If you’re like most Windows users, then you’re currently using Windows 7.
Despite Microsoft’s best wishes and goals, nobody is really using Windows 8 yet. And that means when I write an article about the best free software programs for Windows 7, you’re probably going to read it.
Without further ado, here are the 10 best free software programs we consider essential for Windows 7:
10) VLC Media Player
A decade ago, the media playback landscape was a woeful, unfortunate place.
Playing a DVD on your PC was a nightmare of codec issues and compatibility problems. Lord help you if Windows Media Player or DivX couldn’t play your media file. You’d end up browsing through shady codec websites being prompted to pay $50 for codecs you’d only use once.
Fortunately, VLC took a different approach: VLC basically stole all those audio and video codecs and gave away its media playback software for free. It cured media playback woes overnight. Today, VLC rightfully holds its place on the throne of Windows media tools.
9) Chrome or Firefox
Internet Explorer has gotten a lot better in recent versions. Microsoft finally got around to releasing Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7. That’s great – but many people still prefer Chrome or Firefox.
Both Chrome and Firefox have an extensive list of themes and features available. Chrome is also the ideal choice for Android users.
Download either one of these browsers, both of which tend to be faster and more secure than Internet Explorer.
8) Ninite application
Ninite is a website. More specifically, it’s a website that downloads an application onto your computer.
This free application will blow your mind. First, you go to Ninite.com and check off the boxes of all the free applications you want to download. Many of the applications featured on Ninite are also on this list. Chrome, Firefox, Skype, and iTunes can all be checked off – but there are dozens more.
Once you’ve checked off all the applications you want (they’re all free and legal), you simply click the ‘Get Installer’ button to download an installing application onto your PC.
Run that installer, then click through all of the confirmation windows as all your programs are installed. Instead of having to manually visit each software developer’s website, you can download all these programs in a single click with Ninite. It’s awesome.
7) Dropbox or Google Drive
Dropbox was the first good cloud storage platform. Today, Dropbox is being copied by a bunch of different competitors – including Google Drive – but it’s still one of the best services out there today.
Dropbox offers 5GB of free storage space. Google Drive offers 15GB. Other cloud storage services offer similar free limits. Download either one and you’ll get a magic folder on your desktop that syncs across all your smartphones, tablets, and computers.
6) AVG or any other antivirus program
There are dozens of good free antivirus programs out there, and they all offer the same basic protection.
You don’t have to subscribe to any of them. Instead, just download the free versions of popular antivirus software like AVG, Avast, or MalwareBytes. These free versions should be able to identify and eliminate most viruses. If some viruses get left behind, then try PC Cleaner Pro or CCleaner.
Ultimately, you don’t have to have antivirus software on your computer. But it’s always a good idea.
5) Adobe Reader
Adobe Reader is the most popular document processing application on Windows. It’s not perfect and it has been exploited many, many times. However, it’s what we all use to view PDFs – so you better learn to love it.
Whether you’re trying to read a map of the London Underground or you’re reading free e-books online, Adobe Reader has got your back.
You don’t have to be a PC gamer to install Steam. Steam is one of the best software programs available for PC today. The first and most obvious reason are the Steam Summer and Winter Sales (and Thanksgiving Sales, and Spring Break sales, etc.)
Whether your computer is capable of running Battlefield 4 or just lower-end games, Steam is a must-have download for anyone who appreciates playing the occasional PC game.
3) PC Cleaner Pro
Yes, we’ll toot our own horn on this one. PC Cleaner Pro is the only program on this list that cleans your registry – something that is essential for maintaining performance on Windows PCs.
Additionally, PC Cleaner Pro is one of the few software programs that provides a free trial and lets you actually see which problems your computer has right now.
One simple scan often reveals hundreds of issues. What are you waiting for? With PC Cleaner Pro, you can speed up your PC for free and enjoy buttery smooth performance.
7-Zip is everything WinRAR should be: it’s small and extremely versatile. It’s rare that I run into a file that can’t be unzipped using 7-Zip.
Whether you’re trying to compress folders or extract them, 7-Zip is an excellent option. Download it today and enjoy living free of the guilt that comes with using WinRAR’s free trial past its 30 day expiry.
CCleaner is probably my favorite free PC program. With CCleaner, you can instantly erase dozens of gigabytes of harmful, unnecessary files from your computer.
It works perfectly in conjunction with PC Cleaner Pro. The two software programs tackle different parts of your hard drive, giving your computer a thorough cleaning.
CCleaner is particularly good for permanently erasing data on your system and obfuscating that data – making it difficult for someone to recover parts of your hard drive you don’t want them to recover.
Most people, however, just use CCleaner to erase temporary internet files and Windows application extensions they no longer need or use.
In any case, I’ve been able to wipe out dozens of gigabytes of information with a single CCleaner scan. It’s awesome.