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In the world of Windows software, free has almost become a bad word. Most programs offered as a free download bring along unwelcome companions for the ride: intrusive spyware, embedded advertising, and frustrating restrictions. With most (or virtually all) functionality disabled, some of these programs are so hamstrung, they can hardly do anything. Such programs aren't really free; they're glorified advertisements for commercial applications. It's enough to drive an otherwise confirmed cheapskate to shell out hard-earned cash.
Don't despair: Though it may seem like their numbers are dwindling, Windows software developers who know the true meaning of free still exist. They produce a wide range of full-featured products--system utilities, office applications, image editors, security and privacy tools, and many other programs--that cost you no money, save you time, and in many cases perform their tasks more simply and efficiently than some bloated, commercial counterparts. These 70 tools represent some of the finest truly free, truly useful applications on the planet. And if that isn't enough, we've listed 24 Web sites where you can find more free stuff.