75 best free PC software downloads from Microsoft

Fun, productive and useful programs

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44. Bing Desktop

Download 44 Games for Windows Live

If you're a massive fan of Microsoft's Bing search engine, the Bing Desktop does exactly what it says on the tin: places a Bing search box right at the heart of your desktop. It'll sit on top of all other windows – thankfully you can position it somewhere more discreet such as the top or bottom of the screen – allowing you to quickly search Bing. Click Settings to switch on inline search – this lets you run Bing queries on websites, PDF files and Word documents. Simply select some text and click the Bing search button when it appears. Other nifty features include Facebook notifications and weather forecasting.

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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 for Windows XP

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. Note that despite the name, Photo Story 3 works fine in later versions of Windows too, including Windows 8.1.

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50. Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7

Download 50 Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7

Touch Pack
Get your touch on with Microsoft Touch Tools

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.