It is certainly very exciting to own a new computer or laptop, but installing a bunch of programs on a new windows is a rather boring tasks. To make the most out of your machine, you will need good software that assist your daily tasks, which a brand new windows PC is lack of.
In this post, I will provide a list of free software that are essential for general Windows users by dividing them into 11 categories. Let’s begin the list now!
If you’re too lazy to read through the comprehensive list or in a hurry, go straight to the full list of download links here. Also, if you’re using Windows 7, please remember to disable User Account Control (UAC) to remove the annoying popup window in every installation.
You probably want to get rid of Internet Explorer and use some better alternatives. Besides, you need a good and reliable browser to download these new programs fast. Here are the 5 most popular web browsers in the world.
- Firefox – The most customizable browser with large number of extensions & add-ons, which allows you to add lots of extra functionalities to your browser. If you are a web developer, internet marketer, or tech savvy, Firefox is the best choice for you.
- Chrome – The fastest and safest browser to date. It has minimalistic design that makes browsing websites simpler. If you’re a normal internet user who loves simplicity and speed, go for it!
- Safari – I don’t really recommend Windows user to use Safari as their main browser, unless you’re obsessed to Apple products and too poor to afford a Mac. Google Chrome is obviously a better choice for Windows PC.
- Opera – Neither too fast nor too slow, it’s a mediocre internet browser which is the fourth most popular internet browser in the word. Give it a try if you want to discover something new. It may suits you well!
- Rockmelt – Specially designed for Facebook addicts. It’s a free social media web browser that integrates Facebook into the Chromium based browser. I would say it’s a great combination of Facebook and Chrome browser. Do note that the browser is still in beta phase at this moment, so you may expect a few crashes when browsing.
You may also install multiple browsers in your computer according to your needs and preferences. If you can’t decide which is the best browser for you, check out PCMag’s detailed reviews of internet browsers.
2. File Compression & Extraction Software
Some of the software installers are in compressed formats (RAR, ZIP, TAR, etc.), so it’s necessary to get a free file extractor and compressor beforehand.
- WinRAR – A very powerful and lightweight compression and decompression tool. It’s able to unpack wide range of formats including the popular RAR & ZIP. The only drawback is you have to close the pop up notification window that requests you to purchase the paid version every time you open it.
- 7-Zip – Another great open-source file archive utility that is as impressive as WinRAR in terms of speed and features. However, it doesn’t support .rar files, which is a huge drawback to me. Anyway, it’s known to have the highest compression ratio among it’s competitors, so you may prefer 7-Zip if you need to compress files often.
3. Driver Update Software
A driver scanner/checker automatically helps you to install missing drivers and driver updates on your new PC, without having to search for them one by one.
- DriverMax is a powerful and convenient driver checker that finds and downloads the latest driver updates with just few clicks. Backup and restore options are also provided in case you mess up anything. Being rated as a top driver update software by CNET users, there’s no doubt that DriverMax is one of the most accurate and reliable free driver scanner. However, do note the free version only allows 2 driver downloads per day.
4. Antivirus Software
You definitely need an antivirus program to protect your computer from virus infections. You’re highly recommended to get an internet security suite that offers full protection, but having a free antivirus software is better than nothing if you can’t afford to buy one.
You can’t go wrong with either avast! Free Antivirus or AVG Antivirus Free. There are lots of debates about who is better, but there’s no doubt that they are superior among the rest of their competitors. I would say avast! 7 is lighter and neater but who knows AVG might catch up in the future releases? Just go with the one that you’re comfortable with!
Why do you need a firewall when you have antivirus? To make it simple, firewall helps to prevent threats & intrusion by blocking insecure data, whereas antivirus software kills them during or after infection. Both work differently and you definitely need both of them to have better protection on your PC.
Compare to Windows’ built-in firewall, third party firewalls certainly have more features and offer stronger protection, but you can choose to use the default Windows firewall too.
I’m not a pro on this, but I personally recommend you to download Comodo Firewall Free as it is very powerful and lightweight. Even the pros such as Gizmo’s Tech Support Alert has rated it as one of the best free firewall software available.
6. Malware Removal Tool
An anti-malware tool complements your antivirus suite by removing other malicious software that antivirus can’t detect such as adware, rootkits, rogues, etc. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free is the absolute choice for you. Technicians often use it to remove malware(s) on an infected computer simply by installing it from an USB flash drive.
It is an on-demand scanner, which I recommend you to run it at least once every two weeks or whenever you suspect that your computer is infected.
The combination of free antivirus, firewall, and malware removal tool should be good enough to protect your PC from potential threats. Another important key is to know how to avoid virus infection on your computer.
Microsoft Windows default uninstaller doesn’t completely remove all files and registries of a program. Besides, I found that the loading time of the Add/Remove Programs applet in the Windows control panel is incredibly slow. Therefore, a better third party uninstaller comes in handy to remove unwanted programs on a brand-new computer.
- Revo Uninstaller is the leading free uninstaller which outshines its competitors with its easy-to-uninstall and powerful features. Revo Uninstaller first runs the selected software’s built-in uninstaller, then search for files and registries that are left behind and remove them automatically. It also does a great job in cleaning up a failed install.
- PC Decrapifier is different compare to the normal uninstallers, as it’s designed to search and remove unnecessary programs, startup items, and icons that slow down your PC. It is extremly useful for a new computer which comes with bunch of pre-installed bloatware and trialware.
8. Disk Cleaner
You can’t ask for anything more from CCleaner. A must-have tool to allow your PC to run faster and free up hard disk space. You can easily remove unwanted files from various programs, recycle bin, along with internet history, browsing cookies, temporary files, etc. Some other great features include registry cleaner, uninstaller, and drive wiper.
9. Media Player
If you love to watch video and listen to music, you definitely need an all-in-one media player that is able to play almost every media file smoothly.
- PotPlayer is written by the same author as the KMPlayer, which is considered to be an upgraded version of KMPlayer. It is rated 10/10 by Gizmo’s Tech Support Alert and 5/5 by CNET. It is described as a powerful, customizable, versatile, and stable media player by both sites.
- VLC media player has been one of the top free media player for over a decade, which is highly portable and user-friendly. The number of daily downloads says everything about the awesomeness of VLC media player.
10. Office Suite
If your new computer doesn’t comes with Microsoft Office, OpenOffice is a must for office and study purposes, unless you’re planning to buy a Microsoft Office suite. OpenOffice is arguably the best alternative to Microsoft Office which has similar interface and features to it.
By the way, you may want to check out Google Docs, a free online word processor which doesn’t require installation. Suitable for light users.
11. PDF Reader
Adobe Reader is the standard PDF reader, but it is definitely not the best available. However, it doesn’t really matter unless you’re a frequent PDF file user. Check this out if you’re sick of Adobe’s sluggish PDF reader.
For your convenience, I have compiled the 11 categories of freewares into a short list, by choosing the software that I personally recommend from each category:
It is impossible to include everything in the above list to satisfy everyone’s need, as each user has their own preferences. Some other notable mentions are backup software and tool, partition manager, instant messenger, CD/DVD burner, image editing tool, download manager, etc. Here’s another list of additional free software that I would recommend:
Did I miss out any awesome freewares? Feel free to list them out in your comment!