Before buying software for your new PC, remember that there is an abundance of useful software, free for the downloading, available on the Internet. From web browsers to word processors to graphic manipulation programs, there is plenty of software available online.

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Though most of what is available is safe and useful, it’s always a good idea to do a little research and make a backup before installing anything new. The following are some proven and reliable programs that are available, free (or gratis), for individual use (and sometimes more, check the license).

Broadly speaking, there are three types of licenses:

  • Proprietary – This is the type of license that comes with most software that is purchased. Source code is not available, and you cannot make copies for others.
  • Freeware – The software is zero cost (free), and you may share copies with others. You cannot make copies and sell them, however. The source code is usually not available.
  • Free software/Open Source – The source code is available. This means that if you know how to program, you can make and distribute variations of the program yourself, fix bugs you find, etc. You may share copies with others, and you may pay for the software on disk, or download it for free. (The “free” in “free software” refers to “free” as in “free speech”, not as in “free beer”.)

Of course, there is a lot of overlap and many exceptions to these generalizations. Be sure to check the license that comes with your software to be sure of what your rights are!


  • Web Browser: Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome/Chromium, or Opera. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is already included with Windows systems and is updated though Windows Update or manually. Microsoft Edge is included as the default browser in Windows 10.
  • E-mail Client: Windows Live Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, Novell Evolution(Mail is included in Windows 8+)
  • Office Suite: LibreOffice(If you have an Office 365 subscription , you can also download Office for Touch apps from the Windows Store)
  • Disc Tools: DVD Decrypter CD Burner XP, Burn at Once(You can burn DVD’s directly from Explorer)
  • Instant Messenger: Pidgin, Trillian, Miranda
  • Media Player: DivX Player, Nullsoft Winamp, iTunes, SnackAmp, VLC media player(Windows Media Player is included , and you may have Windows Media Center(version-dependent , not available in Windows 10) or Windows DVD Player(Windows 10 only))
  • Anti-virus: AVG Anti-Virus, Free Edition, avast!Antivirus Home edition, ClamWin(Windows Defender is included with antivirus protection in Windows 8+)
  • Security: Spybot: Search & Destroy, Ad-Aware Personal Edition, K9 Anti-Spam, ZoneAlarm Free Edition
  • Compression: 7-Zip, IZArc, TUGZip(You can compress and decompress ZIP files in Explorer)
  • Desktop Search: Google Desktop, Copernic Desktop Search(Windows includes built-in Search functionality)
  • PDF Reader: Adobe Acrobat Reader or Evince PDF Reader(Reader is included in Windows 8+)
  • Photo Editing: Paint.Net, GIMP(Paint is included in Windows)

To ease out the installation process for utilities and other basic software, you can use Ninite. Check all the software that you need and download the installation utility. However, note that this utility will only install in your Windows partition and you cannot manually specify the directories in which you want the applications installed.

You can also get many of these programs(or alternatives) from the Windows Store

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Unlike Windows, on a GNU/Linux system the majority of the software that you will want for everyday use of your computer is usually included. You will probably not need to download anything. Most GNU/Linux distributions have a package manager (Portage for Gentoo, APT for Debian-based distros like Debian and Ubuntu, etc.) For some distributions you can simply download RPM or DEB files from your distribution’s web site.

If they aren’t already installed by your distribution:

Additional Software
For additional software some excellent sources of free and open-souce software are

  • FileDoggy – Free only software and its updates with links to developers pages in one place.
  • FileHippo – Windows only software, up to the bleeding edge on all updates. Also includes links to developers pages, if you’re interested in Linux or Mac versions of software. Also has automatic updates software.
  • Tucows – a downloads site with freeware, shareware, open-source as well as commercial software. It has many mirrors all over the world for speedy downloads from local servers.
  • – similar to tucows
  • SourceForge – a site featuring many OpenSource projects. You can start your own, or get software for almost every need. Most projects have GNU and Windows versions. The mirror system isn’t as large as Tucows, but you can still usually get a mirror on the same continent.
  • Table of equivalents – can be useful if you want to know more about specific programs when changing from windows to GNU or vice-versa.

Of course, it is also possible to buy copies of software, particularly for the Windows operating system.

Earn a free Certificate of Completion for completing this course. Pass a 50-question test on this course with a score of 70 or higher and receive a certificate of completion. Visit our Computer Repair and Assembly Certificate of Completion page for more information.

The text for this course is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

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