Swimming the Matrix

My List of Free Software

As part of my role as “the computer guy” among my friends, I’m often asked what software I recommend to do this or that on their Windows machines. So I figured it’s time I listed it all out so others can benefit from my opinions.

All of this software is free. As in no credit card needed, no monthly fees, install it on as many computers as you want. I’m cheap and so are most people. Best of all this stuff tends to beat out commercial software!


You can’t go any better than the free Avast! antivirus. It’s free for personal user (companies have to pay) but this thing catches EVERYTHING. I haven’t gotten a virus or any kind of malware since I started using it. It updates often by itself, it’s constantly scanning your files, but doesn’t slow your computer down, and it is very easy to use. I typically install it and I don’t have to worry about it after that. A definite must-have for your computer.

Video Playback

VLC. That’s all you need to know. It plays every file type under the sun without complaint, and is very easy to use with a minimal interface. If you watch movies on your computer, you should get this!


I recommend Google Chrome for just about everyone nowadays. It’s fast, secure, and with a minimal UI it doesn’t clutter up the screen of your laptop. It updates often and has tons of plugins to give you extra feature. Firefox is another option (really anything other than Internet Explorer is a giant step in the right direction), but I find that it runs a lot slower than Chrome, and after a while tends to consume memory like it’s going out of style (which in the programming world is a big no-no!)

CD Burning

If you like to make mix tape CD’s, or like me burn the occasional ISO file, then InfraRecorder is a wonderfully easy solution to burning CDs. It’s the same as Roxio and other software that costs money, but it’s free, can even be run from a flash drive, and is quick to boot.

PDF Reader

Everyone always thinks Adobe Reader is the only PDF reader out there, especially since it’s included with all kinds of software. The problem is that Reader is horribly slow. For a better alternative, try Foxit Reader, a free alternative that does not disappoint. It opens fast and gets out of your way so you can get to reading that document.

PC De-junker

Windows needs regular maintenance in order to not bog down over time (well, not bog down as fast anyway, it’ll still bog down over time no matter what you do in my experience). However, CCleaner does a great job at running some various tricks that can clean up some space on your hard drive as well as speed up your computer, from removing temporary files that didn’t get deleted to deleting old values from your system registry. All of this speeds up your computer if you do it regularly. Piriform, the company that makes CCleaner, also has some other nice free software to help with your PC de-crapping needs.

If you got to the end of the list, you’ll notice a few things missing. Yes, Microsoft Office is still the best word processor, spreadsheet maker, presentation creation tool out there, although you can try Google Docs and LibreOffice if you want. They work well in certain use cases, but not if you are a hardcore user of any of the Office programs. Likewise you can’t beat Photoshop for image editing, though can give GIMP a try if you’re feeling brave. iTunes as well is still my music player of choice since I can’t seem to give up my iPod.

All of the things I recommended and more can be easily bulk-installed used Ninite, a great site where you just select which pieces of software you want, and it downloads and installs them automatically. It’s great if you just re-installed Windows or got a new computer and want to set this all up with as little hassle as possible.

Published by meatshield, on May 22nd, 2011 at 9:41 pm. Filled under: Uncategorized1 Comment

One Response to “My List of Free Software”

  1. Have you ever considered SSuite Office as a free office suite solution?Their software also doesn’t need to run on Java or .NET, like MS Office and so many open source office suites, so it makes their software very small, efficient, and easy to use. :)http://www.ssuitesoft.com

    Comment by Gpetersi on May 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm

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