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The following list of favourite or recommended programs was initially based on one produced by Personal Computer World magazine, and has been modified as I try out new programs and read other people's reviews.  I have used many of these myself but you must take sensible precautions before running any new software (backups, virus check, system restore etc.).  All were free at the time of listing unless marked otherwise.  If you find a bad link or have a suggestion for this list I would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

AUDIO, VIDEO AND PHOTO

Ashampoo Photo Commander

www.ashampoo.com

Manage, edit and create slideshows from your favourite photos

Audacity

audacity.sourceforge.net

Record and edit audio files, then export them as WAV, AIFF, MP3, and OGG

DVR-Edit

thegreenbutton.com/files

Crop recordings and cut out adverts from ripped video

DVD Region+CSS Free

www.dvdidle.com/dvd-region-free.htm

DVD Region+CSS Free works automatically in the background to make a DVD appear region code free and unprotected to any DVD player and DVD copy software

GB-PVR

www.gbpvr.com

Schedule TV recordings, and view and pause live TV with a tuner card

Gimp

www.gimp.org/

GNU Image Manipulation Program. photo retouching, image composition and authoring

G-Spot

www.headbands.com/gspot

Identify which CODEC your movie is requiring for playback

Installed Codec

www.nirsoft.net/utils/installed_codec

Analyse which codecs are installed on your system

Irfanview

www.irfanview.com/

IrfanView is a fast, small, and innovative FREEWARE graphic & slideshow viewer for Windows

K-Lite Mega Codec Pack

www.codecguide.com

A collection of useful codecs for encoding and playing back audio and video files

LifeExtender

www.lifextender.com/

A simple commercial removal application designed for Windows Vista Media Center

MCEBuddy

mcebuddy.com

H.264 compression of videos and MCE TV programmes

Media Info

mediainfo.sourceforge.net

MediaInfo supplies technical and tag information about a video or audio file

Mediacoder

mediacoder.sourceforge.net

Universal batch transcoder for converting files between audio or video formats

Paint.net

www.getpaint.net

image and photo manipulation software

Picasa

www.picasa.com

Transfer pictures from a digital camera, organise on a hard disk and edit them

Screenshot Captor

www.donationcoder.com

Capture active windows, selected regions, fixed regions, or the entire desktop

Sib Icon Editor

www.sibcode.com 

Design high-quality icons

Songbird

www.songbirdnest.com

Media browser and music player built on Firefox's browser engine

Studioline Photo Basic

www.studioline.biz

Superb image and photo-management application

VideoDVDMaker Free

www.protectedsoft.com

Flexible, easy-to-use OVD maker lets you create your own DVD movies quickly

Videospin  

videospin.com

Create films using videos and pictures and export them to your home page

VLC Media Player

vlc-media-player.en.softonic.com

VLC (VideoLAN Client) is a portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats

Wavosaur

www.wavosaur.com

Audio editor, ideal for editing audio clips, sound designing, mastering and more

 
    BACKUP, RESTORE & FILE MANAGEMENT

Acronis True Image  (trial)

www.acronis.com

Disk imaging tool that lets you create a backup image of your entire hard disk

Avira AntiVir Rescue System

www.free-av.com 

Build a bootable system rescue disc to safeguard against major issues

Bart's PE Builder

www.nu2.nu

Create a bootable CD or DUD from the XP/Windows Server 2003 installation CD

Clonezilla

clonezilla.org/

Clone a disk - via an image file or direct.

Cobian Backup

www.educ.umuse/-cobian

Back up your files and folders in original or compressed form

Dropbox

www.getdropbox.com 

Share and synchronize your files with other users, via a remote site

EASEUS Disk Copy

www.todo-backup.com

Copy or clone a drive or partition to another drive or partition or image

Erunt

larshederer.homepage.t-online.de

Registry backup tool for use before installing and testing programs on your PC

Evernote

www.evernote.com 

Online portal for sharing and storing notes and other important info

Orivelmage XML

www.runtime.org 

Easy-to-use program for imaging and backing up

OriverMax

www.innovative-sol.com 

Easily reinstalls all your drives if you need to get Windows back

PC Tools File Recover (trial)

www.pctools.com

Find and recover lost files and fragments of data stored on your hard drive

Recuva

www.recuva.com  

Recover accidentally deleted tiles, particularly those in the Recycle Bin

Spybot Boot CD

www.safer-networking.org

Create a bootable secure recovery CD

Syncback (trial)

www.2brightsparks.com

Synchronise important files across computers, online or via a USB memory key

Syncplicity

www.syncplicity.com 

Keep your files up to date by synchronising them across your computers

Synctoy

www.microsoft.com

Advanced folder synchronisation tool

System Rescue CD

www.sysresccd.org

linux on a bootable CD, with tools for system repair and recovery

Ultimate Boot CD

www.ultimatebootcd.com

Bootable CD with a range of diagnostic, repair and system enhancement tools

XXclone

www.xxclone.com/idwnload.htm

Makes a self-bootable clone of Windows system disk

MacDrive

www.mediafour.com/products/macdrive/

Allows disks formatted for Apple Macintosh computers to be Windows accessible

DVD Span

hcidesign.com/dvdspan/

a backup tool for writing the contents of large folders to multiple DVDs

GFI Backup

www.gfi.com/backup-hm

The best free solution I know of.  No disk image possible though.

Double Driver

boozet.org/dd.htm

Backup and restore all device drivers.

 

    BROWSERS, MANAGERS AND EXTENSIONS

Adblock Plus

adblock.mozdev.org 

Firefox add-on that helps prevent adverts and annoying pop-ups

All in one Sidebar

www.firefox.exxile.net

An add-on for Firefox that makes it easy to verify the authenticity of a website

Allpeers

www.allpeers.com

Whenever you use Firefox, use this peer network to share your files

Cookieswap

www.cookieswap.mozdev.org

Cookie manager for Firefox that lets you set up multiple users with one browser

Firefox Backup Extension

www.customsoftwareconsult.com

Back up Firefox settings, including themes, preferences, bookmarks and more

Firefox Showcase

www.showcase.uworks.net

Manage your Firefox tabs and windows by viewing them as thumbnails

Flashgot

www.flashgot.net

Firefox extension to handle downloads. Support for external download managers

Foxmarks Bookmark Sync

www.foxmarks.com 

Access bookmarks from any machine

Gmail Notifier

www.google.com

Simple application that alerts you when you have new Google Mail messages

GoogIe Chrome

www.google.com 

Interesting web browser with some exciting technological changes

Google Preview

ackroyd.de/googlepreview 

Firefox add-on to preview Google search results as website images

Google Toolbar

www.google.com

Instant access to a variety of Google services via your browser's toolbar

IE Tab

www.ietab.mozdev.org

View pages that require Internet Explorer, without leaving Firefox

Jiwire Hotspot Helper

www.jiwire.com

Find hotspots easily, from the Windows Taskbar

Maxthon

www.maxthon.com

A popular and regularly updated replacement for Internet Explorer

McAfee Site Advisor

www.mcafee.com

Add instant security alerts to your browser, for warnings about scam websites

Mini Map Sidebar

minimap.spatialviews.com 

A suite of in-built maps and mapping tools for your web browser

Morning Coffee

addons.mozilla.org/firefox

Firefox plug-in that highlights different web pages on particular days

Mozilla Firefox

www.mozilla.com

Probably the most popular alternative web browser. Flexible, powerful and stable

Mozilla Weave

labs.mozilla.com

Synchronise bookmarks across computers, with Firefox 3

Netscape Navigator

browser.netscape.com

The latest - and last - version of Netscape's alternative browser

Opera

www.opera.com

A fast, reliable web browser, opera is popular and very flexible too

Orbit Downloader

www.orbitdownloader.com

Easy-to-use free download manager

Personas

labs.mozilla.com

Change the appearance of your web browser

Scribefire

www.scribefire.com

Blog directly from Firefox, whatever site you're viewing

Web Developer Toolbar

www.chrispederick.com

Web developer tool - see the effect of CSS and other page changes instantly

Gadgets for XP www.alkyforapplications.net/ Enable Vista like desktop gadgets on an XP based computer

 

 

 

BURNING AND MEDIA

Ashampoo Burning Studio

www.ashampoo.com

Burning package for quickly writing and producing discs

B-PVR

www.gbpvr.com

Schedule TV recordings, and view and pause live TV

Burnaware Free Edition

www.glorylogic.com

Burn your data and audio discs with minimum hassle

CDBurner XP Pro

www.cdburnerxp.se

Burn any kind of disc, from CD through to Blu-ray

Finalburner

www.protectedsoft.com

This small application enables you to create almost any disc format

Floola

www.floola.com 

 Efficiently manage your iPod or your Motorola mobile phone

Imgburn

www.imgburn.com

Create and manage ISO images, or burn them to disc

Libra

www.getlibra.com

Create a library to organise your books, audio CDs, movies and video games

MediaMan

www.imediaman.com

Organise your books, audio CDs, movies, video games and other media files

MediaMonkey

www.mediamonkey.com

music manager and media jukebox for music collectors and iPod users

MediaPortal

www.team-mediaportal.com

Turn your PC/TV into an advanced Media Center

Romeo Burner Lite

www.romeoburner.com

A simple yet powerful CD burning application

Video DVD Maker

www.protectedsoft.com 

Convert video into an appropriate format and burn it to disc

VlC Media Player

www.videolan.org 

Comprehensive audio and video media player that plays back most formats

 

 

 

CHAT & COMMUNICATION

Camfrog

www.camfrog.com

join real streaming video chat rooms

Digsby

www.digsby.com

An instant messaging client with tools for social networking online

Gizmo Project

www.gizmoproject.com

Use your internet connection to make calls to other computers

PeerAware

www.peeraware.com

Share articles, addresses and links by pasting them into the chat area

Pidgin

www.pidgin.im

Multi-platform instant messaging program

Skype

www.skype.com

Cheap local and international calls over the internet

 

 

 

BUSINESS AND OFFICE

Brava! Reader

www.bravaviewer.com/

Viewer for .TIF and .TIFF files

Chandler

www.chandlerproject.org

Personal information manager (PIM) that works irrespective of platform

ColorFax Lite

www.blackice.com/impColorFaxLite.htm

Free fax send/receive client for Vista (64 and 32 bit) and XP

doPDF

www.dopdf.com

Make a PDF from just about any Windows application (32 or 64 bit)

PDFCreator

sourceforge.net/projects/

Print any document to a PDF one (32 bit only)

EssentiaIPIM

www.essentialpim.com

Multilingual information manager. Includes calendar and contact manager

OpenOffice

www.openoffice.org

Office suite: word processor, spreadsheet, database and presentation graphics

Lotus Symphony

symphony.lotus.com

Free office suite that supports Open Document Format and Office documents

Notepad++

notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/uk

Improved Notepad, especially if you do any kind of programming

Notepad2

www.flos-freeware.ch

A fast and lightweight Notepad-like text editor with syntax highlighting

PNotes

pnotes.sourceforge.net

Add sticky notes, in various designs and formats, to your desktop

Spicebird

www.spicebird.com

Collaboration tool that integrates Thunderbird and Sunbird standalone calendar

TeamDrive

www.teamdrive.net

Make sure only authorised users have access to files you want to share

Total Organizer

www.konradp.com

Manage small office projects and tasks you face around the home

VirtualBox

www.virtualbox.org 

Use this tool to host a virtual operating system on your computer

 

 

 

DEVELOPER AND WEB DEVELOPMENT TOOLS

Aptana Studio Community

www.aptana.com

Coding tool designed for developers who want to program using HTML, CSS or Javascript

Free CSS Toolbox

www.blumentals.net

Edit existing CSS style sheets and code

Inno Setup

www.jrsoftware.org

Create Windows installation packages for your files

Instant Update

www.wyday.com

Enables software developers to add an auto-update facility

Style Master

www.westciv.com

Professional C5S editor for web designers

Twistpad

www.carthagosoft.net

Coding tool that's used as a Notepad replacement, or an editor for web developers

WebCEO

www.webceo.com/download/

Search engine marketing and optimization from the WebCEO free Edition

WinMerge

winmerge.org/

Load two text files and compare the differences

wyUpdate Express

www.wyday.com

Add an auto-update facility to your software

 

    GENERAL UTILITIES

7-Zip

www.7-zip.org

File archiver with a high compression ratio and support for many different formats

Adobe Reader

www.adobe.com

View and print Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files

Desktops

www.microsoft.com

Open and manage up to four virtual desktops on one screen

DriverMax

www.drivermax.com/

Save and restore your current drivers & update to later from community resource.

DriverPacks

www.driverpacks.net/driverpacks

(almost) all drivers in a bunch of packs

Folder Size

sourceforge.net/projects/foldersize/

Adds size of folders to Windows Explorer (32 bit only)

Foxit Reader

www.foxitsoftware.com

Quickly open, view and annotate PDFS with this

FreeCommander

www.freecommander.com

A file browser designed to replace Windows Explorer

Java Runtime Environment

java.sun.com

Java virtual machine, runtime class libraries, and Java application launcher

Microsoft .Net Framework

www.microsoft.com

The Net Framework is needed to run many applications

Peazip

peazip.sourceforge.net

Archive management tool for opening and creating different archive types

Renamer

www.den4b.com/downloads.php

A flexible file renaming tool with a wide range of options

UltraMon

www.realtimesoft.com/ultramon/

a utility for multi-monitor systems, designed to increase productivity

VirtualBox

www.virtualbox.org/

A virtual PC emulator

AutoITScript www.autoitscript.com/ a freeware Windows automation language. It can be used to script most simple Windows-based tasks 
Windows Repair  http://www.tweaking.com all-in-one repair tool to help fix a large majority of known Windows problems 

 

    INTERNET, NETWORKING & WIFI TOOLS

CrossLoop

www.crossloop.com

Secure screen sharer designed for people of all technical skill levels

Devicescape

www.devicescape.com

Auto-connect to networks and hotspots according to your preferences

Filezilla

filezilla-project.org

Download files from the internet using FTP and auto-resume

Free Download Manager

www.freedownloadmanager.org

Download accelerator and manager which can even grab an entire website

Gizmo Project

www.gizmoproject.com

Make calls to computers via broadband. Any call to another Gizmo Project user is free

logMeln Hamachi

www.hamachi.cc 

Zero-configuration VPN tool that will quickly connect multiple computers

Mozilla Thunderbird

www.mozilla.com

Popular email client that has a small footprint and some smart ways to stop junk mail

Siteup

www.xequte.com

Simple site checking tool that will enable you to monitor websites to check their status

Skype

www.skype.com

Cheap calls over the internet. Use Skype to start a group conversation between friends

WeFi

www.wefi.com 

Roam wireless network users and connect to free Wifi networks

Whisher

www.whisher.com

Share your Wifi network and find free networks

Wysiwyg Web Builder (trial)

www.wysiwygwebbuilder.com

Templates for designing, building and uploading a website

ZFTP Server

zftpserver.serveftp.com

Comprehensive, free FTP server that lets you set up secure access to your files

OpenVPN

openvpn.net/

open-source VPN (Virtual Private Network) client/server application

DynDNS

www.dyndns.com/

provides an easy-to-remember URL for quick remote access to your network.

NetWorx

softperfect.com/products/networx/

Network bandwidth monitor

USBdlm uwe-sieber.de/usbdlm_e.html a Windows service that gives control over Windows' drive letter assignment for USB drives. 

 

   

OPTIMISATION AND DIAGNOSTICS

Active Hard Disk Monitor

www.disk-monitor.com

Checks and monitors the status of your hard drives to help prevent data loss

Antifreeze

www.resplendence.com

A quick-launch task manager, to help you avoid system lock-ups

Auslogics Disk Defrag

www.auslogics.com

Speed up your old computer by defragmenting your hard drive or partition

Auslogics Registry Defrag

www.auslogics.com

Scan through the Registry to reclaim wasted space and reduce its size

Autoruns

www.sysinternals.com

Manage start-up items quickly and easily

CCleaner

www.ccleaner.com

Cleanse your system of unused and unnecessary files

Defraggler

www.defraggler.com

A compact defragmenting tool that works on a selection of files, as well as your entire drive

DPT

www.dataproductservices.com/dpt

Dead pixel tester

Eusing Registry Cleaner

www.eusing.com

Scan your Windows Registry for invalid or obsolete information

HWMonitor

www.cpuid.com/hwmonitor.php

Hardware monitoring program reads main health sensors: voltages, temperatures, fans speed

IObit SmartDefrag 1.03'

www.iobit.com

Defrag tool for when you find your system starting to run a little slow

lolo Search and Recover 5'

www.iolo.com

Locates and restores accidentally deleted or lost files

Modem weasel analyser

www.blackice.com/DownloadForms

Reports on which COM ports have a fax modem installed

Easeus Partition Manager

www.partition-tool.com/

Excellent partitioning software for amending, resizing, deleting and merging partitions

GParted

sourceforge.net/projects/gparted/

Gnome live linux basedPartition Editor to detect and manipulate devices and partition tables

PC Tools Registry Mechanic 7''

www.pctools.com

Comprehensive Registry optimisation and tool for speeding up your computer

Process Monitor 2.02'

www.microsoftcom

Monitoring tool that shows real-time file system, Registry and process/thread activity

Recuva

www.recuva.com

Recover files that you've accidentally deleted

Revo Uninstaller 1.75

www.revouninstalleccom

Remove any unwanted application without leaving any traces on your drive

SUMo 2.3.8.64"

www.kcsoftwares.com

Update tool that will check installed software and look for updates

Total Uninstall

www.martau.com

Makes a good attempt at completely erasing an installed application

TweakVl Basic

www.totalidea.com

Tweak and optimise your internet connection

Updatestar

www.updatestar.com

Search for and download updates to your installed applications

VLite

www.vlite.net

Remove unwanted components from Vista or build a Vista lite install DVD

WinOptimizer

www.ashampoo.com

Complete suite of tools for optimising, boosting, recovering and enhancing Windows

Double Driver

www.boozet.org/dd.htm Backup and restore device drivers

 

    PORTABLE APPLICATIONS

7-Zip Portable

www.7-zip.org

Work with compressed 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2, TAR, RAR files on the go

Audacity Portable

audacity.sourceforge.net

Portable version of the popular audio editor

Clam Win Portable 0.94.1t`

portableapps.com

one of the few open source and regularly updated and supported anti-virus tools

Eraser Portable 5.82t'

portableapps.com

Make sure the files you want to delete are permanently erased from your computer

EssentiaIPIM Free Portable

www.essentialpim.com

Superb tool for taking your contact information, to-do list and diary on the road

Firefox Portable

portableapps.com

Mozilla Firefox Portable edition is a transportable version of the popular web browser

GIMP Portable 2.6.3t'

portableapps.com

Quickly edit and enhance your photos with the portable version of the image editor

Keepass

keepass.sourceforge.net

Portable version of the password manager

Miranda Portable 0.7.12t"

portableapps.com

For when you have friends on all the instant messaging services

Openoffice Portable

portableapps.com

office application suite with word processor, spreadsheet and presentation graphics

Opera USB Edition

opera-usb.com

Portable version of opera which leaves no traces of your internet session on the computer

PeaZip Portable 2.2t'

peazip.sourceforge.net

Open and create archive types, including primary formats such as ZIP, RAR and TAR

Photofiltre Portable

photofiltre.free.fr

An image and photo editor that will enable you to touch up digital photos on your laptop

Pidgin Portable 2.5.2t"

portableapps.com

Multi-network messenger application that enables you to chat with other friends

PNotes Portable 4.0.112t'

pnotes.sourceforge.net

Throw your physical stickies away and replace them with virtual equivalents

Portable Bookmarks

www.portable-bookmarks.com

Store bookmarks on any removable device, such as a USB key

Portable Start Menu

www.aignes.com

Launch applications from a USB stick or external drive

Revo Uninstaller Portable

www.revouninstaller.com

Quickly remove any trace of unwanted software installed on your computer

Roboform2Go

www.roboform.com

Generate passwords, store form information and create identities for general form-filling

Task Coach Portable

portableapps.com

Single-person solution for managing a project, or a set of projects

Thunderbird Portable

portableapps.com

Safe, fast email client that's easy to use

UL( Media Player Portable

www.videolan.org

Multimedia player that supports MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Did, MP3 and OGGSecurity

VirtualDub Portable 1.8.6t'

portableapps.com

Turn your laptop into an editing suite with this portable video-processing tool

VLC Media Player Portable

www.videolan.org

Portable multimedia player with support for MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, Did, MP3, and OGG

 

    SECURITY

Ad-Aware

www.lavasoftusa.com

identify and remove any adware or spyware components on your PC

Ashampoo Antivirus

www.pctools.com

Free anti-virus software

AVG AntiVirus Free

free.grisoft.com/

Widely used anti-virus tool

Comodo Internet Security

www.personalfirewall.comodo.com

Suite of security tools designed to protect you against the majority of online threats

Eraser

www.heidi.ie

Permanently erase sensitive data from your hard drive

Hotspot Shield 1.08'

anchorfree.com/

Keeps your internet connection secure and anonymous on public networks

Keepass

keepass.sourceforge.net

Store and manage multiple passwords easily

lolo Drive Scrubber 3.5''

www.iolo.com

Complete wipe your drive and drive contents so other users can't retrieve your data

Malicious Removal Tool

www.microsoft.com

Scan your PC for malicious software

McAfee SiteAdvisor 26.6'

www.mcafee.com

Watch the image change colour depending on a website's legitimacy status

PC Tools Antivirus

www.pctools.com

Protect your PC from viruses

PC Tools Firewall Plus

www.pctools.com

Powerful but easy-to-configure firewall software

PC Tools Spyware Doctor 6 Starter

www.pctools.com

Protection against the most nefarious cyber-threats

Sandboxie

www.sandboxie.com

Test software in a secure environment without affecting the rest of your PC

Spamihilator 0.9.9.43"

www.spamihilatoccom

works between your email client and the internet, and filters junk mail

Spybot Search and Destroy

www.safer-networking.org

Anti-spyware tool that can also shred personal information

TrueCrypt

www.truecrypt.org

Creates a strongly encrypted folder or partition

Webroot Desktop Firewall

www.webroot.com

Free, high-quality firewall application

Webroot Spy Sweeper (full)

www.webroot.com

Popular anti-spyware application

ZoneAlarm Free 8`

www.zonelabs.com

one of the best-known firewalls, partly because it's free but also because it's effective

 

Other similar lists may be found at

www.opensourcewindows.org

www.pctoptips.co.uk/software.html

www.freewareplanet.net

www.bearbottoms1.com

www.freebyte.com/

osswin.sourceforge.net

www.tinyapps.org/

www.techsupportalert.com/best_46_free_utilities.htm

www.snap2objects.com/2007/07/20/45-best-freeware-design-programs/

www.digitaldarknet.net/thelist/index.php?page=windows