Software Programs

A Must Have: Top 30 Free Windows Apps


In this free app guide, you’ll see what we regularly use on our public computers. This application suite is almost guaranteed to work flawlessly on any netbook out there, and even if you have a monster rig.

1. K-Lite Mega Codec Pack – This is the best codec pack in the world [for now, Ed.]
This is a must-have codec pack that contains codecs for playing almost everything that you can find online and get off-line. This pack should be essential part of any setup that will play audio/video files. With this, you can forget about Microsoft’s Media Player ever stating "Error downloading codec". Codecs are good not just for consumer, but for professional use too – we found some of these codecs better optimized than the ones shipped with audio editing software worth hundreds of dollars [sic!].

2. Media Player Classic-Home Cinema – A light-weight media player for Windows.
This is nothing short of a brilliant player for almost all video formats; small, fast with minimal memory consumption. It has subtitle support, and with added codecs can replace Quick Time and RealVideo. It works as a DVD player too with real tine zoom; “hot keys” are completely changeable. Visual appearance is little old fashioned like from old versions of Windows Media Player. The best feature is the Anti-Tearing feature and support for DXVA, e.g. using your graphics card to accelerate video playback.

3. WinAMP -The ultimate media player, allows you to manage and play audio and video files, rip and burn CDs.
From the dawn of MP3 era [MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3] we knew of WinAMP, one of the most popular media players out there. It can play and import music from audio CDs, supporting CD-Text, and can even burn music to CDs. It also supports other formats like AAC, WAV, MPEG, MP2, MIDI… 5.1 Surround sound is supported where formats and decoders allow. At the time of writing, the latest version was 5.552 bringing several new features such as Online Services Gallery, OurStage Radio Online Services, Spinner MP3 of the Day Online Service, and Turkish, Romanian and Portuguese Language Packs. Also, communication with the iPod Sync and the iTunes Library Import has vastly improved.
Also you can customize the appearance with thousands of skins and plug-ins, which make Winamp even better.

4. Paint.Net -image and photo editing software.
This is a powerful yet simple image and photo editor tool, bringing a Photoshop-like interface to the world of Paint users. It possesses most of the functions that other expensive commercial photo editor applications have. It allows you to add layers, perform unlimited “undo” commands, carry out special effect enhancement such as blurring,noise, sharpening, artistic effects, red-eye removal, distortion, and for everything else you are missing you can easily add bunch of plug-ins.
Latest version for download is 3.36.

5. Mozilla Firefox – Alternative web browser other than Internet Explorer that you can use instead, or with Internet Explorer.
This is the most popular web browser based on open source code, currently in version 3.0.10, and it is full of interesting features. The new ones are: One – Click Bookmarking, Instant Web Site ID, Improved Performance, Full Zoom, Smart Location Bar, Password Manager… There are also more than 5000 ways of customization with built-in Add-on manager. On an interesting note, Firefox is translated to over 40 different languages.

6. Foxit Reader – A PDF file viewer and browser add-on better – IMHO [In My Humble Opinion] – than Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.
This is the incredibly small, simple and fast application [only 1.5MB]. Of course, besides fast opening of PDF files it has some more useful features in it like Multimedia Design, Metric Unit Support, Auto-scrolling with Middle Mouse Button, Foxit OnDemand Content Management, Layout Panel, Firefox Support; it also allows you to draw graphics, highlight text, type text and make notes on a PDF document and then print out or save the annotated document. You may even convert the whole PDF document into a simple text file. Also, it highly respects the security and privacy of users and will never connect to the Internet without the user’s permission. The latest version for download is 3.0.

7. 7 Zip – A Zip utility program.
7 Zip is an open source utility software used to open 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2, TAR, RAR, CAB, ISO, ARJ, LZH, CHM, Z, CPIO, RPM, DEB and NSIS archives. You can use it on any computer, even a computer in a commercial organization, without registering or paying for it. But if you want – you can make a donation to support the further development of 7-Zip. Some other features are: High compression ratio in new 7z format with LZMA compression, For ZIP and GZIP formats, 7-Zip provides a compression ratio that is 2-10 % better than the ratio provided by PKZip and WinZip Self-extracting capability for 7z format, Windows Shell Integration, Powerful File Manager, and including localization for 74 languages. Latest version for download is 4.65.

8. Skype – Instant Message and VOIP[Voice over Internet Protocol] program
This is a well known, simple-to-use application that allows you to make telephone calls over the Internet. With it you can make calls to other users of the service for free and even they are free the quality of sound is great, while calls to other landlines and (mobile) phones can be made for a fee, either via pre-paid or subscription. Additional features include instant messaging, file transfer, money transfer, video conferencing [you must have web camera for video calls] and many more. You can make group chats of up to 100 people. All unwanted contacts can be deleted. The latest version for download is 4.0 for Windows.

9. 3 -Open Source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases.
It is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more; available in many languages and works on any computer. Because of its possibilities and options it is often compared to MS Office. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write without any bigger difficulties MS-Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) files. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.

10. Thunderbird 2 – Email client program
Open source email application more powerful than ever; now it is even easier to organize, secure and customize your mail. Some of the main features are: Advanced Folder Views (different ways to organize and display your folders), Message Tagging (you can “tag” massages with descriptors “To Do” or you can create your own custom tags), Message History Navigation (quick navigation between messages), Automated Update, Outfit your Inbox (using add-ons for better functionality). The latest version of Thunderbird is

11. Comodo Internet Security [Comodo Firewall + Antivirus] – the multi-layered security application.
It is security application that constantly monitors and protects your PC from against all Internet attacks, blocks malicious software like Trojans, secures personal data against stealing and provides end-point protection for computers and network; a total computer security for advanced users and beginners from all kind of outbound and inbound attacks. It’s easy to install and use and passes the industry’s most vigorous firewall "leak" tests. The most up to date version can be downloaded from here.

12.Avira Antivir Personal– Free Antivirus software
Avira AntiVir is a project developed on Heidelberg University, and it grew from a student/professor project into a fully blown antivirus program that helps to protect your computer against dangerous viruses, worms, Trojans and dialers. For home users provides more than satisfying protection, it is very easy to use and doesn’t slow down your computer. The latest version can be downloaded here

13.Spybot Search & Destroy – Spyware protection application
This is just a great spyware protection program. Spybot detects and removes a multitude of adware files and modules from your computer and can clean program and Web-usage tracks from your system, which is very useful if you share your computer. Version 1.6.2 brings the support for the latest Opera releases, Google Chrome, and improved support for fast user switching while Spybot is running, and it is available in 55 different languages. You can use this program along with Windows Defender and other anti-spyware/adware programs for added protection.

14.AVG Antivirus Free Edition – Free Antivirus software, a BSN* reccomendation for notebooks and netbooks.
AVG Antivirus is a well-known antivirus protection tool that provides antivirus and antispyware protection. It is easy to use and have low system requirements so it won’t slow down your computer [especially desirable for all the notebooks and netbooks]. It includes automatic update, the AVG Resident Shield, which provides real-time protection when files/programs are opened and run, AVG Virus Vault for safe dealing with infected files and free Virus Database Updates for the lifetime of the product. The latest 8.5 version can be downloaded from official pages although in the time of writing this they were experiencing some server problems.

15.IrFanView is graphic viewer and editor like MS Paint, but a whole lot better. It has a lots of options and is fully customizable with plug-ins and skins. It is pretty fast and compact image viewer/converter, supporting many file formats. Also includes multi-language support, Thumbnail option, Painting, slideshow, toolbar skins, fast directory browsing, batch conversion/editing, multipage editing, file search, change color depth, scanning, cut/crop, IPTC edit, capturing, lossless JPG operations, effects… Latest version 4.23 includes Added History list for Random slideshow; New multipage images menu: Create Multipage PDF; Option to save changes on exit; Options to set start parameters for external editors; New Thumbnail option.

16.MozBackup is a simple utility for creating backups of Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, Mozilla Suite and Netscape profiles. It allows you to backup and restore bookmarks, mail, contacts, history, extensions, cache… It works works on Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista. The latest version available is 1.4.9 and comes with support of Songbird, quicker backups, and better backups of portable versions as well as some bugfixes.

17.Avast Antivirus Home Edition is antivirus program that includes anti-spyware and anti-rootkit protections. It auto updates the definitions and optionally the program itself. It also  includes  On demand scanner with skinnable simple interface; On access scanner, special providers to protect the most of available e-mail clients; Instant messaging–ICQ, Miranda; Network traffic–intrusion detection, lightweight firewall; P2P protection for Kazaa, BitTorrent; Web shield–monitors and filters all HTTP traffic; NNTP scanner–scans all Usenet Newsgroup traffic and all operations with files on PC; Boot time scanner. The latest version is 4.8.

18.Chrome is simple and spartan looking web browser developed by Google. A few days ago a new update was released and it is about 30% faster in doing complicated tasks than it was before. Still it is available only for Windows XP and Vista, while versions for Linux and Mac OS are expected in second half of this year. The newest version you can download from here

19.Auslogics Disk Defrag defrags your hard drive. It is designed for fast optimization of  modern hard disks  and it gets the maximum performance out of your hardware. It is extremely simple to use, does not require any analysis phase and  it is faster than the supplied Windows-based defragmentation tool.  The latest version [beta] adds the capability to defragment all drives at once, the capability to analyze any disk, full Unicode encoding support, and defragmentation speed improved by 30%.

20.GTalk is a free Windows and web-based application for instant messaging and voice over internet protocol (VOIP) . But with the release of the Google Talk gadget users of all platforms supported by Adobe Flash Player can also use Google Talk. It also includes offline messaging and voice mailing. It can be downloaded from here.

21. Adobe Reader – A PDF file viewer
From the creator of the Portable Document Format [PDF] comes a PDF file viewer that also installs as an add-on for your web browser. It lets you read and print from any system and any document created as an Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) file, with its original appearance preserved. The latest version is 9.1 and it can be downloaded from Adobe’s official pages.

22. Windows Live Messenger – Instant messaging app, especially popular in business circles.
Formerly known as MSN Messenger, Windows Live Messenger is an instant messaging app with tons of features, currently designed to work with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Mobile. In addition to its basic functionality and general capability as an instant messaging client, Windows Live Messenger offers the following features: sharing folders, PC-to-phone calls with Windows Live Call, Offline messaging, games and applications. It can be dowloaded from Microsoft’s official pages.

23. Virtual CloneDrive – CD/DVD Emulator app
Virtual CloneDrive is one of those tools you can’t live without. Image files generated with CloneDVD or CloneCD can be mounted onto a virtual drive from your hard-disk or from a network drive and used in the same manner as inserting them into a normal CD/DVD drive. It is pretty easy to use – just double-click an image file to mount as a drive. Additional features are: Supports all common image formats such as ISO, BIN, CCD; Supports up to eight virtual drives at the same time. It can be downloaded from SlySoft’s download pages for CloneDrive

24. SpywareBlaster – Active prevention of Spyware/tracking exploits. Reccomended for use with Spybot – Seach & Destroy.
SpywareBlaster is one of those apps that just work – it prevents the installation of spyware and other potentially unwanted software [ActiveX-based spyware, adware, dialers, browser hijackers]. It can also block spyware/tracking cookies in IE, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape, and other browsers. It has built-in Check for Updates feature, to ensure your protection is up-to-date, and it includes a System Snapshot feature so you can take a snapshot of your computer in its clean state for eventually later changes. The latest version 4.2 adds Windows 7 support, Internet Explorer 8 support, K-Meleon support, faster updating worldwide and automatic program upgrade support (for AutoUpdate users).

25. Adobe Flash Player – Flash Player, features GPU acceleration.
This is the de facto a standard for multimedia and interactive content on the Internet. Flash Player works as an browser add-on that allows you to watch flash content inside your web browser. The latest Flash Player 10 introduces GPU acceleration, 3D effects, custom filters and effects, advanced text support, and more. You can download it from official pages

26. Ad-Aware Free – Yet Another Anti-Internet Vermin app. Debatable is it better than SpyBot+SpywareBlaster combo.
Ad-Aware Free gives you protection against spyware, trojans, rootkits, hijackers, keyloggers, and more with real-time monitoring, threat alerts, and automatic updates. It is an adware and spyware removal tool that scans your memory, registry, hard, removable and optical drives for known data-mining, aggressive advertising, and tracking components. It detects a wide range of adware/spyware related issues and can be updated with the latest signatures via the built-in update utility. The free version has limited real-time protection, only processes are scanned. The latest version can be downloaded from here.

27. AnVir Task Manager Free – An Alternative Task Manager, be warned – it wants to install a toolbar.
AnVir Task Manager Free is a replacement for the Windows 7 Task Manager that provides more detailed information about the processes running on your PC with an advanced startup manager. It removes spyware and trojans, speed up Windows boot time, increase PC performance, monitor and manage processes, services, startup programs, Internet connections, DLLs, drivers, locked files, automatically change process priority, permanently block undesired processes,light virus protection. It is fast and uses very little of system resources  and it is compatible with all popular AntiViruses. It can be downloaded from the official AnVir download page.

28. Core Temp – Monitors CPU temperature from on-die sensors… for Intel CPUs only.
Core Temp is a small footprint program to monitor the CPU temperature, very popular with the overclocking community. It shows the temperature of each individual core in each processor in your system. You can see in real time how the CPU temperature varies when you load your CPU. It’s also completely motherboard independent. In latest 0.99.4 version CPU detection, efficiency, speed, and clock speed detection are all improved.

29. ImgBurn – Think NERO is overbloated PoS [Piece of Software]? Try free, yet lightweight CD / DVD / HD DVD / Blu-ray burning application.
ImgBurn has several modes  for various tasks: Read, Write, Build, Verify, Discovery. It supports a wide range of image file formats to burn or create – BIN, CUE, DI, DVD, GI, IMG, ISO, MDS, NRG and PDI. It can burn Audio CD’s from any file type supported via DirectShow / ACM – including AAC, APE, FLAC, M4A, MP3, MP4, MPC, OGG, PCM, WAV, WMA and WV.  Latest version adds ‘Change Folder’ and ‘Recent Folders’ options to the destination (either file name or browse button) context menus in Build/Read mode, and option to automatically ignore errors during the verify process, and fixes several bugs from previous version.

30. Foobar2000 – Audio player, used to be a huge alternative to WinAMP
An advanced  audio player for the Windows with  highly customizable  interface. Some of the basic features include ReplayGain support, low memory consumption and native support for several popular audio formats. The latest version 09.6.7 fixed crash issues when seeking in files that can’t be decoded completely, corrected weird behaviors after restart and more.


This was the shortlist of mostly used applications here on Bright Side of News*. We hope that you’ll enjoy installing and trying the software out. If you think that we skipped an application or two, please let us know at daniela [at] We appreciate your feedback.