Useful Software for Microsoft Windows [Free]

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Useful Software for Microsoft Windows [Free]

I am a physics student and I find myself always recommending various software to people. Here is a list of some useful free software for mainly general use.

Note I have tried to keep most of the list focused on free software. However I find that alot of software has a free and pro version worth mentioning (particularly for security). Others I have not found a free version or if there is a free version I don't like it that much/its functionality is limited however there is in general a trial version of such software.

If anyone else has a mention of free or very useful software, feel free to mention it in the comments below (you may have a bit of scrolling to do).

1. Security

1.1 Anti-Virus

Microsoft Security Essentials

• Latest Security Definition

1.2 Firewall

Sphinx Windows 7 Firewall Control (Free/Pro $25 - Free version suffices)

1.3 Anti-Malware

Malwarebytes' Antimalware* (Free/Pro $25 - Free for manual scans & removal)
Super Antispyware (Free Version/Pro $30)
Spybot Search and Destroy 

A user should ensure that their standard security includes a firewall, an antivirus program and an antimalware program. What is the best security software is a subject of continuous debate. Personally I use Microsoft Security Essentials, Malwarebytes' Antimalware and Windows 7 Firewall Control. I have found this to suffice.

Bugbatter is more of an expert in terms of security than me and has continuously helped out in the spyware/virus forums, she has wrote a dedicated wiki on Free Security Software here.

2. Computer Maintainance

2.1 System Cleaners/Registry Cleaner

Piriform CCleaner
Piriform Defraggler
RevoUninstaller Pro (30 day trial/$40)  

CCleaner, clears your system of junk files and also has an inbuilt registry cleaner. Other users will advice you to take care using the registry cleaner component. I have likewise experienced problems with other registry cleaning programs however I have found no damage with CCleaner's registry cleaner.

Defraggler defrags your hard drive (removes file fragments) to improve performance. Revo Uninstaller removes many files that a standard removal wouldn't. It is useful if you have problems uninstalling a program.

2.2 PC Check Up

Dell Support Centre

Dell Support scans the hardware on a Dell system, checking it in a similar way the diagnostics do. It also has inbuilt system information and links to the manuals and drivers. It also gives the temperatures of some of the components in the detailed system information.

2.3 System Information

Piriform Speccy
Belarc Advisor

Speccy again gives you alot of system information, it is useful for a quick glance at the system temperature and has a simple interface. Belarc Advisor gives you a print out of all the software on your system and gives you your Office and Windows product keys; it is free for Home Use.

2.4 Formatting/Advanced File Deletion/Partitioning

Easeus Partition Manager Home Edition
HP Format Tool

Easeus partition manager is a great program for repartitioning your hard drive, upon which you have Windows installed. HP Format Tool is useful for formatting USB flash drives and external hard drives. Unlocker allows one to delete files that they are ordinarily able to delete. See here for introductory wiki on EaseUs Partition Manager.

3. Internet

3.1 Web Browsers

Internet Explorer

• Internet 9 for Vista/7
• Internet 8 for XP

Even if you are not using Internet Explorer as your default browser, because you are using a Windows Operating System, I would recommend keeping it up to date and downloading the latest version applicable to your version of WIndows for security/stability purposes. I really like Internet Explorer 9 it has significant improvements over earlier versions of Internet Explorer.

Google Chrome

Adblock Extension
Flashblock Extension

Fast very easy to use browser. The adblock extension is excellent removing almost all adverts from a standard webpage. This is my favourite browser.


Firefox is a very popular browser and has a great deal of extensions offering it variable enhanced functionality. Many people have a preference for this browser.


Another quite popular browser, I have rarely used it however.

3.2 Online Storage

Windows Live Skydrive (25 GB Free/100 MB limit per file)
Windows Live Mesh (5 GB Free from Skydrive)
Dropbox (2 GB Free Storage - pay for more)

The skydrive is an excellent place to store/share and access their documents online. It is quite spacious for a free service and easy to use. Windows Live Mesh takes 5 GB of this space and allows you to sync folders on multiple computers. It also allows you to remote access other computers you have the Live Mesh software installed on and logged in that are powered up. Dropbox in comparison offers less online storage for free but has excellent syncing tools (I prefer the Skydrive and Mesh). Dropbox users have to pay for more storage space. See here for detailed wiki on these services. Microsoft has definitely put alot of work into their cloud services.

4. Productivity

4.1 Office

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office 2010 Starter
Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office Visio

The starter version is generally preinstalled but it can be downloaded from the above link (requires Vista with SP1 or Windows 7). Full versions of other Office software may also be found here however one must purchase a product key.

I mention Visio here because it is an excellent drawing software which one often overlooks in the Office suite. It generally (unfortunately) has to be purchased separately.



OpenOffice is a free fully capable office suite. LibreOffice and OpenOffice split ways due to some disagreement. Because of this naturally both suites are very similar.

My personal preference is with Microsoft Office however this is a subject of much debate/personal taste.

Mendeley Desktop

This is a program for writing and storing references. It has some OCR mechanism that allows it to extract relevant data from pdfs. There is an addin to insert the references into Microsoft Word and likewise for OpenOffice. Note the 64 bit version of Office 2010 is as yet unsupported.

4.2 File Recovery

Piriform Recuvur

It can take quite some time to run however it is a free program which generally gets the job done thankfully I have not had much need for it.

4.3 PDF & Similar Readers

Foxit PDF Reader   
Adobe Reader 10 
DJVU Viewer
XPS Viewer (Included in 7) 
PDF Creator 
CutePDF Writer
CutePDF Professional ($50/Evaluation stamp)
Foxit PDF Editor (Changed to Foxit Phantom)

Adobe Reader is a program for reading PDF, Foxit PDF reader is a lighter on system resources. The djvu and xps readers are for reading formats similar to pdf. PDFCreator and CutePDF are pdf printers, this way one can print files from any program to pdf. CutePDF offers better quality but PDFCreator allows one to print to other formats such as jpeg and to print multiple files into one document. CutePDF allows further manipulation of the PDF. However Foxit PDF Editor (changed to Foxit Phantom) may be used to fully edit the pdf. I have not tried the new version.

4.4 File Extraction/File Splitting


These programs can be used to open various file formats such as 7Z, ARC, BZ2, GZ, PAQ, PEA, QUAD/BALZ, TAR, UPX, WIM, XZ, ZIP, RAR. 7zip and peazip are free whereas WinRAR is only a trial. 7zip and peazip are both excellent but have a slightly different user interface. I prefer 7zip.

4.5 Desktop/Taskbars

Actual Window Manager (60 day trial/$50)
Stardock Fences

Multimon is a free program which gives a taskbar on each screen for a desktop/laptop equipped with multiple monitors. It has XP styles incorporated only. Actual Windows Manager is vastly superior and has Windows 7/Vista styles and alot of additional tools. Stardock Fences enables users to lock heir desktop icons in a "fence". See here for an introductory wiki on Actual Windows Manager.

4.6 Science/Maths

Mathtype (Mathtype Lite/30 day free trial)
BK Chem  
Microsoft Mathematics  

Mathtype is for typing maths, the free version Mathtype Lite only allows one to type in black and white but is suitable for most purposes. When installed you get a 30 day trial of the full version. The full version has LaTex commands. It works perfectly with many applications including Microsoft Office and OpenOffice. BK Chem is for drawing chemical structures. Microsoft Mathematics is a free graphics calculator. Essentially a free graphics calculator for Windows. Can perform integration, differenciation, calculus trig, unit conversion etc. etc. Has 2D and 3D graphic capabilities with rotation. Has some problems if you make functions too complicated.

5. Media and Audio

5.1 Media Players

Splash Lite
VLC Player 
Klite Codec Pack 
Corel WinDVD 2011 (variable price)
AnyDVD HD (variable price/21 day trial)

Splash Lite is an excellent player with a great user interface however unfortunately it cannot play DVDs. VLC Player, plays about everything (except blu ray discs). Klite Codec Pack fixes many of the codecs within Windows and to allow windows media player for example to play more files. WinDVD is a feature rich program for playback of HD DVD formats. AnyDVD HD removes copy protection and also DVD regions.

5.2 Volume Meter


This is a great program, it is an onscreen volume meter (similar to the Dell Quickset volume meter in Dell laptops). There are many shortcut keys in addition; the windows key and mouse wheel up, increases volume, likewise the windows key and mouse wheel down, decreases volume. Note use the small glass setting to get it closest to the Dell Quickset look (Have to run it twice to get the options). The options I select are Run on Startup, play sound, keep above other windows, set to a custom position. Brightness meters will later be integrated. If you have a Dell laptop it is best to  use Dell Quickset instead but I would use this program on a desktop.

5.3 Video/Music Convertors

Freemake Youtube Video Downloader 
Freemake Audio Convertor 
Freemake Video Convertor 

Freemake Youtube Video Convertor is great for downloading Youtube video to .MKV, .AVI & .MP3. It also works on some other similar websites. The video convertor seems quite good when I converted some files from .AVI to .MKV.

5.4 Audio Editing/Recording Software

Audacity Audio Recording Software

5.5 Text to Speech


6. Image Software

6.1 Drawing Software/Picture Tools

Google SketchUp

GIMP is an excellent piece of software for picture editting, including fine rotation (angle controlled) and brightness and contrast settings. Inkscape is a vector based drawing software, it is open source but I personally prefer Microsoft Office Visio 2010.

7 Windows Tools

7.1 Windows 7

.iso files
Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool 

The .iso files downloads of Windows 7 and standalone updates. In addition a tool to manage the .iso for installation. For more information see my other wiki here. RT-7-Lite may be used for Service Pack slipstream and some other minor tweaks (However does not seem to like my Windows 7 Dell OEM DVD). I would recommend not using RT-7-Lite and instead downloading the .iso with Service Pack 1 preintegrated by Microsoft or install the Service Pack straight after installing Windows 7.

7.2 Windows Vista

.iso files and standalone updates

Standalone updates for Windows Vista. In addition a tool to manage the .iso for installation. For more information see my other wiki here. Vlite may be used for Service Pack 1 slipstream (but not Service Pack 2 for some reason) and some other minor tweaks. I would recommend not using Vlite and instead downloading the .iso with Service Pack 1 preintegrated by Microsoft and/or install the Service Packs 1 and 2 straight after installing Windows Vista.

7.3 Windows XP

standalone updates

Royale Noir/Royale Theme

Standalone updates for Windows XP. Nlite may be used for Service Pack slipstream and some other minor tweaks. See here for wiki on nlite. The Royale Noir Theme is an additonal them for Windows XP. PageDefrag defrags system files which are currently in use. There are no public official download links for Windows XP, this OS is greatly being phased out; upgrade to WIndows 7 if your system can support it.

8. USB Software

8.1 Portable USB Software


A variety of usable portable USB software may be found here. 

9. Student Software

Microsoft DreamSpark 
Autodesk Education Community

Notably Visual Studio 2010 Professional along with other developer tools can be downloaded free of charge for all students from Microsoft DreamSpark. A  free student version of all Autodesk software may be found by joining the AutoCAD student community.

There is a range of other heavily discounted student software (in particular Windows 7 and Office 2010) but these depend on what country you reside in.

In earlier versions I took screenshots and described alot of the software but I guess it was too long reading and it is better to put a brief description, the user will find out more if they click on the download links or do a quick google search. I have made some links to other wikis I have wrote that provide more information on some of the software.

If anyone has better software suggestions feel free to comment, it would be appreciated. In particular sections 5 and 6 and of course software within categories not listed.

Dr Philip Yip
Tech Enthusiast and Author of the Unofficial Dell Windows Reinstallation Guide

Windows FAQs and OEM Downloads

#IDoNotWorkFor Dell

Hello there & very well done to do this for others. I like it alot & have a few already, I cant get an Installation CD from the OEM Company but I might be able to learn how to create my own with the help of some of your programs listed above,Thanking You...liam kelly (UK)

Audacity audio recording program should be added to the list.  This is a very popular and free program.  This is the program that is most often recommened on the Desktop Audio section and also on other forums such as the Windows 7 forum.  There are two versions, Audacity and Audacity Beta.  The Beta Version is recommended for Windows 7.


Thanks Fireberd I have added it to the list among one or two other things.

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