The software that I use and recommend

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Two things have been happening lately:

1. People have been asking me about which antivirus to use (as well as software in other categories).

2. I have been repairing my clients’ computers and seeing that they are still using old, no-longer-recommended programs.


I realized that it has been a while since I did a blog post about what software I personally use and highly recommend.  So, time for an update.

NOTE: This means you! I am making these recommendations for a reason – because using the software listed below will be better for your computer, which means it’s better for you.  AND it is probably going to save you money, because in many cases these programs will prevent problems that would otherwise require you to hire a tech to take care of.  So please take my advice and use these programs, okay?

Microsoft Security Essentials (antivirus – free)
Get it here
This is the antivirus program I have been using since last October.  I know some of you are still using AVG, which I recommended for years.  However, the newest version of AVG (AVG 2011) has caused many computers to freeze up.  Even if it seems to be working fine now, that can change.  You might as well make the switch before you have problems.

Malwarebytes (antispyware – $24.99 once)
Get it here
Viruses and spyware are two different things, and require different protection. Malwarebytes is probably the best at finding and removing malicious apps that sneak on to your computer, and by having the paid version you will be able to stop them from sneaking in in the first place.

SuperAntiSpyware (antispyware – free)
Get it here
I have been using SAS in combination with Malwarebytes for a while now, and now I recommend it.  Each of these programs can find things that the other one does not detect.  SAS also gives you the option of requiring your permission if any program tries to change your browser’s home page.  There is a paid version, but the free version is fine to use.

Mozy (online backup service – free up to 2 gb)
Get it here
I have been preaching for years that you need to have a regular automated backup system in place, because your hard drive will die eventually.  You may get some warning, you may not.  I still get at least 1 call per week from someone who is scared to death that they have lost their pictures or other documents because they computer won’t boot up and they don’t have a backup.  Don’t let that be you!  Even if you have more than 2 gb of data, this is a cheap, automated service that allows you to not have to worry about losing anything important.

Firefox (web browser – free)
Get it here
Years ago I started using Firefox because it was safer, faster and more configurable than Internet Explorer.  Today, I wouldn’t be quite as negative on IE, because it has improved drastically over the years.  In fact, I use both at various times.  However, I still prefer Firefox.

Adobe Reader (PDF Reader – free)
Get it here
Yes, I have been pretty negative on Adobe Reader in the past.  That’s because they seem to always be asking to update, and they were so bloated that they just seemed to drag along.  Well, they still need to be updated (and will prompt you when this is needed) but the speed isn”t as much of an issue now.  And the PDF reader alternatives didn’t get me too excited – they all have their little quirks.  At least Adobe Reader is pretty dependable about opening PDF files.

Gadwin’s (screenshot software – free)
Get it here
When I need to take a picture of something on my screen and paste it into a blog post or into an email, I have found Gadwin’s to be the easiest to use.  Several of my clients absolutely love it.

VLC Media player (audio and video player – free)
Get it here
I have found VLC to be more reliable than Windows Media Player.  I recently did a blog post about it here.

If you need help with downloading, installing or using any of these programs, I am happy to assist.  However, I can’t do email tech support – I get waaayyy too many emails.  I can offer help through my Remote Support service – details here.

What about you?  Have you used a particular software that you really love?  Let us know in the comments.

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Jim Robertson
June 13th, 2011


I have used Gadwin since you recommended it. I find it very useful, although I have to take the captured jpg into PhotoShop to add annotations. On April 18, 2011 you highlighted AWESOME SCREEN SHOOT ADD ON, which looks like it would save me the PhotoShop step for most annotations. I gather you are still recommending GADWIN over AWESOME SCREEN SHOT?

As to (free) Software that I might add to your list:

Audacity for sound editing:

Irfanview for photo editing:
(although to be honest I don’t use it much as I am heavy into photography and tend to use Lightroom, Bridge and PhotoShop more

Directory to Printer: KarenWare:

Scott Johnson
June 13th, 2011

Awesome Screen Shot is great for when what you need is displayed in the web browser window – that’s all it can capture. For everything else displayed on the screen, Gadwin’s is my choice.

Ken Leatherman
June 13th, 2011


Good recommendations and I agree with you on the free and easy use. However I have had some issues with VLC not opening wmv. files when sent by my clients and friends. But when I switch back over to .wmp everything works o.k.

A big whopping Yahoo! with Firefox. Except for 1 thing. When I go into my PayPal account to use MassPay, Firefox will not allow me to upload the file to PayPal. But going over to IE or Chrome it works just fine.

If you have any suggestions how to get Firefox to allow the drop down box necessary to do that; sure would appreciate it.

Well I’m going to go over to your support and give a holler there about it too.


June 13th, 2011

I’m certainly surprised that Zone Alarm is not mentioned. Even Windows 7 firewall STILL does not give the user program control to determine which programs will be allowed to access the outside world. This outgoing control is certainly needed.

While I agree that Audicity and Irfanview are darn near necessary programs, I also am a firm believer in backups. I use Carbonite but also use a disk imaging program on a regular basis because:

On a total disk failure, having an external drive or a DVD with EVERYTHING on it is invaluable. I once had a catastrophic disk failure and after replacement of the drive was up and running EXACTLY where the one was in an HOUR AND A HALF! This capability of an up-to-date disk image is priceless!

( I use Acronis)

– Larry –

Scott Johnson
June 13th, 2011

Thanks Larry. I have mixed feelings on both. I have not used a software firewall in years. Your router has a hardware firewall built in, and with proper browsing habits, I think it is sufficient. Moreover, I have run into many situations where there was a recurring problem with internet access, and eliminating Zone Alarm solved the problem.

Regarding full image backups, I would never rely on it. The problem is that the image is in a proprietary format, so you can’t actually see what data is contained in it. The only time you would know if that image is valid and usable is when you are trying to restore after a crash – and that’s not the time to be finding out if your backup is valid.

Jim Perry
June 13th, 2011

I would add Evernote to the free list. It’s incredibly useful and has become my filing system. Your data becomes (selectively) available everywhere: Windows, Mac, Web, iPhone, Android, etc.. Free for JPEG and PDF storage, $5 per month for all file types.

June 15th, 2011

For, Directory to Printer, I recommend: Directory Report