The best free software for your PC

4th Feb 2014 | 12:13

The best free software for your PC

Essential PC programs you should download today

The best free PC software downloads

The best software doesn't always come with a price tag attached. There are a host of free PC programs available on the web that can improve the way you work and play.

Plus, you can often unearth programs that will help you solve problems you didn't know you had, improving your PC's overall performance.

What follows is a handy list of what we believe is some of the best free PC software available - some applications you might know, some you might not. But once you've used them, you'll wonder how you ever lived without them. It starts with …

1. Mozilla Firefox 26.0

The best free software for your PC

If you don't like Microsoft's Internet Explorer, it's easy to switch to an alternative. Firefox from Mozilla leads the charge - a fast, flexible web browser that includes tabbed browsing, smart privacy controls, built-in spell checking, and the ability to add a range of plug-ins to extend its already impressive functionality.

The best free software for your PC

2. Adobe Flash Player

The best free software for your PC

Speaking of plug-ins, if you want to get the best web experience, view every website, play games in your web browser and watch videos in Firefox, you're going to need the Adobe Flash Player. This plug-in is an internet essential.

Flash powers most Facebook games, YouTube, and an array of innovative, interactive websites that include WeChooseTheMoon.org (a recreation of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon) and moodstream.gettyimages.com (an interactive mood board from Getty Images). If you're going to have a good time on the web, and experience it to its full potential, you need Adobe Flash.

The best free software for your PC

3. Google Chrome

The best free software for your PC

The good news for Google Chrome users is that Google's web browser has the Adobe Flash Player baked in as standard. Like Firefox, it offers tabbed browsing, excellent privacy controls and the opportunity to install different extensions from the Chrome Web Store to boost its functionality.

Usefully, if you have a Google account, signing into Google Chrome whenever you use it gives you the option to sync your activity and preferences across multiple devices. Best of all, Chrome is slick, speedy and stable. It might not be as popular as Firefox, but it's catching up fast.

The best free software for your PC

4. OpenOffice

The best free software for your PC

Microsoft Office is the obvious choice when it comes to business productivity, but its price tag can put some people off. You might think that a free alternative wouldn't be able to match Microsoft's suite for functionality, but OpenOffice can prove you wrong.

Instead of Word and Excel, try Writer and Calc. PowerPoint too has a free equivalent - Impress is ideal for creating multimedia presentations. Of course, there'd be no point in singing OpenOffice's praises if it wasn't compatible with Microsoft Office document formats. It is, enabling you to save out OpenOffice files that can be opened by Office users and vice-versa.

The best free software for your PC

5. Adobe Reader 11

The best free software for your PC

If you work with documents on a regular basis, you're going to need to open and print PDFs. Adobe Reader 11 is the best way to do exactly that. Adobe created the PDF standard, and so its Reader software is the obvious way to open and view PDFs.

It's also more than just a reader. If PDFs have been created with interactive forms or require digital signatures, Reader enables you to add information to them quickly and easily. Adobe Reader also supports annotations, letting teams discuss edits to PDF documents and mark them up with highlights and sticky notes.

The best free software for your PC

6. Avira 2014

The best free software for your PC

A PC without anti-virus software is like a car without any doors. Anybody could get in and wreak havoc. The most popular AV products, including McAfee and Norton require you to take out a yearly subscription. But before you do, consider a free alternative like Avira 2014.

This software equips your PC with a layer of key defenses that protect your computer from threats automatically, eliminating harmful viruses and Trojans, blocking sneaky adware, zapping spyware, and even warning you if you visit a website that could infect your system. And yes, it's completely free.

The best free software for your PC

7. CCleaner 4.09

The best free software for your PC

If Avira 2014 helps you to protect your PC from viruses and unwanted installs, CCleaner 4.09 will help you get rid of anything that has already slipped through. Using a simple interface, CCleaner can be set up to find unnecessary files and unused applications and, with a nod from you, delete them. This frees up space on your PC, cleans up your Registry, and lessens the load on your system. A win-win-win situation.

The best free software for your PC

8. AdwCleaner 3.0

The best free software for your PC

AdwCleaner 3.0 does much the same as CCleaner above, but it's a much simpler application. Set it to search your PC for unused files, rogue installs and unwanted toolbars and it will cut through the clutter like a digital knife, deleting junk data and optimising your PC system.

The best free software for your PC

9. Free YouTube to MP3 Converter

The best free software for your PC

With all this talk of work and security, you'd be forgiven for thinking that we have no playful software to recommend. The Free YouTube to MP3 Converter does exactly what it says on the tin - takes any YouTube video and extracts the audio track from it, saving it as an MP3 file on your PC's hard disk.

This makes it ideal for grabbing music tracks from videos or stripping out the content from an interview, webinar or TED talk, so you can listen to it later on an MP3 player or smartphone. Handy.

The best free software for your PC

10. VLC Media Player

The best free software for your PC

Last, and by no means least, we come to a program that shames Windows Media Player's lack of multimedia mastery. VLC Media Player might not look as pretty, but it can play any video or audio format that you care to throw at it - DivX, H.264, Cinepak, Real Video, MP3, WMA, FLAC, ALAC and many more besides. No need to download extra codecs.

With an array of settings to optimize playback, tweak sound quality, and set up multi-video 'playlists', it's the ultimate media player. Every PC should have one.

The best free software for your PC

The best free downloads from Microsoft

Everyone knows Microsoft for its Windows OS and Office productivity suite. But the software giant makes plenty of other apps, many of which are entirely free to download and use. In fact, there's a ton of them.

When we started counting up all the best free Microsoft apps, we thought we'd find 20 or 30. In the end, we found a lot more. And because this is Microsoft, these apps aren't just okay, they're good. Great, even.

There's a free program or service for just about every aspect of PC use, from headline-grabbers such as Windows Essentials and Microsoft Office Web Apps, to smaller but no less useful tools such as Microsoft Autoruns, Security Essentials and Desktops.

It's not just about work, either; Microsoft is responsible for lots of apps that are enjoyable and fun to use. See through the eyes of the world's telescopes, play a game or two or - better still - create your own with Kodu Game Lab. The list just keeps on growing.

Some of the programs here are unfinished, and clearly marked as such. That means there's a chance you may run into problems using them - nothing major, but take a System Restore point before you proceed, just in case.

We also recommend you don't attempt to install every program in this list in one go; you'll quickly bring your computer to its knees. Instead, pick out tools that excite you and give them a try.

With the Windows Essentials apps, you can choose the ones you want when you download the Windows Essentials installer program. So, what are you waiting for? You're about to make your PC more efficient, secure and fun without spending a thing.

1. Microsoft Office Web Apps

Download 1. Microsoft Office Web Apps

This must be one of the company's biggest giveaways; you can now gain access to the core features of Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for free through your web browser.

Just log on with your Windows Live ID to create new documents or upload existing ones from your computer to your Windows Live SkyDrive account, then edit them in your browser window. Even if you already own a copy of Microsoft Office, this useful freebie enables you to access your documents from any web-connected computer.

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2. Windows Live Mail

Download 2. Windows Live Mail

It's simply the best free email tool there is - essential for Windows 7 users, and a step up from both Microsoft Outlook Express and Windows Mail, too. Reasons to upgrade? It works brilliantly with multiple email accounts, gives you offline access to web-based providers such as Hotmail and Gmail and organizes your mail intelligently into conversations.

Windows Live Mail

It also integrates cleverly with a built-in calendar, enabling you to organize your life, too. Windows 7 and Windows Vista users can also enjoy the new photo email option, which enables you to share dozens of pictures without clogging up other people's inboxes.

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3. Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center

Download 3. Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center

Microsoft's attempt to move us all over to a new touch-based Windows interface hasn't gone as smoothly as it hoped. Most of us remain perfectly happy using the traditional keyboard and mouse to find our way around. And, if you've bought Microsoft's own input devices, you'll want this free download, which combines the functionality of Intellipoint and Intellimouse into a single app, enabling you customize how your mouse and keyboard will behave in Windows 8 and 8.1.

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4. Visual Studio 2013

Download 4. Visual Studio 2013

This freebie will appeal to developers, giving you all the tools you need to build apps and desktop programs without charging you a penny for the privilege. It comes in three flavors: Web for web-based apps and services, Windows for Windows 8 Store apps, and Desktop for those wishing to build traditional desktop apps based on C#, Visual BASIC and C++. Note you'll need to sign into Visual Studio within 30 days of installation to register and sync your settings - all for free.

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5. Free Microsoft Office Templates

Download 5. Free Microsoft Office Templates

Need some inspiration for, or a helping hand with, your next Office document? Just visit the Templates section of the Office website (see the link above), where you'll find a mind-boggling number of useful options.

They're divided up into dozens of categories, which cover all of the major Office applications, and can be accessed through each of the individual Office programs when you create a new document.

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6. Microsoft Mathematics 4.0

Download 6. Microsoft Mathematics 4.0

Microsoft maths freebie

This freebie is aimed mainly at maths and science students, but will appeal to anyone who has need for a graphing calculator with 2D and 3D plotting capabilities as well as step-by-step equation solving. You'll find a formulas and equations library with over 100 commonly used entries, a triangle solver for those wanting to brush up on their sines, cosines and tangents, plus a handy conversion tool covering most measurable units.

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7. pptPlex

Download 7. pptPlex

pptPlex enables you to zoom into and out of your PowerPoint slides, as well as jump between non-sequential ones. Once it's installed, launch PowerPoint and view the video tutorial to find out how to use it.

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8.Free images and clip-art

Download 8.Free images and clip-art

Free MS clipart

Need to jazz up an Office document with some relevant imagery? Thousands upon thousands of free photos, clip art and other illustrations are available at the Office website - download individual pictures through the site or use the Microsoft Clip Organizer tool (part of Office).

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9. Noreplyall

Download 9. Noreplyall

This tiny extension adds two buttons to the Ribbon in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013, enabling you to prevent people in the same organization from forwarding or clicking Reply to all when they get the email you're about to send out.

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10. Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack

Download 10. Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack

This tool enables users of Office 2000, XP and 2003 to open, edit and save documents in the new 2007 formats in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Install the Compatibility Pack and the functionality is immediately available in Office's File Open and Save As dialogue boxes.

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11. Ribbon Hero 2

Download 11. Ribbon Hero 2

The Ribbon interface was a great step forward for Office 2007 and 2010, but if you want to get the most of it, install Ribbon Hero 2.

It monitors what you do in Office and makes suggestions as to which features you should learn about that could help you do your work more efficiently. It also helps you learn about the Ribbon interface using games and tasks that can be played with your friends and colleagues.

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12. Microsoft Office Viewers

Download 12. Microsoft Office Viewers

Don't have access to a copy of Office on another computer? You can now install special viewers for Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, Visio or PowerPoint documents, enabling you to open, look at and print your work without having to download Office.

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13. Docs for Facebook

Download 13. Docs for Facebook

Docs for Facebook is free web service basically lets you create Word, Excel and PowerPoint presentations from within your web browser, then share those documents with your Facebook contacts. Log in with your Facebook account, create your document using the basic controls provided, and then you can let others view or even edit it, plus post it to your wall. It uses the basic Office Web apps, and allows you to download or upload documents from your hard drive to use too.

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14. Microsoft WebMatrix

Download 14. Microsoft WebMatrix

WebMatrix

This developer-friendly tool may have uses for less experienced web coders too, seeing as it's designed to simplify the process of building, testing and deploying websites. WebMatrix integrates server, database and programming frameworks - all Microsoft technologies of course - into a single tool, but goes one step further in making it possible to build sites based on open-source tools like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla! and many more with just a few clicks, making it a great tool for trying these services out without having to sign up for a hosting package first.

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15.Microsoft OffVis

Download 15.Microsoft OffVis

This tool allows you to examine legacy Office formats (doc, xls, and ppt) at the binary level. In most cases it's primarily a tool for technical users, but there are some real-life applications that might make it useful for the rest of us too: open the file, select the appropriate parser (Word, Excel or PowerPoint) from the Parser list and choose Parse. OffVis will then alert you if it finds malicious code, and can - with care - even rescue some corrupt files via the Tools > Repair and Defragment menu. Make sure you save a copy of the file though, in case its repairs actually make things worse.

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16. ZoomIt 4.5

Download 16. ZoomIt 4.5

Although this freebie is aimed largely at those looking to perform technical presentations, its screen zoom and annotation capabilities have a wide range of uses. Once downloaded, simply extract and launch the tool, configure how it works (levels of magnification, hotkeys, drawing pen color and size) and off you go.

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17. SharePoint Designer 2007

Download 17. SharePoint Designer 2007

It might be getting a little long in the tooth now, but the fact SharePoint Designer is now completely free still makes it worth checking out. Although geared towards building Microsoft SharePoint sites, it doesn't require a SharePoint server to operate, so the software can be used for basic web editing too.

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18. OneNote for Windows 8

Download 18. OneNote for Windows 8

OneNote

Get this - Microsoft's OneNote tool is completely free for Windows 8 and 8.1 users via its own Windows 8 Store app. OneNote for Windows 8 has all the functionality you need - create notes and lists with check boxes, finger-based drawings, photos snapped with your webcam, customized formatting and so on; organize them into notebooks and then store them securely in the cloud for easy access via OneNote or the Search charm. You can even share them with others.

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19. IEToys

Download 19. IEToys

Add extra features to Internet Explorer 8 with this free collection of add-ins, most of which are accessible simply by right-clicking the page or selected text: hide distracting images from a web page, look up selected words in an online dictionary, encyclopedia or search engine, and fix malformed web links. Note: IEToys isn't compatible with Internet Explorer 9 or later, making it one for XP users only.

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20. Desktops

Download 20. Desktops

Desktops

Too many open windows? Desktops enables you to organize programs and windows in up to four virtual desktops - switch via the Notification tray icon or by assigning hotkeys; perfect for comparing several open windows without having to resort to the task bar.

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21. Mouse without Borders

Download 21. Mouse without Borders

Too many keyboards and mice cluttering up your desk? Think of Mouse without Borders as a virtual KVM switch, letting you share a single mouse and keyboard across multiple PCs simply by dragging the mouse from one desktop to another. You can even share files between PCs in the same way - dragging them from one display to the next. The tool comes from the Microsoft Garage, an umbrella for side projects set up for Microsoft employees to showcase their talents.

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22. PageDefrag

Download 22. PageDefrag

This tool enables Windows XP users to examine and - if necessary - defragment key system files when the PC is restarted, giving their computer a performance boost.

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23. Internet Explorer

Download 23. Internet Explorer

Are you running the latest version of Internet Explorer on your PC? Windows 7 and 8 users should be on Internet Explorer 11 by now, while Vista users can update all the way to IE9, which is more secure, stable and - above all - much quicker than previous versions of the browser. Windows XP users should download Internet Explorer 8, which is a far safer option than the outdated and insecure version 6 that shipped with it.

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24. Malicious Software Removal Tool

Download 24. Malicious Software Removal Tool

This is designed to detect and remove a wide range of known infections from your computer. It can't protect you against viruses in the first place - that's a job for your security software - but if something gets on to your system, it may be able to help with removing it. The Malicious Software Removal Tool is updated once a month through Windows Update, when it scans your computer for possible infections; to run it manually, download it from the link above.

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25. Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer

Download 25. Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer

MBSA

Give your computer, as well as any other networked PCs you use, a once-over for security problems with this free tool. The Baseline Security Analyzer works by verifying that your system is fully patched with the latest Windows updates, and examines it for specific areas of weakness. For example, it can flag up whether or not adequate protective software has been installed.

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26. RichCopy

Download 26. RichCopy

RichCopy is designed to speed up large file transfers over the network, mainly by copying multiple files at once to make maximum use of your network's bandwidth. It's aimed largely at power users - click Settings to see a bewildering array of options - but it can also be used simply by choosing your source and destination directories (click Connect to select your network destination), then clicking the Copy button to let it perform its magic.

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27. Windows Search 4.0

Download 27. Windows Search 4.0

Windows XP users jealous of how quickly searches are performed in Windows 7 and Windows Vista can benefit from the same super-fast technology with Windows Search 4.0. Once installed, allow time for your drive's contents to be indexed and then use the Search box on the taskbar to gain quick and easy access to all your precious files, wherever they're hiding.

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28. AutoRuns

Download 28. AutoRuns

Start-up programs hit Windows performance twice over - firstly by extending the time it takes to start Windows, and then by hogging valuable system resources, giving your computer less to work with. Autoruns enables you to see what's starting with Windows, identify unknown items and disable or delete anything nonessential to make your computer faster. Windows 7 and Windows Vista users should run the program as an Administrator in order to make changes.

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29. ClearType Tuner Power Toy

Download 29. ClearType Tuner Power Toy

This enables you to calibrate your display to make your text sharper, clearer and more legible, which can only help those tired eyes. It's built into Windows 7, while Windows XP users can download a Control Panel applet from the Microsoft Typography website; Windows Vista users should use the online tool to calibrate their displays.

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30. Microsoft Security Essentials

Download 30. Microsoft Security Essentials

Can't afford to pay for security software? Frustrated with your existing free anti-virus tool? Then this could be the answer. Security Essentials is a lightweight, unobtrusive and most importantly free anti-malware tool that's rapidly become one of the most popular security tools for Vista and Windows 7 users. There are other freebies offering better protection out there, but if you're not the kind of person to put your PC at risk from infection on a daily basis, it should prove perfectly adequate.

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31. Microsoft Safety Scanner

Download 31. Microsoft Safety Scanner

You think a computer's infected, but you're not 100 per cent sure. You need a free, regularly updated and above all portable tool you can run from CD or USB stick to quickly give that PC the once over to confirm or allay your suspicions. This is that tool. Microsoft Safety Scanner runs both quick and full scans of the target PC's hard drive, and is capable of removing any infection it finds. It's no substitute for the real-time protection offered by your existing anti-virus tool, but it's worth using as a second opinion. Note the tool expires after 10 days, ensuring you replace it with a version containing the very latest virus definitions.

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32. .NET Framework Repair Tool v2

Download 32. .NET Framework Repair Tool v2

An increasing number of programs - including many in this list - make use of Microsoft's .NET Framework libraries, but what happens if one of those libraries becomes corrupt? This free repair tool now works with all versions of .NET Framework from 2.0 up to 4.0 and can fix most major issues it finds. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, then maybe this will.

More essential Microsoft downloads

33. Skype

Download 33. Skype

Skype

If you're interested in chatting online - via IM, voice or video - then Skype has to be your tool of choice. It's evolved in leaps and bounds since Microsoft took it over (ditching Windows Live Messenger in the process) and even ties in with Facebook to give you access to your Facebook chums as well as your Microsoft and Skype contacts. It's easy to use, and potentially a money saver too, as you can place free voice and video calls to fellow Skype users, or pay a fraction of the cost for texting or phoning landlines through VOIP too. It's also ubiquitous, allowing you access from your PC, Mac, phone or tablet.

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34. Windows Live Writer

Download 34. Windows Live Writer

One of the drawbacks of blogging is that it usually has to be done through your browser while you're online. Windows Live Writer changes that - you can access your page through a more civilized interface, composing posts offline and publishing them when you're good and ready.

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35. Movie Maker

Download 35. Movie Maker

Movie Maker

You'll be surprised at how easy transforming a collection of video clips and photos into a movie can be. Movie Maker ensures it's a breeze without compromising on quality - with just a few clicks, your movie can be burned to DVD or distributed over the internet via YouTube. And with HD support, you can really make the most of your camera's capabilities.

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36. Yule Log Visualization

Download 36. Yule Log Visualization

Warm your cockles - virtually speaking - with this visualization of a roaring fire, designed for Windows Media Player. Access it by switching to the Now Playing mode, then right-click to the left of the playback controls and select Visualizations > Yule Log > Yule Log. Perfect for Christmas time.

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37.Kodu Game Lab

Download 37.Kodu Game Lab

Kodu

Why get frustrated playing other people's games when you can design your own from scratch? Kodu Game Lab employs a simple point-and-click interface - it's aimed at children, but adults will appreciate the efforts made to make programming more enjoyable. We recommend checking out the video tutorial before you begin.

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38. Windows Media Player 11

Download 38. Windows Media Player 11

If you're still running Windows XP, upgrading to Media Player 11 is a must. The interface is slicker and friendlier, burning CDs is less troublesome and a new Sync tab ensures that sharing music with your portable device is easy.

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39. Photo Gallery

Download 39. Photo Gallery

Import, organize and edit your photo collection without hassle using this powerful cataloging tool. Windows Live Photo Gallery also boasts some nifty ways of sharing your photos, with tools for creating panoramas, slideshows and even movies. Once complete, you can upload your pictures to various online services, or send them in a photo email.

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40. HD View 3.3

Download 40. HD View 3.3

This free browser plug-in allows you to easily view large images online as well as create and host your own. It works best with panoramic images, allowing you to pan and zoom in while intelligently adjusting your viewing perspective to present an appropriately standard or curved projection (depending on your viewing position). It works with all major Windows browsers, including IE, Chrome and Firefox.

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41. Microsoft Image Composite Editor

Download 41. Microsoft Image Composite Editor

Image Composite Editor

Stitch together several overlapping photos to create a widescreen panorama. It can be saved as a single file or shared through the PhotoSynth website.

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42. Microsoft Silverlight

Download 42. Microsoft Silverlight

Many interactive websites and several applications require the free Microsoft Silverlight plug-in to be installed before you can enjoy their content. Get it from the web address above or install it as part of Windows Live Essentials.

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43. Zune Software 4.8

Download 43. Zune Software 4.8

Zune

The history of Microsoft's Zune is not a happy one, but one of its major successes was this sleek media player, which you can still use as an alternative to Windows Media Player. It'll even let you access (and purchase) new tracks from Xbox Music and Video too.

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44. Games for Windows Live

Download 44. Games for Windows Live

This program puts you in touch with millions of other gamers, offering in-game chat and messaging to boost the atmosphere and add an extra edge to your experience. After you've signed in you'll be able to download a game, Tinker, for free.

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45. Bing Maps 3D

Download 45. Bing Maps 3D

Use Bing Maps 3D to make it easier to find and locate the information you're after. You can navigate with your mouse and keyboard to pan, tilt and move around the landscape, and even create your own 3D objects.

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46. Worldwide Telescope

Download 46. Worldwide Telescope

Enjoy the best imagery from the world's ground- and space-based telescopes, including Hubble, with Worldwide Telescope. Look out for the Guided Tours tab – a great place to get started.

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47. Microsoft Photosynth

Download 47. Microsoft Photosynth

Photosynth goes one step further than Microsoft ICE, enabling you to create a 360° panorama from photos quickly and easily. You'll need to sign up for free access with your Windows Live ID, and your finished results are uploaded to the same site, either for public consumption or private sharing.

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48. Server Quest II

Download 48. Server Quest II

Indulge in some retro gaming with these re-imaginings of classic games, such as King's Quest. The graphics are old-school, but Server Quest II is a great way to spend a quiet afternoon.

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49. Microsoft Photo Story 3

Download 49. Microsoft Photo Story 3

It may only create a photo slideshow, but Photo Story 3 does it exceptionally well. Import your photos, then follow the wizard to create your sequence, adding captions, transition effects, minor corrections and a soundtrack. The finished collection can be shared online or burned to DVD using Windows DVD Maker.

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50. Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7

Download 50. Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7

Touch Pack

Before the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft was keen to extol the virtues of touch - and one of Windows 7's best-kept secrets was that it supported a more basic - two fingers rather than ten - touch interface. This free collection of tools is designed to showcase those capabilities, and while most of it is little more than fluff, there are one or two tools in the collection worth installing. The most notable is Collage, which lets you drag, place and resize photos from your pictures library onto an interesting collage that you can subsequently set as your desktop background.

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51. Bing Twitter Maps

Download 51. Bing Twitter Maps

Another Silverlight plug-in, this enables you to view tweets geographically, letting you see who's posting nearby.

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52. Microsoft Express Encoder 4

Download 52. Microsoft Express Encoder 4

Although this tool is targeted at web developers, Expression Encoder 4 has a powerful feature set for video enthusiasts, too. Import clips, edit, de-interlace, crop and add overlay effects, then output the finished result to a WMV file, perfect for sharing over the internet. There's even a handy screen-capture tool built-in, too. You need to install .NET Framework 4.0 to run this program.

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53. Microsoft Flight

Download 53. Microsoft Flight

Microsoft's Flight Simulator was long considered the de facto program for those wishing to experience the joys of virtual flight. Now you can download the basic version of the game for free, which provides you with one 'mission', based around the Big Island of Hawaii. While additional missions and planes will cost you, you'll find a number of free preview versions are available to give you a taster of what's to come.

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54. Fresh Paint

Download 54. Fresh Paint

Fancy indulging your creative side? This free Windows 8 app is a painting app designed for touchscreens. You can select from a variety of different brushes, paints and canvases to create original artwork or trace over existing photos to turn them into works of art.

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55. Taptiles

Download 55. Taptiles

Taptiles

There are lots of eye-catching, free Windows 8 games to choose from, including the Microsoft Solitaire Collection and Microsoft Mahjong. But if you want something a little more original, try Taptiles. It's a little like Mahjong, only in 3D and it offers three different gameplay modes to attract even the most hardened puzzle players.

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56. Virtual PC

Download 56. Virtual PC

Virtual PC

Looking for free virtualization software? Microsoft offers two versions of its Virtual PC software, depending on whether you're running Windows 7 (Windows Virtual PC) or XP/Vista (Virtual PC 2007). Either tool is a great way to resolve stubborn compatibility issues by running older versions of Windows in a virtual machine. But you'll need to provide your own legitimate copy of Windows to use it. You may get a warning about Home versions of Windows not being supported, but they should still work.

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57. Insomnia

Download 57. Insomnia

This tiny free tool does one thing, and one thing only: when you open the program, Insomnia prevents Windows from going to sleep. If you're about to download a large file or burn a DVD and you don't trust your computer to stay awake during the process, this is really handy. Just launch Insomnia and the problem is automatically solved.

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58. Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel

Download 58. Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel

Windows 8 has a nifty built-in feature whereby you can "mount" ISO disk image files and use them as if they were a physical CD or DVD. The Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel basically extends this functionality to XP, Vista and Windows 7.

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59. Joulemeter

Download 59. Joulemeter

Joulemeter

Get a decent estimate of your Windows 7 or Windows 8 PCs power consumption by installing and running this tool - you can immediately gauge how much electricity your desktop or laptop is using by accessing the task bar application. Alternatively, run the calibration tool to enable Joulemeter to test your set-up and produce a more accurate assessment.

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60. SyncToy 2.1

Download 60. SyncToy 2.1

This handy tool enables you to keep the contents of two folders - one of which can be a shared file over your network - synchronized. SyncTool means that multiple folder pairs can be created, and you can preview any changes to be made before agreeing to them.

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61. Windows Easy Transfer

Download 61. Windows Easy Transfer

You've just bought a new computer with an upgraded version of Windows and are wondering how you'll be able to transfer your key files and settings to it from your current PC - you need Windows Easy Transfer. As long as you're running Windows Vista or Windows XP, just download Easy Transfer and let it do all the hard work for you.

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62. Windows NT Backup Restore Utility for Windows 7

Download 62. Windows NT Backup Restore Utility for Windows 7

This storage tool, supplied with Windows XP, isn't compatible with later versions of Windows. If you backed up using the program and need access to your data in Windows 7, download this. After installation you'll find it under Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools.

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63. ScreenRecorder

Download 63. ScreenRecorder

ScreenRecorder is simple to use: launch the program, select whether to capture the whole screen or a specific open window or program, and start recording. To stop, click the big red button before saving the file in an efficient, compressed format.

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64. Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool

Download 64. Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool

If you have access to a Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 ISO image, this free tool can help you burn it to a bootable DVD or USB flash drive, enabling you to install or repair Windows. It's simple to use and works in XP and Vista too, perfect if you're about to upgrade.

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65. SkyDrive for Windows/Mac

Download 65. SkyDrive for Windows/Mac

SkyDrive

SkyDrive may now be heavily integrated into Windows 8.1, but if you're running an earlier version of Windows - or have a Mac - you'll need the SkyDrive desktop tool. It works in a similar way to Dropbox to keep files backed up and synced across all your PCs and Macs, plus give you access to your files from a smartphone, tablet or any web browser.

Like Dropbox you need to keep everything stored in a single SkyDrive folder, but you can place this where you like and use shortcuts and libraries to link in files from all over your hard drive. If you're not running Windows 8.1, you can also choose which folders to keep in sync on specific computers too.

SkyDrive is robust, doesn't produce too many file conflicts, and comes with 7GB of free storage, more than any other backup provider on the market. Upgrades are cheap too, with prices starting at just £16 (about $106, AU$119) per year for an additional 50GB of space.

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66. Montage

Download 66. Montage

This clever free web service lets you create a visual album based on any topic you choose. Sign in through Facebook, Twitter or your Windows Live ID, and you can pull in RSS feeds, Twitter posts, YouTube videos, web links and more. Choose from a variety of different layouts, give your montage a name and the service will even get you started by pulling in a list of suggested content. Once done, you can keep coming back for the latest updates and even share your work of art with others.

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