Essential free software
Superb software doesn't have to cost a fortune - thanks to open source, shareware and ad-supported projects, you can equip your Windows PC with a complete set of essential everyday programs completely free.
We've put the best free Windows software to the test and hand-picked the very best programs for your PC. These are the programs we use ourselves at home, and we hope you enjoy them as much as we do. Don't see your favorites listed? Share your recommendations in the comments below.
The best free antivirus: Avira Free Antivirus
Avira's security toolkit delivers reliable, discreet protection from malicious software
For great protection from the latest virus and malware threats, you need Avira Free Antivirus. It has a minimal impact on your system performance and offers a range of well-designed presets, plus automatic scans and threat definition updates. Just set and forget.
The best free office software: WPS Office Free
WPS gives you more productivity programs than Microsoft Office, all completely free
WPS Office Free is a great looking free office suite containing powerful tools for word processing, presentations and spreadsheets. It's fully compatible with Microsoft Office file formats, and is packed with attractive templates. Best of all, its components work just like the latest versions of Word, Powerpoint and Excel, so you'll be up and running immediately.
The best web browser: Google Chrome
Google's browser is fast, flexible and almost infinitely extendable via downloadable extensions
The browser wars are as fierce as ever, but Google Chrome takes our top spot thanks to its flexibility, stability and cross-platform support. Its integration with your Google account makes it incredibly easy to carry your favorites and bookmarks between devices, and it supports a huge archive of extensions.
The best free VPN: TunnelBear
User-friendly, fast, and with a great choice of proxy servers, TunnelBear is a name you can trust
TunnelBear makes it easy to protect your identity online and access region-blocked content. Just flick the switch, select an international proxy, and all your online activity will be re-routed.
The best free music player: MusicBee
With smart tagging and optimization, Musicbee is the ideal player, streamer and organizer
Everything you need for managing a music collection of any size, MusicBee offers smart tagging and hardware optimization for the best possible playback quality. It's also a great choice for streaming internet radio stations and enjoying your favorite podcasts.
The best free photo editor: GIMP
Make your photos look their best with the best free Photoshop alternative for Windows
The best free alternative to Adobe Photoshop, GIMP is packed with smart tools like a clone stamp, healing brush, transformations, smart selections and a host of filters – from the subtle to the creative. There are also dozens of superb user-created plugins to add even more features, and GIMP receives regular updates from its team of volunteer developers.
The best free PDF reader: Foxit Reader
Foxit Reader can read, create and convert PDFs, and boasts superb format compatibility
View, edit and create PDFs, and convert Microsoft Office files and scanned documents. Foxit Reader's superb feature set is rounded out with annotations, cloud-sharing and security options to protect you from potential security vulnerabilitites.
The best free torrent client: qBittorrent
A torrent client packed with all the tools that music, TV and movie fans could want
Fast and efficient, with a built-in search engine and media player, free torrent client qBittorrent has everything you need for quick, secure downloads. There's automatic prioritization of torrents, torrent creation and IP filtering too, and it's easy to master.
The best free YouTube downloader: Any Video Converter
Download, convert and burn clips directly from all the biggest video-sharing sites
Download videos from YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion and many more, then convert them to any audio or video format you like. Any Video Converter can also burn converted files to disc, and rip content from your own DVDs and CDs.
The best free video editor: Lightworks
Professional-quality video editing software that's within the reach of total beginners
Whether you want to make a quick adjustment to a clip recorded on your smartphone or compile high definition footage into a professional-looking movie ready to upload to Vimeo, Lightworks is the tool for you. It's very powerful, and has been used to produce real Hollywood films.
The best free anti-spyware and anti-malware software: BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition
Guard against the latest malicious software and browse the internet with confidence
Malicious software, including ransomware, is on the rise. To avoid falling victim, you need a security program you can trust. BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition offers excellent protection, and even recognizes the behavior patterns of malware so it can block threats it's never encountered before.