Top 10 free PC programs everyone should have

Updated: 08/31/2020 by Computer Hope
Free spelled out using keyboard keys on a keyboard.

There are millions of free and open source projects available, many of them better than any commercially available product. Below is a short listing of what we think are the best out there, broken down into ten categories.

Antivirus and malware protection

Most PC users realize that they need protection on their computer or may have already have an antivirus program installed. What most don't realize is there are free programs that are as good and in some cases better than the commercial products. Below are our recommendations.

Antivirus program: Microsoft Defender Antivirus

Malware and Spyware protection: Malwarebytes

Backup solutions

Several free and commercially available backup programs are available for computers. Unfortunately, many of those backups are stored locally, meaning if your house got destroyed or robbed, or if you lost your backup discs, all your data would be lost. To avoid loss of important data, we suggest using online backup services.

Online backup solution: Dropbox or Google Drive


Although Microsoft Internet Explorer or Edge comes pre-installed on Windows computers, there are many excellent free alternatives that everyone should try. These free alternatives can often be faster, have more options, and in many cases be more secure than Internet Explorer.

Internet Browser: Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome

Compression utility

When downloading files on the Internet, you eventually encounter a .zip, .rar, or another compressed file. Dealing with these files can be easy using a free file compression utility.

File compression utility: 7-Zip

Disc ripper and creation utility

Creating an audio or data CD/DVD, ripping the data from an audio CD, or creating a CD from a .ISO can be done freely using our below free recommendation.

CD burner utility: CDBurnerXP


E-mail is yet another service that can be done freely. Most users today use online e-mail solutions like the one listed below. However, for those still using an e-mail client such as Microsoft Outlook we strongly suggest one or both of the below suggestions.

E-mail client: Mozilla Thunderbird

Online e-mail: Gmail

FTP, SFTP, and SSH utility

Users who maintain a web page or need to upload or download files need to use an FTP utility or an SSH client. There are many commercial programs capable of doing this but our below free recommendations beats them all.

FTP client: Filezilla

SSH client: MobaXterm and Putty

Image editor, paint program, and picture organizer

There are many great free solutions for editing, creating, and organizing your images on your computer. Many of the programs capable of doing these tasks can be several hundred dollars, but all of the below programs are completely free.

Image editor: GIMP

Paint program:

Picture organizer: Google Photos


Several multimedia programs with different capabilities and limitations are available today. Below are our top free multimedia programs for watching video files and recording audio.

Audio editing and creating tool: Audacity

Video and DVD Player: VLC and MPC-HC

Office Suite

Microsoft Office is powerful software, and standard across several industries. However, there are free options that offer almost the same capabilities, and are compatible with Office documents.

Office suite: LibreOffice

Text and source code editing

Microsoft Windows comes with a simple text editor, Notepad. However, it offers only the basic text editing functions. For advanced text file editing, including editing source code, the free program Notepad++ offers top-notch features and performance, at no cost.

Text and source code editor: Notepad++