Five Free Programs Everyone Should Have
Security and functionality are issues everyone in the modern, computer- dominated world has to deal with. There are things you just can’t live without. Some people settle for “good enough” and just keep whatever antivirus program that came with their computer and expect Windows Wordpad to be good enough for writing to aunt Edna. While it is true that you get what you pay for, there are some quite good and functional pieces of software that are free.
If you don’t have a GOOD antivirus and malware program you will be seeing me (or another computer tech in your area) very soon. Just the act of having an antivirus doesn’t mean you are safe. Just like doctors there are good ones and bad ones. The health of your computer depends on having a good one. It is a good idea to watch sites that review these programs yearly to see who is keeping up with the latest viruses. Also look into who owns the websites hosting the reviews. You may be unwittingly reading a paid ad for the company that arranged the review. I recommend AVG antivirus by Grisoft. The free personal version can be found at www.free.avg.com.
A firewall has almost nothing to do with preventing viruses. People seem to think that if their firewall is compromised they will get a virus. It is actually worse than that. It’s all about hackers. The firewall protects you against active threats and probes. That can mean an automated attack from what is called a bot, or it can be from a hacker’s direct attempts. The proper implementation of a firewall sets up a protective wall between your computer or network and the outside world. If you use a cable modem and it is attached to a router, this is your router’s job. If you attach your computer directly to a cable modem with no router you need a firewall. Zone Alarm is a great program that has a free version at www.zonealarm.com.
Fake alert popups and hijackers are often not viruses by definition. Once installed they may not actually be a virus or bring viruses in, but they can be much more destructive to your ability to use the computer and control it. These are in a category called malware. They often enter your computer by popping up a message that you might think came from your computer and trick you into clicking on it. A regular scan with an antimalware program is your only defense against these. There are two candidates here. Malwarebytes can be found at www.malwarebytes.com, and super antispyware can be found at www.superantispyware.com. Both have excellent free versions.
Windows and Mac both come with media players that do a good job. Quite often , however, you will find codecs that need to be downloaded and different programs that are needed for other formats than the standard ones your built-in programs will play. The solution to this is the VLC Media Player found at www.videolan.org/vlc/. It is a very powerful program that is small and doesn’t take up all your attention with interface. It does a good job of just presenting the media to you.
For those of you in a college situation and on a budge,t this is probably the most important of the sections for your pocket book. All versions of Microsoft Office for windows and mac will set you back a pretty penny, even with student discounts. There is an open source and free option that will produce files in Microsoft Office format, is that is the office suite known as OpenOffice. OpenOffice is available at www.openoffice.org. I have heard from the occasional college professor that they don’t like OpenOffice because it isn’t exactly the same as the Microsoft product but when presented with documents created by OpenOffice these same professors couldn’t tell which documents were Microsoft and which ones weren’t. The OpenOffice suite gives you alternatives to Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint.