Dandy Dozen of Free Windows Programs that I Install on Every New PC

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Do you have some favorite free applications and utilities that you wouldn’t do without? Most active PC users have a list of favorite programs and here is my selection. I put these on every new PC I get.

Many of these have been with me since Windows XP (or earlier) but they are tried and true and are still with me in Windows 8.1. Most are regularly updated and they all work in every current Windows version. There is no claim that these are the best for everybody, just that they suit my way of doing things and help make me more productive. You probably have a different group of favorites. No official recommendation by TechSupportAlert is implied.  

Here are twelve of my most used free applications and utilities (in no particular order). By the way, I am not including browsers or security suites because I use a variety of these heavy-duty applications.

1. 7-Zip archive manager

Everybody encounters compressed files and needs an archive manager.  I find the native Windows feature to be too limited and slow and have used 7-Zip for years. It is also Gizmo’s choice for Best Free File Archiver and is reviewed here. For some tips on using 7-Zip go to this link. Some people have reported permission problems with 7-Zip 64-bit when using Windows 8.x, 64-bit but I had no trouble with the installation from the download link at http://www.7-zip.org/download.html.

2. VLC Media Player

I don’t use multimedia as much as many video and music fans might nor do I need an editor but like almost everybody I need a media player now and then. VLC comes with a lot of codecs and is much more versatile than Windows Media Player. I can play most formats, including RealMedia and QuickTime. A good review can be found here

3. IrfanView image viewer and basic editor

This is yet another basic utility that I prefer to one that Windows provides. The IrfanView image viewer and basic editor has been around since Windows 95 but is constantly updated. Photography and graphics experts will want something more powerful but, if you just want to be able to view a large number of different graphics formats or do basic editing like resizing and cropping, IrfanView is hard to beat. Average PC users will find it easy to use and will not get buried in the complexities of more advanced programs. It also comes with a lot of plug-ins. I put a lot of images on the Internet and IrfanViews’s “Save for Web” plug-in is very useful for reducing the size of image files. Gizmo’s has a review at this link.

4. Notepad++ text and code editor

Almost anybody will want to use a text editor at some time and there are a lot of them. Plain old Notepad will do for the simplest tasks but I need something with more features and Notepad++ is an old workhorse for me. I use it in a lot of ways, including editing HTML and other code. It has many features and a number of plug-ins. The developer’s site is at this link.

5. DropBox file synchronizer and backup

Using the cloud to back up or synchronize files is all the rage and there are many services. DropBox was early in the game and is the one I got started with. I still like it. It’s fast and it lets me synchronize across multiple platforms. One thing I don’t do is upload sensitive information. I also don’t need huge amounts of storage since I don’t upload videos or music. Windows 8 users may prefer Microsoft OneDrive but I am sticking with DropBox. The developer’s link is here. Gizmo’s has a review of DropBox on mobile platforms in this article.  

6. Malwarebytes anti-malware

This is not my first line of defense against malware but it provides a quick and convenient way to run an additional check of the many files that I download. It puts an entry in the right-click context menu for a quick scan of a file. It is also a favorite of many of Gizmo’s readers. The developer’s site is at this link.  

7. Belarc Advisor system information utility

One thing that many people overlook is the need to have a record of what is on their system. Belarc Advisor creates a file that lists a variety of information about your hardware and software, including the product codes.  I run it on every new computer and print the file it generates. I then periodically update it. The developers link is here.

8. "Send To Toys"

One feature of Windows that I use constantly is the “Send to” entry in the right-click context menu. A long-time favorite of mine is the utility “Send To Toys” that allows you to augment the “Send to” menu in powerful ways. The description of how to use this highly useful program is here. This utility saves me a lot of time. 

9. Ditto clipboard manager

I am constantly copying text, URLs, code, and what-have-you for use elsewhere. That means I must have a clipboard manager that can store and manage multiple clips. I use Ditto constantly. It is a top pick at Gizmo’s and is reviewed here. I prefer this download site but it is sometimes busy.

10. LastPass password manager

Like many PC users, I use a lot of sites and services that require a log in with a password. Complex and different passwords for different sites are an absolute requirement these days and I suspect that only people with total recall can get along without a password manager. My favorite is LastPass. It works on multiple platforms and has served me well. LastPass is a top pick from Gizmo’s and a review can be found here. There is also an article here.

11. PDF-XChange PDF viewer

PDF documents are so ubiquitous that you have to have a PDF reader but here I deviate from listing an app that I have been using for a long time. Over the years I have tried a succession of PDF readers, beginning with Adobe. But Adobe became so bloated and such a security hazard that I ditched it and used Foxit for a while. Then Foxit started trying to foist unwanted components on users so I then tried Sumatra for bare-bones reading with no editing capability. However, the more fully featured PDF-XChange viewer is more versatile and is now my choice. It is a top pick at Gizmo’s and a review can be found here.

12. CCleaner system cleaner

Finding this well-known program on the list will be no surprise to Gizmo’s readers – it is a very popular way to keep a system tidy. I confess that I don’t use CCleaner that often any more but it is still standard on all my systems. It is a top pick at Gizmo’s and a review is here

And there you have it – twelve of my favorites. Tell us about yours in the comments.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Comments

Help! I cannot turn off notifications from this "blog".
The email link to "You can cancel these notifications from your Gizmo's Freeware account settings at http://www.techsupportalert.com/user/xxxxx/edit"
... takes me to my log in window but I am damned if I can find a list of my notifications.

So the only way to kill off notifications is to post a useless comment (like this) and DISABLE "Notify me when new comments are posted"

To get rid of notifications, you should have edited your past comments on this page, and then turned off the option to receive notifications for replies to your comments. Anyways, have done this for you, so you shouldn't receive anymore notifications now. If you do, please send a PM, or post in the forum please: http://www.techsupportalert.com/freeware-forum/fix-me/

WinPatrol : As stated in PCWorld, this software is useless and ineffective!

Winpatrol: I only saw positive reviews from PC World.

As stated by blueboxer, the ability to block unauthorized startup entries and browser hijacks is priceless and will save users untold heartache trying to remove toolbars etc. These are just a couple of WinPatrol's features. Thank goodness the technology world does not rely on PCWorld for best advice. MC - Site Manager.

Agreed 100% - Winpatrol has saved me grief untold times

I recognize all but a few mentioned in the article and comments, and of course have and use most. Which leaves me amazed no one has mentioned WinPatrol, which I have found one of my most useful and used utilities (it even saved me from a couple of ransomware attacks that got straight through my big-name antivirus and antimalware programs at the time). In fact it is such good value that I have since subscribed to the paid edition, like Irfanview inn its support and delivery. Great stuff!

I forgot NetMeter

You can view the exact amount of data transferred by day / week / month / total or since a given time. This includes upload and download, their peak speed, as well as average speed. All reports can be exported in CSV format for later use.

When you say "Search Everything" do you mean "Everything" the program that searches file names (not contents) ?

Rob

PS This was meant to be a reply to MikeR's post

Belarc was a great little utility until it ran into Windows 8. For some reason the report and the pages code always opens in Notepad which is about as useless as a rusty bent nail. Perhaps it does work in 8.1, but I'll never use 8.1 again as it too seemed more trouble than I cared to bother with.

I have had no problems installing and using Belarc on several Windows 8.1 systems.

Very Nice list : Some additions :

I like Firefox, ClipX, Audacity, xyPlorer, virtualclonedrive, SumatraPDF, Daum PotPlayer, MozBackup, Erunt, uTorrent, NexusFonts, Don'tSleep, Unlocker, EfficientPIM, Sumo, PhotoFiltre, MailStoreHome, VirtualDub, AgentRansack, FairStars CD Ripper, Bullzip, Advanced PDF Utilities, MP3Gain, Switch Sound File Converter, LastPass, Comodo Internet Security, Speccy, PeerBlock, VLC Player, NoScript, Disconnect 3.14, WOT, Heartbleed-Ext, DownloadHelper, hmpalert, SUPERAntiSpyware, Malwarebytes, VirtualTotalScanner.

Enough?

My essential freebies
Metapad3.6 (text editor) -- portable
- with optional active URL links (brilliant for research)
- optional always on top
- dual font panes (I have one fixed-width - the other variable width fonts)
- customizable font-size, back color
- (precursor to Notepad++ but a lot simpler)
- tiny footprint
- downside (Windows only)
- change selected text to:- lower-case, UPPER-CASE, Title-Case, iNVERT-cASE
ClipX
- very basic Clipboard extender (text only)
- stickies with an addon
- customize hot-keys
ShiftOff
- stops accidental UPpper CAse if capslock is on
- customizable (INI file, database, comes with non English characters which shows an error msg on first use, but simply fixed thru setup)
KeyboardLEDS
- transparent notifier of capslock, insert ... keys state
- fully customizable (fan boys delight)
LockHunter
- release stubborn files folders, external drives (best of the bunch)
FileTypeMan (by NirSoft)
- file associations (MS dropped this feature after XP)
FreeVK.exe (portable)
- free virtual keyboard
AutoRuns.exe (portable)
- manage startup (use with care)
... and ...
Everything, SuperAntiSpyware, PDF-XChange Editor, MyDefrag,

I'd also add Greenshot, FastStone image viewer and Virtual Clone drive.

I to use Locate32 for searching file names and also Launchy.

I would be lost without xplorer2 which I use every day for copying files from one folder to another, searching for files, etc.

And Donation Coder's Clipboard Help & Spell is priceless. It enables me to copy-and-paste series of entries easily, as well as have an easily accessed set of often reused entries.

If you need versioning, as I do, AutoVer is free and great and must be on every PC I use. Otherwise, I can't go back to a previous version of an article I wrote, to see the changes, or recover a file if the most recent version got trashed somehow.

Actual Windows Manager is now a must, given my 29" screen that allows me to easily see three different program windows side by side.

The article also left out the search utility Everything, which is incredibly fast and lauded by many reviewers.

I have used Locate32 daily for years.

I use many of those on Vic's list, but many others as well
- For searching inside files, the free Agent Ransack from mythicsoft.com is hard to beat.
- Everything is another program to search for files www.voidtools.com.
- Sysinternals has many free useful utilities, like Current Ports and Process Explorer.
- I have come to prefer Daum Pot Player daumpotplayer.com to VLC Media Player, as it rarely needs updating, and I only listen and watch.ACE Media Player is another good one, but I use Daum most of the time.
- I also recommend the free version of Super-Antispyware along with Malwarebytes
- System Scheduler from splinterware.com also goes on my new computers asap,
- HostsMan, the Hosts File Manager from abelhadigital.com
- sUMo Update Manager is another program that I consider essential.
- I also consider Weatherclock from Respectsoft.com essential

An astonishing display of psychic ability by Vic, this to add to all his other manifest talents. I won't bore him or anyone else to tears with an itemisation of the 90% similarity between his list and mine, so instead will offer up two freeware suggestions which to me are absolutely indispensable:

FileMinimizer Pictures from Balesio: I've lost track of the number of times I use it to minimize -- without quality loss -- the size of images I'm attaching to an email. I've lost track, too, of the amount of hassle I've saved myself by gently asking friends *not* to email out-of-camera holiday snaps at over 4MB per image a time but to use FileMinimizer Pictures instead and send me that same jpeg in 85% stripped-down form yet without any visible deterioration twixt original and minimized;

and:

Search Everything, the (to me) absolute must-have replacement for the appalling Windows Search indexing which would otherwise interrupt my work when it chose and slow things to a crawl as and when. Search Everything is light, non-intrusive and ye Gods, it seems to move at 10 times the speed of Microsoft's clunker.

So there ya go: two free apps that might not come immediately to everyone's mind but, when you've used 'em, you wonder how you ever managed without them. . .

Decent list. Along w/ the mentioned Revo, free Macrium Reflect for Image backup, a MUST. Fast, clean, updates.
Chrome, Malwarebyte Anti-Malware. Yes, LastPass a MUST.
Several little ones like Hotkeyboard but too many to mention like Q-Dir, Free Alarm, photo editors/correctors.

Very similar list! I use Photofiltre for everyday editing which is simple but powerful or in a rush just use BeFunky in the web. Thanks for sharing!

Almost the same list :]

PDF-XChange Viewer has been replaced by free PDF-XChange Editor.
"Viewer" is still available but is no longer developed.
Free "PDF-XChange Editor" does a lot more than free Adobe Reader
Well supported forum for all PDF-XChange products.

Thanks for the information

One additional suggestion to make installing many of these utilities fast and easy: use Ninite.com. Select multiple programs, inclulding browsers, and then get one installer package that installs all selected programs WITHOUT the toolbars and extra crap ("make Bing my homepage"...).

Firefox!
Still the most flexible, open source program available.

Foxit has changed since your post I'm sure!
No more "extra" surprises to install.

I've swapped to Pale Moon from Firefox.

It can use the same add-ons, runs faster (I think), and most important, doesn't keep messing with the user interface at some designer's whim. The developer has stated that Pale Moon will NEVER use the Australis UI.

I even donated a few bucks to the developer.

I too am still frustrated with Mozilla's decision to change UI which broke (as usual) a few addons along the way.

PM might be lightweight and fast but just Fx, it is far from being perfect.
Just after reading your post, two webpages I went to had legit popups that PM could not close.
A friend of mine, whom I had convinced to use as a result of Mozilla's political move (if you recall) was quite happy until he gets this regular annoyance when visiting Hotmail online which tells him to update his browser.
These examples are just a few of many more "minor annoyances" but still annoying.
What about new addons?
GPU accelerator addon is incompatible with PM:
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/gpu-accelerated-flash-player
The Fox addon is incompatible with PM
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/the-fox-only-better/
These to name only a few.

Hopefully Palemoon 25 will be better.

In several cases the "is incompatible with PM" is only
due to the different version numbers of FF versus PM.

FF is 30+ while PM is 24.7.2

You can take the FF addon sample-fx.xpi and rename it to
sample-fx.xpi.zip and extract the "install.rdf" xml file
and search near the end of the file for:

29.0
32.*

and edit it with a text, xml or hex editor so that
the minVersion is 24.0 instead of 29.0 (for example)
Then save the modified "install.rdf" and put it back
into the "sample-fx.xpi.zip" file. Then rename it to
"sample-pm.xpi" and it will install into PM right away.

I have done this with the FEBE8.0.5.xpi add-on and it
works fine.

Of course it would be nice if the add-on authors would
do this since so many users have dumped FF in favor of PM.

Regards

Thanks for the crash course my friend!

Thing is, as a Firefox (or Palemoon) advocate, I've often found myself to do some of the basic stuff to help people find out that there is something much more useful than IE (or Chrome) because, if its too complicated, they take the easy way out.

Surprisingly, a lot don't even know what a browser is...

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