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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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Comments

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 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 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
garth,
Site Moderator.

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

Hear, hear.

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

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

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 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.