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Best Free Security & Privacy Software

Antivirus Software ("Using more than one real-time antivirus can cause conflicts and consumes system resources heavily, so only choose one antivirus for real-time protection;" both picks have anti-rootkit and anti-spyware scanning.)

  • Avira AntiVir Personal Edition: "My top pick if you're looking for the best protection against viruses. It is very light on resources and the detection rate of viruses and rootkits is outstanding."
  • Avast! Home Edition: "An excellent product for average users. It is less restricted than Avira and AVG, with both anti-rootkit and anti-spyware capabilities. It has full real-time capabilities and is fairly light on resources."

Firewall (Only choose and run 1; the top two below have an optional HIPS.)

  • Online Armor: "A class leading option for protection and performance, but it's also difficult to setup and use."
  • Comodo Firewall (now known as Comodo Internet Security): "This is an outstanding product and the only serious freeware contender for Vista 64. On the minus side, it's rather talkative and this may unnecessarily alarm or annoy users." The antivirus component is optional on install. See above for our antivirus recommendations.
  • Gizmo & others on TSA recommend Windows Firewall for average users and those who do not want to take on the annoyances of Comodo or Online Armor. Vista Firewall Control could be used with Windows Firewall to enhance its security and usability.

Browser Protection Utility and Virtual Defense / Internet Safety Raters and Site Scanners

  • Sandboxie: "Creates a special sandbox environment on your PC [either for web browsing or any program]. So that within the virtual sandbox provided by Sandboxie the vital portions of your PC are totally isolated... If set correctly, any spyware, trojans, keyloggers or other malware products that 'infect' your PC while browsing will be eliminated. It can cause problems on some PCs so backup before installing."
  • WOT: "Fast ratings about possible malicious websites, multiple categories of ratings, and provides reports with user comments and more information. Uses a fantastic warning screen to empower users to avoid potentially bad websites without censoring sites."
  • LinkExtend: "Uses multiple free sources to maximize security ratings and other categories of site ratings, feature rich."

Adware/Spyware/Scumware Removers

  • SuperAntiSpyware: "Nothing else even came close to the detection rate of SAS."
  • MalwareBytes Anti-Malware: "Malwarebytes' offering found an additional 28 threats that SAS had failed to detect. Most of these were Trojans, which suggests the two are aimed at slightly different threats."

Intrusion Prevention and Detection Utility for Home Use (HIPS)

  • DriveSentry: "Excellent default settings for novices, but also highly configurable for more experienced users. Not only does it do what it says "on the box" but it does so in a way less likely to cause problems than some of the alternatives."

Anonymous Surfing Service

  • OperaTor: "A portable version of Opera with a well integrated Tor engine that uses the free Tor network. It is small and relatively fast, but not open source."
  • JonDo (alternatively, if this site is down try here): "It's more flexible by allowing the user to configure it for their choice of browser. Vidalia is a close next pick and it generally feels faster, but it may not have the same level of anonymizing as JonDo."


Best Free Cleanup & Tuning Software

All-in-one PC Tune-up Utility

  • Advanced SystemCare Free: "Overall, this is the most feature rich application. Be sure to run one of the disk defragmenters below because none in these all-in-one suites are that effective."

Disk De-fragmenter

  • Smart Defrag: "Our top recommendation for Vista users. Full-featured disk optimization tool, well-designed interface, Auto Defrag and scheduled defrag option available, intelligent control of resource and battery usage."
  • Defraggler: "Close behind with an easy to use and clean interface. It has a thorough defragmentation process, defrags individual files and folders, and supports scheduled defrags."
  • Diskeeper Lite v7 (or get v9 from the Intel package): "For older versions of Windows we still recommend Diskeeper for its ease of use, good interface, solid performance, and strong history in this market. But it doesn't work in Vista."

File Cleaner / Registry Cleaner

  • CCleaner: "It's very effective in freeing up disk space by removing unused and temporary files, cookies, Recycle bin entries, Windows hot-fix files, old prefetch data, history and cache files in many applications... Additionally, it will check the Windows Registry for invalid entries." And it also provides secure erasing.
  • EasyCleaner: "Historically, it has proven that it doesn't create problems. Though, there is always a small risk that a registry cleaner may incorrectly remove data and produce an unstable PC, so be sure to backup your registry before using a registry cleaner whether by restore points or a utility like ERUNT."

Program Un-installer

  • Revo Uninstaller: "It is the only freeware product I know of that will make a decent job of cleaning up a failed install."

Startup Manager

  • Startup Control Panel 2.8: "The best startup manager for average users (mainly good for Windows 98-XP). Small, easy to use, with powerful features including the ability to edit or add entries."
  • Autoruns (also runs online): "The top startup manager for technical users."


Best Free Disk & File Tools

Drive Imaging Program

  • Macrium Reflect Free: "Easy to use and a fast way to create a disk image. Use it to return your PC to the exact state it had been in at the moment a disk image was created, thus saving maybe a day's work reinstalling and configuring all the programs."
  • Acronis True Image: "Always the top choice if you can get it for free, perhaps during one of the many promotions, or with a Seagate or Maxtor disk - it's in their Disk Tools software, a 126.75 MB file that you must download from the Seagate website."

Backup Program

  • Titan Backup 1.5: "Commercial application for free with easy to use wizards. Supports numerous backup locations and media."

Folder Synchronization Utility ("Synchronization utilities are important in helping you keep identical versions of your files or folders, say, on both your home computer and office computer.")

  • SyncToy: "This is more than a syncing program: it can copy, move, rename, and delete files between any number of folders and even computers."
  • Allway Sync: "If you need a synchronization solution that works for older Windows versions, supports ftp, or includes a portable version, then check out Allway Sync."

File Archiver/Zip Utility

  • 7-Zip: "Easy to install, gives meaningful error messages, capable of uncompressing from multiple embedded files."

File Manager

  • xplorer² lite: "It offers more functionality than Windows Explorer, but with an interface sufficiently similar to Explorer that most users will find it easy to learn and use."

Partition Manager

Best Free System Tools & System Info

Software Update Monitor

  • Software Update Monitor (SUMo): "The advantage of SUMo is that it informs you of updates to a wide range of software. It's not limited to security updates (such as PSI) or availability on or"

Screen Capture Utility

  • Gadwin PrintScreen: "It does exactly what I want, in the way I want, and it avoids the trap of providing a lot of useless and confusing features."

System Information Utility

  • System Information for Windows (SIW): "My current favorite for home use. It displays many detailed specs such as CPU, memory, devices, installed programs, processes, services, network, and page file usage."

Best Free Multimedia Software & Cataloging Software

CD / DVD Burning Software

  • CDBurnerXP: "A top choice for average users who want a capable, easy-to-use burner provided they don't want to burn double layer disks and a lot of video CDs."
  • ImgBurn: "Better choice for experienced users and those who need to burn double layer disks or Blu-ray. Immensely capable product, with flexible video burning options and all the features of CDBurnerXP."

Media Player

  • Media Player Classic: "This program packs a lot of features, including codecs for viewing DVD discs, MPEG1, MPEG2, and MPEG 4 video files, MP3 and Ogg files. It's my personal favorite, with no installation required, great general ease of use, and an extremely small memory footprint for the features it offers."
  • The KM Player: "Capable of playing most media without additional codecs and easy to use for those with less experience. It is also extremely customizable."
  • VLC Player: "Available on multiple platforms (98-Vista, Mac, Linux), and reads DVDs from all 5 regions."

Music Player and Organizer

  • Jaangle (formerly Teen Spirit): "Intuitive and user-friendly interface, excellent library for music/video managing or play listing, interesting download capabilities of associated artist photos/bios, song lyrics, etc."
  • AIMP 2: "Excellent features for organizing music, comes with all necessary tools for building a music library, and has a visually stunning design."

MP3 Tag Editor

  • TagScanner: "Supports basic and extended tags, complete with Music Renamer and Tag Processor. It allows you to preview tag information and cover art from online databases like freedb or Amazon. But if you prefer a more normal user interface then Mp3tag is a good alternative. "

CD Ripper / Audio & Video Format Conversion

  • Exact Audio Copy: "Rips CD imperfections and scratches with ease. But use CDex if you need to convert to many types of formats."
  • Super: "It has two great strengths: first, it's reasonably easy to use, and secondly, it converts a large number of different file formats."

CD & DVD Emulation Software

  • Gizmo Drive: "Support up to 26 virtual drives, create ISO image, burn ISO files or folders to recordable disks, complete with Gizmo Manager and Image Wizard to perform tasks."

Audio Editing / Video Editor

  • Audacity: "Interface is easy to use, easily applies noise profiles, capable of saving in multiple compressed formats."
  • VirtualDub: "An impressive open source package that is regularly updated by its author. Note that it doesn't handle some video formats like DVD or MP4."

Online TV Viewer / Streaming Media Recorder

  • JLC's internet TV viewer: "A simple, but effective TV streams viewer that doesn't have much overhead."
  • CamStudio: "My personal favorite for on-screen media capture and recording because the output is in the more widely used .AVI and .FLV formats."

Best Free Image Viewing, Image Editing, & Cataloging Software

Digital Image Viewer

  • XnView: "Fast, lots of features, very manageable, many plug-ins, supports nearly any OS."
  • IrfanView: "This product is first-class and a real winner. It's amazingly capable and fast at displaying images."

Digital Image Editor

  • LightBox Image Editor: "My top pick for basic image editing because it has an attractive user interface and it's simple and straight forward to use."
  • "It's a very good choice for mid-level photo retouching because of it's excellent design and attractive interface. It also has options and tools comparable to commercial software, but it requires you to install Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or newer."

High Dynamic Range (HDR) Software

  • Qtpfsgui: "Comes out slightly ahead of the several HDR software packages. It has great tone-mapping and aligning facilities, allows 8, 16 and 32 bit channels and two means of manually manipulating the image."

Digital Photo Organizer

  • Picasa 3: "Simply sensational editing features that provide you with every function amateur photographers need."

Best Free Home & Office Software / Best Free Desktop & GUI Software

Software Suite / Office Suite

  • Liberkey: "A true 'Swiss Army Knife' of free programs that comes in three sizes: basic (28 programs), standard (100 programs) and ultimate (200 programs)."
  • OpenOffice 3: "Covers the basics of office document creation: word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, a desktop database. It allows you to save your documents in many choices of file formats so you'll have no problem exchanging documents with MS Office."
  • Suite: Similar options but portable, including Firefox and OpenOffice. But be sure to read the installation and usage instructions since portable apps may have a few tricks to remember.

PDF Writer / PDF Tools / Non-Adobe PDF Reader

  • Bullzip: "It has more of the options I need and has worked flawless for me. All of the PDF writers in this review function by creating a pseudo printer on your system."
  • PDFill PDF Tools: "Clean and nice user interface, includes most features such as merge, split, reorder, rotate, header and footer with page number, watermark, encrypt and decrypt, convert PDF to images or vice versa, convert PostScript to PDF."
  • PDF-XChange Viewer: "Rather clearer in its rendering than Foxit Reader, and unlike Foxit Reader it allows PDF annotation free of nagging validation marks."


Best Free Internet & eMail Tools / Best Free Networking & File Transfer Software

Web Browser

  • Mozilla Firefox 3.0: "It browses a tad faster than IE, is very stable and more standards compliant. It has thousands of Add-Ons to enhance the program and is very secure."
  • Opera: "Extremely fast at loading pages, loads of features. There's so much to like about it you could easily create a case that it's better than Firefox. Though, alas, there are not nearly as many widgets available as there are Firefox extensions."

Email Client

  • Mozilla Thunderbird: "Customizable and expandable through add-ons, intuitive user interface."

Download Manager

  • Gigaget: "The fastest by far to download files, monitor major browsers and clipboard, resume/pause download, import/export list, data transfer encryption, and classification of downloaded files."

BitTorrent Client ("Quickly became an important download format for its speed, efficiency, and cheapness in distributing content over the Internet.")

  • Vuze (formerly Azureus): "Cross platform, informative interface, wide variety of plugins, excellent support and the Vuze platform of legal content that downloads at high speeds."
  • µTorrent: "Small, efficient (lowest memory use of all clients), many features and excellent support."

Remote Access Software ("Remotely administer another computer for off-site troubleshooting or access your home PC while traveling.")

  • UltraVNC: "Offers all the features you need, including auto-configuration, easy user interface, extensive hotkeys and embedded file transfer. Add to that the fact that it's free, secure, reliable and reasonably speedy and you have a winner. "