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Gizmo's Freeware 2010 Product of the Year

Here at Gizmo's Freeware we have been selecting an annual freeware product of the year for the last six years. Normally we make the selection ourselves but this year we asked our readers to nominate their choice for the best freeware product of 2010. 

The voting results are in; we have a winner.

Best Freeware Product of 2010

Microsoft Security Essentials

The award for the Best Freeware Product of 2010 as judged by the users of Gizmo’s Freeware, goes to Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE).

It is a worthy winner. MSE is a truly outstanding free product. It is an anti-malware program that offers real-time malware detection and file scanning capabilities that are the equal of the best commercial security programs. Furthermore it does its job without noticeably slowing down users’ PCs. In fact most users will see no significant performance impact at all after installing MSE.

Equally important, it is unobtrusive.  Some security products continually worry users with warnings and questions. MSE by contrast, is virtually invisible to the user except of course when it detects a problem.  Even then its messages are low key and informative rather than alarming and cryptic.

This combination of effectiveness and ease of use means that MSE is an easy first choice for average users who want to protect their PC against infection. Higher risk users may want to consider additional layers of protection but for most users who follow safe computing practices, MSE combined with the Window Firewall is all the security protection they need.

MSE is not only an outstanding product but a most unusual one.  Who would have thought Microsoft could produce such a high quality security product given their relative inexperience in producing consumer security products?  Even stranger, who would have thought they would offer such a product for free?

But they have and we are the beneficiaries.  Our congratulations to Microsoft for this remarkable achievement.

(2) Opera Browser

Votes for Opera in our poll surged forward with the release of the long-awaited Opera 11 during the voting period which had the effect of pushing it into second place. 

Opera 11 is a big step forward; it now offers extensions and on-demand plug-ins, faster performance, improved security features as well as some nifty new features such as stacked browser tabs.

I’ve been using it for around a week and am really impressed. It is faster than Firefox 3.6, more complete than Google Chrome and a total delight to use.  And it offers an excellent built-in mail client as a bonus, a feature not available in any competing browser. 

Still I will find it hard to give up some of my specialized Firefox extensions and even harder to forgo the additional security and speed of Google Chrome.  What I can say is that Opera 11 is a real contender in the browser wars and every user should at least try it out.   Be warned though, once you try it, you may never use another browser again.

(3) CCleaner

This is no surprise as it is one of most popular freeware products ever and one of the few products I’d suggest that should be installed on every PC.  If you want to remove unnecessary files from your PC to free up disk space you can do no better than CCleaner.

2010 saw no major advance in the development of CCleaner bur rather just the usual regular updates that seem to add ever more temporary files and file locations that can be safely removed to free more disk space.

I have one small beef with CCleaner – they continue to include the Ask toolbar in the default installation.  Now the Ask toolbar is not adware or anything like that but it is a product most users don’t really need – unnecessaryware if you like. If the developers of CCleaner simply set the default installation option for this product to “No” rather than “Yes”, they would simply solve this problem.  This beef aside CCleaner is a wonderfully effective product and a personal favorite.

(4) Secunia PSI

Secunia is a program that monitors the programs installed on your PC and lets you know if any programs have known security loopholes and need to be updated to a later version.  It really is an indispensable aid to improving your PC security.

(5) Firefox 3.6

Firefox won our Freeware of the Year award in 2009 but this year it has fallen a little behind its competition mainly due to the much deferred release of Firefox 4.0.  Version 4 promises to improve  speed to be closer to Google Chrome and Opera 11 and update the now slightly dated user interface.

(6) Google Chrome Browser

With its lightning speed, minimalist interface and class leading security, Chrome has become the browser of choice for many savvy users.

(7) VLC Media Player

A multi-platform media player that runs mostly without the need for external codecs. It's the player of choice for many experienced users though a little daunting for beginners.

(8) Revo Uninstaller

If you want to remove every last trace of an uninstalled product then Revo is hard to beat.

(9) Malwarebytes

This file scanner offers excellent detection of spyware and other nasties combined with powerful malware removal features.The free version has no real-time detection though.

(10) LastPass

This is a terrific product that fully address the password management needs of most users including automatic login. The fact that it is web-based scares off some users concerned about the online security of their password data but the encryption system used by LastPass is so powerful and effective that most of their worry is needless.
(11) Open Office Suite

This is the best free alternative to Microsoft Office. It provides all the features you really need provided you can tolerate its slowness to load. This has become less of an issue with modern PCs but can be annoying on older equipment.

(12) Sandboxie

This long standing favorite allows users to browse and install software in a virtual “sandboxed” environment without fear of infecting their real PC.

(13) Everything Search

Find any file on your hard drive in an instant without bogging down your PC in background indexing. Only finds files by name not content. I use it every day and now find it indispensable.

(14) IrfanView

A fast, powerful image viewer with a good basic image editor that offers a major upgrade to the Windows image viewer. Does batch processing and file conversion as well. Functionality can be expanded using plug-ins.

(15) NotePad ++

A powerful programming editor as well as a Windows Notepad replacement though in the latter role it is possibly overkill for average users.

(16) 7-Zip

Why pay money for WinZip or other commercial unzippers when 7-Zip does the same thing just as well for free?

(17) Superantispyware

A real alternative to MalwareBytes with a slightly different set of features. Many users utilize both products for their on-demand scanning to ensure the best possible detection rates.

(18) PDF-Xchange Viewer

A smaller, faster, safer and more full-featured alternative to Adobe’s security flaw-prone Acrobat Reader. It offers basic PDF editing as well.

(19) FastStone Image Viewer

An alternative to IrfanView and my preferred choice due to its superior speed and more intuitive interface.

(20) Microsoft ICE

A truly amazing product that assembles one or two dimensional photo panoramas with ease and speed that borders on black magic. A must-have product for all digital photographers.

How the winner was decided

In December 2010 we asked our website users to nominate the products they considered worthy of our annual Freeware Product of the Year award.  The response was overwhelming with over 200 separate products nominated.

We then selected the 20 most nominated products and asked our site users to vote for their favorite over a 7-day polling period.  Only one vote was allowed per user.  The poll closed on the 28th of December, 2010.



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by Big Bird (not verified) on 31. December 2010 - 19:29  (63624)

Thanks to everbody who is involved with this excellent site. I have found your reviews and comments to be of great value. Like the commenter above, I, too would love to send you something scrumptious to say thankyou. Consider yourselves well and truly appreciated, bless your little cotton socks! And..a very Happy New Year to every one.

by SamPD (not verified) on 31. December 2010 - 17:25  (63622)

Very handy list!

Unfortunately I do not find Microsoft Security Essentials to be unubtrusive when used for real-time monitoring. On my WinXP installation I noticed the rendering of folder views in Explorer, including the Start Menu, slowed *way* down after adding MSE. And EXE files would often not render with their primary icon showing at all under the Icons, List or Details views. (It was as if MSE was scanning each executable to see whether it was safe before displaying the icon.)

So I have ended up making MSE a manually enabled service. I restart it to update the signatures database and to do scans as a complement to SUPERAntiSpyware scan results. Will try Malwarebytes now as well, based on the recommendation here.

It is definitely a good idea to get multiple malware scan readouts from different programs. My experience is that any one is likely to give false positives.

by debug (not verified) on 1. January 2011 - 17:53  (63656)

You need to change the setting for just enough protection.
Here is my setting:

- Real time protection ON
- Scan incoming file only
- Excluded file and location ( where I put most of my iso, rar, zip, music and videos files )
- Excluded file types ( iso, rar, zip, 7z, music and videos )
- Excluded processes ( winrar.exe, everything.exe, freefilesync.exe, teracopy.exe )

I know it is a bit risky but this setting enough for me, I don't have any known virus for the last 6 month.
online everyday, enter underground website regularly.
With this setting I have no problem exploring any drive, any folder ( more than 2 million files + 60K folder =1,2TB).
I don't use any other realtime security software, install them but start them manually when I need it.
Just right click and scan after you download.

MSE still catch the virus in files when you access them.

I still use XP SP3, Pentium 4 with 1GB memory, 250GB x 2, and 1TB usb drive attached all the time.

Sorry for my english.

by Faust (not verified) on 5. January 2011 - 3:05  (63832)

Can I assume from your settings that it is possible to turn MSE's real-time scanning OFF so as not to conflict with other real-time scanners?

by donola88 (not verified) on 31. December 2010 - 16:27  (63618)

Like Rasputin 2011, I too am not sure how I stumbled upon Gizmo's and I too, am glad that I did. Your posts have been educationally informative and I'm using a large number of the products featured throughout the years. You've made my computing life enjoyable and so much more pleasant. My thanks to Gizmo, the staffs, volunteers, contributors and the commentators. From them too, I've learned quite a bit.

May you all have a prosperous year ahead. Happy new year!

by GreatGrany5 (not verified) on 31. December 2010 - 16:08  (63616)

Oh, I love this site and like one other commenter, my computer runs on Gizmo's Golden Nuggets. Thank you just isn't sufficient but for some reason I can't bake you all an Apple pie to show my appreciation.

by garth on 31. December 2010 - 18:43  (63623)

I'm not aware of any site rule that forbids the baking of apple pie, but on behalf of the entire Gizmo's crew i thank you for the thought and btw, thanks is plenty sufficient with or without apple pie :-)

Best Regards
Site Moderator.

by Chip W (not verified) on 31. December 2010 - 12:14  (63597)

Just a comment on freeware.
I'm from the AS400 world, where I was a tech expert, to the PC world, where I'm an intermediate user at best.
The PC world is very different, but I do have a feel for systems design and programming and how much work goes into developing a product.
The availability of high-quality programs that took significant effort to develop, and that are available for free, just boggles my little mind. It seems there's a greater supply than demand for programmers, but maybe there are other reasons.
PC users should be very appreciative of the amount and quality of freeware available.
And thanks to Gizmo for providing an excellent resource for accessing the freeware world.

by Mike C on 1. January 2011 - 0:16  (63637)

Hear, hear.

by Luc (not verified) on 31. December 2010 - 6:36  (63588)

I am very happy with the results of this contest. I 'love' 70% of the nominated products. (I guess I have to give opera a try - again)

hey Gizmo &All, what should we do to to get 50,000 participants in this contest next December? I mean everything on this site is of quality. Can you believe that I kinda stopped going to other major sites for advice because find high quality, clean content here?? Excellent job everyone. Thank you.

by Holmes (not verified) on 31. December 2010 - 5:58  (63586)

Wishing all at Gizmo a very happy New Year and gratitude for all the work put in through the years by generous volunteers and of course Ian himself.
Like others, I've received lots of value from this site and now's the time to say a big THANK YOU.

by Gilgamensch (not verified) on 31. December 2010 - 4:43  (63585)

Excellent list. A couple of quick comments:

LastPass just recently became available for Opera. That was one major thing that kept me from using Opera more than I do - LastPass wasn't available for it until just recently.

I do like Microsoft MSE & use it regularly. But it does have a habit of slowing down my PC, especially for the first 10-15 minutes after boot-up. After that, it quiets down & doesn't interfere too much. When needed, I can tame it by putting the process priority down a notch until it finishes its start-up routine.

by CJ (not verified) on 31. December 2010 - 2:55  (63584)

Bravo. Great job with this selection of the top 20.

Obeisances to Gizmo and his crew and to all who took the time to nominate and to vote. Putting the what and where in FreeWare. Oh yes oh yes oh yes!


by Frank Schuffelen (not verified) on 31. December 2010 - 0:30  (63576)

As always, Gizmo, excellent, excellent, excellent. It would be nice to see the best 20 portable programs as well next year, as more and more of us are starting to use these excellent portable programs. It is so nice to have them running off a USB flash drive, and simply take that flash drive from one computer to another, and run the programs you are familiar with, and leave no traces behind, magic!

by Alex McDonnel (not verified) on 30. December 2010 - 22:32  (63575)

I presume Gizmo himself wrote this. There's something about the way he writes that always gets me in - direct to the point, insightful, authoritative but friendly. Not sure really but whatever it is I like it. More please.

A prosperous Hogmanay to you all.

Alex Mc.

by Tony Fitzroy (not verified) on 31. December 2010 - 2:50  (63583)

I second that, more Gizmo articles please, but WTF is a hogmanay?

by MidnightCowboy on 31. December 2010 - 6:32  (63587)

It's something peculiar to the indigenous population "north of the border" in the UK :)

I used to live not far from Corby (Northants) which has a large Scottish population. If you really want to know how to party then these are the folks to be with.

by gpc111 (not verified) on 30. December 2010 - 20:00  (63570)

Thank you so much for the info on PDF Xchange Viewer. I have been looking for a good PDF editor that will work on her Windows 7 notebook. I have an old version of Foxit but it did not save forms very well. I'm not impressed with the newer Foxit. PDF Xchange Viewer is just the item I was looking for. Best of all there is a portable version. Thanks again

by olegdudan (not verified) on 15. February 2011 - 21:04  (66497)

+1. I love PDF-XChange Viewer too. I used Adobe first, then Foxit, then this. The best there is.

by Anonymous sinks (not verified) on 30. December 2010 - 18:39  (63562)

a great top twenty,why not see if they improve their position next year.well done to all you guys at gizmo,a great site you have.all the best for 2011

by steel.i.span (not verified) on 30. December 2010 - 18:23  (63559)

Opera 11 is my primary browser. That said, i find that it sort-of breaks a couple of the web pages i regularly visit; nothing that makes them unusable ... just annoying. (On one site, poster's avatars don't show, on a couple of pages things like text boxes and such are rendered at slightly wrong dimensions.)

Revo Uninstaller is, indeed, a wonderful thing.

(BTW - why does using my normal username - "Fairportfan" - trigger your spam filters?

by MidnightCowboy on 30. December 2010 - 18:41  (63563)

There is no registered member with the username "Fairportfan". For obvious reasons we are unable to divulge how our security systems operate and/or why a particular text grouping might trigger them :)

by Robin (not verified) on 30. December 2010 - 18:09  (63555)

Anyone know if Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) runs well with Norton regular anti virus programs?


by qwerty (not verified) on 30. December 2010 - 18:52  (63564)

Of course not. You should never run two or more real-time scanners at the same time. From my experience, MSE runs far better than Norton. So, I would suggest you dump Norton and use MSE instead. But, that's up to you. Either way, don't run both at the same time.

by steel.i.span (not verified) on 30. December 2010 - 18:24  (63560)

Probably not - as a general rule, you should never run two real-time virus scanners at once.

by richtea (not verified) on 30. December 2010 - 16:57  (63546)

I do not dispute MS Essential is an excellent product, but I do take some exceptions to what has been said about it here:

1. Microsoft, in fact, only pretends that MS Essentials is free: It is not, since to run it, you have to have Windows in the first place, for which you have coughed up a considerable sum. Having spent money on Windows, you are delivered an operating system full of security holes, albeit an eminently functional OS. In the past, this Emmentaler quality created a huge business opportunity for a number of players who have milked the market created by Microsoft´s failure to provide an integral security solution to Windows shortcomings. Practically all of us have paid for this, one way or another. so it is just about as free as old-age pension preceded by a lifetime of taxation.

2. No congrats to MS are in place, really; instead, something like an exasperated sigh of relief that MS has AT LAST done something about its deficient OS ought to be let out. Praising MS for doing this particular bit of duty for free is simply ludicrous.

Such is my perspective, and I obviously wonder whether MS Essentials should make the rankings at all as free software. Otherwise, my praise goes to Gizmo for all the useful information provided and the effort continuously made in running this site. All the best in 2011!

by Anupam on 30. December 2010 - 17:13  (63549)

In response to your first point, if you look at it that way, then you will rubbish all the freeware on this site, because they all require Windows to run on, which is not free.

To your second point, its commendable that MS have bought out MSE. What is commendable is that MSE is fairly new, but still, since the time it came out, it showed its quality. Its easy to use, and its efficient as an antivirus. Within a short time, MSE was up there with the top free antivirus, and I do think its something to applaud MS for.

I do not use MSE and have never used it. But, I have voted for it personally, because I have read and seen what MSE has achieved in this short time, and it has helped many people fight back the malware/virus. That is commendable, and I certainly support MSE getting the top vote.

by richtea (not verified) on 2. January 2011 - 7:12  (63687)

I suggest that you think through your fallacies before deploying them.

by lmac on 30. December 2010 - 16:19  (63542)

The statement about Ccleaner needing to set the "Ask Toolbar" option to, "No" ignores a simple fact. Companies make some of their software free because they get a kickback from companies such as. "Ask toolbar". They probably have the "Yes" option in their contract with the Ask people. I find this an acceptable nuisance for something this GOOD and FREE.

Please read my comment about "Open Office" uninstall.

I really like Gizmo.


by eikelein on 31. December 2010 - 1:41  (63582)

Hey guys,

I install CCleaner very work day at least on two customer's computers. I dare say I am an old time CCleaner afficionado.

Like with oh so many other freeware programs (otherwise excellent programs) you have a choice to do the "recommended" (ha, ha) default install or a custom install. I ALWAYS, in all programs where I have a choice like this, do a custom install - be it only to find out what the choices/differences are.

In CCleaner's custom install you can DEselect any kind of toolbar they may be offering.

And BTW since I am at it, CCleaner recently has offered only Google Chrome and/or the Google toolbar. Could it be that this depends on where you download it from? My favorite download site is

And these "Blind Passenger Installs" make the freeware author some pennies - or maybe more. And PiriForm (CCleaner's authors) really deserve it; their stuff IMHO is just outstanding.

Happy New Year to y'all.