Category: Free (Page 1 of 2)

Bogus Windows 11 Upgrades

There are right ways and wrong ways to get your free Windows 11 upgrade. Of course, the cybercriminals are waiting to guide you into the wrong ways.

Lately, fake upgrade websites are showing up in web searches when people go looking for a way to install Windows 11. And these frauds look very similar to legitimate Microsoft websites. If it doesn’t explicitly show “microsoft.com” at the beginning of the URL, it’s a trap!

The safest way to get the free Windows 11 upgrade is to wait for your computer to offer it to you. Eligible Windows 10 computers will eventually show a pop-up about it. If you click the message, you’ll see the following, which is trustworthy to use:

legitimate Windows upgrade notice

If you think your computer is taking too long to offer this to you, you can check manually from within Windows 10. Click the Start button, go to Settings, then to Update & Security. You may see a similar option there to Download and Install Windows 11. Or you may see some options to check your system for Windows 11 compatibility. Again, all of these options are safe to try and use.

It’s when people go searching for a download website that things get dicey. Even the best search engines can be gamed by the scammers, to show bogus offers and malware-laden downloads. If you need it, here is the real Microsoft website for downloading the various editions of Windows. That site is legitimate and contains no viruses.

If your computer is very old and ineligible to receive Windows 11, don’t go looking for a workaround. It’s just not worth it. Better to wait until you someday buy a new computer — all new computers now come with Windows 11.

Bitdefender Discontinues Its Free Antivirus

For many years, Bitdefender has offered free antivirus to all, but that ends soon for Windows users. As of 1/1/2022, they say that their free software will be discontinued. And they’d love to sell you their paid antivirus!

But whoa there, let’s slow it down a bit. If they’re trying to convert you to a paying customer, put your wallet away and consider other free protection software. There’s plenty of options out there!

Your first step will be to uninstall all Bitdefender Free software from your computer. After you do that and reboot your PC, check the white or blue shield icon in your taskbar. The Windows Security Center should allow you to turn on Microsoft’s built-in protection, Microsoft Defender Antivirus. (And in many cases, it turns itself on!) That is enough protection, and equivalent to any other free antivirus out there!

If you really want to go above and beyond, you may. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but I realize that some folks appreciate having a 3rd party antivirus app. And many other companies still offer free antivirus, like:

Avast Free Antivirus

AVG Free Antivirus

Avira Free Antivirus

These programs are trustworthy and quality, but may advertise to you after you install them. If you go with Microsoft’s free protection, you won’t see any ads or sales offers!

If you have any difficulty or concern with this switch, please call me! I can remotely assist with this quick changeover.

USPS Operation Santa

The USPS needs your help! Their Operation Santa program has gone national this year, and they need generous people to help them answer letters sent to Santa.

This USPS program collects and posts Santa-letters from kiddos all over the USA. When you participate in the program, you can “adopt” a letter, respond to it appropriately and send a gift (as Santa) through regular USPS mail.

If you’re interested in fulfilling a child’s holiday wish, you should check out how it all works, as well as the FAQ, for this program. They’ve got all kinds of instructions and print-outs that make this easy to do.

Google Opinion Rewards

Most of the time, online surveys are a waste of time, or worse. They serve to collect & sell your information, while giving nothing back to you, or increasing your spam. But Google Opinion Rewards is an exception, and one that I can vouch for personally.

This app is free to install on your smartphone, and you will get paid for occasionally answering a brief survey. And by brief, I mean 10-30 seconds of your time. The questions are varied and not too personal, but might include things like:

  • Did you visit any of the following stores recently?
  • Are you a college graduate?
  • Have you watched the following video on YouTube and did you like it?

Surveys can be easily answered, skipped or ignored and are not intrusive. And for each survey you answer, you get a bit of money, usually between 10ยข and $1.00. While this cannot be withdrawn as real cash, it does accrue for you to use to buy anything from the Google Play Store. You can use your earnings to buy Games, Apps, Movies or eBooks from Google.

If you don’t want your info being collected any more than it already is, then pass on this app. But if you want to earn a little something when the big tech companies study you, give this a try. In 4 years, I myself have gathered almost $380 in credits from this app. That’s a lot of digital movies!

Google Opinion Rewards for Android

Google Opinion Rewards for iOS

Windows 11 Is Coming

Microsoft is starting to talk about their next version of Windows, and we may see it released in late 2021 or early 2022. Windows 11 will be a free upgrade for any computer running a legitimate copy of Windows 10.

But not all computers will be able to handle Windows 11. If you care to check your computer’s compatibility, Microsoft made this quick software tool for all to use. Download, run and open that program, and then click the big blue Check Now button.

If your computer is found to be Not Compatible with the upcoming Windows, no need to worry. Windows 10 will be supported through October 2025. And you’ll be welcome to use Windows 10 past that time, just as there are still some folks using Windows 7 in 2021.

For more general info on Windows 11, check out the intro page over at Microsoft.com.

Paywalls & Private Browsing

Last month, I posted the basics about Private Browsing, but I skipped mentioning one of its important uses: Bypassing paywalls. When a website insists that you pay for access, Private Browsing can sometimes get you in without payment or logging in.

This most commonly works for news websites and other pages that offer you “5 free articles this month” before requiring you to sign up and buy a subscription. If you really need to read an article behind a paywall, you can try to right-click the link to the article and open the link in a Private Browsing/Incognito window. Or, you can copy the URL to the article, open a separate Private Browsing window, and paste it onto the address bar.

This works based on the cookies and other temp files placed on your computer by the website in question. When you switch over to a Private browsing window, the website cannot detect or place cookies on your computer. Having no cookie access, the website cannot know if you’ve viewed 1 or 5 or any number of its articles. So it may treat you as a new visitor & just let you in.

I have hesitated to broadcast this, as I don’t want to encourage Not Paying For Journalism. Many news media companies are suffering financially, and I don’t want to add to their financial woes. So I would like to ask that you consider using this tip as comparable to taking a free sample at Costco. If you find yourself returning again and again, for many free samples, please consider paying for what you are viewing. That company you are taking from needs your support!

Microsoft Office: Buy, Rent or Pass

When it comes to office software, most people think of Microsoft Office, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint. But Microsoft gives you a lot to think about before you spend money on their Office suite, so here’s some details that may help you understand what you’re getting into.

This site breaks out your basic options for buying or renting MS Office.

Buy: Microsoft Office

When you want to pay a one-time fee and “own” your Office programs, focus on Office 2021. Note that Office 2021 Home & Student version only contains Word, Excel and PowerPoint. For those needing Outlook, look at Office 2021 Home & Business. And if you must have Publisher or Access, you’ll have to shell out even more money to buy for Office 2021 Professional.

Rent: Microsoft 365

If you’re open to paying a recurring fee to use Office software, then Microsoft 365 is what to consider. When you agree to an annual fee for Microsoft 365, you get access to all Microsoft Office apps, plus you get 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage. And you can install your software on up to 6 devices. Microsoft 365 Personal is intended for one person to use on all his/her devices, whereas Microsoft 365 Family is used when you want to “send” an Office license to other people (family or friends).

A further benefit to Microsoft 365 is that it automatically upgrades to the new version of Office as it comes available. Later this year, for example, Office 2021 will be released. Microsoft 365 users will wake up one morning to see this magically appear on their systems. But those who bought Office 2019… will see no change. That’s not a big deal, because Office 2019 will be usable for many more years. But no one can see the future of this software, so it is hard to tell: Will Office 2019 users ever be pushed to upgrade (repurchase) their software? Will it happen in 2025? 2030?

Pass: LibreOffice/OpenOffice

For many of you, though, this is all moot. Because for us frugal types, there is still LibreOffice and OpenOffice. Instead of shelling out $150 or $70/yr., these open source programs are available for $0. So if you want to take a pass on paying Microsoft, give LibreOffice a try!

Your Local Gift Economy

Freecycle was started some 18 years ago as a way of networking, in order to give things away. No sales or deals permitted, this was a tool for people to give things away with no fees or strings attached. And Freecycle is still around today, with groups spread all over for people to find & use.

But your local gift economy has changed and matured over the years, and there are other ways now to give things away! If the Craigslist-like format of Freecycle doesn’t suit you, check out the Buy Nothing Project.

Buy Nothing is similar to Freecycle, in that you can give away any items or service you want, as long as it is 100% free. You may also post requests for something you want to find, for free. But instead of mailing lists & messageboards, Buy Nothing runs on Facebook. All you have to do is find your region’s Buy Nothing Facebook Group and Join it.

You can go about that two different ways: 1) Go to the Buy Nothing page and look through the lists for what’s closest to you, or 2) go to Facebook and use the search field to hunt for “Buy Nothing”. Once you’ve joined your local BN Group, you’ll be able to see and make posts in your area’s Buy Nothing community.

Check out the Buy Nothing FAQ for lots more details!

Freebies at Epic Games

Epic Games has given away free games for quite some time now, announcing a new freebie every week. The games vary in quality — some are niche, others are amazing, but they are all truly free. You just have to visit the site, make an account, and click the Claim button on any free game you want. No fees, no catches!

But for the 2020 Holiday season, Epic is going all out! They are giving away a different game each day, until 2021. Each game is only available for 24 hours, but if you claim it, you get to keep it and play it forever, for free. So gamers, everywhere: Check the Epic Games site each day for the rest of the year!

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