Essential Pieces Of Free (and Open) Software for Windows

Recently, I received a fresh new PC from Dell. Upon receiving it, I did the traditional “installation of Windows from scratch” on it to remove a lot of the garbage that is pre-installed on Dells. Then I got really busy installing tons of great software that takes care of pretty much every software need I have. Not only was all of the software free, every piece of it was open source, which means that the code is peer-reviewed; no spyware here!

What follows is a list of many pieces of software that are the cream of the crop of open source software for Windows. Not only is every piece of it free, almost all of them directly replace expensive software packages.



Free and Open Software Programs Worth Downloading

Best Free Software for Personal Use

Best Free Business Software

Best Free Accounting Software

Best Free File-Sharing Software

Best Free Graphics Software

Best Free Audio/Video Software

Best Free Security & Anti-Virus Software

Best Free PC Health Monitoring Software

Free and Open Software Programs Worth Downloading



Original but essential
From their website, “BitTorrent is a peer-assisted, digital content delivery platform that provides the fastest, most efficient means of distributing, discovering, and consuming large, high-quality files on the Web. Our mission is simple: to deliver the content that entertains and informs the digital world.” In other words, BitTorrent allows you to download large media files and also use your bandwidth to help others download these files. Search for media files you want and download ’em.

VLC Media Player

Replaces Windows Media Player, Quicktime, RealPlayer, etc.
If you get tired of having tons of media players on your computer, get this package that runs pretty much every media type you’ll run across without breaking a sweat.


Replaces WinFTP
Many people occasionally have a need to FTP files to other computers; if you ever have the need to transfer files in such a fashion, FileZilla will do the job slickly and quickly.


Replaces Adobe Photoshop
This is a version of the GNU Image Manipulation Program that does a pretty solid job of imitating Adobe Photoshop – a regular user of Photoshop (like me) can adapt to it quite quickly. It’s very richly featured and runs quite well – in fact, I see no reason to ever go back, even if Photoshop were free.


Replaces Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint
If you want to replace the rest of the Office suite, your best bet is OpenOffice. It includes very nice replacements for Excel and PowerPoint (and workable replacements for Access and other Office elements). In fact, I actually prefer their Excel and PowerPoint replacements to the real thing.


Replaces Norton AntiVirus or McAfee
ClamWin is a slick anti-virus software that’s quite easy to manage and is unobtrusive while keep your system free of viruses. That’s pretty much all I want from a package, so why pay money for McAfee to keep bugging me all the time?

Best Free Software for Personal Use

Family in living room with laptop smiling

Apache OpenOffice

Replaces Microsoft Office
Apache OpenOffice provides word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, a formula editor, and database management applications, all of which generally offer the same functionalities and features as MS Office.

Google Chrome

Replaces Internet Explorer
Google Chrome isn’t an open source software but it’s a viable alternative to Firefox (if that isn’t your thing). It’s free, fast, and efficient — and comes with an abundance of add-ons so you can customize it to your liking. There’s even an option to open an incognito window, which doesn’t save your cache or browser history if prefer to keep things more private at home or in the office.

Best Free Business Software



Replaces Microsoft Windows Notepad
Notepad++’s minimalist, user-friendly style is pleasant to use and comes with features such as multi-view, multiple tabs for separate documents, word auto completion, zoom functions, and bookmarking. On top of that, their systems minimize carbon dioxide emissions by using less CPU power!


With Greenshot, you can take full or partial screenshots and add text and shapes to it so your colleagues quickly understand what you’re visually describing. Greenshot supports several image formats.


With 7-Zip, you are able to zip files up into smaller sizes to transfer across networks and skype. Vary useful for large files and video files.

Best Free Accounting Software


TurboCASH 5

Replaces Quicken
TurboCASH 5 is a small-business accounting package that includes such functions as invoicing, debtors, creditors, VAT accounting, balance sheet and income statements, and reporting. It’s accessible to multiple users and companies.


Replaces Microsoft Money or Quicken
GnuCash is a slimmed-down version of the bloated Microsoft Money and Quicken packages, but it contains all of the essential features for managing money. The interfaces are incredibly simple — it functions much like a checkbook ledger on your computer — but there’s a lot of meat hidden throughout the software.

Best Free File-Sharing Software


Ares Galaxy

Replaces BitTorrent
Ares Galaxy is a BitTorrent and chat software program with an easily accessible interface and a built-in audio/video viewer. You can share any types of digital file and publish your them through their own peer-to-peer network.


Replaces BitTorrent
eMule is a peer-to-peer file-sharing client that includes robust search features, checks for file corruptions during downloads, and previews of downloads.


Replaces BitTorrent
Tribler enables its users to discover and share video, audio, photos, and other files.

Microsoft OneDrive

Very Useful
Microsoft OneDrive allows users to share video, audio, photos, and other files to all of their own devices and other people.


Very Useful
GoogleDrive allows users to share video, audio, photos, and other files to all of their own devices and other people.

Best Free Graphics Software

Graphic Designer At Work. Color Samples.


Replaces Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the most popular free alternative to Photoshop. It is known for its versatility, as you can use it as a simple Paint program or for more sophisticated capabilities, such as photo retouching, layering image rendering, and format conversion.

Blender 3D

Replaces Maya, 3DSMax
Blender is a 3D graphics-creation program that enables you to perform animation, modeling, rendering, post-production, real-time interactive 3D, and much more.


Replaces Microsoft Visio
Very similar to Visio, you can use Dia to create a wide variety of diagrams, such as flowcharts and relationship charts. You can save your pieces to an XML format and export them to EPS or SVG formats.


Replaces Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw
Inkscape is a vector graphics editor that includes features such as shapes, paths, markers, clones, text, gradients, and patterns while supporting functionalities such as layers, node editing, bitmap tracing, and more. You can import JPEG, TIFF, and PNG files and export as PNG or other vector-based formats.


Replaces PageMaker, InDesign, QuarkXPress
Scribus, a desktop publishing application, supports many major graphic formats as well as SVG import and export.

Best Free Audio/Video Software


VLC Media Player

VLC is a fast and powerful multimedia player that supports various audio and video formats, including but not limited to MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, and MP3, as well as DVDs and VCDs. It plays almost any file, CD, DVD, webcams, and other devices.


SMPlayer is a free media player with the added ability to play and download YouTube videos. On top of that, if you’re the type not to sit and commit to an entire movie, SMPlayer will simply replay where you left off, which is perfect for busy folks.


Unique but essential
Handbrake enables you to stick a DVD in your DVD drive and have the contents of that film stored to your hard drive in a form that can be read by pretty much any media player. This is awesome for travel since you can store all your movies in your laptop instead of carrying around DVDs.


Unique but essential (for some)
If you’re interested in recording your own podcast (or just want to make your own voice recordings for whatever reason), Audacity and a microphone are pretty much all you need to get the job done. Audacity is also very useful for other voice recording purposes.

Media Player Classic

Media Player Classic plays a wide swath of audio and video formats, including MPEG/MPEG-2/MPEG-4, DivX, Xvid, and CD/VCD/DVD media.

Ashampoo Burning Studio

Useful and my favourite
Ashampoo Burning Studio Free is a no-nonsense performer that not only burns data, music, and video discs but also copies and rips discs, backs up and restores data, creates disc images, and erases rewritable discs. New features in version 1.14.5 include more powerful tools, multidisc file backup and restore, an integrated Audio CD ripper that creates high-quality WMA or WAV files, and verification without ejecting the disc in supported drives.

Best Free Security & Anti-Virus Software

Personally I have always believed you pay for what you get, but if you do not have the money below are good free software to use.

I use a security software call Webroot (Internet security complete version)
which is a yearly paid subscription, but i look around for deals on it with multiple license for more PCs on same license.  However be careful when you subscribe though their website as they automatically charge you each year for you licenses, so cancel the subscription 3 weeks early before they take the next years payment from your bank account or credit card.

KeePass Password Safe

KeePass is a lightweight and intuitive password manager for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and mobile devices. Your passwords are kept safe in an encrypted database, which you can quickly access with a master password.


Replaces BitLocker
TrueCrypt enables you to convert a memory stick into a strongly encrypted data storage device, meaning that you can store personal data on it without worrying about losing it and having personal information get out and about.

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

Replaces Norton Antivirus
You can hardly tell Bitdefender is running, as it works quietly but efficiently. It’s excellent at blocking and removing malware as well as protecting your computer from phishing.

Best Free Software for Health Monitoring



HealthMonitor enables you to keep an eye on the health of your computer. It identifies slowdowns and other system issues quickly and lets you know (for example, it gives a popup if your system memory gets to a certain percentage of fullness, or if your hard drive has only 10 GB free). This can keep you out of trouble and also give you clues to problems your machine might be having.

Process Monitor

Process Monitor is an advanced monitoring tool for Windows that shows real-time file system, Registry and process/thread activity. It combines the features of two legacy Sysinternals utilities, Filemon and Regmon, and adds an extensive list of enhancements including rich and non-destructive filtering, comprehensive event properties such session IDs and user names, reliable process information, full thread stacks with integrated symbol support for each operation, simultaneous logging to a file, and much more. Its uniquely powerful features will make Process Monitor a core utility in your system troubleshooting and malware hunting toolkit.

Network Monitor

Network Monitor 3.4 is the archive versioned tool for network traffic capture and protocol analysis. Download Microsoft Message Analyzer for updated parser support.


Fiddler is a proxy server, logging and modifying connections between your computer and the Internet over HTTP. Each process that Fiddler manages is available in a table from the main interface.
The statistics tab of Fiddler displays a summary of all of the objects selected while a pie chart displays the types of data connections to a web site.
With Fiddler, you can also modify HTTP traffic and inspect elements of the connection. The possibility also exists to decode HTTPS requests.


Wireshark is a network protocol analyzer, and is the standard in many industries. It is the continuation of a project that started in 1998. Hundreds of developers around the world have contributed to it, and it is still under active development. Read or write many different capture file formats: tcpdump (libpcap), Catapult DCT2000, Cisco Secure IDS iplog, Microsoft Network Monitor, NAI Sniffer (compressed and uncompressed), Sniffer Pro, and NetXray, Network Instruments Observer, Novell LANalyzer, RADCOM WAN or LAN Analyzer, Shomiti or Finisar Surveyor, Tektronix K12xx, Visual Networks Visual UpTime, and WildPackets EtherPeek,TokenPeek, or AiroPeek.

Broadband Speed Test website

Ookla Broadband Speed test website is one of the official test sites that Broadband companies like virgin Media use to test Broadband speed if your pc is slow with internet connection. You do not need to download software, just press “Begin Test” and watch for 1 minute the website collect the information for download and upload speed. Very useful for when Skype or downloads are running very slow to know if Internet speed is the issue.  There is all an app with the same name “Ookla” to test through your mobile phone.


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