Save money and tune up your PC: PART ONE: FREE Software
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This isn’t a post about saving money in the freebie or cutting back sense, but it is a frugal post about dealing with the necessities of your PC’s health. Everyone always talks about the frugal lifestyle but nobody really ever talks about the simple things like looking after the PC you are using to read all the frugal sites. If you take care of your investmen (your PC) it will serve you well.

Lets talk about your PC for a second… I have a few experiences that may be able to help you depending your your experience level. Since I spend about 20 hours a week of my job programming/researching and about 20 hours a week online at home, I have tried all kinds of stuff when it comes to software.

Back when I used to be in a spending mode and racking up the debt, I used to just renew my Mcafee security suite subscription, renew the firewall, etc, etc, etc… What a waste of money. I would spend about 100 bucks a year just keeping all the essentials up to date, not to mention the 200-300 dollars to update office every time a new version came out.

So here are some of my favorite resources:

My favorite site to get good free software is download.com (a cnet site). It is a very trustworthy source to get all kinds of software. You can sort by about everything. To get the truly free stuff, make sure you sort by FREE and not FREE to try (free trials). No matter what your PC experience level, download.com is a good site. If you are a little more experienced, looking for something in particular or just want to lookie, sourceforge.net is another good resource for free open source software and freeware (they have about 300,000 active projects).

1. If you are online (assuming that since you are reading this you are), you NEED a firewall.
My favorite and long time trusted free firewall is ZoneAlarm. I have used this one for about 4 years now and it rocks. Very easy to setup and checks for udpates on its own. Here is the link to download.coms zonealarm page.

2. If you are online you also NEED an active anti-virus that gets regular subscription updates to protect against viruses. My anti-virus of choice is AVG. Be sure to get the right one, they have a free version and a free trial version that is only good for 30 days. AVG checks for an update every day, you can schedule tasks and from my experience it is better than norton. Here is the link to download.coms AVG page.

3. Instead of using IE with all of its flaws and security issues, try out firefox. My wife turned me on to this about a year ago. This browser is awesome, it has hundreds of available plug ins, all open source, so they are free. My favorite plug in is the weather plugin that shows the current temp and conditions in the status bar on the browser at all times. Plus it is safer to use than IE since it is more secure. Here is the link to mozilla’s firefox page. Another one of my favorite plugins is downloadhelper, it allows you to download any .flv file to your PC, meaning any of those streaming videos on youtube or whatever, you can save them on your PC and just use an FLV viewer to watch them offline.

4. Need a full office suite for your PC? MS office is not cheap. Open office is an open source office suite that is compatible with MS office, looks almost the same, works almost the same, all your files open going from one to the other and back. I have been using it for some time now with no problems. I was unsure about this at first as it used to be a linux suite, but now they have it for windows and it works great. Here is a link to Openoffice.org’s site.

5. Auslogics makes some great freeware programs to optimize your PC. I routinely use their defrag program as it works way better and faster than the windows one as well as their registry defrag program that cleans up and optimizes your computers registry. Between the two it can really help speed up a PC. I use them about once a month on average (but I am obsessive about my machines). Link to Hard Drive Defrag. Link to Registry Defrag.

6. Since you are online you probably have some nasty spyware or adware lurking. There are several programs out there, I like ad-aware. Its free and it has worked very well for me on a whole. Here is the link to ad-aware download.

7. Here is one I found the hard way. I was looking for a manual for some electronics online and downloaded what I thought was the zip file. Turned out it was a malware program… Let me explain to you how nasty a malware program is. It hi-jacks your browser so that no matter what you do or no matter what site you try to load, it re-directs you to their site claiming that if you purchase and download their program it will get rid of it. I did not believe that malarkey for a second, and went to town trying every spyware program I could download, but to no avail. Finally I stumbled across a program called malwarebytes anti-malware that finally got rid of it. The base program is free and they offer upgrades but the base program worked miracles on my botched up PC. Good to know. Here is the link to malwarebytes download.

There are probably more, but this is a start. I use about 20 other freeware programs for programming tasks like monitoring serial communications and such, but they are a whole ‘nother post.

Hope this helps, these programs have served us well on all of our PC’s in the last couple years. With the price of software these days, I would rather put that money towards gas or groceries.

Good Luck!

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Comments {6}

{6} Comments

  • 10.16.08 pc software

    I would like to add here Avast, it does really well on tests and it’s getting quite the buzz lately. Oh, and i believe ad-aware is no longer free? Might be wrong here…

  • 10.16.08 madsow

    ad-aware is still free, they just offer for your to buy the upgrade, but the base package is still free.

    Haven’t tried avast before, looks not too bad, I will have to try it out.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • 10.16.08 rmlrhonda

    Thanks for this great post. I have started using some open source software and it is really helpful to get some feedback on what works well.

  • 10.16.08 madsow

    You all are more than welcome.

    I have tried hundreds of freeware out there and a lot of times with little success. I hate waiting for a download only to install it and find out its retarded.

  • 10.17.08 Kelly

    Excellent post! It is hard to find comprehensive reviews of freeware that works. I’m still in the mode of paying for all this stuff – stupid me!

  • 01.02.09 ILLWILL

    Try Avira Antivir Personal edition (free version)…it auto-updates and watches your system like a hawk!!! Also, NoScript plug-in for Firefox helps tons to stop “scriptkitties” and similar attacks that perpetuate through background downloads/cookies.