It’s been quite some time since anything new and innovative has appeared on the freeware scene. New freeware is still being released, of course, but it is generally not up to par with already established favorites. A couple of months ago I started to compile a new list of “best freeware” and I got about halfway through when I realized it was all sounding very familiar. So, I checked back with the last best freeware list we published in 2016 and discovered it was identical to the new list I was in the process of compiling. Needless to say, I abandoned that project.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to revisit the best of freeware occasionally, so here is a list of my favorite and most often recommended freeware – in no particular order:
FastStone Image Viewer: We are blessed with several established, excellent free image viewers – FastStone, IrfanView, and XnView – and all will do a great job. I just picked out FastStone many years ago and am more than happy with its excellent range of features so have stuck with it. I love FastStone’s terrific image editing options with a quick compare button to preview before and after applying changes. FastStone is available in installer and portable editions. As always, I opt for portable wherever possible.
HiBit Uninstaller: Again, several terrific options here – Geek, Revo, and HiBit. I used both Geek and Revo until I came across HiBit, which is now well established as my uninstaller of choice. HiBit also includes a good range of tools including a startup manager, junk file cleaner, file shredder, and much more. Yes, it’s a jack-of-all-trades but I can assure you it is a master of most. Unlike both Geek and Revo, HiBit does not produce a Premium edition so you know you are getting the very best features all for free. HiBit uninstaller also has a portable edition available.
Sandboxie: Sandboxie is, in my opinion, a must-have for anyone who likes to randomly surf the web and/or securely test software. Sandboxie utilizes an isolation technique whereby everything, all data, is encapsulated within a separate container (sandbox) and nothing ever gets near the system. When you’ve finished your session, simply empty the sandbox and everything is gone, including any malware and nasties picked up along the way. NOTE: An updated version called Sandboxie Plus is also now available.
Aomei Backupper Standard: I cannot emphasize enough just how important it is to back up your system and Aomei Backupper Standard is the perfect free solution. A regular backup strategy involving creating and saving system image backups can rescue the user from any disaster including fatal malware infections and corrupt or non-booting systems. Macrium Reflect Free is another great choice but I generally recommend Aomei’s software because it is slightly more user-friendly and therefore more suitable for less experienced users. And, let’s face it, it’s those less experienced users that we need to encourage to start backing up.
PrivaZer: By far the best junk file cleaner available, free or Premium. PrivaZer is not only a superior junk file cleaner that will declutter your system and free up space on your hard drive but will also enhance your privacy via a process of secure deletion. Highly effective and very simple to use, with built-in safety features, PrivaZer is a gem among freeware. CCleaner has been the ubiquitous junk file cleaner for many years but, honestly, CCleaner is nowhere near as effective as PrivaZer in terms of both cleaning and privacy. PrivaZer is, in my opinion, a must-have tool to help maintain a clean and healthy system. Portable version is available.
Bitwarden: Easily the best free password manager around. Passwords play such a critical role in today’s online activities and Bitwarden is a safe and secure way to store all those important log-in credentials so you don’t need to remember them. Passwords are encrypted in an online vault which makes it very simple to share log-ins across devices and the vault is accessible only via a master password known only to the end user. Extensions are available for all popular browsers. I started using Bitwarden a couple of years ago, after migrating from Firefox’s built-in password manager, and have never looked back. Highly recommended.
7-Zip & PeaZip: I cannot separate these two excellent free archive tools; either will do a great job. Windows natively handles extracting ZIP files quite well but on the odd occasion when you come across a different format, these tools are invaluable. Both support a good variety of formats including RAR, ISO, TAR, and of course ZIP. PeaZip crossed over to the dark side momentarily quite a few years ago when the developers started bundling OpenCandy with the installer but quickly relented and reversed that decision. PeaZip has been clean and safe again for quite some time. Personally, I find PeaZip’s interface more intuitive than that of 7-Zip plus PeaZip also provides a native portable version. Portable versions for both 7-Zip and PeaZip are also available via PortableApps.com.
PicPick: I use a professional screen capture tool (Snagit) which is necessary for my writing but, if I were to download a free tool to use it would definitely be PicPick. PicPick’s superior range of built-in editing and annotation tools is the deciding factor, plus it is a top notch free screen capture tool. Capture options include full-screen, active window, scrolling window, region, and freehand, all via pre-defined keyboard combinations or define your own. There’s also a nice selection of tools plus, of course, those superior built-in editing features. Portable version available.
LibreOffice: There is no doubt that Microsoft Office is the first choice office suite but it is also very expensive. OpenOffice and LibreOffice provide excellent free alternatives with full support for MS Office formats. OpenOffice is the original and elder statesman of the two but some time back a group of OpenOffice developers became disenchanted with the direction it was taking and left OpenOffice to start their own office project – now known as LibreOffice. Either will do a great job but my preference is for LibreOffice which is younger and more vibrantly developed and updated. A portable version is available via PortableApps.com.
4K YouTube to MP3: I love my music. I still own a record player and amplifier plus a large vinyl collection. As well as many CDs and a huge collection of MP3 tracks. In my opinion, 4K YouTube to MP3 is the very best free music downloader available. With 4K YouTube to MP3 you can extract and save any audio tracks from the millions of YouTube music videos – from old standards right through to modern hits. Simply copy and then paste the YouTube music video URL into 4K YouTube to MP3’s interface and the rest is automatic. Very easy to use and highly effective. Portable version is available.
Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.
24 thoughts on “10 Best Freeware Picks – 2022”
Thank you for your outstanding selection!
Permit me to offer another free alternative to MS Office, SoftMaker FreeOffice 2021 (last updated on 2022.04.05).
https://www.techspot.com/downloads/5655-softmaker-free-office.html (amongst many others).
Stay well & safe, Mate!
I agree, SoftMaker FreeOffice is an excellent choice. The only reason I tend to prefer LibreOffice is because it is open source freeware.
Nice addition though,
Having been a DCT user for many years, I have quite a few programs listed here. Kudos for telling me about AOMEI as it was something I was looking for. I hope to do a major upgrade of my whole system once either or both prices and availability of components become available. I do BU BU BU. So my plan is to have a synched drive (4 TB) in the tower and then two external 4 TB drives that would be incremental. One likely monthly off premises and one weekly in a safe. Alternatively and something I need an answer to, is can I partition an 8GB external drive and do a weekly update and just keep it in the safe. Could the BU be done simultaneously and incrementally or would it be better to set a BU time/date different for each of the partitions?
Oh, BTW I use Privazer once and yikes it made a mess of things so I did an uninstall.
Currently I do have both HiBit and Geek installed but keep forgetting to use HiBit as Geek is fast and seems to do the trick and I don’t uninstall too much.
Thanks goodness for DCT and other newsletters like it for all the great info we all have gained over the years, in my case 27, to assist in computer usage.
Firstly, Incremental backups are not the way to go. Incremental backups are purely designed to create smaller file sizes and should only ever be used if the user is short on disk space. Differential backups is the way to go. The problem occurs if/when you ever need to restore an image; with differential backups you only need to restore the latest full backup plus the latest differential backup. With incremental, you need to restore the latest full backup plus every single incremental backup created since, which could easily number in the dozens.
As far as partitions go; if/when you select to create a system backup, all system partitions – usually the boot partition, main (Windows) partition, and recovery partition – will be included in a single image. So, you would not normally backup each partition individually. The only exception would be a separate data partition which is not part of the system. This type of partition should be backed up separately.
Hope that helps.
What a fabulous article Jim. Thanks very much. I look forward to trying most of these software suggestions.
You are most welcome Lucio.
As always, your picks of the best freeware are enlightening. You had a few on your list that I have not tried yet and I downloaded a few of interest to see how they stand up against what I am currently using. So, thanks for putting in the effort to try out these various programs.
No problem Tom, thank you for the kind words, always appreciated.
Thank you for this list. I’m a huge fan of freeware and have been using most of these apps for years. I had not heard of 4K YouTube to MP3 and downloaded it. When I downloaded the first video, I learned that I only have FIFTEEN free downloads before I need a paid license. IMO, that’s not freeware. Did I miss something? It does do a great job, but I don’t download enough stuff to justify the investment. Do you have another alternative for this purpose?
I think you’ll find that’s 15 downloads per day, not 15 total. 15 downloads per day is not a severe limitation although it does tend to rule out downloading entire playlists. Still, should be more than adequate for most.
Aha. Thanks for the explanation. My mind must have been stuck in the mode induced by dozens of “free” apps that are really “try-out” apps, usually with limitations. 15 per day is entirely reasonable.
Try Human media. True freeware with nary a limitation!
Thanks Jim – a couple of new ones I wasn’t aware of including HiBit Uninstaller. Have made a backup image and am trying it now. Up until now I have always used Revo for uninstallations in both the paid ad free versions but a couple of tools are also in HiBit as well.
Always amazes me that no matter how many clean up programs and security cleaners we use and no matter how mature they are after countless revisions, on every scan they always seem to find lots the others have missed. I guess somewhere on the Net there is a review site comparing them to ascertain which one cleans the most/safest (similar to the virus scanners) but you have to be extra careful they aren’t just a sneakily crafted ad for a particular brand in the guise of an “independent” review !
Many moons ago, back in 2013, I published a series of articles comparing the effectiveness of multiple free junk cleaners but that information would be well out of date now. I’ll have to revisit that topic.
Yes, I agree, I don’t generally trust editorial reviews as they are often produced on some sort of quid pro quo arrangement.
Nice to hear from you, by the way.
TY Jim — I get confused about incremental and differential.
Let me try to explain more of what my thought was.
I am mostly concerned about my data “D:” drive as once the image is done then I can just adjust it as things change which is not as often as my data changes. I would do the image on a totally different external drive and update it as needed unless there is a reason to do that differently and I am open to all info.
As far as the Data drive, this is the one I do multiple BU for and was wondering if I could take an 8 TB drive, partition it and then do a BU of the Data drive in the tower to the single TB which is partitioned and get 2 BU that way and would one have to be done after the other or could both drives get the info from the Data “D:” simultaneously. The 8 TB split would have lots of space for my needs at this time.
Oh and what I hope to be able to do is that once the original BU is complete, additions to the “D:” drive would JUST be new information added to that drive and not a whole new BU of the whole drive. I used to do this using a drive by a company that unfortunately went out of business a few years ago and have not been able to get exactly what I want although I do have something close but not perfect.
I also hope to have a program that does not restrict my BU’s to a specific date and time but also offers the opportunity to do a BU when determined by the user.
I think I’m understanding what you want to achieve. You can partition a drive anyway you want to. Windows sees each partition as a separate drive each with its own drive letter so setting up those partitions for storing different types of data is quite straightforward.
As far as I am aware, there is no way to backup data from one source to two separate destinations at the same time, that would need to done one at a time. The best way to maintain an up-to-date data backup is via syncing – you sync the data on the main drive as the source with the data on the secondary (backup) drive as the destination. Syncing is then automatic, so the copy (backup) always exactly reflects the original. Trouble with this system is, if you want this all done automatically, you need to always have the backup drive connected, which is not ideal.
Pretty much all backup software allows the user to create backups whenever they want to in addition to providing a scheduling option.
TY Jim — I am going in the right direction and of course I save all your great advice. I am coming to the conclusion of having another HDD in the tower to which I can sync my Data so it is always up to date and backed up.
I have additional HDD’s that are more than large enough to do the image BU. I could partition one I believe that would allow for one partition to be used for the original image to remain intact (just in case) and the other partition could be set to BU changes done to system files such as updates and new installation of programs.
Then I could continue to use 4 TB (2) drives as I am doing now and keep one in a safe and one off premises and do that on a monthly basis. BU BU BU! This is what I have done for many years. Never had to make use of a BU but losing a drive is not IF but WHEN. I think you and others taught me that long ago.
If I was not retired but still working as a Professional Photographer, I would not even have my Business computer involved with the internet — just in case. Easy enough to do everything but keeping records and editing images on another system and BU both systems.
If I don’t have anything correct let me know as I really appreciate your knowledge. I hope to that the discussion may be of assistance to other users of your newsletter. TIA
Good list, I personally already use:
And have the paid or Profesional version of:
Bitwarden (to get the built-in TOTP 2FA code generator)
I would add:
Q-Dir – (My favorite File & Folder manager) https://www.softwareok.com/?seite=Freeware/Q-Dir
Ventoy – (create bootable USB drive and load multiple ISOs on it) https://www.ventoy.net/en/index.html
SyncBack Free – (Best Windows File Backup, mirror, basic sync — many options — Can do cloud backups if upgrade to paid) https://www.2brightsparks.com/freeware/index.html
NotePad++ – More capable NotePad https://notepad-plus-plus.org/
PDFarranger – Graphical interface to merge, split, rotate, crop and rearrange PDF pages https://github.com/pdfarranger/pdfarranger
I am curious as to why you did not mention LastPass while recommending Bitwarden. I have been using the former for years, loving it. I’m not sure what would be a truly compelling reason to switch.
You also recommended 4K YouTube to MP3 but I have been using MediaHuman for some time. It is simply awesome!
I didn’t mention LastPass simply because I can’t pick them all. Have you tried Bitwarden to make the comparison? I have and you can read my thoughts in my Best Free Password Manager article where I rate LastPass a very close second pick.
I am not suggesting anyone switch from what they are already happy with. These are just recommendations based on my own experience. By all means, stick with LastPass.
To be honest, I’m not all that happy with the latest 4K YouTube to MP3 free version. Previous versions have been terrific but it has now started to aggressively prompt users to upgrade to the Premium edition. I’ll check out MediaHuman with a future review in mind. Thanks for the tip.
I will definitely take your cue and try Bitwarden.
Thank you, JIm. I do have Bitwarden in the back of my mind. It is worth a try as LP is not catching every login. I have to manually add them. Not amused.
Hi, Jim –
Your site was recommended by a speaker at my Senior Center. Great tip! Now, I eagerly open your posts, and after fumbling around, I found may articles awesome, and more importantly, honest
As a newbie, I only use the internet for sending and receiving messages, and very cautious browsing. Twice I got stung by malware. But, I am learning. albeit, the hard way.
Much of the good stuff on the Internet contained jargon that I didn’t understand, and searching for definitions, was often even worse. Most have me scratching noggin with my hind foot. Thankfully, you posts are plain and to the point, mostly understood by me.
The bestest so far, is your latest, on recommenced software. It is manna from heaven for newbies.. Mucho thanx. I’ll pass them on.
I realize that you are a very busy guy, but if ever you get the chance, would you kindly explain why you put aps on portable? Also, what is portable, and how to use it.
Much gratitude, and a tip of the hat to you,
Portable apps do not require installation, they are self-contained within their own folder. Check out this article: https://davescomputertips.com/portable-applications-why-you-should-use-them/