It’s always tempting to pack your PC with software, whether it’s tools you think you need, programs that claim to offer brilliant features, or software you feel obliged to install because they came bundled with something you bought.

However, overloading your computer isn’t a good idea. For a start, all that software can seriously eat into your storage space – unnecessarily so, if you never or rarely use them. Installed programs also often add processes that run in the background, sapping system resources and slowing your PC.

Then there are those deceitful tools that claim to be free, only to insist you have to pay to actually use them once they’re installed. Some tools can even present a threat to your security, either because they’re out of date and vulnerable to hackers, or because they come from dodgy software developers, intent on harvesting your data or smuggling unwanted programs on to your computer without your consent.

Microsoft has done a pretty good job of sharpening Windows’ toolkit over the years and you might be surprised to find just how many tasks your PC can carry out without the need for extra programs. And, when you do need to turn to a third-party option, there are so many brilliant, trustworthy free tools and mobile apps that we’ll make sure you never need to splash out on rip-off software or dodgy programs ever again.

Over the next few pages, we’ll show you precisely which programs you should steer clear of, why, and what to use instead.


With software, there really is such a thing as a free lunch. Search online and you’ll find hundreds of genuinely brilliant, genuinely free tools for all kinds of tasks, from LibreOffice to Paint.NET and beyond. Sadly, you’ll also come across tools that claim to be free but are, in fact, just keeping their real costs hidden – conning you into installing them before hitting you with a socking great bill. Others try to convince you that you need to pay for advanced features, when free tools are just as good. Then there are the rip-off merchants that try to palm off other people’s free software as their own and make you pay for it.

Programs that claim to be free but aren’t

Most fake freebies follow a familiar pattern. First, they lure you in with the promise of carrying out a task for free, then send you into a blind panic by uncovering problems you need to urgently fix, while simultaneously refusing to resolve anything until you cough up some money.

is a and, sure enough, the tool claims to “update more than 3,500,000 device drivers and components for top PC performance”, while the huge Free Download button clearly suggests that the tool is free. Guess what? It isn’t.

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