Sunday, June 3, 2012

15 Must-Have Software Programs for Your PC

15 Must-Have Free Software Programs for Your PC

Posted by: "Brandy Nagel"   benagel930

Sat Dec 5, 2009 10:59 am (PST)

>>NOTE: This article may be a little outdated, but I currently use many of these. ~ Ron<<

Over the last 3 years, the writers at MakeUseOf have profiled thousands of

software apps on the website. With all these thousands being presented to
you, it's hard to decide which apps to use and which ones to discard. To
make it easier for you, we have managed to compile a list of the top 15
absolute must-have tools for everyday tasks.

These are the essential programs that we recommend you install and keep on
your arsenal.

* 1. Firefox / Chrome (Web Browser)
* 2. AVG Anti-Virus (Anti-virus Software)
* 3. Auslogics Disk Defrag (Disk Defragmenter)
* 4. Glary Utilities (System Maintenance)
* 5. Malwarebytes (Spyware Removal)
* 6. IZArc (Universal Archiver / Extractor)
* 7. Google Picasa Software (Photo Management)
* 8. doPDF (PDF Printer)
* 9. Memento (Post-It Notes)
* 10. xVideoServiceThief (YouTube Video Downloader)
* 11. Mozy (Backup)
* 12. Digsby (Multi-protocol Instant Messenger)
* 13. VLC Media Player (Video Player)
* 14. Foobar2000 (Music Player)
* 15. ImgBurn (CD / DVD Image Burner)
* 16-20. Plus 5 Bonus Programs

1. Firefox / Chrome (Web Browser)

Both Firefox <> and
Google Chrome <> are excellent browsers. They
are both fast, user-friendly and known to be secure. So, which one do you
choose? The rule of thumb here is that you should use Firefox if you're
looking to add additional features (i.e. ad blocker, password manager, video
downloader, page translator etc.) to your browser.

You can see all add-ons for Firefox at
<> . There are extensions for
Google Chrome as well, but the choice is rather limited. See, 10
a-download/> Cool Extensions for Google Chrome.

2. AVG Anti-Virus (Anti-virus Software)

AVG Free Anti-Virus is the most popular free anti-virus software in the
world. It's also the most downloaded software program according to

Most of the MakeUseOf authors use AVG and we highly recommend it to others.
It's easy to use, consumes a relatively small amount of system resources and
auto-updates itself with virus definitions on a daily basis. Install it once
and it will keep your system secure without your intervention.

For those of you who frequently shop online and do regular online banking,
AVG recommends AVG Internet Security. While it's not free, it does offer
complete Internet Protection that will keep you safe even from advanced
online threats.

Download AVG Free:
Download AVG Internet Security (Free Trial):

(Platform: Windows only)

3. Auslogics Disk Defrag (Disk Defragmenter)

Auslogics Disk Defrag is a must-have free PC maintenance tool that was
designed to cure system sluggishness and prevent crashes caused by disk
fragmentation. Windows already comes with its own disk-defragmenter but
Auslogics Disk Defrag is considerably faster and much more efficient.

It's extremely simple to use, does not require any analysis phase and is
faster than most of the other disk defragmentation software.

While there are several other free disk defragmenters, Auslogics seems to be
the defragmenter of choice according to the poll results on MakeUseOf,
Lifehacker and mega tech sites like CNET.

Download Auslogics Disc Defrag:

(Platform: Windows only)

4. Glary Utilites (System Maintenance)

Glary Utilities is a free system maintenance tool for protecting, cleaning,
repairing, and speeding up your PC. It comes with one-click maintenance
option that automatically runs all optimizations and repair jobs with a
click of a button.

But the best thing about Glary Utilities is that it integrates over 15 other
useful tools that nearly every computer user likely to make use of. These

- Uninstall Manager
- Startup Manager
- Memory Optimizer
- Context Menu Manager
- Registry Defrag Tool
- Track Eraser
- File Shredder
- File Undelete
- File Encrypt/Decrypt Tool
- Disk Space Usage Analysis
- Duplicate File Finder
- Empty Folder Finder
- File Splitter and Joiner

Highly recommended!

Please note, it's highly recommended that you create a System Restore point
when using system maintenance tools like Glary Utilities. This is a
precaution to ensure that you can always revert your PC to an earlier state
in case something goes wrong unexpectedly.

Note: During the installation process make sure to uncheck the Ask Search

Download Glary Utilities:

(Platform: Windows only)

5. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (Spyware Removal)

[update: In the original list we recommended the Spyware 360 as a primary
tool for fighting spyware. But then we found out that Security 360 was
actually using the definition library of Malwarebytes.]

Malwarebytes currently ranks among top 10 most downloaded software on It's a very simple tool that does an important job, that is
protecting your computer from spyware, hijackers, keyloggers and other kind
of malicious craplets.

What makes Malwarebytes standout from the pack is its huge library of
threats to protect against. That's exactly what it makes so effective when
it comes to detecting spyware that other spyware scanners miss. This same
library made the earlier recommended Security 360 a powerful tool.

Malwarebytes may not be as feature-laden as say Spybot Search and Destroy
(another good spyware removal tool), which has a ridiculous number of tools,
but it is a very lightweight alternative with good spyware coverage.

There are both free and premium versions. The only difference between two is
real time protection. With real-time protection Mawarebytes will alert you
about the spyware before even it's able to install itself on your system.

Download MalwareBytes (Free):
Download MalwareBytes (Premium):

(Platform: Windows only)

6. IZArc (Universal Archiver / Extractor)

One archive utility to rule them all. You no longer need a separate program
for ZIP, RAR, ACE, 7-ZIP, TAR files and so on, IZArc can handle ALL of them.

Basically this unpacker/archiver gives you everything you get with other
popular archivers (ex. Winzip, Winrar etc.) but with additional features and
support for a huge number of archive formats. It can decompress archived
folders in over 40 formats. It supports pretty much every format you're
likely to come across.

There is something else, you can also use the IZArc utility to open CD image
files like ISO, BIN, CDI and NRG. Do you know of any other free archiver
that can do that?

Note: When installing IZArc make sure to uncheck the "recommended" option to
install PalTalk.

Download IZArc:

(Platform: Windows only)

7. Google Picasa Software (Photo Management)

Picasa automatically finds all the photos on your PC, wherever they are, and
organizes them in seconds. It's an excellent photo manager, editor and
viewer for your computer.

With Picasa not only you can nicely organize your photos but also fix common
problems (i.e. red eyes), add cool effects and even browse photos by people
in them. Yes, it includes face recognition!

Plus one really cool thing about it is that regardless of changes you make
to your photos on Picasa the original version of each photo always

Features include: - create video slideshows and photo collages from your
- organize photos based on the people in them.
- browse photos by folders, albums, people.
- geotag your photos on Google Maps.
- one-click fixes for common problems like red-eye, color, and lighting.
- 12 cool effects to make your best photos look even better.

You can find out more about Picasa by watching this Youtube video
<> . The Google team compiled a
getting started guide
yq&src=cb&lev=answer> for Picasa. Highly recommended for new users.

Download Picasa Software:

(Platform: Windows / Mac / Linux)

8. doPDF (PDF Printer)

Almost everyone once in a while needs to convert documents to PDF. The doPDF
is the easiest tool that does exactly that. It installs a virtual printer on
your computer that you can select using the print option from any program on

Whenever you need to convert a web page, Word document, Excel spreadsheet,
photo or pretty much anything else to a PDF file just go to the print option
in your program and select doPDF from the 'Printer' drop-down menu.

You can set the resolution to anything from 72 dpi to 2400 dpi, and the
"printed" files are text searchable.

Download doPDF: <>

(Platform: Windows only)

9. Memento (Post-It Notes)

Chances are you have never heard about this program before. Memento is a
simple bare-bones post-it notes program for your desktop. It's better than
anything else out there because it's extremely simple and yet a very
effective tool.

Whether you want a program to keep track of your tasks or quick note taking,
Memento can help. It's very intuitive to use and consumes very few system
resources. Highly recommended!

It's an excellent program - and I've compared many other free ones! I have
been using this for the last 5 years and recommend it to everyone. The very
first MakeUseOf article was about this app :-).

It's also easily transferable from one PC to another, it saves all your
notes in Memento.notes file that is stored in the My Documents folder.


- double click memento icon on the taskbar to create a note
- show/hide notes on the desktop
- keep notes expanded or closed
- notes always remain on top of other windows
- position notes anywhere you like
- instant autosave
- notes are resizable
- randomly makes each note a new color
- make notes transparent

Download Memento:

(Platform: Windows only)

10. xVideoServiceThief (YouTube Video Downloader)

Almost everyone is on Youtube these days. And the fact that Youtube has more
searches than Yahoo is good indication of this. The only issue with Youtube
is that there is no option to download videos so that you can watch them on
your computer, PSP, iPhone, mobile phone, iPod etc.

Fortunately there are lots of free software for that, and my favorite is
xVideoServiceThief. Apart from downloading videos, it can automatically
convert the downloaded video file to another format.

xVideoServiceThief can convert videos to several formats, including AVI,
MOV, MPEG, DIVX, MP4 and several others.

Moreover, xVideoServiceThief works with other sites as well, not only
Youtube. It can also download videos from Yahoo Video, Google Videos,
Metacafe, Dailymotion, CollegeHumor etc.


(Platform: Windows / Mac / Linux)

11. Mozy (Backup)

Backups are very important! Here on MakeUseOf we have published dozens of
articles explaining why you should always keep a fresh backup of important
data. And Mozy is the perfect program for that. It's an online backup and
recovery service that allows you to select files and folders on your
computer and safely back them up online.

It's fully automated, just set it once and it will do the backups without
bothering you again. What's even better, whenever you make changes to
individual documents or files within selected folders, your changes will be
replicated on your backup copy as well. So your backup always stays

In the case of file corruption, accidental deletion or hardware failure, you
may easily restore your backed up files from the web to the original
computer or any another computer, be it a Windows or Mac.

Mozy offers both free <> and
premium accounts <> (only
$4.95/month). The only difference between those two is that free account
comes only with 2GBs of storage space. It should be more than enough for
backing up important files and documents. On the other hand, if you want to
backup your music library, photos, videos or maybe an entire drive then we
recommend signing up for a premium account.

(Discount: When signing up for premium account use 'MAKEUSEOF' (all caps)
promo code to get 10% off.)

Download Mozy (Free):
Download Mozy (Unlimited):

(Platform: Windows / Mac)

12. Digsby (Multi-protocol Instant Messenger)

If you chat on a regular basis and are active on social networks then this
is a must-have program for you. There is so much this app does that it's
hard to explain it all in a few lines. Firstly, it's a universal instant
messenger that allows you to chat with your friends on MSN, Yahoo, AIM,
Google Talk, Facebook, Myspace, ICQ and Jabber, all from a single messenger.

Secondly, it allows you to read and reply to your emails. That's right
folks, whether you have a Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail account you can receive
and reply to emails all from Digsby's slick interface. Currently Disgby
works with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, AOL/AIM Mail, POP Email, IMAP Mail

And that's not all, you may also monitor alerts and set status message
notifications for Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and LinkedIN accounts. Pretty
cool, huh!

Other less important but still noteworthy features include:

- chat history (with search option)
- file transfer history to keep a log of sent/received files
- a widget for site owners to chat with visitors

(Note: Pay close attention when installing Digsby on your computer and make
sure to deselect (selected on default) the additional components you don't
need. Plus, once the app is installed go to the preferences window and
disable Digsby research.)

Download Digsby: <>

(Platform: Windows / Mac / Linux)

13. VLC Media Player (Video Player)

With over 67 million downloads so far and roughly 7 downloads per second
it's one of the most popular video players around.

VLC is a highly portable multimedia player supporting most audio and video
formats and can play pretty much any video files you throw at it, including
physical media like DVDs. Plus it doesn't need any external codec, program
or codec pack to work.

The VLC can be used both by beginners as well as expert users for working
with video files.

The player can also play Youtube videos, convert video files, play
subtitles, etc.

Download VLC:

14. Foobar2000 (Music Player)

The foobar2000 is an advanced audio player for Windows and supports pretty
much all popular audio formats. This is an audio player of choice for many
audiophiles (the reader polls on MakeUseOf and Lifehacker confirm that). But
what's in it for you? Well, leaving aside its rich feature set, there are
two things that make it stand out from the crowd.

First, when it comes to the appearance of the player, it's HIGHLY
customizable. There is NO OTHER audio player out there that can be
customized as much. The Foobar2000 lets you change everything starting from
buttons, layout, background colors, menus to visualization details.

But the best thing about this gem, it needs very little of your system
resources when compared to Windows Media Player, iTunes or Winamp.

The Foobar2000 has also plug-ins for iPod support and things like lyrics and
album art. There is also a portable version if you prefer to carry it on
your thumbdrive.

Download Foobar2000:

(Platform: Windows only)

15. ImgBurn (CD / DVD Image Burner)

There are many reasons we need a simple, fast way to burn disks. ImgBurn is
a CD/DVD/HD-DVD/Blu-ray burning application that is fast, lightweight, and
completely free.

With ImgBurn you can:

- backup your data or media files to DVD.
- backup your DVD movies to your PC.
- create Audio CDs from any music files such as MP3, WAV.
- create a duplicate copy of any DVD or music CD
- create video discs (DVD / HD DVD / Blu-ray) playable in your DVD player

ImgBurn supports a variety of image formats and almost all types of discs,
so you don't need to look any further for your disc burning needs. There is
also a portable version that you can carry with you on your USB drive. For
additional details see the MakeUseOf ImgBurn review here
<> .

(Platform: Windows / Linux)

Download ImgBurn:

BONUS (+ 5 programs)

16. Revo <> - Free powerful uninstaller for
Windows. It can uninstall programs that you are not able to remove using
Windows' default program manager.

17. OpenOffice <> - Free alternative to Microsoft
Office. Though requires some adjustments to program settings before it can
fully replace the Microsoft Office.

18. Foxit <> - This one is
basically a lightweight replacement to Adobe PDF reader. With Foxit you may
launch PDF documents as fast as notepad files.

19. Spyware <> Terminator - A compliment
to the above mentioned Malwarebytes. It's not as comprehensive but comes
with real-time malware detection and fast daily scans.

20. Portable Apps <> - A huge collection of free
programs that you can carry on your USB thumbdrive. The suite includes
several of the above apps, plus many more. Carry your favorite computer
programs along with all of your bookmarks, settings, email and more with you
where ever you go. Use them on any Windows computer without leaving any
personal data behind.

So there you go, the top 15 that you should have on your system and use on a
frequent basis. Since everyone is different with different needs, you will
probably disagree with us on some of these choices. 
If you like this article, please spread it around and share it with your
friends. It took us us a while to get it done and test all the apps

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