Before the world said, “There’s an app for that,” it said, “there’s free software for that.”
OK, maybe no one really said that. They didn’t need to. They were busy doing cool things with the free software they’d installed. From fix-its to system monitors to data backups, there’s a wealth of free software. Of course, if you download it all, you might need something like recuva, for data recovery.
Here’s nine essential programs we found. After all, what’s the coolest hardware without a good suite of (free) software?
For an operating system
With a sleek, intuitive interface, Ubuntu feels like the future. It has the speed and security you’d hope for, and thousands of applications for customization. Firewall and virus protection are built-in, with quick, automatic updates available. It’s especially speedy on new enabled devices.
This browser can cook. Meaning, it’s really fast, and the security is tight. In true Google fashion, it includes instant site prediction and loading. The extensions are plentiful, useful and innovative, and can be synced to other devices. The integrated Flash player and PDF reader are definite plusses.
Fresh and minimalist in design, Firefox is a fast web browser with customization potential. It supports HTML5, and is quite secure. You can sync your extensions, history, passwords, and tabs. An integrated PDF viewer is a nice touch, as is the Do Not Track option to keep surfing data from advertisers.
Some even consider Foxit superior to popular Adobe Reader, especially with the 5.0 update, including tabbed PDF viewing. The new version comes with an upgraded interface. Beware numerous opt-ins and opt-outs as you install Foxit. Choose your color scheme and customize your toolbar and shortcuts.
For system health
This comprehensive dashboard covers the hard-disk, solid-state and several external drives on your system, in an efficient, user-friendly display. It’ll warn you of possible trouble, in an unobtrusive position atop your window. Check details of your current firmware versions with the click of any drive’s icon.
It’s a unique concept: Soluto checks out your system, and then confers with an online database for answers to performance roadblocks. It specializes in startup-time reduction, web-browser optimization, and crash remedies. Soluto tells you what to boot, and what to skip, and its data base grows all the time.
How much disk space do you use? This program shows you visually your hard-drive usage. Local devices can also be examined, and, in about 10 minutes, you’ll get a color-coded rendition of your files. Your most memory-gluttonous files will show blue, followed by red, then green. Where can you save space?
For virus protection
AVG Free Antivirus
Updates in 2013 have tightened up this program, including a new interface optimized for Windows 8. It’s quick from download to first use (5 minutes), and has a slimmer presence (from 100MB to 33MB) than before. The Do Not Track feature works only if you opt in for the AVG toolbar.
Undeleting, made easy. Recuva allows you to securely delete, if you’re absolutely sure. Take the portable rendition of Recuva on a USB stick. For-pay alternatives might be more comprehensive, but for free, it does a great job.
The pleasant interface and easy-to-use navigation are perfect for stressful moments when you wonder if your data can be retrieved, or is lost forever.