Windows

Essential Windows Software That You Must Have on Your PC

As a Windows user, you have access to an enormous amount of free software. Which ones are trustworthy, and which are the best? Consult this list for inspiration and to learn about apps you were unaware existed. We are constantly on the lookout for the greatest Windows applications to meet your needs. The majority of applications mentioned on this page are free, and you can easily locate what you’re looking for by exploring the programmes listed by category.

Antivirus

Antivirus software is a cornerstone in protecting your computer from external attacks. While it should not be your only protection, you must install a single antivirus application only! Installing several antivirus tools on the same computer can potentially cause issues, to the point where they lock your computer up.

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

Bitdefender features a dark and straightforward interface with no options overload. The Autopilot mode allows you to “be protected without being bothered.” You get to enjoy the best protection without having to make any decisions yourself. If you want to be completely hands-off with your antivirus protection, Bitdefender should be your #1 choice.

Download: Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition (Free)

Malware Removal

The following tools complement your antivirus application. While they might have overlapping features, both with your antivirus and each other, you can install one or more of these programs on a single computer.

Malwarebytes

The popular anti-malware scanner detects and removes worms, trojans, rootkits, rogues, spyware, and any other malware that infected your PC. If you are not interested in the premium version, do nothing after the free trial expires, but remember that you will have to initiate scans manually.

Download: Malwarebytes (Free)

Spybot Search & Destroy

Spybot pricing

Spybot Search & Destroy’s free version targets spyware only and compliments your main antivirus app. Home and professional versions include antivirus and other advanced features for a small annual fee. Spybot offers an ad-free download via its mirrors.

Download: Spybot Search & Destroy (Free)

Firewalls

A good firewall completes your basic security setup.

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall

The Best Windows Software ZoneAlarm 670x421

ZoneAlarm’s free firewall lets you control the traffic to and from your computer and protects you from malicious attacks. As a bonus, you get 5 GB of free online storage space so that you can create a secure backup of your most important data. You can also install ZoneAlarm’s free antivirus.

The pro firewall includes an advanced firewall, identity protection, online backup for your sensitive files, free updates for 12 months, free customer support, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Download: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2021 (Free)

Note: This installer comes packed with Yahoo. Click on customise installer in the respective window so that you can deselect the Yahoo default search engine, new tab, and homepage option.

File Recovery

Have you ever wished you could rewind time in order to recover deleted files? You do not need a DeLorean or a flux capacitor to use the following tools; a little luck will suffice. Simply avoid writing data to the disc from which you desire to retrieve files.

Recuva

Recuva

The Recuva wizard can take you through the process of recovering files, or you can manually pick drives to be scanned. Designed for intuitive use by the makers of CCleaner. The professional version also includes virtual hard drive support, automatic updates, and premium customer support.

Download: Recuva (Free)

Uninstallers

Revo Uninstaller

The Best Windows Software Revo Uninstaller Hunter Mode

Probably the most popular tool in this category. Easy to use and thorough, even comes with a hunter mode that will track down and eliminate programs based on icons or shortcuts on your screen.

The pro version supports forced uninstall, bulk uninstall, extended scanning for leftover files, real-time change monitoring with log files, multi-level backup system, print and export a list of installed programs, and lots more.

Download: Revo Uninstaller (Free)

IObit Uninstaller

IObit’s Uninstaller sorts all your programs into categories that make it easier to find applications you installed recently, software that takes up much space, or tools you barely ever use. This utility also allows you to quickly get rid of browser toolbars and plugins and Windows apps.

The Pro version can delete bundled programs and plug-ins, uninstall malicious browser extensions, it features adware removal, 1-click updates for installed applications, free technical support, and more.

Download: IObit Uninstaller (Free)

Other tools in this category:

Backup & Sync

When your computer came with Windows 8 or 10, you do not need a fleet of backup tools. The latest versions of Windows come with a built-in Time Machine backup called File History. Furthermore, with OneDrive, you can sync files and folders across devices. It never hurts to have alternative backup solutions, in any case.

Macrium Reflect Free

Free for non-commercial and home use, this backup tool lets you save your disk clone or image to local and network-based storage media. To speed up regular backups and reduce storage space, you can use differential images. Use backup templates to set up scheduled backups without missing critical files.

The Home version also packs incremental backups to save storage space, rapid delta cloning and restoration for fast disk recovery, file and folder backup, backup encryption, ransomware protection, and more.

Download: Macrium Reflect (Free)

Download: Macrium Reflect Home ($69.95 for one license; 30-day free trial)

FreeFileSync

FreeFileSync

Open source folder comparison and synchronisation tool optimised for ease of use. Also available for Linux and Mac and as portable Windows app. We thought it was a better sync tool than Microsoft’s SyncToy, which has since been discontinued. Be sure to deselect bloatware during setup.

Download: FreeFileSync (Free)

If nags are a no-go, try the following alternatives:

PC Maintenance & Security

Third-party applications can affect the performance of your system. They can amass large amounts of temporary files and caches, launch with Windows, and use resources in the background, all while becoming obsolete over time. PC maintenance tools can assist you in keeping your computer working well on the software side or in analysing hardware problems. Additionally, they can help protect your privacy by erasing evidence of your computer or internet activities.

CCleaner

CCleaner

CCleaner is the PC maintenance gold standard. The award-winning optimisation tool scores high points all around. Clean junk files, make your browsing safer or speed up your startup times. If you have to use its registry cleaner, be sure to back up the registry first.

The Pro version gets you real-time monitoring, scheduled cleaning, automatic updates, and premium support.

Download: CCleaner (Free)

Like CCleaner, Glary Utilities offers a comprehensive PC cleaning utility. The free version includes over 20 tools that can fix PC issues and improve performance with one click.

Speccy

The Best Windows Software Speccy

An advanced system information tool for your PC, made by the creators of CCleaner. The free version provides you with an overview of all your system internals, including your operating system, CPU, RAM, motherboard, graphics, storage, optical drives, audio, peripherals, and your network.

The Pro version adds automatic updates and premium support.

Download: Speccy (Free)

Download: Speccy Pro ($19.95)

Similar tools:

  • CPU-Z is the best app to gather primary CPU, mainboard, memory, and system data. Watch out for bloatware from CPUID when installing PC-Wizard or CPU-Z.

SUMo

SUMo

Software Update Monitor, short SUMo, monitors your installed software for available updates and downloads them for you. Be sure to deselect the default homepage setting during installation and click Cancel when prompted for it again! You can also quit the survey.

Download: SUMo (Free)

In addition to the tools above, we also recommend the following:

Browsers

Chrome

Google Chrome

Google’s minimal design browser went from zero to hero in record time. Best browser if you are already sold on Google products. Receives frequent automatic updates and supports extensions from the Google Play store.

Download: Chrome (Free)

Firefox

With more than 6,000 add-ons, Firefox remains the most customizable browser on the market, offering its users more freedom than Chrome ever will. Should you switch from Chrome to Firefox too? The latest Firefox Quantum is faster, more lightweight, and more private than Chrome.

Download: Firefox (Free)

Email Clients

Thunderbird

Thunderbird

Mozilla’s trusty and easy to use email client. Supports tabs, add-ons, and is also available as a portable app.

Download: Thunderbird (Free)

High on our list of free desktop email clients are also Mailspring and Mailbird. The best free alternative to Microsoft Outlook, however, is EssentialPIM.

Skype

Skype

Microsoft’s ultra-popular cross-platform VoIP application to stay in touch with friends and family. Has reasonable rates for calling mobiles and landlines and attractive subscription packages. To compete with Google Hangouts, Skype now supports group video chats for non-premium accounts.
|Download: Skype (Free)

Image Viewers

FastStone Image Viewer

FastStone

All in one image browser, converter, and editor that has never let us down. Supports all major graphics formats, including RAW and other digital camera formats. The makers of FastStone Image Viewer also offer a Capture tool and a Photo Resizer.

Download: FastStone Image Viewer (Free)

IrfanView

IrfanView

Simplistic on the surface, hide advanced features under the hub, yet intuitive and easy to use. Classic image viewer, which you can also apply for simple edits or batch-processing files. Now available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. An extensive plugins library is available separately.

Download: IrfanView (Free)

Image Editors

GIMP

GIMP

Advanced open-source and cross-platform image editor, often touted as free Photoshop alternative.

Download: GIMP (Free)

Paint.NET

Paint.NET

Free image editing tool with an intuitive interface for beginners and comprehensive features for intermediate users. Supports layers, unlimited undo, special effects, power tools, plugins, and when you are stuck, you can rely on a selection of tutorials and an active online community. See our Paint.NET review for more insights.

Download: Paint.NET (Free)

Potential alternatives to GIMP and Paint.NET, with a focus on photo editing:

We also recommend the following image editors:

  • Inkscape for professionally editing vector graphics.
  • XnConvert for batch processing images.

GifCam

The Best Windows Software gifcamaiming

A simple tool to create animated GIFs. Use the app as a camera to record a series of image frames, which you can then edit, before turning them into a GIF.

Download: GifCam (Free)

Blender

The free open source 3D creation suite supports everything from modelling and animation to video editing and game creation. It has long been the gold standard of 3D imaging tools. 
Download: Blender (Free)

MediaMonkey

If you have a large media collection, MediaMonkey can help you keep it organised. It manages video and audio files, playlists, and can fill in missing track information automatically.

The Gold version gets you bit-perfect rips, support for customised collections, on-the-fly audio/video conversions, advanced searches and auto-playlists, unlimited MP3 encoding, a sleep timer, and more.

Download: MediaMonkey (Free)

MusicBee

MusicBee is the music manager that turns your computer into a music jukebox. It features auto-tagging, multiple features to optimise the sound quality, can sync your music collection across devices, and even comes in a portable version.

Download: MusicBee (Free)

Spotify

spotify-myths

This streaming music service is complete with Facebook integration, iDevice management, and playing music to remote speakers.

Download: Spotify (Free)

Download: Spotify Premium (From 9.99 per month, free trial)

VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player

Free and cross-platform video player that can play almost any video file. Supports DVDs, CDs, VCDs, and a selection of streaming protocols, including YouTube playlists. It can also rip and transcode videos or record video from your webcam.

Download: VLC Media Player (Free)

Alternatives:

HandBrake

Handbrake

Open-source, cross-platform, media converter that can convert video files between many different formats.

Download: HandBrake (Free)

Alternatives to HandBrake:

CamStudio

CamStudio

A high-quality and open-source freeware screen capture utility with support for lossless video output. Perfect for creating screencasts or video tutorials.

Download: CamStudio (Free)

KODI

The Best Windows Software Kodi Tips Featured 670x335

Formerly known as XBMC, KODI is a media centre package for your Home Theater PC (HTPC). It can stream live TV, allowing you to cut the cord on pricey cable TV services.

Download: KODI (Free)

An alternative to KODI is Plex, a media centre based on XBMC and initially designed for the Mac. It now also supports movie trailers. James Bruce thinks Plex is the best media centre software around.

Files & Drives

TeraCopy

TeraCopy

Copy and move files at maximum speed and pause & resume file transfers. When an issue comes up, TeraCopy will not terminate a transfer as Windows Explorer does. Instead, it will show you the failed files after the transfer was completed.

Download: TeraCopy (Free)

FileZilla

FileZilla

A free, lightweight and robust FTP client for transferring files to and from the web.

Download: FileZilla (Free)

Dropbox

dropbox1

Dropbox is available across platforms and allows you to sync folders and files to the web and other devices connected to your Dropbox account. A great tool to auto-upload photos on your mobile phone. It’s being challenged by Microsoft OneDrive, which offers more storage capacity and potentially better Windows integration.

Download: Dropbox (Free)

Google Drive

Google Drive

The evolution of Google Docs keeps your documents synced between the cloud and your PC.

Download: Google Drive (Free)

OneDrive

onedrive1

Microsoft’s cloud storage solution comes with (now only) 5 GB of space for storing documents and images.

Download: OneDrive (Free)

Text Editing

LibreOffice

LibreOffice 4.2

You do not have to pay for Microsoft Office to get a professional productivity and office suite, one which is open-source and community-supported on top of that.

Download: LibreOffice (Free)

WPS Office Free

WPS-Office-References-Tabs-Writer-MS-Office-Ribbon-Comparison

Free cross-platform Microsoft Office alternative with a tabbed interface and more reliable support for collaborative features, such as tracking changes and comments. Self-absorbed ads can be a little annoying but are easily ignored.

The Premium version is ad-free and lets you split and merge PDF to Word. The Professional version is a lifetime license with three years of services included.

Download: WPS Office (Free)

Notepad++

notepad_plus_plus1

A Notepad alternative with tabs and advanced features, useful especially for coders.

Download: Notepad++ (Free)

Sumatra PDF

The Best Windows Software Sumatra PDF 670x470

This is the most lightweight PDF reader. It supports tabs and is packed with keyboard shortcuts. It is also open-source and available as a portable app. Unlike other free PDF readers, it does not feature any editing tools.

Download: Sumatra PDF (Free)

PDFsam

PDFsam, aka PDF, Split and Merge, is a small tool to split, merge, and rotate PDF files any way you like. You can drag-and-drop files onto the tool and mass-edit files. The interface is essential, but the features are advanced.

Download: PDFsam (Free)

Alternatives:

  • doPDF can convert over 400 file types to PDF.

Ebooks

Kindle

Kindle

Amazon’s Kindle app lets you read and manage your eBook collection from your Windows PC.

Download: Kindle (Free)

calibre

Calibre

Free and open-source eBook manager. Comes with a library to manage your eBooks, can convert eBooks from one format to another, syncs to your reader devices, downloads news from the web and converts it into eBook format functions as an eBook viewer, and can edit eBooks.

Download: calibre (Free)

Productivity

Dexpot

Powerful virtual desktop manager. Expand your screen with virtual desktops and use them to separate open windows based on tasks. A similar tool is VirtuaWin, a lean desktop manager with a minimalist set of features.

Download: Dexpot (Free)

Transmission

The Best Windows Software transmission 640x437

An open-source and cross-platform BitTorrent client built by volunteers. It’s full-featured, doesn’t bundle adware, and won’t track its users. As a result, it’s lightweight and much more enjoyable to use.

Download: Transmission (Free)

JDownloader

JDownloader

Free and open-source download manager. Allows you to start, stop, and pause your downloads, set bandwidth limitations, and auto-extract archives. Your antivirus may detect it as a threat, but rest assured it’s a false positive. Potentially comes packed with bloatware.

Download: JDownloader (Free)

Miscellaneous

TeamViewer

5 TeamViewer File Transfer 2

TeamViewer allows you to remote connect to another computer over the internet, either to provide technical as you can get. It’s cross-platform and easy to set up, too.

Download: TeamViewer (Free)

The End

Have you tested any of the applications above or have we missed your favourite software?

Let us know! We will improve the list based on our tests and your input.

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