Microsoft offers a batch of extra tools and utilities for anyone to add to their Windows computers. These “Power Toys” come bundled together as a single free download, and you can get them here or from the Microsoft Store.
Some of these tools are basic while others are for advanced users, so breeze through the list to see if any of them appeal to you. I especially like remapping keys on my keyboard with the Keyboard Manager toy…
McAfee Stinger is a quick scan for your PC that can detect and remove a specific set of viruses and trojans. If you have reason to think you’re infected, you can download Stinger and use it anytime. It won’t conflict with your full-time antivirus, and it won’t try to sell you anything.
Many people continue to use vintage computers, running operating systems that are past their end-of-support date. While I recommend that these users upgrade to something modern and more secure, I understand when they stick with their classic machines. I don’t judge.
But if those computers are going to hit the internet, they do need antivirus. And as they age, it becomes more difficult to find an antivirus software that is willing to run on a much older OS. Below are some links to free antiviruses that are compatible with bygone OSes, like Vista and El Capitan.
My favorite free antivirus for older PCs is Microsoft Security Essentials. But Microsoft pulled this from their sites, so use these links to get the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version . It will run on any XP, Vista or Win7 computer.
There’s some debate on whether Macs need additional antivirus protection. For now, I’ll say: You are at greater risk if you’re using an out-of-date computer, so antivirus becomes more relevant if you’re not running the latest MacOS. If your MacOS is so old to be completely out of service, please get some antivirus ASAP.
AVG offers free antivirus for Macs here, and can install on MacOS 10.13 High Sierra or newer.
Avast offers free antivirus for Macs here, and can install on MacOS 10.11 El Capitan or newer.
If you’re looking to play a DVD movie on your Windows computer, chances are it won’t work. When you insert the DVD, your machine will spin and hum and eventually tell you, “Couldn’t open file” or some other frustratingly vague error. In any case, Windows 10 and 11 no longer have the necessary files (codecs) to make a commercial DVD run properly.
What you need for this situation is VLC Media Player. Download it for free, install it and then you’ll be able to play virtually any movie DVD, audio CD and other multimedia file that you’re having a challenge with.
You may find other DVD-viewing suggestions in the Microsoft Store, but they will either cost you money or turn out to be advertising lures. I can vouch for VLC Media Player being both free and legitimate. Oh, and it’s also available for Windows, MacOS and Linux!
All these years later, there are still many people who prefer a classic Start Menu a la the Windows 7 era. Open Shell does the trick nicely, and is still a free download for all.
But with Windows 11, the Open Shell Start button is not visible at first. You’ll just have the new-fangled Windows 11 Start button, positioned towards the middle of the Taskbar. Don’t panic. If you’ve installed Open Shell, the classic Start Button & Menu is there and will work. You just have to coax it out:
Click the new Start button and then click All Apps.
Scroll down and click Open-Shell, then click Open-Shell Menu Settings.
Check the box labeled “Replace Start button” and click OK.
Now you’ll have both Start buttons, the classic one to the left and the modern one to the middle. Use either one, depending on your preference. Or, you can move the new start button to the left and it will hide underneath the Open Shell Start button.
You should check out the Experiments by Google website! Programmers and coders everywhere have been submitting their projects to Google, and many of them are shared here, free for all to use.
But if you go to the main Experiments page I linked above, it may seem like too much to browse through. There’s over 1600 “experiments” out there! So the Collections menu or page may help you narrow it down to more relevant and interesting items.
Many years ago, Microsoft Money was a common software program used for personal finances. Then Microsoft discontinued that software, and Quicken & Quickbooks became the mainstays of personal financial software. But to this day, I still encounter MS Money loyalists.
If you’ve stuck with Microsoft Money all this time, then you need to know: it’s still available. For free! When Microsoft stopped selling MS Money in 2010, they also released it as a zero-cost, no-activation download. They renamed it Money Plus Sunset Deluxe, and it continued to work with everyone’s old Money files. Best of all, it installs and works just fine on Windows 10!
However, I’ve just noticed that Microsoft removed all of their MPSD downloads. And when I search the internets, many of the other download-websites out there are bundling the MS Money installer with malware. Yikes!
If you’re looking to load the sunsetted Money software, I don’t want you running afoul of viruses! So I’ll host a clean copy of this software in my cloud storage, in case you ever need to use it. Feel free to use the link below to get a clean & safe installer for Money:
But if you try LibreOffice, you should immediately adjust its default file types. Right out of the box, LibreOffice will save new files in the OpenDocument Format (ODF). And those aren’t as compatible or friendly with Microsoft Office software. If you share an ODF file with someone running Microsoft Office, they may not appreciate it.
But LibreOffice is made to be compatible with Microsoft Office. You can change LibreOffice to always save your files in the Microsoft file type. And as you create .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx files with Libre, you’ll be able to email them to Microsoft Office users with little to no fuss.
Adjusting LibreOffice’s Defaults
Open LibreOffice, click the Tools menu, then click Options. (Mac users should click the LibreOffice menu, then click Preferences.)
On the left, click the Plus Sign next to Load/Save, then click General.
On the right, change ‘Document Type’ to Text Document. Then set the ‘Always Save As’ field to Microsoft Word 2007-365 (*.docx).
Next, change ‘Document Type’ to Spreadsheet. Then set the ‘Always Save As’ field to Microsoft Excel 2007-365 (*.xlsx).
Lastly, change ‘Document Type’ to Presentation. Then set the ‘Always Save As’ field to Microsoft PowerPoint 2007-365 (*.pptx).
These days, we use File Explorer to navigate the files and folders on a PC, but back in 1990, Windows 3.0 offered the first tool for organizing your data: File Manager.
If you want to relive a small part of Windows 3.0, you can get File Manager for your modern computer, for free, from the Microsoft Store. It runs separately from File Explorer, so you can use both without any conflict.
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.
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?
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!