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10 essential free Windows 10 apps

The best free apps for Windows 10

(Image: © Polarr; Shutterstock)
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Why spend a whole lot of money when the best free apps for Windows 10 can do the job just as well? There’s a raft of PC applications and software out there created by enterprising individuals and organizations that are completely gratis, and they are just as up to task as their paid-for counterparts. 

Open source communities also roll out their own free stuff that are just as functional. These applications may be rougher around the edges owing to the many-cooks approach to development. However, they also come with their own advantages. On top of that guarantee that your software is going to stay free, they might come with experimental features that those in the commercial market might hold back on or are designed for a niche that commercial developers can’t profit from.

There’s a swathe of options out there, and we’ve found the best free apps for Windows 10, doing our best to dodge anything too feature-light. Make no mistake; none of the apps on this list are mere samplings of the goods that attempt to get you hooked enough to buy the real thing. These are the real full-fledged stuff that is cost-free to you.

Here are the best free apps for windows 10 of 2021.


The best free photo editor for Windows 10: Polarr (Image credit: Polarr; Shutterstock)

1. Photo Editing: Polarr

Polarr (opens in new tab) has crept up on us over the past few years, but since it made the jump from mobile to PC app, it’s proved to be one of the coolest and most capable photo-tweaking tools available, paid or not. 

Alternatively: Adobe Photoshop Express (opens in new tab)

2. Music making: Cakewalk

Originally a DOS sequencer launched in 1987 and coming to Windows in 1991, Cakewalk (opens in new tab) recently came under new ownership and is back from the dead – those new owners decided the app was best given to the world for free. 

Pro-level recording, all the tools you need to mix and master tracks, not to mention a host of software instruments and effects. 

Alternatively: Ardour (opens in new tab)

3. Audio editing: Audacity

Audacity (opens in new tab) almost annoys us: we’re absolutely desperate to recommend something different in this slot, but there’s still nothing else that can hold a candle to it for audio cutting or tweaking. It’s a tool that everyone should have installed at all times.

Alternatively: Ocenaudio (opens in new tab)


The best free video editor for Windows 10: Shotcut (Image credit: Meltytech LLC)

4. Video editing: Shotcut

Shotcut (opens in new tab) has been carving out its own niche in the video-editing world, and while it’s still catching up to the big boys, it’s also entirely free – no surprises, no restrictions. 

Unless you look on the Microsoft Store, where it’s inexplicably paid-for. Don’t do that.

Alternatively: OpenShot (opens in new tab)

5. Notes: Notepad++

There’s a whole lot of contextual formatting in Notepad++ (opens in new tab) (it is, after all, made for sketching code in all manner of languages), but it’s just as much a straightforward and capable alternative to Microsoft’s Notepad. And that’s a good thing. 

Alternatively: Atom (opens in new tab)


The best free office software for Windows 10: LibreOffice (Image credit: Open Document Foundation)

6. Office: LibreOffice

Pretty much a free equivalent to Microsoft Office, and compatible with the same file formats, LibreOffice (opens in new tab) is a non-paid essential. It even does more: There’s a full database and a complex formula editor included. 

Alternatively: Apache OpenOffice (opens in new tab)

7. Disk rescue: TestDisk

Whole drive letting you down? Mechanical disk giving you the click of death? TestDisk (opens in new tab) can ignore all the usual safeguards and filesystems in order to wade through the raw data, sector by sector, giving you one last chance to rescue your files.

Alternatively: Paragon Rescue Kit (opens in new tab)

8. File manager: Tablacus

Quite why Windows Explorer doesn’t have tabs in 2019 we don’t know, but Tablacus (opens in new tab) solves that problem: It’s a file manager that, yes, includes tabs. It also lets you tile folders in panes, and disable any components you don’t need. 

Alternatively: XYplorer (opens in new tab)

9. Backup: Cobian Backup

Cobian Backup (opens in new tab) is one of the most capable free backup packages there is. Send your files off to an external drive, send them to a network location, send them to an FTP server: whatever works. 

Alternatively: EaseUS Todo Backup (opens in new tab)


The best free system cleaner for Windows 10: CCleaner (Image credit: Piriform)

10. System cleaner: CCleaner

CCleaner (opens in new tab) does all those long, laborious clean-up tasks in one place. You can either run a selective scrubbing job, or set up a batch job to deal with everything at once. Just be wary of the pop-ups. 

Alternatively: Advanced System Optimizer (opens in new tab)