Read our Top Tips for Gmail. Thunderbird Mozilla's email client extraordinaire still has all the features that made it great even years ago: account setup wizards, multiple languages, hundreds of add-ons, a tabbed interface, great search, junk mail and phishing tools, and the option for a personalized email address with your own choice of a domain name. Migration from previous versions is a breeze and worth it if you're on the desktop.
Stick SPAMfigher on the system—it works directly with Microsoft to make it as tough against spam as possible. The Windows version is totally free for home use. Recuva Recuva say it out loud is a must on the tool belt of any techie, as it'll be key to helping some wayward soul get back a lost file. It's easy to understand, though should really be installed before you lose a file for utmost effectiveness.
It's portable, so you have the option to run it from a USB thumb drive thus not overwriting that lost file on your drive by installing Recuva at the last minute. Read our review of Recuva. TestDisk TestDisk does a lot more than just find some lost files. It can recover an entire lost hard drive partition, and makes what was once a non-bootable disk drive bootable again.
It's open source so it might not have as fancy a user interface as you're used to—but it's powerful.
Companion tool PhotoRec specializes in recovering lost images. For more, read How to Recover Deleted Files. Eraser The opposite of file recovery is utter destruction—the kind of thing you do to keep a file out of someone else's hands. Eraser does just that, writing over the spot on your drive where the file s lived until it's scrubbed clean, with no chance of it coming back to haunt you.
Use it to schedule a wipe of the free space on the disk, or just to purge your recycle bin. During setup you get the option to install an extension for Windows Explorer so you can wipe files or free space instantly.
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Filezilla The former computer-science project is now one of the best standalone file transfer protocol FTP clients around. It's a must-have for website owner who transfer a lot of files to a server, fast. It comes in a client and Windows-only server option. Teracopy Windows copies files between folders and drives just fine. It's also had some security problems in the past, so caveat emptor. Multi Commander There are many, many attempts out there to replace Windows Explorer a file manager marinating in weak sauce. Multi Commander stands out, providing multiple tabs, a file viewer, and dual panels to efficiently show you everything.
Maybe too much! It's got more features than can be covered here. FreeCommander Another file manager with the rank of Commander, this time with "free" right in the name: FreeCommander which is actually donation-ware also throws up dual panels and tabs with an optional tree view to get the most out of viewing files within Windows. They have different extensions, from RAR to ZIP to 7z and many more, and sometimes the program to open them costs you.
Not 7-Zip. It opens all of those and more, and allows creation of new archives. It'll even encrypt the contents for safety. It's entirely open source. Grab the free ImgBurn tool. It makes it a breeze to not only read an image file but also create an image or write the image to a disc or drive.
It comes in multiple languages and lists all the drives with which it's compatible. It works on all versions of Windows. IrfanView IrfanView pronounced ear-fan-view has been the leader in file viewing for over two decades. Not only does it view multiple file types, it can convert them, batch process changes, even play media. Plug-ins and add-ons give it even more power.
XnView MP With an enhanced version that works across platforms, XnView MP actually has multiple uses, like batch file conversion and support for image formats it can export 70 of them. It's only free for private or educational use. FastStone Image Viewer View, manage, and compare your images with this fast and intuitive freebie.
It supports a slew of image formats, plus a ton of RAW image formats from specific digital camera manufacturers. It has companion apps for screenshots and photo resizing. Nothing is as powerful, but at this price—utterly free—it is pretty close. For any minor and some major picture manipulation, it's fast, comprehensive, and easy to use. It has all the high-end tools you could want for playing with graphics and, naturally, costs a lot less than Photoshop; percent less, in fact. Inkscape Vector graphics illustration tools typically cost a lot but not Inkscape. You'll be designing, drawing, and shaping gorgeous SVG formatted files in no time with this tool.
Check the online gallery for excellent examples of its capabilities. Icecream Image Resizer Icecream Apps has a lot of nice programs, but the most useful for designers with a batch of graphics that need a quick resize is the aptly named Image Resizer. Drag images to it, pick a size and a destination folder, and they'll be converted in an eye-blink.
Pixlr X Snapped up by the owners of the rf stock photo agency, Pixlr's gone through a change. The Pixlr Editor is still available to give you Photoshop-like tools in the web browser—but it requires Adobe Flash, and no one wants to turn that back on. Instead, the new Pixlr X is here, a "next generation" online photo editor for making quick adjustments and retouches to a photo when more advanced tools aren't available. Every change is automatically saved and it also works directly with Dropbox.
Adobe Photoshop Express When you don't need the full strength of Photoshop, but still want Adobe in your arsenal, the low-end, consumer-oriented Express is there to help you with basics of image editing. It'll auto-fix a lot in your images, plus has photo filters and, of course, in-app purchases to extend functions.
For Windows, you'll find it in the Microsoft Store. Read our review of Photoshop Express for Windows and iPhone. Google Earth Pro As if high-end software that lets you fly across the globe isn't cool enough especially with all the same online features of its sibling, Google Maps , Google Earth Pro—with its advanced features, like high-res printing, distance measuring, and global guided tours—is totally free.
It also comes in a web-only version now. On the web, it comes complete with search, integrated ratings from Yelp and TripAdvisor, and more. Windows Maps in the Microsoft Store is the desktop program equivalent; if you have Windows 10, it's probably already installed. Read our review of Spotify and Top Spotify Tips. MediaMonkey Sick of iTunes?
Tell us in the comments if we missed your absolute favorite piece of free software. Kodi Raspberry Pi Kodi has become the open-source serious media center. Software can be expensive if you're not smart about it. Screencast-o-Matic This app launches right in the browser for Windows or Mac or Chromebook users to get started making screen-vids that up to 15 minutes long. The real work and a lot of the play of computing requires a full personal computer system. VideoStream supports subtitles and a wide variety of video formats at full p resolutions.
We all are even Apple. MediaMonkey provides almost all the same media management, playlists, and tagging capabilities as Apple's bloatware—and even syncs media with your iOS-based devices. The Android app version means other phones are also covered. It'll even sync over Wi-Fi Android only. Foobar Remember WinAmp? Foobar remains the modern equivalent, a desktop audio player with a concentration on quality. It's unique in a world of online-radio services in that way. It's also worth it if you're an audiophile with big sound files or just use CDs.
Already a premier way to watch just about any video, ever, no matter what the weird codec, the latest has features like auto-rotating smartphone videos taken at the wrong orientation, and resuming playback from where you stopped. Seriously, VLC plays back anything and guarantees it comes with no ads, tracking, or spyware. Kodi Raspberry Pi Kodi has become the open-source serious media center.
Run the software in one place and stream all your media you bring the content to other devices.
It's all about content, so it's the best option in many ways for a home media center. Install it on all your devices, point it at some media, and those audio and video files become available on everything. Even remotely over the internet. Read our review of Plex.
Discord Over million users and counting are using Discord for text and voice and video chatting—mainly while kicking each other's asses in online games. It's such a big deal with gamers, Discord even launched a game store to compete with Steam. Maybe because Steam also has a chat option. Telegram One of the new class of messaging services with an ecosystems of apps, Telegram delivers not only easy communications, but also encryption security end-to-end.
It's a standout on iPhone, and has native apps on just about every platform available. Send messages, files, photos, animated GIFs the search is built in , and create channels of up to 5, people to broadcast to. Read our review of Telegram Messenger for iPhone.
Signal Our favorite messaging service takes security seriously—it's Snowden-approved! It's not as much fun as some of the others, but supports sending photos and video, plus group messaging. On Android, Signal can completely replace the SMS texting app; on iPhone you need to get other users to download Signal or you can't talk to them. WhatsApp It's not super popular in the US and not even our favorite messaging app, but you can't ignore the pound messaging gorilla that is WhatsApp.
It has over 1. It offers end-to-end encryption, has animated GIF support , group chat for up to people, document sharing, voice and video calls, one-tap voice messages, and a web-based interface you access by scanning a QR code with the app on your mobile device. You can add a service multiple times if you have multiple accounts.
Axence NetTools This set of 10 Windows tools will keep an eye on the network. Wireshark Network pros who need a protocol analyzer and packet sniffer should add Wireshark to their tool box.
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It captures data that can tell you plenty about your network. Evernote Evernote has one use: be your online repository for everything. Scan it, shoot it, type it, whatever, just put it in Evernote to find later. Most text, even in pictures, is OCRed optical character recognition so it's searchable later. Organize the notes into Notebooks, then access it anywhere. Despite some severe ups and downs in its business model, it remains our Editors' Choice for note-taking apps on multiple platforms—even if you can only use two devices plus the Web interface for free.
Microsoft OneNote Once just a part of Microsoft Office, the sublime OneNote has become a free, standalone powerhouse download for note-taking across all the major OSes. Of course, it still works with Office, syncs data across all platforms, and has full online access via Office. Read our review of OneNote for Mac and Web. Google Keep The most basic of online note-taking tools, Google's attempt is like advanced, customizable, high-end sticky notes you keep online. Here are a few reasons you might want to check it out. Read our review of Google Keep.
Its multiple tabs, color-coded nest text, macro support, and WYSIWYG printing make it a must for anyone who hand-codes text for programming, or just wants to write with a minimalist interface. Simplenote Notes created in this simple but powerful app are automatically stored online you need a Simplenote account to use it. Multiple versions of notes are saved when changes are made, in case you need an old copy.
It supports markdown for formatting text a little better, but best of all works with a lot of top-flight downloadable desktop note-taking tools like ResophNotes for Windows and Notational Velocity for the Mac. Google Drive Google Drive has morphed over the years to become the official place where you store your cloud files for use with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides Drive's online and mobile equivalents to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Throw in the office suite aspects and the 15GB of free space online shared with other Google services , and you've got a real winner.
For Android users , we give it a full 5-stars. LibreOffice The obvious choice of Office tools if you are a firm believer in open source, LibreOffice was a fork from the original OpenOffice years ago itself an offshoot of StarOffice. Inside are word processor, spreadsheet, and presentations programs, a vector graphics editor, a math formula editor, and a database. It's a little more awkward to use than the desktop version of Microsoft Office, but you can't beat the price. Grab the LibreOffice Viewer app for Android to look at files.
Read our review of LibreOffice. Who cares? They work great and are all part of one program, not three separate pieces of software. The free version seems to do it all, mimicking the look of Microsoft products, even with a ribbon interface. It also comes with 1GB of cloud storage and has mobile versions for phone- or tablet-based edits.
You'll have to view some ads to use it for free. Scribus Scribus is the open-source equivalent of Adobe InDesign for desktop publishing, or as close as you can get. It even has built-in color separation and management and a lot more. Ubuntu Ubuntu pronounced "oo-boon-too" updates every six months; each iteration brings new tools and developments. It's a free, customizable, and highly usable alternative to both macOS and Windows, and the Linux of choice because is easy to master by just about any smart user.
Read our review of Ubuntu Linux 18 Bionic Beaver which also covers all the ins-and-outs of exactly a Linux distro is vs. Unix and other OSes. It only takes MB to install it, so it's small. Grab the full installer, or make a LiveCD version that boots off a disc to give it a try. Just know, it's still in alpha-testing and isn't for newbies. PDFs with this free tool can be secured, signed, and are automatically saved. The creators at PDFForge promise it will be free forever. Foxit Reader Foxit Reader is free for not just reading, but also creating PDFs and collaboration on the files at least you can with the Windows version; Mac and Linux are more limited.
What's more, they support a tech called ConnectedPDF so you can send PDF files and even update them after you send them thanks be to the cloud. Adobe Acrobat Reader DC Adobe created the PDF format, so it stands to reason it would still offer a pretty kick-ass free PDF reader, albeit one that's not as full-featured as some others, since it has other tools it wants to sell you.
Almost everything you need is free for personal use: desktop sharing, file transfers, even chat with remote users. The setup couldn't be easier. Read our review of TeamViewer. Chrome Remote Desktop With mobile apps and a Google Chrome browser extension—and that's it—Chrome Remote Desktop more than rivals others for providing remote access between PCs you can't use it to control a smartphone or tablet, but you can control a PC from the apps on a smartphone or tablet. You can connect to all your computers and devices that are on the same Google account, or get a code from others for a true remote session.
You don't even have to have the browser running to get access to the PC. What's lacking is file transfer between systems, but you can get around that using Google Drive.
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ScreenLeap A web-based, screen-share system though the shared screen requires an installed utility , ScreenLeap's interface is ultra-simple and offers the ability to swap presenters as needed. The free version is limited to 40 minutes of use per day with no more than eight viewers, with no conferencing option. It works on every major OS, browser, and mobile device, so you only need one master password to stay totally secure on every website and service you visit, no matter how you get there.
Read our review of LastPass. LogMeOnce Password Management Suite Premium Don't let that word "premium" fool you, this software for logging in is free, albeit with some paid upgrades available. LogMeOnce's claim to fame is to be utterly "passwordless.
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It's browser-based so it works the same on all desktop systems, but syncs across desktops and mobile devices. It has so much free stuff, you may get confused. You can use one cloud service and two devices with the free version and share access to encrypted files with others. BoxCryptor itself has zero access to your data or account info, so don't lose your password. The Tor Browser uses the Tor network to bounce your requests and responses all over the world. No one knows what sites you visit or where you really are.
Prey For free, Prey will help you keep tabs on up three of your devices and many more if you pay. Think of it as a backup for Find My iPhone, but on multiple, easily stolen products running operating systems other than just iOS. You probably should, but you can go a long way without laying out the cash, especially with a tool like ProtonVPN.
It's one of the few VPNs that offers a truly free tier of service, albeit with typical restrictions. ProtonVPN happens to have the fewest restrictions of the lot. The restrictions include only getting three VPN server location options, and only one connection at a time across all your devices, and a speed rated as "medium. Read our review of ProtonVPN. LightShot is a tiny utility that takes over that key. Push it and you can pick what part of the screen to turn into a screenshot, plus annotate with tools like text and arrows. Once captured, you get choices to save to a file, the clipboard, the cloud, social networks, or to just search for similar shots in Google.
Read How to take a Screenshot on Any Device. ShareX ShareX might have too many options but if you love choice—both in how to take a shot like a scrolling capture or OCRing text and what to do with it after it supports 80 different destinations and plenty of annotation options —this is the capture utility you need for your Windows PC. Icecream Screen Recorder Another of the Icecream apps that rock, Screen Recorder freely handles capturing everything on screen even a still image —but it will also capture one small section moving on your screen, like a playing video or game.
The drawing panel lets you add annotation text or arrows to the screenshot or video. Screencast-o-Matic This app launches right in the browser for Windows or Mac or Chromebook users to get started making screen-vids that up to 15 minutes long. You save it as a local video file then use it wherever you want. Some people don't mind this, because it helps the operating system give you relevant information, such as your local weather, what restaurants are nearby and so on.
But if you don't want Windows 10 to track your location, you can tell it to stop. Doing that turns off all location tracking for every user on the PC. If you click the Change button, you can turn off location tracking for every user on the Windows 10 device. This doesn't have to be all or nothing affair — you can turn off location tracking on an app-by-app basis.
If you want your location to be used only for some apps and not others, make sure location tracking is turned on, then scroll down to the "Choose apps that can use your precise location" section. You'll see a list of every app that can use your location. Move the slider to On for the apps you want to allow to use your location — for example, Weather or News — and to Off for the apps you don't.
When you turn off location tracking, Windows 10 will still keep a record of your past location history. To clear your location history, scroll to "Location History" and click Clear. Even if you use location tracking, you might want to clear your history regularly; there's no automated way to have it cleared. In order to do that, Windows needs to gather information about all your activities on each of your machines. At that point, Windows 10 no longer gathers information about your activities. However, it still keeps information about your old activities and shows them in your Timeline on all your PCs.
See the section later in this article on how to use the privacy dashboard to do that. Cortana is a very useful digital assistant, but there's a tradeoff in using it: To do its job well, it needs to know things about you such as your home location, place of work and the times and route you take to commute there.
Start by opening Cortana settings: place your cursor in the Windows search box and click the Cortana settings icon it looks like a gear that appears in the left pane. Click the content you want Cortana to stop tracking, then follow the instructions for deleting it. However, that doesn't mean you can't turn Cortana off — it just takes more work. If you use any version of Windows 10 other than the Home version, you can use the Group Policy Editor to turn it off. Launch the Group Policy Editor by typing gpedit.
If you have the Home version, you'll have to muck around in the Registry. Before doing that, though, create a Restore Point , so that you can recover if anything goes wrong. Once you've done that:. It will be given a name such as New Key 1. Right-click it, select Rename, and then type Windows Search into the box.
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Type AllowCortana in the Name field. Click OK. You'll have to sign out of your Windows account and sign back in again or restart Windows to make the setting take effect. So, for example, when you make changes to your settings on a desktop PC, those changes will also be made on your laptop the next time you log in. And maybe you want to cut your ties as much as possible to anything Microsoft stores about you.
Follow its instructions to create and use a local account. You can, however, download and install free apps from the Windows Store. Windows apps have the potential to invade your privacy — they can have access to your camera, microphone, location, pictures and videos. Click the app whose permissions you want to control, then click Advanced options and set the app's permissions by toggling them either on or off. And of those that do, not all let you customize your app permissions.
Click any of the listed items — for example, Microphone. At the top of the page that appears, you can turn off access to the microphone for all apps. Any app with access has a slider that is On. To stop any app from having access, move the slider to Off. As you use Windows 10, data is gathered about your hardware and what you do when you use Windows. Microsoft says that it collects this data as a way to continually improve Windows and to offer you customized advice on how to best use Windows. That makes plenty of people uncomfortable. In the Diagnostic data section, you can choose between two levels of diagnostic data to be gathered.
Here are your two choices:. That will delete all the diagnostic data Microsoft has gathered about you. However, after you delete it, Microsoft will start gathering the data again. That will stop Windows 10 from sending to Microsoft the words you input using the keyboard and inking. One final note about diagnostic data. You may have heard about a tool Microsoft has been hyping, called the Diagnostic Data Viewer, which you can download from the Microsoft Store. Microsoft claims it lets you see exactly what kind of diagnostic data Microsoft gathers about you. Microsoft has built an excellent, little-known web tool called the Privacy Dashboard that lets you track and delete a lot of information Microsoft gathers about you.
You can also view and delete your browsing history, search history, location activity, voice activity, media activity, LinkedIn activity, and a lot more. Note that for you browsing and search history, it only tracks your activity when you use Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer. Using it is a breeze. All this shouldn't take that long and will do a great deal to protect your privacy.
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However, if you want to dig even deeper into privacy protections, there's something else you can do. Launch the Settings app and click Privacy. On the left-hand side of the screen, you'll see the various areas where you can get even more granular about privacy — for example, in the Windows permissions section you can change your global privacy options for things such as speech recognition and inking. These steps can take you a long way towards making sure that Windows 10 doesn't cross the line into gathering data you'd prefer remain private.
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