A-Z of Computing: F is for Free Stuff!


We all like free stuff! BOGOF offers in the supermarket, free gifts with magazines, a free coffee when you’ve filled your loyalty card… Free software, free downloads, free wifi. But is free always good or safe when we’re talking about computers?

Free software comes in two sorts – genuinely free and legal, offered by manufacturers (often containing advertising for their paid versions, hoping you’ll upgrade, or offered on a limited trial basis). The other sort is free but
pirated – downloading a copy of Microsoft Office from an unknown source, and then searching for illegal/pirated license codes for example. Obviously I don’t recommend this for legal reasons, but if you’re trying to use a dodgy
copy of the most up to date Microsoft software, you may find that Microsoft’s own piracy checks trip you up, as they can tell if you’re using a legal copy. Even worse, many of the sites where you can obtain “free”
license keys or key generators are infected with viruses and malware. Free music and video downloads should also be treated carefully as they might be pirated or again, infected with malware. Free info sheets, ebooks and apps are becoming more popular these days, often offered by a company in return for signing up for their e-mail list (in the hope you’ll buy from them in the future). They often give you very useful information, but you can end up receiving a lot of marketing e-mails, or having to unsubscribe – but those are a lot better to deal with than viruses!

It’s not all bad news though – some free software can be very useful.
– For low-risk internet users, I would suggest AVG Free anti-virus (just ignore the ads about upgrading to the Pro version!)
– To clean out your PC and remove junk files CCleaner can be a powerful tool
– For image editing, try GIMP or IrfanView – both free with some great features
– VLC Media Player is a much more streamlined player than Windows Media Player, but still has advanced features.

And of course – free advice! We don’t charge if you want to pop in and ask us a question, or get a quote for your IT problem – and we can also arrange free assessment visits for businesses.

If you have any questions about software or anything else IT related, please contact us on [email protected] – or pop into our NEW premises at 32A Broad Street, Newent!