Due to the popularity of my previous article on Help Desk Geek entitled 99 ways to make your computer blazingly fast, I’ve decided to write another list post with 99 items, but this time on Windows freeware programs that you may have not heard of.
If you search for “best freeware programs” or “top freeware apps”, you’ll get lots of lists, but mostly with programs everyone has already heard of: AVG anti-virus, 7-zip, Firefox, OpenOffice, etc., etc.
That’s all nice and fine, but what about all those little gems programs that work great, but don’t get all the headlines? In this article, I will try my best to mention as many small name freeware programs as I can that can help make you more productive! It’s a long list, so feel free to bookmark it and refer to it later on.
These are written in no particular order! Again, I’m sure there are hundreds of programs that I won’t mention, so if you feel I’ve really missed a great program, mention the name of the app and what it does in the comments!
Additionally, some of the programs I mention have free versions that have a few restrictions or are limited in some way. I tried not to mention any programs that are just free trials.
Note: Lastly, it should be noted that I have gone through the entire list and run every executable file through VirusTotal (as of Feb 2018) to ensure that the programs do not have malware or spyware.
1. We’ve all heard of 7-zip, WinRAR, and WinZip, but what about other great zipping programs like ZIP Archiver or PeaZip?
2. What’s the best Notepad replacement out there? Notepad++ right? We all know that! Here are nine more free text editors for Windows.
3. If you use Windows, then you know and love the Windows registry! CCleaner may be the most popular system maintenance tool out there, but what about…well, actually that’s the only one I recommend.
4. Ever accidentally delete a file that you really needed? You can try a program called Pandora Recovery to recover lost or deleted files or Recuva, a useful file recovery app. But that’s not all! Ever heard of TestDisk?
5. Speaking of file recovery, ever accidentally delete all the pictures off your memory card!? It happens more often than you would think. In those cases, check out my list of 5 photo recovery apps.
6. Ever forget your Outlook password? Or your password for a WiFi? If so, you can use some cool programs to reveal passwords and account details for various programs in Windows. You can also use these 10 programs to recover a lost PST password.
7. Speaking of passwords, have you ever needed to remove a password on an Office document like an Excel spreadsheet? There’ a program for that.
8. OK, so you have heard of Audacity, but it’s the best free audio editing program out there, so deal with it.
9. Speaking of audio, if you are into music, you can use LMMS to create your own music tracks.
10. Have an ISO image and older version of Windows that can’t mount ISO images? Check out WinCDEmu and create an unlimited number of virtual drives.
11. With all this password talk, ever thought about using a free password manager? Ever heard of KeePass or RoboForm?
12. Enough about passwords, let’s talk media players! We’ve all heard of VLC media player and Windows Media Player, but what about Kodi and Media Monkey? Both are great media players for Windows. Also, GOM Player is good too.
13. If you have to stare at your screen at night for a long time, it’s probably a good idea to use a program like f.lux to change the display color to something warmer.
14. If you take a lot of home videos, you probably need to edit and stitch them together right? Don’t worry about Adobe Premiere, you can use other free programs like Windows Movie Maker, a product from Microsoft. If not that, you can also check out LightWorks and HitFilm Express, two free professional-grade video editing programs.
15. Speaking of videos, there are many times when you need to convert from one format to another. The best video transcoder out there IMHO is HandBrake.
16. Is there a Windows process that is causing spikes in your CPU or other problems. Use Process Explorer and Process Monitor to help diagnose the issue.
17. Work with PDF files a lot? Looking for a good PDF reader? My favorites are Foxit, Nitro PDF Reader, and PDF-XChange Editor.
18. If you want to create PDFs fast, there are a bunch of programs like CutePDF, PrimoPDF, Bullzip, PDF Creator, and lots more!
19. Switching topics, I’m sure you back up your computer regularly right? If not, you should check out Easeus Todo Backup, a free program that lets you backup and clone your hard drives. Another program is Paragon Backup.
20. If you just want to backup your data and not image your entire hard drive, you can use Google Backup and Sync to backup files and folders to your Google Drive storage.
21. Whether you know it or not, you probably have a bunch of duplicate files on your computer! It just happens. You can use Duplicate Cleaner to find and remove those duplicate files.
22. If you want to save more hard drive space, you should look into a program that will analyze hard disk space usage, like TreeSize. Other programs include Space Sniffer and WinDirStat.
23. Want to see every possible program or driver that loads when Windows starts? Check out Autoruns, which is a free tool from Microsoft.
24. Been looking for a good free photo editor lately? Check out GIMP, PhotoScape, Paint.NET, or Fotor! If you prefer an online photo editor, checkout Pixlr and BeFunky.
25. Looking for detailed information about the hardware on your computer. Look no further than HWiNFO. It can also analyze and monitor your system too.
26. If you’re not running Windows 10 or don’t like their default Mail app, you can check out Mozilla Thunderbird, which is still updated regularly.
27. Ever had to send a large file to someone, but your email client wouldn’t allow more than 10 to 20 MBs? You can share large files (up to 2GB for free) with friends and family using a program called WeTransfer. Other programs include DropSend and pCloud.
28. The popular notes app we all know is Evernote, but there are other great options like SimpleNote, Google Keep, and Notebook.
29. If you have an FTP server or a website, you will probably need a good FTP client program like WinSCP, the most popular these days. Other good options include FileZilla and CyberDuck.
30. If you’re paranoid about your data, you might want to encrypt it with a program like VeraCrypt or AxCrypt.
31. Are you a web developer or coder? Looking for a good HTML editor? There are quite a few: CoffeeCup, Visual Studio Express, Atom, Sublime Text, etc.
32. Want to learn more about the WiFi networks around you? Download WiFi Inspector or Acrylic WiFi Analyzer.
33. Ever wanted to create a family tree? Legacy is a free genealogy that you can use to keep track of family and relatives. Another good app is ScionPC.
34. If you constantly use the same programs over and over, it might be a good idea to download a quick program launcher. One of my favorites is Find and Run Robot.
35. OpenOffice is the most popular free Office suite, but there are other good ones like LibreOffice and WPS Office Free.
36. Ever wanted to automate a certain task in Windows? Maybe you want to have your computer turn off every day at 10pm? Or certain keystrokes you want to record and repeat over and over again? Whatever the case, AutoHotKey is an awesome program for automating many tasks in Windows.
37. I mentioned HWiNFO in #25, but if you want detailed info about your CPU and about the motherboard, then CPU-Z is a better option.
38. If you’re planning to overclock your CPU, then you should download Prime95 to make sure your system is stable. If you’re overclocking a GPU, check out MSI Afterburner.
39. Looking to secure your browsing traffic with a VPN? The best free VPN currently is TunnelBear, which restricts you to 500 MB of bandwidth.
40. In #14, I mentioned two professional and free movie editing programs, but they are quite complex. If you’re looking to create movies without such a learning curve, check out Shotcut, VSDC Free Video editor, and Avidemux.
41. Got kids? Need some parental control software? The best options are Qustodio and Kidlogger. Free versions are limited obviously. Also, read my post on the different ways to childproof a computer.
42. If you have a lot of music, you might want to consider a music management program like Media Monkey. Another good program is MusicBee.
43. I talked about a VPN for secure browsing in #39, but you can also use a different browser like Tor to hide your identify.
44. If you’ve recently bought a new computer, you can use a program called PC Decrapifier to get rid of all those useless programs that can come bundled with the PC and slow everything down.
45. After you have a computer for a while, there are always going to be programs that you don’t use anymore and that can be uninstalled. Revo Uninstaller will get rid of any program whether it wants to or not.
46. If you want to play some free games that aren’t Solitaire, download Steam. They have a whole free games section.
47. If you have sensitive data on your computer that you want to permanently and securely delete from your hard drive, I would suggest using a program called dBan.
48. Do a lot of reading? A great app for reading in Windows is the Kindle app. It will also sync down to your phone or tablet too.
49. Love using Instagram? Want to download a photo, video or story from Instagram? Check out 4K Stogram.
50. Looking for good screen capture software? A really good one is Screenshot Captor. Of course, Windows has a lot of built-in ways to capture screenshots too.
51. We’ve all heard of Skype and WhatsApp, but what about Viber? It’s another tool you can use to communicate with family and friends worldwide.
52. Ever wanted your computer to speak out what you have written? It’s called text-to-speech and there are a couple of good programs that do it: Balabolka, NaturalReader, and Panopreter.
53. Do you have a lot of programs that load when Windows starts? Does it take several minutes for your computer to become useable? If so, check out Startup Delayer, a program that delays the startup of programs so that your computer loads faster.
54. Do you need to create a presentation, but don’t have PowerPoint? In addition to the Office suites we mentioned in #35, you can also use Canva and Prezi.
55. Follow a lot of blogs online and still miss Google Reader? RSSOwl is a good alternative.
56. You’ve all probably heard of TeamViewer for remotely sharing your desktop, but you can also use Join.me.
57. Are you someone who prefers a supercharged Explorer interface? If so, check out Total Commander, which has been around for decades and works with Windows 10.
58. If you think you might have bad memory installed in your computer, you can check for bad memory using memtest86.
59. Want to record your screen and live stream it too? OBS Studio is a free app that does just that. TinyTake is another decent one, though the free version is limited.
60. Are you a professional photographer that needs tools like Lightroom, but don’t want to pay for a subscription? Darktable is an open-source photography workflow application.
61. Speaking of Adobe, are there any good Adobe Illustrator alternatives? Yes! One good one for working with vector graphics is Inkscape. Another good one is Vectr.
62. Are you someone who needs to write something, but gets distracted easily? Check out FocusWriter and write without distractions.
63. One of the worst things that can happen to your computer is for it to become infected with Spyware. HijackThis is an awesome program that you can use to find and remove spyware. However, it’s no longer active. Another good option is AdwCleaner.
64. On the topic of spyware, there are several other freeware programs like SUPERAntiSpyware, adaware, and SpyBot.
65. In addition to spyware and malware, there are also separate tools you can use to find rootkits like TDSSKiller, Sophos Rootkit scanner and Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit.
66. Finally, if you’re not able to detect anything while in Windows, a good idea is to run an offline virus scan. One good option is Windows Defender Offline.
67. If you ever need a free CD/DVD/Blu-ray disc burning program, check out CDBurnerXP. It also has a portable version you can run off your USB stick. Another good one is AVS Free Disc Creator.
68. If you ever need to burn an ISO image to a CD or DVD, then you should use a free program like ImgBurn.
69. Are you a true nerd and still use IRC? If so, HexChat is an excellent IRC client.
70. Ever run into the problem where you are trying to delete a file in Windows and it says that the file is in use and cannot be deleted? You can use Unlocker to delete any file that is locked by a process.
71. Are you always thinking about stuff? Then you should probably use some free mind-mapping software. Wikipedia also has a big list of mind-mapping software.
72. Need to manage a small project, but need some project management software? Check out GnattProject and Taiga.io.
73. If you want to play around with virtual machines, download the free and excellent VirtualBox from Oracle. It’s the safest way to browse and test new software.
74. In #19 and #20, I talked about software to backup your computer, but forgot to mention DriveImage XML, an good program you can use to create an image of your hard drive. Other good disk imaging tools include MacriumReflect and Clonezilla.
75. Need some accounting & finance software, but don’t trust the online tools like Mint and Quickbooks? GNUCash is free accounting and finance software.
76. Ever head of Blender? It’s a pretty amazing program and it’s free. It lets you create 3D worlds, 3D animations and 3D games. Check it out.
77. If Blender is too complex for you, another great option for sketching in 3D is SketchUp.
78. While we’re on the topic, FreeCAD is open-source parametric 3D CAD modeler.
79. For space lovers, I always recommend Stellarium, which is basically a planetarium for your computer.
80. Looking for a really good partition manager? Check out GParted, probably the best not-heard-of partition manager out there. Other good options include MiniTool Partition Wizard and EaseUs Partition Master Free.
81. Looking for a file on your computer? Default Windows search sucks? Well, why don’t you try out Everything, the best free Windows file search tool.
82. Wish your clipboard could store more than one item at a time? Well you should check out ClipX, ArsClip and Ditto clipboard, three cool clipboard manager programs.
83. DropIt is a nifty little Windows program that lets you “drop” files onto a folder, which will then process the file according to your settings.
84. Remote desktop is great for Windows computers, but for other platforms you’ll need something like TightVNC or UltraVNC.
85. Got a spare computer with some extra storage on it? You can turn it into a NAS device using a program called FreeNAS.
86. Since we’re talking about only Windows freeware programs, you might be interested in Disk2VHD, a program from Microsoft that will let you convert your current PC into a virtual machine that you can then load into Hyper-V.
87. Want to learn a new language? The best program for Windows in my view is Duolingo.
88. Ever had to split a large file into a couple of pieces? If so, check out GSplit, a nifty utility for splitting and re-joining files.
89. Been in a situation where you needed to compare two files and see the differences? WinMerge is a cool program that will let you compare and merge two files. It hasn’t been updated since 2013, but a new version should be coming this year.
90. Need to send ultra-private and secure messages from Windows? Your best option is Telegram Messenger.
91. Or what about merging multiple PDF files together? If so, check out PDFtk, a toolkit that lets you merge, split, and repair PDF files.
92. For the network geeks out there, you have to try Spiceworks at home to really monitor what’s happening on the network. For the really tech-savvy folks, get Wireshark.
93. Want to print something at your parents’ house from your house half-way across the country? Check out PrinterShare.
94. Worried that the data you have saved in the Cloud with Google, Microsoft, etc. can be hacked? Encrypt it all with Boxcryptor.
95. Ever needed to figure out the RGB value or hexadecimal value of a color that is on your computer screen? ColorPic is a nice utility that lets you determine the hexadecimal RGB color for anything on your screen.
96. If you have a lot of MP3 files, you probably need to edit the tags and metadata so that everything shows up properly in iTunes or your music manager app. You can use MP3tag or TagScanner to edit MP3 tags.
97. If you have more than one monitor, you can use a program like Dual Monitor Tools to customize each monitor to your liking.
98. Wish you could use Find My iPhone with all your other non-Apple devices? Prey might just be the answer.
99. One of the best ways to keep your computer secure is to make sure all the software is updated. SUMo does this for you. Other good options are FileHippo App Manager and Personal Software Inspector.
Whew! That was probably way more than a hundred freeware programs, but hope you enjoyed it. I’m sure there are lots of great programs I missed, so if you have a favorite freeware app, add it to the list via the comments. If you like the list, bookmark it! Enjoy!