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Rob's great freeware list (aka "toolbox" for building a Windows-based (I know, I know :) ) computer for as little money as possible.
Note that this is a list that I recommend for every baseline installation...I will recommend various specialty applications over the course of my musings, but this is something that I believe everyone should install.
Enjoy - every product here is one that I use, or have used (and liked!) :)
System cleanup utility (good for routine system maintenance) - CCleaner, nCleaner Second - both are quality, but I would say CCleaner is a more intuitive to use. You can do a lot of damage with nCleaner Second if you are not careful!
Defragmenting your hard disk - MyDefrag (for more of you techie folks), Defraggler - Windows defragment is OK, but MyDefrag is light years quicker, and does a lot more optimization (move large files to the end of the volume, for example). Defraggler is a bit more user-friendly when it comes to appearance. Both are quality products.
Create PDFs - PDFCreator - Creates a new printer in your control panel, and allows you to convert anything that you print to a PDF. Note that this is not an editor, but you can create a PDF from any image, document, etc. simply by printing it to PDF (note that OpenOffice can save a document to PDF).
Read PDFs - Foxit PDF reader - Nice non-resource intensive PDF reading software.
Antivirus - Microsoft Security Essentials - Honorable mentions: Avast! Antivirus, Avira AntiVir. You should NEVER surf without some form of AV installed. Avast! is nice because it can scan your system for viruses while the screen saver is active, and protects your PC against multiple vectors. Want free AV for a Windows server? Use ClamWin (no real-time scanner, so you will have to run scheduled scans, but it works well).
Spyware Protection - ThreatFire, SuperAntiSpyware, MalwareBytes AntiMalware - Spyware sucks, and these tools do a great job of cleaning them up. I would recommend installing a combination of these utilities, using one to clean-up after the other.
Firewall - Comodo - Very configurable, excellent reviews.
Remote Control (Technical Support) - CrossLoop - This one is great for consultants and other at-home tech folks - totally secure and SO easy to use. Crossloop makes remote controlling mom's computer a dream. TeamViewer is also great.
Remote Control (Extending your office) - Logmein - Access your computer from a secure (256-bit encrypted) connection. You don't need someone on the other end to approve your connection (like Crossloop).
Screenshot Utility - FastStone Capture 5.3. If you can find it, use it. Newer versions are not free. Can't find it? Use Gadwin PrintScreen. Are you an advanced user? Screen Captor is superior to both utilities.
VPN - Hamachi - Connect two disparate networks together with little trouble. Great for hooking up with your buddies for online gaming, or home "family" support over the Internet.
File Recovery - PC Inspector File Restore, Recuva - Did you accidentally delete your files from your digital camera? Use this to restore it. Good for system drives as well.
Internet Browsing - FireFox - Tabbed browsing, all sorts of great add-ons available, spyware/popup blocker, best of all NO activex support. Chrome is my browser of choice for some no-frills fast web surfing.
Email Client - Thunderbird - Built in spam protection, RSS reader and more.
FTP Client - FileZilla, WinSCP - Secure FTP, save your sessions, easy drag & drop interface.
Office Productivity - Microsoft Live Office (online), Google Docs (online), Open Office (local install). The non-MS apps are MS Office compatible. Text, Spreadsheet, Presentation software -These will do for 90% of your low to middle of the road users.
Zip Archiving - IZArc - New to the list is 'IZArc', recommended by fellow freeware addict, Carputers. I have to agree. If you use WinZip, then you can use IZArc. Excellent interface, supports the widest amount of archive formats, great features, just great all around!
Keep track of startup programs - Sysinternals AutoRuns - Excellent tool to discover what the heck is running at startup - definitely for advanced users. Can produce a CSV file for viewing later (or to post to online support forums), etc. VERY thorough. You can use this to help you clean up malware that is slowing down your system. Also recommended is Hijack This, which features a huge user-community.
Graphics Editing - The Gimp - EXCELLENT freebie editor with a lot of built-in effects and layering capability. If you like the Photoshop interface, you can try GimpShop. Want something simpler? Use Paint.net.
Image Touch Ups, Photo Processing - Picasa - Easy to use program that can help you catalog, view, burn, and touch-up photographs. Also, you can use Picasa to upload photos to your blog, and submit them to online digital image printing services. A digital camera's best friend. This program is fantastic for Grandma. She can quickly burn CD's of the grandkids with little instruction.
Image Thumbnail Viewer - The classic, Irfanview, my personal favorite - FastStone Viewer and another popular one, XNView.
CD Burning - CD Burner XP Pro - Supports burning from/to ISO image files, audio CD's, DVDs, etc. - Especially nice if you have a burner, but no longer have the OEM burning software that came with it. Other quality apps are Infra Recorder and Express Burner Free.
Backup software - Syncback - Backup to/from an FTP location, compress and encrypt data, supports directory synchronization, and much, much more.
Mail Archiving/backup - This is more or less a subset of 'Backup' above, MailStore is fantastic.
Online storage - DropBox - get 2Gb free, and for every person you recommend (and they sign up and install), you get an additional 250Mb of free storage. I love DropBox because of it's cross-platform support (I can get to my files on my Android phone).
DVD viewing (video) - VLC Media Player - Play your DVD/VCD/MPEG videos from a single player. Works GREAT! You can use VLC to watch DVDs without re-installing the OEM DVD software. You can also use it to convert videos (transcode).
Video conversion - Any Video Converter Free. Convert a video file to a myriad of different formats, great for copying videos to your IPod, Zune, or other personal media player.
Video codecs - K-Lite codec pack - this will enable your computer to play just about any video type out there.
RSS News Reader - Google Reader (online). Keep up with your online news and blogs (*ahem*, like this one?). I'm really liking the new Google Reader Play feature.
Multi-IM/chat client - Pidgin, and if you don't use IRC, then Digsby is for you!
More as I find 'em.