Top 25 free tools for every Windows desktop

Whatever your poison -- Windows 7 or 8, updated or not -- there's a desktop tool just begging to become part of your repertoire


While smartphones descend on computer cognoscenti like Mongol hordes and tablets tempt the tried and true, the good ol’ Windows desktop still reigns supreme in many corners of the modern tech world. That’s where I live, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

If you haven’t looked at free desktop programs lately, you’ll be surprised. The inexorable shift to a post-PC world hasn’t deadened the market or dulled innovation. Quite the contrary. The current crop of free-for-personal-use (and cheap for corporate use) desktop apps runs rings around the best tools we had not long ago.

Productivity, file management, media, system, security -- here are my top choices for the most useful free and almost-free desktop apps, tested on Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 Update 1.