Our Sweet 16 Freeware Picks
We grew up with freeware. When we first jumped on the Web over two decades ago, almost all software was freeware. Things have changed. But we still use love freeware – not just because it’s free – but because it’s good stuff. And you can’t beat the price.
We have probably left off this list a lot of good freeware that we use, and if that’s the case, then let this be a good start.
So here it is The updated list of our 16 favorite freeware programs… we call our “Sweet 16”. Most of these programs we use on our computers.
All of these programs work on Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Windows 11.
- Irfanview – A super-fast photo viewer and simple photo editor. Always one of the first things we install when we get a new computer. Sometimes the developer plays games with the installer, but there is always an option to install anything but Irfanview. If it were anything other than Irfanview it would not be on this list. Get more information about and /or download Irfanview here.
- MetaPad – It’s an oldie but a goodie. This little text editor leaves Notepad in the dust, But the next version of Windows 10 (version 1809) promises to update Notepad for the first time in over a decade – and it looks like it’s going to be good – but still not as good as MetaPad. You can get more information and download MetaPad here. Hint: You don’t want MetaPad LE – just Metapad.zip.
- LastPass – LastPass is a free password manager that works on almost any browser as well as on tablets and smartphones. If you don’t have a password manager you really should have one. You can’t go wrong with LastPass. You can read more about it and/or get it free here.
- HiBit Uninstaller – an uninstaller on steroids. HiBit is not only a great uninstaller, but a great startup manager, disk cleaner, services manager, and more. It’s a Jack-of-all-trades that has mastered most of them. You can learn more about and/or download Hibit Uninstaller here.
- Geek Uninstaller – Geek does one thing well. It’s the fastest uninstaller around. If you don’t need all the features of HiBit and you don’t want to pay for an uninstaller (or get a free one that is bundled with no-no ware), Geek Uninstaller (Free) should be on your PC. Nope, it’s not as robust as paid programs like Revo Uninstaller, but it is more than good enough to be on this list. Learn more about Geek Uninstaller and/or download the free version from here.
- FastStone Capture (the last freeware version) – The last free version of FastStone is old and doesn’t have nearly the features of the paid version, but we’ll stack the old, last free version of FastStone Capture up against any free screen capture tool around today. Read more about and/or download the last free version of FastStone Capture (version 5.2) here.
- 7-Zip – Windows users don’t need a zip utility unless they need to unzip RAR files and/or need more flexibility working with compressed (zipped files). If we had to choose one zip utility for our computers, it’s going to be 7-Zip. Visit the 7-Zip website for more information and to download it. Note: There are separate versions for 32-bit and 64-bit computers.
- AutoRuns – The all-time BEST Free startup manager – heck – it’s the best darn startup manager free or not free. But, alas, it’s not for beginners. But if you’ve been around Windows a while and you know the ropes, there is no better startup manager anywhere. If you’re not at least a moderately advanced Windows user, heed this warning: Be careful what you disable/delete with AutoRuns. Learn more about and/or get AutoRuns here.
- Privacy Badger – Not exactly an application – it’s an extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. This extension is a product of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – an agency advocating for free and unrestricted internet. Regardless of your political views, Privacy Badger is an excellent ad blocker, anti-tracker, and privacy extension. If you’re looking for a very good and thoughtfully crafted extension to block ads and increase your privacy, we think you’ll like Privacy Badger. A lot more information about Privacy Badger – and download links for Chrome, Firefox and Opera can be found here.
- VLC Media Player – Without a doubt, VLC deserves a place on your computer. It’s a master at playing all types of media files. VLC can play almost any time of audio and/or video file natively. It also deserves to be installed on your PC. It’s our default media player… if you give it a try, it will probably be yours too. Learn more about and/or download VLC Media Player here.
- Everything Search – Everything search is a free Windows search tool that can find anything on your computer almost instantly. In our tests, Everything produced great search results, and found “everything” we searched for almost instantly. In the first test, we looked for all files on my laptop with the “white.mid” in their names. Everything found, well, everything with “white.mid” in its name in the blink of an eye. If you’re looking for a faster way to search Windows, you’ll want to read more about and/or download Everything search. You’ll like it!
- FastStone Image Viewer – FastStone Image Viewer is a fast, stable, user-friendly image browser, converter, and editor. It has a nice array of features that include image viewing, management, comparison, red-eye removal, emailing, resizing, cropping, retouching, and color adjustments. Other features include a high-quality magnifier and a musical slideshow with 150+ transitional effects, as well as lossless JPEG transitions, drop shadow effects, image annotation, scanner support, histogram, and much more. Older versions of FastStone Capture can be downloaded free from the link at the end of this description. You can read more about FastStone Capture here, but only the paid version is available from that page (it’s worth the small price the author asks; we use it every day). And the last freeware version still works Read more about and/or download FastStone Image Viewer free version here.
- Puran File Recovery – Most Windows users know that when you delete a file it’s not really erased. We found an excellent free file recovery program called “Puran File Recovery”. It can recover deleted files from any storage media including hard drives, external drives, flash drives, camera cards, smartphones, etc. It’s a great program and it is very robust; it can do almost any type of file recovery you would want or need to do, including recovering data from formatted drives. Read more about Puran File Recovery and/or download it here.
- uBlock Origin –If you’re not using an ad blocker, we strongly encourage you to visit the uBlock Origin website and install the uBlock Origin extension in your browser (Chrome, MS Edge, Firefox, Opera, and Safari -prior to 13- are supported). The uBlock Origin page will automatically detect your browser and provide you with the correct download for your browser.
- Apache Open Office — One of our two top picks for free Office suites to replace Microsoft Office. The Open Office suite contains a word processing program called Writer (which is like MS Word), a spreadsheet program called Calc (which is like Excel), a multimedia presentation program called Impress (which is like PowerPoint), a database program called Base (which is like Access) and more. If you’re looking for a free replacement for Microsoft Office you’ll want to check out Apache Open Office.
- Bitwarden — Another good password manager. Bitwarden offers a very functional free version that can be used across multiple devices. LastPass is still on our “sweet 16” list, but I’ll tell you this. I’ve been a LastPass user for over ten years. And I think, generally speaking, we all like what we’ve gotten used to better than something new and different. But over time, Bitwarden has impressed me and I’m now I’m using LastPass on one of my browsers and Bitwarden on two of my browsers. And it’s easy to switch from LastPass to BitWarden. And if you decide to do so, be sure to see our tutorial here. Get more info about Bitwarden and/or download it here.