So you have a Windows box and need some software for it. Sure you can take the route and buy what you need (an office suite, an antivirus, etc.), but what if you are tight on money or have already been burnt by purchased software (needing to always activate, having your system slow down to unusable speeds)? So here are a few free programs that will enable you to get work done and keep your machine running smoothly.
Office suite: OpenOffice
A good replacement for Microsoft Office and does not cost a penny.
Anti-virus: AVG Free Anti-virus
A very good antivirus that is not heavy on your system resources.
Anti-spyware: Spybot Search & Destroy
Helps you cleanup any spyware that has infiltrated your system and protects you from future infections.
Maintenance & cleanup: CCleaner (Crap Cleaner)
It does what it says and does it well. Helps cleaning up leftover files on your system and cleanup your registry too (with a backup of all changes just in case you need to go back).
File compressor/decompressor: 7-Zip
If you need to open a zip file (or rar), this program does the job. Also opens a ton of other formats (as well as create the same formats).
Web browser: Firefox
A good open-source browser with useful features (such as tabbed browsing) and easily extensible with a multitude of add-ons. Of course, Internet Explorer 7 is not bad at all (so please use it if you don’t go with Firefox, especially if you use Internet Explorer 6 or earlier versions), but Firefox can be customized to your liking with a much bigger community of add-on developers.
A good email program which can be extended using add-ons.
Image editing: Paint.NET
Does a very good job of replacing the regular Paint program (which is very basic) and has more advanced features (like layers) seen in more expensive software (such as Photoshop).
Instant Messaging: Pidgin
if you have/use multiple Instant Messaging accounts (like MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, etc.), you can condense all your accounts in one software.
There you have it. Remember that this is a non-exclusive list and many more different programs exist that can do the job; this list I’ve compiled is of software I have used and recommended to others, posted them here as a quick reference to people who may need a program for a specific task. Enjoy!