete any personally identifiable or unwanted files to protect your privacy.
Best Free Startup Manager for Windows
“This utility, which has the most comprehensive knowledge of auto-starting locations amongst all the startup managers, shows you what programs are configured to run during system bootup or login, and shows you the entries in the order Windows processes them. These programs include ones in your startup folder, Run, RunOnce, and other Registry keys.
You can configure Autoruns to show other locations, including Explorer shell extensions, toolbars, browser helper objects, Winlogon notifications, auto-start services, and much more.”
What’s it for? – If you have a system full of programs running in the background or a start menu full of near useless tray icons, then startup managers are especially helpful for increasing system performance. Run programs when you want, not when they decide.
Best Free System Information Utility for Windows
“an excellent system profiler that provides in-depth hardware information for Windows.”
Best Free Tune-up Utility for Windows
ToolWiz Care is an excellent freeware solution. The main tab called Checkup offers the one-click feature, system resource information, and some optional features. Since there is no paid version to upgrade to, all the features are functional.
What’s it for? – Intended as an all-in-one PC performance optimizer and tweaker to simplify system tasks that typically require many separate specialty programs.
File and Desktop Utilities
Best Free Backup Software for Windows
“Comodo does offer full backup, incremental and differential as well as Shadow Copy. There are options to choose the level of compression from none to maximum, and the backup format. Types of backup formats include CBU file, simple copy, ZIP file, ISO file, self-extracting CBU file and file sync. ”
What’s it for? – The intention of file based backup software is to backup important data you create. Use backup software to save document files, browser favorites, pictures, videos and other data, documents and media. Some may perform imaging or cloning, most will not create a system startup disk to restore from.
Best Free Data Recovery Utility for Windows
Mini Tool Power Data Recovery
Recover data after accidentally deleting it.
Best Free Desktop Search Utility for Windows
“Locate32 uses databases to store information about directory structures and uses these databases in searches.”
Best Free Drive Imaging Software for Windows
Macrium Reflect Free Edition
“A very solid application that is great at what it does. It offers a convenient and easy way to schedule backups with the XML definitions files via the GUI. The program now has capability, the possibly unique of free imagers, of cloning your working, running system, very very handy. It’s already made my life easier.”
What’s it for? – Disk Imaging has rapidly become a must have tool for most users because of its convenience, speed, and ease of use. It nearly eliminates any reason at all for going through the painful process of completely reinstalling, re-updating, and re-customizing Windows. A user can quickly recover from a system crash or a bad virus infection by simply restoring to a backup image.
Best Free File Archiver or Zip Utility for Windows
Archive files/folders to better transfer, store, and organize your data. Chosen for Gizmo’s 9 great freeware.
Best Free File Comparison Utility for Windows
Best Free File Copy Utility for Windows
“FastCopy is the Fastest Copy/Delete Software on Windows.”
Best Free File Encryption Utility for Windows
AxCrypt provides secure AES-128 encryption of single files using passwords, and optionally key-files as well, which AxCrypt can generate for you. Usage is wonderfully simple. To encrypt a file or files in a folder, just right-click the file or folder and select “encrypt”. Simply double-clicking an encrypted file lets you edit or view it with the program of your choice (you must supply the password). Closing an open file automatically re-encrypts the file. Self-decrypting files are also supported, removing the need to install AxCrypt to decrypt.
Related: Learn about other important steps/cautions beyond encryption here.
What’s it for? – Encryption is normally used to protect highly sensitive documents, but it’s a good way to stop people from looking at your personal stuff.
Best Free File Manager for Windows
“The Beta version of the new FreeCommander XE is the top pick for this year. FCXE has an elegant and user friendly UI. With a 2 pane interface and shortcuts available along the vertical and horizontal toolbars, there’s a lot to love here. The file manager provides one touch access to most of the system directories, desktop items, start menu and control panel items.”
What’s it for? – Replaces the simplistic Windows Explorer, allowing for better customization, tabbed browsing panes, and more features.
Best Free File Rename Utility for Windows
File Renamer Basic
“Rename your files for organizational purposes, including your MP3 libraries and digital image collections.”
Best Free Folder Synchronization Utility for Windows
FreeFileSync or Allway Sync
“FreeFileSync is a solid contender here. The thing I like the best with this utility is its very clear and informative interface. The preview is very easy to understand, and file collisions and deletions are more readily recognizable than many other sync programs.
Allway Sync is my second recommendation. It is a very well rounded product with loads of features. It has a very robust filter and rule set and definitely has the edge here over the other previously reviewed products. It also offers support for FTP, scheduling, and auto syncing.”
What’s it for? – Synchronization utilities are important in helping you keep identical versions of your files or folders, say, on both your home computer and office computer.
Best Free Onscreen Keyboard for Accessibility for Windows
“An excellent free OSK that rivals many commercial OSKs in the accessibility space. It is highly functional and very customizable, but isn’t terribly pretty and the breadth of options may be a little daunting for some users.”
Best Free Onscreen Keyboard for Security for Windows
“A virtual keyboard for security. Security-focused OSKs offer protection against malicious software, but read the article for accessibility OSKs that offer more functionality as keyboard replacements (without the security features).”
Best Free Partition Manager for Windows
MiniTool Partition Wizard
“With an easy to use interface and fast performance, it aims to be a one-stop application. Performs many basic tasks of resizing, creating, deleting, moving, formatting, copying (disks or partitions), etc.
Also includes extra features like wiping (disks or partitions) and recovering partitions (detects previously deleted partitions and restores them with all data intact).”
What’s it for? – Some uses include (1) separating user files from system files, so you can image the operating system (reimaging or reinstalling when needed) and leave the user files intact. (2) Creating a multi-boot computer (that has an option, say, between Linux or Windows) with separate partitions for each operating system.
Best Free Virtual Desktop Manager for Windows
Organize your applications over several virtual desktops or work spaces, and work more efficiently and comfortably.
Internet, Email and Networking
Best Free Bittorrent Client for Windows
“Tixati is the top pick this year as it runs fast, offers a lot of information and the most appealing interface in a very efficient package, RAM and CPU wise. Tixati always seems to be in active development and the developers are receptive to users input. The wide variety of layout options are indicative of their responsiveness to users. Tixati has all the features that an average user wants”.
Learn more about Bittorrent here.
What’s it for? – Bittorrent quickly became an important download format for its speed, efficiency, and cheapness in distributing content over the Internet.
Best Free Download Manager for Windows
Free Download Manager
“A popular download manager and a good choice for its stability, nice user interface and support for various browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari.”
What’s it for? – There comes a time when you are downloading a large file and the download stops part of the way through. Specialized download managers like Free Download Manager will allow you to resume a download, start several concurrent download sessions, and dramatically improve download speed.
Best Free Email Client for Windows
What’s it for? – In addition to sending and receiving email, email programs like Thunderbird can manage your contacts and calendar, read news groups and RSS newsfeeds, and even integrate with various web-based mail systems like GMail and Hotmail.
Best Free FTP Client for Windows
“With a robust feature set, ease of use, and browser integration, FireFTP should serve the needs of all but the heaviest power user. FTP clients enable fast bulk file transfers; essential for website management.”
Best Free HTML Editor for Windows
“Includes WYSIWYG editors for non-technical users who want to create an attractive web site, but also discusses HTML text editors for programmers or for anyone comfortable with coding raw HTML.”
Best Free Wi-Fi Network Finder Utility for Windows
Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector
“A Wi-Fi network finder helps mobile users see the available wireless networks in an area. It also helps you identify the strongest wireless signals and the SSID of an access point. For example, it may help you solve slow and unstable connections that are due to overlapping signals.”
Best Free Password Manager or Web Form Filler for Windows
“LastPass is a one of a kind product. Most password managers are either online or software only. It is the combination of web service and software. With the web service you can access your data anywhere.”
Best Free Remote Access Software for Windows
“Teamviewer is very reliable, allows both attended and unattended control and has great features. There is a portable version of the viewer if you want to use an application or they also have a web-based control site that requires no installation to remotely control computers.”
What’s it for? – Remotely administer another computer for off-site troubleshooting or for accessing your home PC while traveling.
Best Free Telnet/SSH Terminal Emulator for Windows
“Provides a telnet or SSH connection to UNIX like servers with a fast no-frills connection.”
Best Free Web Browser for Windows
“The latest figures at StatCounter show that we have a new king in the browser market worldwide in terms of popularity. And with good reason as it offers the best mix of features, with broad extension support, of any of the browsers. Based on the open source WebKit engine and Google’s V8 Javascipt engine, Google Chrome has emerged as one of the fastest browsers available across multiple benchmarks. It’s also highly competitive in features and has ground breaking technology support.”
Office and Productivity
Best Free Finance Software for Windows
“Helps you keep tabs of your budget without complicated features commonly used in commercial personal finance applications. If you’re looking for a quick education in double entry accounting, look no further than GnuCash.
The program has a reporting and graphing module that generates a full suite of standard and customizable reports. On the downside, it doesn’t track stock price movements automatically and doesn’t have built-in encryption.”
Related: See here for related online apps and services.
What’s it for? – Eases you into accounting equations (without having to create custom spreadsheets on your own).
Best Free Genealogy or Family Tree Software for Windows
“Legacy standard is fairly easy to use, flexible, and has plenty of capabilities. The free version supports family, pedigree, and index views. You can easily navigate to younger or older generations simply by clicking on the individuals”.
Best Free Office Suite for Windows
“WPS Office Free is ideal for those familiar with Microsoft Office 2003 prior to the creation of the ‘ribbon’ featured in 2007. It will let you feel perfectly at home. To say that it is similar to Microsoft office would be the understatement; they are practically identical.”
Related: If you want an online or “cloud” suite, try Zoho (includes helpful collaborative features, support for many document formats, and tabbed document editing).”
What’s it for? – Free substitutes for MS Office like this go a long way to meeting the needs of home users, small businesses, and many others.
Best Free PDF Reader/Viewer for Windows
“Loads reasonably fast, can print PDFs, allows basic annotation without watermarking, good text clarity, allows you to fill and save Adobe PDF forms, extract text and images, magnify text, and export PDF pages or documents to BMP, JPEG, TIFF, PNG formats.”
What’s it for? – Third party readers like PDF-XChange help you to replace the slow and bulky Adobe PDF Reader.
Best Free PDF Tools for Windows
PDFill PDF Tools
“Nice and clean user interface covering most functions. Includes merge, split, reorder, rotate, header and footer with page number, watermark, encrypt and decrypt, convert PDF to images or vice versa, convert PostScript to PDF.”
Related: See here for related online apps and services.
What’s it for? – Some programs in this review are designed to combine merging, splitting and other capabilities in a single application (like PDFill), but some perform a more specific task (see the Specific Tools section in the review).
Best Free PDF Writer for Windows
Bullzip PDF Printer
“BullZip in its latest version is a very solid program that has, over time, proven to be a top performer”. Requires GhostScript and .NET.” Bullzip was chosen for Gizmo’s 9 great freeware.
What’s it for? – PDF writers act like a pseudo printer on your system. When you want to create a PDF document from pretty much any application you just choose to print it to the PDF printer and it creates a PDF document.
Best Free Personal Information Manager for Windows
Pimero Free Edition
“It offers the full range of PIM functions — appointments, events, reminders, tasks, contacts, email, and even webfeeds — and an attractive, well-organized user interface.”
Best Free Project Manager for Windows
“Like Microsoft Project, it’s best suited to large scale projects that justify the time it takes to learn the product (users with simple needs might want to read the article for less feature-rich project managers). Key features include project planning, scheduling, resource management, project review, and more. ”
Best Free Software Suite for Windows
“Liberkey has 311 portable applications and three default suites. Choose a suite you like and then add apps to suit your taste. It automatically updates most of your favorite portable apps, making it a great way to keep them in one place.”
Best Free Text Editor for Windows
“General purpose text editors with more features than the Windows Notepad, such as tabbed interfaces, unlimited undo, and block functions.” Chosen for Gizmo’s 9 great freeware. Programming editors like Notepad++ are here.
Best Free Word Processor for Windows
Jarte deserves the word courageous for its clean fresh looks. Task oriented is in and menus are out. It gives you tabs and a wealth of options in formatting; fonts, paragraphs, page, header and footer. There’s an outline function, indenting and outdenting, and a format brush to easily transfer formatting.”
Best Free World Clock for Windows
Wim’s World Clock
“A light world clock with a choice of virtually any number of time zones.”