Cobain Backup - a free backup program that you can fully customize - scheduling, backing up to various drives including network drives, etc. Now uses Shadow Volume Copy so you can back up while you work on your computer.
Firefox - the latest version of Firefox is fast and very secure and remains the best with extensions of all the browsers. Check out Personas - an easy way to dress up Firefox.
CCleaner - great for cleaning up temp files, temp files leftover from crashes, and cleaning up the Registry, disabling unnecessary start-up items and more.
Revo Uninstaller - an advanced un-installer program that enables you to remove the usual leftover registry items and folders.
Defraggler - from the makers of CCleaner, this program is a great replacement for the Windows defragment program. Works in all recent versions of Windows. This program lets you see what is going on (like the old program in XP). It is fast and can work even if you have less than 10% of the hard drive free.
Thunderbird - an excellent email program from Mozilla (same group that brings you Firefox). I find this much easier to customize and to backup and move files around when need be than Outlook or Outlook Express. The latest version has tabs and the search feature is most excellent.
Winamp - best free media player overall - yes it has playlists and you can use it with your ipod or any other MP3 player. Works better than iTunes and doesn't install other programs behind your back, and you can customize its many settings (file formats to deal with, whether it launches on its own or by your command...). Great for doing live mixes as you can queue songs up.
DVDFlick - convert and burn digital video files (many formats supported) to DVD in regular DVD video format. Also has basic menu creation features too.
VLC Media Player - for playing a wide variety of video and music files, DVDs, and streaming. When Windows Media Player won't play it, this will. The user interface isn't that pretty, but it works.
uTorrent - the best little torrent program around. Pronounced MOO-torrent (as the initial u is actually the micro symbol)
Peerblock - lets you control who your computer "talks to" on the Internet. By selecting appropriate lists of "known bad" computers, you can block communication with advertising or spyware oriented servers, computers monitoring your p2p activities, computers which have been "hacked", even entire countries! They can't get in to your computer, and your computer won't try to send them anything either.Productivity
Open Office 3 - the best free alternative to MS Office. And it can open .docx files. You can create a PDF directly from any of the programs in the suite with a click of an icon. Word processor, spreadsheet, drawing program, database, you can make it save things in MS Office format by default if you need to share documents with others have MS Office, and more. Currently on version 3.2.1
EssentialPIM - A personal information manager. Similar to many of the other features in Outlook (outside of the email part). If you want a PIM that is not bogged down by the email part of Outlook - just a basic appointment calendar, contact list, To Do list and notes - this is a great program.
AVG Free - anti-virus and anti-spyware, and much improved since it first came out. Easy to use and works better than the big programs that must be purchased.
Malwarebytes - A good anti-spyware removal program to use along with your regular security program to occasionally check for bugs. Has a quickscan mode that takes about 10 minutes, and a full scan mode. Also adds as a context menu so you can right-click on a file/folder/drive and choose to scan it with Malwarebytes.
Mailwasher Free - filter out Spam before it gets to your email program. Works with a wide variety of email programs. Free version only works for one email address. Paid version will work with multiple addresses.
TeraCopy - Improves copying speed for large files and for when copying a lot of files at once. Also has better overwrite and skip options. Install it and it replaces the Windows copy function. You can still use the usual cut/copy and paste shortcuts.
7zip - decompression and compression of many many compression formats, and free!
Foxit PDF reader - works directly inside a Firefox tab as well as on its own. Faster and with a much smaller footprint than Adobe Reader. They keep making this better with every version
Crossloop - enables you to remotely connect to another computer to give or get help. Very simple to useGot any favourite free programs I left out? Add them in comments