There was once a time when the world of web browsing was ruled by Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Those days are fast becoming ancient history thanks to the veritable smorgasboard of browsers out there catering to everyone's habits
On the whole browsers are completely free and offer a similar experience in that they find web pages and deliver them as quickly as possible. In addition to the regular suspects of Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Opera there are plenty of new browsers ready to bring new perspective including Torch, Tor, Web Freer and various others.
To find you the best browsing experience we've gone through the list with a fine tooth comb and picked out what we think are the five best free browsers for Windows PC users in the world right now.
Constant updates, add-ons and high performance across all platforms, especially Windows PCs, makes Mozilla Firefox one of the most popular web browsers on the planet. Its intuitive interface lends itself to beginners whereas the high level of customisation makes sure that advanced users are kept on their toes.
Tabbed browsing is at its heart and the add-ons is where Firefox really comes into its own by offering all kinds of ways to tinker with the browsing experience. Security is kept at an exceedingly high level thanks to the slew of updates that are always being worked on and a speed test last year showed that it is only second to Internet Explorer for speed.
Windows versions going all the way back to 95 can still use versions of Firefox yet the latest stable version (35.0.1 at the time of writing) are only available for XP Service Pack 2, Server 2003 SP1 or later versions. As for the future, stable builds are on the way all the time and for HTML5 it is just bested by Google Chrome and Opera, thus making its features exceedingly hard for any other browser to beat.
Battling it out at the top of the browsing ranks is Google Chrome and for users plugged into the Google ecosystem it's quite simply a joy to behold.
It offers a cross-platform browsing experience that is second-to-none in terms of syncing information but to the run-of-the-mill Windows PC user it won't matter that this option is available. Like Firefox, Chrome comes with a wide array of apps and add-ons from the Chrome Store that add a considerable amount to the browsing experience and one area that it does even better than Firefox is the HTML5 loading speed that is at a higher level than any other Windows browser.
Chrome only runs on Windows XP SP2 or later and with support for XP disappearing in April 2015 it will be one of those browsers of of reach of those running older versions of the world's most popular OS.
In all honesty it's very hard to choose between Firefox and Chrome as they're both similar in what they offer to the end user so pick whichever you like the look of.
Blink and you might miss Microsoft's age-old browser as it'll soon be superseded by Spartan in Windows 10 but for now Internet Explorer is the place to go for those wanting Microsoft's own browsing experience.
Microsoft's web browser has changed with the times and embraced a tabbed browsing look that is similar to all the other browsers around and the newest version, in looks especially, takes it cues from the live tiles that are a major feature of Windows. There are less add-ons available for IE when compared to those on offer for Firefox and Chrome with most for IE limited to widgets that make it easier to reach certain sites or services. It's also far behind Firefox, Chrome and Opera where HTML5 loading speed is concerned.
Where it does have a significant leg up is the sheer number of versions that exist and thus gives a chance for all users of Windows to still have access to what is one of the top browsers around.
One of the newest browsers on the top table is Opera with a speedy experience and various little extras that make it a credible rival to the big three Windows PC browsers. Yet again you'll notice the tabbed browsing experience that feel rather squared compared with Firefox and Chrome, and closer to IE in terms of looks. Although the similarities to IE end there.
Its extra features make it stand out and none more so than the Turbo mode. Opera's shot of NOS speeds up page loading times by compressing pages by up to 80 per cent and it is a god send for anyone with a sluggish connection. Although we're not sure whether Opera's claim that it will make a dial-up connection resemble a broadband line, it certainly does make it a lot quicker to get on to certain pages.
Speed dial is another added extra that enables you to add your favourite sites as large icons to the start screen, however, most other browsers now have a similar version of this available and the same can be said for the add-ons that are also elsewhere.
Sick of having to download apps or an add-on everything you do anything online? Torch is a Chrome-based browser that comes with a range of nifty tools already built-in to prevent you having to continually find add-ons.
Torch looks exactly the same as Chrome interface-wise, although that's where the comparison ends as there's so much more you can do from the get-go including the ability to download torrents and grab media straight from pages. There's also dedicated tabs for music, which clicks in to YouTube to deliver a polished Spotify-esque experience, and games are laid out as app tiles and can be played from right inside the browser.
In addition there are custom home and search page backdrops that come with the time in the top left corner and options for all manner of different wallpapers that can be accessed by selecting the menu in the top right corner.
It displays the same lightning quick HTML5 speeds as Google Chrome and Torch is an excellent alternative for anyone looking to a browser that breaks away from the norm.