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.
18. OneNote for Windows 8
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, customised formatting and so on; organise 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.
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, encyclopaedia 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.
Too many open windows? Desktops enables you to organise 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 taskbar.
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.
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.
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.
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.
25. Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer
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.
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.