Top XP Freeware that every user needs Part 2

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 16, 2006
Updated • May 19, 2013

I promised to write a follow up to the article Top XP Freeware that every user needs and here it comes. I was concentrating on security aspects in the first article and will now write about other freeware that every Windows user should have available on the system. I might miss one or two but I know that you will comment and help me out.

I would like to start with two products from Sysinternals, a company that has been recently acquired by Microsoft. Their freeware is still free and available. I use Autoruns which is one of the best autostart managers around. It gathers all autostart information and displays them in various tabs making it easy to analyze and disable programs that you do not want to start with the system, for instance because you are not using them that often.

The second tool is the famous Process Explorer which is a task manager on steroids. It shows additional information that the task manager does not, great for analyzing dependencies for examples or digging deeper into the impact a process has on a system.


Windows XP  offers access to Windows Media Player which is in my opinion too slow, too big and too insecure to be used. I always install VLC, Video Lan Client, on my system. This freeware player can play many formats and reacts in an astonishing speed to input. It does not support Real Player formats (but mov for instance). I suggest you get a copy of Real Alternative if you need to play Real Player files on your system, no need to install the slower Real Player (Update: the latest VLC versions do support Real Video).

I do like Winamp when it comes to playing mp3 files on my system. I prefer an older version of Winamp, as the new 5.x version is having too many unwanted features which seem to make it slower than it should be. I want my software audio player to be fast and play mp3 files, that is all. I'm running version 2.9x of Winamp in the light version. It offers everything that I need.

Reading PDF files with Adobe Reader is slow. It loads dozens of unnecessary plugins and you have to wait a long time until it opens the file. Foxit Reader on the other hand is a freeware alternative which is fast, real fast. An alternative to Microsoft Office is Open Office. It is free, supports formats the Microsoft Office uses and is just incredible for a free office suit.

Everyone needs an image viewer, the Windows XP one is crap as always. I started my journey to find an alternative with ACDSee until it was turned into a commercial program only. I then switched to Irfanview and finally found the ideal one: XNView. It does not make that much of a difference though, I just like the way you use XnView better, that is all.

If you need a tool that offers advanced image editing you should take a look at GIMP. It offers everything users like you and me could possibly want from an image editing tool.

The Web:

I don't want to write about browsers and email clients in detail - I do prefer Firefox and Thunderbird but Opera is also a nice browser which should get more attention from the general audience.

Once in a while I want to download a website for offline browsing. This is nice if you have a notebook for instance and need some information of the web but won't be able to access that information while not at home. Download the website, store it on the hard drive and you can access the information. HTTrack does that.

I do prefer Bitcomet over uTorrent because I have received some errors in uTorrent that were not possible to fix at that time. Both are torrent clients by the way.

Everything Else:

Unlocker is a great utility for Windows XP. If you ever wanted to delete a file and got the message that you could not do it because it is in use you know why unlocker is so great. It gets rid of the process that binds the file and you can safely delete it afterwards.

Myuninstaller adds functionality like multiple uninstalls at once to windows xp. It displays more information about a certain product, much more than windows xp does by itself. You can see the path where it is stored, the registry keys and much more.

I surely have missed some of the tools, let me know about them :)


Tutorials & Tips

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  1. Mary said on November 22, 2006 at 2:52 am

    wow, I use many of these programs!
    Don’t forget GreatNews for your desktop rss reader!
    Google Earth for wasting time in an enjoyable way.
    Crap Cleaner, HiJack This, Cropper…
    Google’s Picassa for graphic organization and some nice effects
    Thanks… very helpful

  2. Iain said on November 19, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    OpenOffice is fast enough on a reasonably modern machine. Switching Java off makes it much faster to start up. Google for it and you’ll find instructions.

    A quicker free word processor is Abiword, and there is always Google Docs.

  3. paul said on November 19, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    First off, cheers for the UNLOCKER tip. I have been looking for an alternative to WhoLockME because WhoLockME does nto always work.
    FYI on Process Explorer. I just posted this on their new MS TechNET website-

    I’ve used PE for some time now and only just realized it was acquired by MS and had an upgrade. I upgraded to 10.21. As I opened the program I heard my PC running like it was putting all of its energy into opening and running PE. I opened Windows Task Manager and it showed PE’s PEAK MEM USAGE as the highest, at 382,588k and its MEM USAGE as 43,632k (still, after running PE for 15 min). I never noticed this before with my prior version (which I still have, thankfully). With V9.25, the WIN TM shows PE’s PEAK MEM at 14,600k and MEM USAGE at 14,536k. For such a small program that allows one to (among other uses) control MEM usage, it’s ironic that it uses HIGH MEM itself.

    I have read other posts and do not see. NET on my PC. In fact I am sure I uninstalled it recently.

  4. sneakypete said on November 17, 2006 at 8:16 pm

    Here is a list of pretty good ones…

  5. cc said on November 17, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    XnView is my image viewer of choice as well. As for multimedia, I use mplayer; the MPUI build for windows users is perfect. Small, clean interface and plays pretty much everything.

  6. Lennart said on November 17, 2006 at 2:01 pm

    I like too, but it doesn’t support ICC & ICM profiles. For professional reasons is this program to weak, unfortunately …

    However, for ‘simple’ Tif & Jpg editing i use and recommend!

  7. Dearon said on November 17, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    Wow thanks Oliver, there were some nice programs in that list that i can use =)
    And Martin, also thanks for these 2 lists.
    I knew most of the programs but it’s always handy to have a list with links to use
    Well your site has already become such a place for me, but you seems to succeed in improving it every time by finding programs i didn’t knew or do things like this, so thanks allot

  8. devangx5 said on November 17, 2006 at 11:52 am
    Reply is a superb image editing program. And also has most of the features/functionality of Adobe Photoshop.

  9. Oliver Alexander said on November 17, 2006 at 8:28 am

    I have failed to find a downloadable version of the here recommended MPlayer for Windows. The d/l links on are dead!

  10. Manuel M said on November 17, 2006 at 8:16 am

    Faststone Image Viewer ( just the best.

    Nice GUI, short load time, ACDSee-like interface and working way, hundred of filters like crop, resize, brightness, etc.

    And the best feature IMHO is batch processing, perfect for batch resize, rename or anything else. An AWESOME program.

  11. Oliver Alexander said on November 17, 2006 at 7:33 am

    OpenOffice is regretfully abysmally slow. Does anybody know a faster freeware Wordprocesser/Spreadsheet combo?

    For all what I dislike M’$oft, Word and Excel are very fast. I still happily use the Office 97 components where I could remove the splash screens! For my purposes I have yet to find a reason to upgrade. There might be cheap second hand copies of Office 97 for sale (completely legal!).

  12. Oliver Alexander said on November 17, 2006 at 7:02 am

    To start with a few basics, which are all selected for general usefulness (more than one basic functionality per program, if possible), minimal downloadsize, minimal resource use, and minimum of fuss in terms of useability.

    Generally google for the program with program name, and if need be authorname and other sensible keywords). Few URLs are given.

    1. First of all you need a decent file manager: try xplorer2 (includes FTP client)

    2. You will need Un/Zipping various formats: try 7zip

    3. You always need System Info Details when you dont have documentation handy: Try “System Info for Windows” by (Gabriel Topala)

    4. For Images I use IrfanView. For more editing I use a fast, pre-bloatware version of Paint Shop Pro (up to V. 7), which is powerful for almost everything. I don’t know of any fast and capeable freeware raster graphics editor.

    On my system Image double-click is IrvanView, right-click “Edit” is PSP 7.

    – For Powerful Graphics Editing: try the Gimp!

    – For Vector-Graphic: try Inkscape

    – For lossless JPEG manipulations: try JPEGCrops

    5. To set file associations painlessly but with plenty of power: Try “WAssociate”

    6. If you want to burn fast: try DeepBurner

    7. If you want to check CDs/DVDs: try CDCheck (

    8. For fuss-free and fast viewing of fonts (installed or not): try The Font Thing

    9. For FAST Adobe Acrobat doc Viewing: try Foxit Reader

    10. An excellent Notepad replacement is included with xplorer2 – if you need syntax highlighting try bloat free Notepad2

    11. As standby Hex-Editor: try tiny hexer

    12. For playing mp3s/Oggs in the background try the fast TrayPlayer (it basically does only this, but very well – what media players in general is concerned, all of them seem to be bloated crap, or have extremely crappy interfaces!)

    13. Instead of the good Thunderbird you might want to try Foxmail as alternative mail client!

    14. As a small footprint instant messaging client: try Miranda IM

    15. As dictionary try “WordWeb”

    16. For a multitude of functionalities try “PowerPro” (

    this is one small download for:
    – Virtual Desktops
    – Keyboard/Mouse Shortcuts
    – Past from Clip Collection
    – disable Shift key
    – Windows on top or not
    – Launchbars (which I generally don’t use)
    – and tons and tons more

    Needs some intelligence to set up.

    17. If you need to know time-zones, etc.: try “WorldTime from Pawprint

    18. If you need virtual CD/DVD drives: try Virtual Clone Drive from SlySoft

    19. As downloadmanager: “Down them all” for Firefox, or FlashGet (for free now!)

    20. For a graphical overview of your harddrive: contents try “SequoiaView” (far more useful, than this toy seems to be in the beginning!)

    21. As a better Task Manager: try SysInternals Process Explorer

    22. Configurable OnScreen Clock: try Digital Timepiece.

    23. Complete set of functionalities with regards to measuring stuff on your screen: Meazure

    24. It might be from Microsoft, but it is free and also very helpful for many often requested tweaking tasks: TweakUI !

    (Tip: once you have done the idiotic Microsoft install routine, u can use the file TweakUI.exe forthwith and transfer it to different computers without requiring any installation – you can even place it wherever you want)

    25. Finally, my contribution to the Browser War:

    – Opera works better out of box, offers more for users that do not want fiddle around a lot but like to have a broad set of capeabilities without fuss.

    – Firefox is for tweakers who want to bring out the best of their browser by adding sensibly selected Extensions

    This was my 25 cents worth of freeware sense. I hope it helped some ;)

  13. mouser said on November 17, 2006 at 12:31 am
  14. RG said on November 16, 2006 at 9:03 pm

    For productivity, Samurize and AutoHotkey. Still like the old Mozilla suite (SeaMonkey). Another vote for Faststone but not forgetting Xnview. HTMLKit for web authoring.

  15. Tobey said on November 16, 2006 at 8:52 pm

    Oh men, how could I forget to mention Opera in the last Freeware list comment… It’s definitely the best freeware EVER!!! Viva Opera!

  16. Martin said on November 16, 2006 at 8:38 pm

    wow thanks Lorissa, that is really nice of you.

  17. Lorissa said on November 16, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    Yes, Iain, Google Talk is a tremendous program … but so is just about everything Google does. :)

  18. Lorissa said on November 16, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    Martin, you just get better and better in offering things to the public with this site. You are truly a treasure of a person, a man who gives and gives and expects nothing in return.

    Thank you.


  19. Iain Cheyne said on November 16, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    Opera – faster and more secure than Firefox
    Google Talk
    Launchy – keyboard-friendly app launcher

  20. Lennart said on November 16, 2006 at 12:04 pm


    I’ve a addition: i always used irfanview, but after i discovered faststone image viewer i barely use irfanview any more. Only for quick viewing (doubleclick) i use irfanview. For other tasks (like cropping: faststone is marvelous!) i recommend faststone.

    At least, give it a try.

    As a photographer i shoot a lot of raw. IrfanView is the fastest, and second is faststone.

  21. Devdatta Akhawe said on November 16, 2006 at 11:15 am

    Come’on VLC??? mPlayer is much much better. VLC interface is a tremendous pain. mPlayer has sooo many kewl features ..( AV delay , SUB delay , in movie contrast and brightness etc. ) and using the mPlayer engine and some additional tools you can convert nearly any video you want to another format.

    All Codecs work out of the box. And you don’t need to install it … just copy paste to any place you like, which is something I always prefer over installation.

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