50 Free Windows Software Alternatives

 Looking for free Windows software alternatives? Microsoft Windows bundles a number of software applications in order to provide a basic experience, such as Internet Explorer, Wordpad, and others. In this article, we wil be listing replacements for basic Windows software and utilities. If you have a suggestion, feel free to list it in the comments.

Micorsoft WindowsInternet Explorer

  • Google Chrome – The new Google superfast browser is lightweight and autoupdates. It integrates all your Google services and has  huge Chrome Apps store for a power packed browsing experience.
  • Mozilla Firefox – a fast, open source, secure, and extendable browser from Mozilla. Offers a number of features over Internet Explorer, including Smart Location Bar, Places Manager, and a rich database of extensions.
  • Opera – Feature-rich browser. Includes email client, BitTorrent downloads, Speed Dial (page with quick access to favorite websites), and mouse gestures.
  • Safari – Ported from Mac OSX, Apple brings Safari to Windows. Features private browsing and other enhancements.


  • OpenOffice – a Java based office suite with features that rival the commercial Microsoft Office, and is compatible with Microsofts own formats.
  • AbiWord – Word processing program similar to Microsoft Word. While it does not include all the applications of OpenOffice, it can serve as a replacement for Wordpad.


  • Notepad++ – a feature-rich text editor. Features syntax highlighting, function completion, tabs, and a plethora of other capabilities.
  • Notepad2 – While not as feature-rich as Notepad++, it offers a simple replacement for Notepad with syntax highlighting.


  • Power Calculator (XP only) – Microsoft offers a free more powerful alternative to the built in Calculator.

Command Prompt

  • CygWin – CygWin emulates the Linux shell for Windows, allowing you to work with a more powerful command line.

Built In Unzipping Utility

  • 7-Zip – Supports a number of formats, including RAR, ZIP, TAR, and 7z; can also generate a self extracting archive.
  • TUGZip – Supports a wide range of formats and can create a self extracting archive.

Windows Media Player

  • Winamp –  is a lightweight software and popular alternative to WMP.
  • foobar2000 – While only audio, supports a wide range of formats without plugins, and has low memory usage and is extremely customizable.
  • iTunes – Media player from Apple. Provides access to the iTunes Music Store (although not recommended as it bundles DRM with songs).
  • Songbird – In alpha stage, integrates well with music websites. Supports syncing to other devices.
  • VLC Media Player – Does not have a library feature, but plays almost any media format.
  • Miro – Video only, features RSS downloading, BitTorrent, and support for video websites such as YouTube.

Windows Media Center

  • XBMC for Windows – Supports a large number of formats and is skinnable.
  • Elisa – Provides support for a large number of media formats, external devices, auto detection of media on the network, and basic Internet integration.


  • GIMP – Advanced image editor with functionality similar to Adobe Photoshop.
  • Paint.NET – While not as advanced as GIMP, Paint.NET provides a large feature set, including support for layers and unlimited undo.

Windows Search

  • Google Desktop Search – Allows you to search the computer and Internet history in an interface similar to Google Web Search. Also provides a sidebar and quick launch utility.
  • Copernic Desktop Search – Provides an intuitive UI for searching and claims to be light on resources.

Add/Remove Programs

  • Revo Uninstaller – Powerful uninstaller that attempts to remove all traces of a program when uninstalling.

Disk Cleanup

  • CCleaner – Searches system for unneeded files and cleans them. Also has a registry cleaner, start-up manager, and minimalistic Add/Remove Programs interface.

Remote Desktop

  • TightVNC – TightVNC sets up a server on the computer you want to control, and client software on the controlling computer. Offers a number of features over Remote Desktop.
  • UltraVNC – Like TightVNC, with support for a Java viewer, text chat, and encryption.
  • TeamViewer – Quick setup, with support for both Windows and Mac. Has file transfer; no firewall setting changes needed.

Windows Photo Gallery / Windows Picture and Fax Viewer

  • Windows Live Photo Gallery – Microsoft provides an enhanced version of Windows Photo Gallery free, as part of the Windows Live suite. Provides photo library tools.
  • IrfanView – Light image viewer with a wide range of features, including image manipulation and conversion.
  • XnView – Another light image viewer with a wide range of features. Image manipulation, conversion, and metadata editing are a few features.

Windows Movie Maker

  • Jahshaka – Offers much more functionality than Windows Movie Maker. Open-source.
  • LiVES – Not available for Windows natively, but can boot from a Live CD. Has a greater feature set than Windows Movie Maker.

Windows Messenger

  • Windows Live Messenger – Offers more functionality (and bloat) than Windows Messenger. Supports only the MSN protocol, with some integration with Yahoo.
  • Pidgin – Supports a wide range of protocols, including Yahoo!, MSN, IRC, AIM, Google Talk, Jabber, and others. Extendable with plugins.
  • Digsby – Supports a wide range of protocols as Pidgin does, and also features integration with social media such as Facebook.
  • Miranda IM – Light messenger with support for a wide range of protocols. Highly extendable.
  • Yahoo! Messenger – Offers some integration with the MSN protocol. Mainly supports the Yahoo! protocol.

Windows Explorer

  • xplorer2 – Offers a wide range of features over Windows Explorer, including dual pane and tabbed browsing.
  • Free Commander – Offers tabbed browsing, dual pane, file wiping, and MD5 checksum abilities.

Windows Update

  • AutoPatcher – Allows you to download necessary update files and apply them when offline.
  • Project Dakota – This Lets you download a CD ISO file with all the updates
  • MakeUseOf provides a couple of other ways to get your Windows updates.

Windows Shell

  • Blackbox for Windows – An alternative light shell replacement for Windows, based on the Blackbox Window Manager. Highly customizable.

Disk Defragmenter

  • JkDefragGUI – Is able to defrag when your screensaver comes on. Has other powerful features.

Outlook Express / Windows Mail

  • Mozilla Thunderbird – Email client from Mozilla. Extendable with plugins and themes.
  • Windows Live Mail – An improved version of Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail is part of the Windows Live suite.
  • Evolution – Originally for Linux, Evolution is now available for Windows, offering an Outlook-like GUI.
  • Mail functionality is also provided by SeaMonkey (formerly Mozilla) and Opera

Windows Firewall

  • Comodo Firewall Pro – Protects outbound connections as well as inbound connections, unlike Windows Firewall. Has a database of safe software to prevent unnecessary warnings.
  • ZoneAlarm Free Firewall – Protects outbound/inbound connections, and stealths your computer.

Sound Recorder

  • Audacity – Record, mix, and apply effects to sounds in this fully-featured audio editor.

CD/DVD Burning Functionality

  • ImgBurn – Works with all types of media, able to create, build, and burn CD images.

Windows Sidebar

  • Google Desktop Sidebar – Google Desktop features a sidebar feature as part of the Google Desktop package.
  • Yahoo! Widgets – While not a sidebar, Yahoo! Widgets allows you to place widgets onto your desktop. Also features a widget dock where you can view your widgets at a quick glance.
  • Klipfolio – Place Klips around your desktop, with information from the web. Takes up less space than traditional widgets/gadgets.

Start Menu

    • Vista Start Menu – Larger start menu which allows you to find your applications more easily and quickly perform tasks.
    • Launchy – While technically not a menu, Launchy allows you to launch programs by typing a portion of the application name.
    • ViStart – For XP users, this replaces the current Start Menu with Vistas start menu, even containing search functionality.


  • Launchy – Launch programs by typing a portion of the application name – as opposed to typing the full application name or executable name.

This guest article is written Jason from ThirdError.com, where is writes about Windows (and applicable software), web applications, web design, and a bit of *nix (Ubuntu mainly).  

Share with friends

About the Author: P Chandra is editor of QOT, one of India's earliest tech bloggers since 2004. A tech enthusiast with expertise in coding, WordPress, web tools, SEO and DIY hacks.