The World of Free Software

Welcome to the World of Free Software. We at PC Pitstop have a very unique view on free software because we test so many PC’s every day! As I have already documented, I love free software. Not because of the price tag, but because in many instances, the free software is superior to its capitalistic competitors.

It’s a fine line for a software company, but most freeware entities spend almost all of their activity and money on development. Balance that against a more typical company that spends money on marketing, distribution, OEM partners, etc.

That’s the free software dilemma. At times, free software is a superior product with poor awareness and hence poor acceptance. I believe that everyone wants great free software, they just don’t know about it.

Hopefully, we at PC Pitstop can shed a little more light on the world of free software through this report. We will update the reports quarterly, and take whatever suggestions you might want to give.

At PC Pitstop, we have visibility on the number of PCs that have each software installed. Then we divide that number by the total universe of PCs installed to calculate the attach rate. The attach rate it the % of PC’s that have the software installed on their PC. That’s our basic methodology.

Here’s our first stab at the top 6 free software applications. (1.5% of PC’s) Graphics

I was really disappointed to see at only 1.5% of PC’s. I use this program almost every day. There is a learning curve to do some basic functions such as cropping a photo but this is offset by the enormous functionality of the product., similar to many of its free software brethren, has a robust plug-in architecture, which enables a multitude of 3rd party developers to enhance the functionality of the product. I was blown away at the number of plug ins to manipulate photos and graphics. The strange thing is that American acceptance lags behind all other parts of the world. Hopefully, through this article, will get more recognition for being one of the best graphics packages out there. More analysis here.

Thunderbird (3.5% of PC’s) Email

Thunderbird is made by the Mozilla foundation, the same visionaries that brought us the Firefox browser. Unlike Firefox, Thunderbird usage is quite small and its attach rate is essentially a plateau. This is not good. A flat attach rate indicates that people are uninstalling the software at the same rate as people are installing. Personally, I love Thunderbird (although it certainly has its quirks), and it beats the pants out of Outlook Express or Outlook. But there is a huge hinderance to Thunderbird’s market acceptance, and that is the internet. Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail have been rapidly increasing the storage space that their online applications consume. Over time, these free in-the-cloud applications pose a serious threat to the adoption of Thunderbird. We’ll keep an eye on it here are PC Pitstop. More Thunderbird analysis here.

Google Chrome (6.5% of PC’s) Web browser.

Google came out last year with yet another entry in the web browser world. Our research shows that Google quickly acquired over 5% share but they are not accelerating. It seems as if there was an initial adoption rush due to Google’s name recognition, but it still remains to be seen whether the browser gets any traction against Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Open Office (14% of PC’s) Business Productivity.

Here’s the news flash. Open Office is rocking. In the last 12 months, Open Office’s attach rate has more than tripled from a little over 4% to over 14%. This is not a mathematical anomaly either. Our data set represents millions and millions of PC’s, so 2008 can truly be considered the year of Open Office. At 14%, this has to be enough to give Microsoft some pause. Probably even more concerning to the Redmond boys is that business is taking up Open Office as well as home users. More Open Office analysis here.

AVG Anti Virus (26% of PC’s) Anti Virus.

A little company out of Czechoslavakia has become one of the largest anti virus providers in the world. At 26% of all PC’s tested at PC Pitstop worldwide, they are clearly in the big leagues in PC security. The only concern is that their growth seems to have peaked in the middle of last year. It is also not a big surprise that there is a huge gap between home and business users, since companies tend to want to pay for their security. Either way, it seems as if AVG is here to stay. More AVG analysis here.

Mozilla Firefox (35% of PC’s) Web browser.

Hat’s off to the king of free software, Mozilla Firefox. First a digression. It recently came out that Firefox had just risen above 20% of web browsers. Our number is quite above the public number, why? In my views, there are two reasons. First, PC Pitstop measures whether the application is installed. Logically, more people have it installed than actually are using it. Secondly, the number looks at all of the web population including Apple and Linux users. Another reason is that Apple users are less likely to use Firefox than Windows users. The Pitstop measure is only of Windows users.

Either way, Firefox is a huge home run. They came out with a technically superior architecture, and word spread like wild fire. Microsoft is still scrambling to catch up on functionality. More Firefox analysis here.


Please make all your comments below. We will read them and consider them for the next issue of The World of Free Software. Thanks for reading.

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130 thoughts on “The World of Free Software”

  1. wIOIhen ordering you ask for email address an password do I put my email and make up a password or what please email me with instruction

    1. When you order, you create an account — then after you purchase, you will log in using those credentials.

  2. It seem that all those Anti-Virus programs have at least one false positive within them for reasons we will never know anyway i just came across this browser.THE WORLD BROWSER, i have tried all the rest but i cross fingers i think this is the best.

  3. Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird are great, but I suggest an alternative, SeaMonkey, especially if you have a home office. It uses less ram than the combo Firefox and Thunderbird.
    I say, though few know about SeaMonkey, and few use it, I recommend that you list it. I was bothered because SeaMonkey does not have Lightning addon as Thunderbird does, so, I installed Mozilla Sunbird the standalone calendar application.
    I also use Firefox, Flock, and K-Meleon. I’ve always used multiple browsers, only now all Gecko.

  4. Bruce and Dan,

    I work for IT also. One of the main reasons we buy our software is for support. Even though some free Software may be superior to paid software we know when we have an support agreement we are able to get someone to help us when we have an issue. If we find the company is not providing the support paid for, we research for another software that provides better support service. When you are dealing with complicated systems which need to provide many types of services and software, you will run into many technical issues and you need an army of experts to help resolve them.

  5. Contrary to what you said about the script kiddie damaging a windows system I can shut down viruses, trojans, ect through the windows taks manager. What that means is that I can remove a virus by hand which I believe that can’t be done on Linux. In fact if I know where a visus is at I prefer to remove it by hand instead of the antivirus. Javascript can be disabled in internet explorer as well. In a windows operating system I can also undo the damager by usig system restore which I don’t believe you can. Bruce IT experts have to deal with security ever day so be careful what you say to Dan because I can tell that you know nothing of Windows.

  6. That’s true if you never download anything. When I download anything from the internet I always save the program file to my desktop and than scan the file with my antivirus. I switched to Avast by the way to see if AVG missed anything and sure enough AVG did. I’m never going back to AVG. Don’t take this personally Bruce, but I’d like to ask you a question. Were the computers damaged as if by accident? That’s totally relevant to your story by the way. It’s very easy to damage a system in process by a hack and only an experienced hacker knows how to avoid that. Unlike some people I value my customer’s data enough to do anything it takes to avoid hacks. I’m not scared by that way. I just feel exposing my network to the world isn’t worth risk of my customer’s credit card numbers being stolen. Companies are having sensitive information being stolen and I wonder why.

  7. I think it’s funny how everybody brags about how good there anti virus software is( paid for or not) I for one, can understand why someone would think there software is great. I have not used anti virus or third party firewalls in six years, and have NEVER, EVER got a virus. Spy ware is handled nicely by Windows Defender. I run Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware(free)and it never finds anything either. No wonder they work so well… You don’t need ’em…

  8. I suppose you program to error handling and handle buffer overflow properly? Buffer flow is a programming security issue by the way.

  9. The freebies I use are Zone Alarm (5.5.094)- works great and have never needed to upgrade, Avira, Spybot S&D, WinPatrol, Spyware Blaster, Webshots, Foxit reader (a million times quicker than Adobe for pdf files), ZipGenius 6, Fresh UI and Fresh Download, CCleaner, System Security Suite, O&O defrag 2000(windows defrag is useless) and many more. My AMD athlon 900 (don’t laugh) running XP SP2 hasn’t had a virus or bug for years. I tried Firefox 3, but in all honesty, IE6 works better and faster for me.

  10. A good hacker is capable of many things and hacking most systems given enough time.

    That said, it takes an experienced and very skilled “hacker” to exploit an open source system.

    Any script kiddie can exploit a windows/proprietary system lol

    That would be because an open source system is inherently more secure, patches 100 times faster and they are released before an exploit occurs.

    Closed code leaves you at the mercy of the hundreds of thousands of exploits out there because holes are not patched by the proprietary systems, and worse because people can’t see the code patches can’t be produced by anyone other then the company that made the software leaving it wide open to anyone and anything.

    I personally am not afraid to set up servers that have access to the real world outside of my local network. I am confident of the integrity and security of my systems.

    SSH is currently running and accepts secure connections from outside my local network, and a secure https server running a mysql database.

    Been running these services for years.

    At last years hackfest, three machines were set up, only one was left standing when it was all over. These are some of the best hackers in the world. One system was left standing.

  11. From what I’ve read about hacking hackers can do pretty much anyting once they gain access to the system. Contrary to what you’ve said Bruce hackers have been known to hack through SQL Server. So if they can do that than it’s most likely possible to hack through a web server. The only question is how many hackers have that type of skill? I prefer two way firewalls to one way firewalls that’s why I’ll never download one of those free firewalls. I prefer full internet security instead of antivirus only.

  12. I wouldn’t be caught dead using a “proprietary thing like Visual Basic lol

    The point is, I can see the code, the developers can see the code, people who contribute can see the code, and a simple dif on it will show what has changed and what hasn’t.

    The code being available is what makes it more secure, not less secure.

    If using a proprietary app, you don;t have access to that code, you can not very easily see it, and certainly can’t easily change it. If however there is a known security hole in it, it is far easier to exploit and spread the exploit quickly as people won’t know what has happened until it’s too late.

    The internet mostly runs on open source software, Linux, BSD, and apache. If your concepts were true, then the internet wouldn’t exist as it would have been destroyed the first day it started lol

    Those are probably the most accessible and visible computers anywhere yet they just churn along everyday seamlessly doing the thing they do.

  13. I have Firefox 3.0.6 with the fabulous add on NOSCRIPT. I give monthly to the Mozilla foundation for internet research and feel they have the best browser out there. I use open office and feel it is far superior to the Student Office 2007 by Microsoft which I paid $156 for. I might be dreaming but maybe Microsoft can include Firefox in it’s Windows 7? I had an old Win98 and it had IE5.5 (Mozilla 4.0).It was a good browser. I will end my rambling comment to also thank PC pitstop for their Optimizer 2.0 and their others products which I use.


  14. If a hacker gains access to the system they could chanbege your program into a POW(potentially unwanted software) or malicious program such as a virus. Okay maybe the program was written in Visual Basic. The standard for game developement is to program the game window layout in visual C++ while porting in Maya for the graphics so just because the game was programmed in a higher level language doesn’t mean a thing since Visual C or Visual C++ can be ported in. Sure the interpreter of the programming language has to be programmed in the original programming language, but I believe it can be done. So exposed code can be used against you and the affects can be drastic. Exposed code can be turned against in some very bad ways.

  15. If a hacker gains access to the system they could chanbege your a POW or malicious program such as a virus. Okay maybe the program was written in Visual Basic. The standard for game developement is to program game window layout in visual C++ while porting in Maya for the graphics so just because the game was programmed in a higher level language doesn’t mean a thing since Visual C or Visual C++ can be ported in. Sure the interpreter of the programming language has to be programmed in the original programming language, but I believe it can be done. So exposed code can be used against you and the affects can be drastic. Exposed code can be turned against in some very bad ways.

  16. BM, Care to elaborate?

    Care to show me some proof other then your complete misunderstanding of what “basic security is”.

    Perhaps you can explain what you think “basic security” principles and practices are.

    Or maybe Dan could explain when a security issue arises in Windows how he goes about patching the hole without access to the code? He doesn’t, he has to wait until Microsoft creates a patch, which is usually months away, sometimes years away and that is if they ever do it all.

    As his counterparts using a secure system using Linux can see the code, can change the code, and can manually patch the code until the official patch is released, which by the way is usually a matter of hours once it becomes known.

  17. I agree with Dan. I’ll go step further and add that I only use AVG because the computer we have AVG on has a dialup connection and it’s only used for web surfing. If I had networked computers I’d go out and pay the money it would take for my internet security. Think about this for a minute. For paid software the software companies are recieving money. For shareware what’s the motivation for producing improvements? None that I can find. Internet Explorer has worked fine for me. The shareware is okay for basic use, but is plain trash for very use. You’re hearing from somebody who has experience.

  18. Queen Bee,
    Firefox has an IE emulator, just click on the Firefox symbol in the lower ride side of the screen and it will convert to IE and your Netflix should run fine.

  19. Switched from IE to Firefox and loved it but it’s not compatible with Netflix. To watch Netflix movies instantly I needed IE.

    Switched from AVG to Avast on advice of someone. I hated it. The minute I was on it started scanning and couldn’t get it to stop and didn’t find a way to set a certain time of day to have it do an automatic scan. Went back to AVG.

  20. I forgot to mention that I found PDF 995 does a great job at converting PDF’s. I didn’t really care for Cute PDF Writer. By the way. I use shareware if it does the job, but I’ve found most of it is junk.

  21. I’ve had bad experiences with freeware in the past. One of them was word processor called flyword. It was freeware by the way. It lacked column formatting. I’ve formatted columns using the spacebar before and believe me. It’s a total mess! I normally stay away from freeware, but I really liked FireFox and AVG. I have Office 2007 Small Business Edition and don’t plan to download Open Office. Why! I don’t want to find out that it won’t do what I want it to do. I’ve had freeware clog up my harddrive before. I’ve been using Microsoft Office for years and it’s done the job for me.

  22. Tom Christofferson

    To Bernie,
    Yes, there is a That’s the name of the software, not the web address. Their home page is, probably because was taken.
    To Janet,
    Windows XP has built in zip/unzip, so you don’t need winzip. Right-click on the zip file and select “Extract all…

  23. I have found PC Pitstop to be a superb problem solver for me through numerous evolutions of PCs in my home and office. Their analyses and recommendations whenever I’ve confronted a problem has kept me from costly consultant fees and unneeded “fixes”. So, to all you “pros” commenting on how basic it is, I say, ‘keep to your pro stuff’. Let us basic folks continue to benefit from what Pitstop offers. Oh, did I mention that their basic services are free?

    Meanwhile, thanks to most commentators for sharing your experience, evaluations and recommendations.

  24. My free software programs are
    Firefox3+(noScript add-on works well)
    FireFox “Foxmarks” a life saver if you have a crash. Keeps your bookmarks synchronized between computers too)
    Cute PDF writer

    Spybot (donated).
    I use McAfee total protection.
    PC pitstop Optomize2(paid)
    My email is Eudora (paid version since 1996)
    There is a site that has a huge number of older programs for free. Donations accepted to defray Internet costs.
    I support shareware.
    Since I started using SpywareBlaster, my Spybot has come up empty.That says a lot for the program. Donated version updates automatically each day.

  25. My list of apps. that make me happy:

    DiskKeeper Lite-little defrag utility
    WordWeb-dictionary running in systray-free if you don’t fly commercial too many times per year (they must be enviros)
    Hijack This
    Sunbelt Kerio-firewall
    Overdrive Media-for free (library) audiobooks
    Foxit Reader-PDF reader
    Banana Accounting-bookkeeping tools
    Avira Antivir
    FireFox 3.0-I LOVE my addons!

  26. Richard Sherwin – don’t worry about fixing your Chrome bookmarks to the left or right side. Instead of clicking on the star icon to bookmark a page, drag the star down onto the bar. Then shorten the name of the bookmark or, if it’s a site with a familiar logo, you can just have the logo itself on the bar. I have over thirty of my fave sites bookmarked across the Chrome bar and it looks ace!

  27. I agree w/some of you and some not.
    Personally I have used Ad-aware free version for years & have had such wonderful performance that I actually bought the Pro Anniversary Edition when it came out as Beta on 01/18/2009(went public 01/20/2009). The Track Sweep feature & Ad-Watch are a dream.

    Used Spybot for years as well but now that I have this new machine w/Vista Home Premium it says something about admin options I cant figure out and won’t let me immunize totally.

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned the freeware Spywareblaster,(javacool software)a very good program.

    My vote on anti-virus definitly goes to the free version of Avira! It actually helped me help the IT guys at my credit union crack their problem!! 🙂
    Norton is a resource hog & misses a lot of stuff, Macafee in my opinion is overrated. I haven’t used AVG or Advast personally, but have heard more bad than good, esp re: Advast.

    As for utilities programs I am in shock that no one has even mentioned Tune-Up Utilities! I have used this program for 5 years & love it. It helped clear up some prblems that RegScrubber (I think that was its name,not sure but I got it off here) created. I don’t use that registry cleaner anymore. The only thing in the new Tune-Up 2009 version I can’t seem to find is the memory cleaner altho they have added some new utilities that are very thorough ,easy to use & efficient. The one click maintenace is super fast & efficient. It’s a free trail then you pay about $20, but even just using the trial version can help clean up & optimize many problems that other programs miss.

    Malwarebytes I have tried, but wasn’t too impressed as it was the portal that the last targeted hijacking 2 weeks ago got thru on!
    I have heard good things about ccleaner, but tune-up does such a great job, I haven’t bothered w/it.

    No one has mentioned Trendmicro’s free email program which is a very good email scanner for me so far. It helped me help Fedex catch some spammers operating out of South Africa!

    In the end it all boils down to personal preference, but it is possible to put together a very good set up without spending a cent.
    Btw, even though this site seems to get a kick out of blasting Microsoft, Windows Defender is a good small program & is now included in Vista, well at least the Home Premium version I use.

    And yes is out there. Tho, I haven’t heard anyone refer to it in years! Good to know it is still around.

  28. Dans comments are almost comical.

    I am not going to say much more then that as anything I said would obviously be beyond his comprehension, as it involves basic security practices and principles.

  29. Muriel-Anne Allemang

    I use software because of financial situation at present, in doing so discover some great freeware, eg; eusing free registry clean (Very Happy with Product), Eusing disk defrag
    (very good) and advanced system care (very good)
    Thse three programs I am so thankful to have and recomend to all. Thank you

  30. In todays credit crunch climate free is a magic word, and so any computer software that is free and works for the user should be a must consider option. I run Windows Vista Home Premium and use both IE7 and Firefox. (Probably spend more time on FF now). As for security I use AVG 8 (No problems so far) with Windows Firewall. I prefer Auslogics Registry and Disk defragment programs too any others and I use spy doctor and CCleaner. Revo uninstaller (Excellent) works better than Windows and so my computer plods along happily.

  31. I’ve used Ad-Aware for years now. Every new computer I get, I install it on. I love it and reccommend it, highly!!
    AVG, is Ok, but perfer, Nortons.
    But you know people, that everyone has their own preferences, as I do. Some of the freeware thats has been mentioned, sucks. My choice to say. So try it, if you don’t like it, uninstall it. I perfer to buy my stuff, as I really don’t trust “freeware”. Thanks for all the info, people.

  32. Google Chrome installs the Google Updater, which you can’t turn off, and it pops up all the time. I would have kept the browser installed and used it, but not with that updater popping up all the time.

  33. Oh! I almost forgot. For 1/10th of the price of M$ Office ($34) I bought Star Office (Yea its not free) and I can’t see the difference between the two. I can save documents in the Word format .doc.
    It looks Identical to the M$ Office Suite.

  34. You all for got Time and Chaos and its big brother Intellect.
    These are quality PIM’s and email clients. Boy this article missed a lot!

  35. It really looks like the author had to use up some space. Everybody knows about the apps offered, Only those living in a hole don’t know about them.
    This article was ment for newbies, I can’t believe I wasted my time here, to top it all you didn’t even offer the best ones like the folks said about revo, ccleaner.
    Excuse me for being such an ahole but I get offended when sites think the users are idiots, to stupid to actually spend more than two minutes looking for free software.

  36. Gary Householder

    I use have used AVG for a long time and now use AVG 8,I have never had a viris in my computer and have no problems. I reccomend Spybot Serach and Destroy. Try Advanced Systems One Care it has done a good job for me. CC Cleaner does the best cleaning foe me, but, you may have to relog in to some of your online programs.

  37. 1. Both IE7 and Firefox 3.05 crash when I try to use Google Websearch on them. Ive un/re/installed both, and nothing helps. Finally got GOOGLE CROME and it works fast and thoro…. just no good on letting your bookmarks be fixed on left or right columns.
    2. AVG and Avanquest — both very good, along with SPYWARE DOCTOR and Spybot.
    3. OPENOFFICE: Ive tried it and want to replace Windows Office 07 with it, but its Wordprocessor doesnt take stuff with pix and logos that Ive cut and pasted into it…

  38. Mr. Struszka recommends that Total Commander from Ghisler be considered here. It may be a great suite; however, it is NOT, I repeat, NOT freeware — and thus shold not be suggested as an addition to the list of free softwre.

    The Ghisler home site, furnished by Mr. Struszka, states: “Total Commander is a Shareware program. This means that you can test it for a period of 30 days. After testing the program, you must either order the full version, or delete the program from your harddisk.” The cost of the full version is given as $38 US, hardly “free.”

    It is true that one may, by one means or another, use a trial version almost indefinitely. This does not mean that the program is free, but that you are engaging in what is, ethically and morally, simple theft.

  39. Regarding AVG, went on their website the other day and they only provide trial software or buy software, none of the free software that they used to have. I still luckily got a copy of 8.0 before it went this direction.

    Chrome recently had a vulnerability issue, right? had that gotten fixed?

  40. I have XP64 and find the following useful:

    Comodo Internet Security – good
    Wise Registry Cleaner – good
    Wise Disk Cleaner – good

  41. i have avant browser and i think it is great better than internet explorer once you learn how to use it i like it very much
    surprised thats not on the list

  42. Agree that many free programs are excellent. Thanks for the list and for the many useful user comments. I use:
    -KMPlayer, better than VLC or WMP because I can easily change any video setting.
    -DVD Shrink for DVD copy and compression.
    -Exact Audio Copy for audio file copy compression, editing.
    -Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, along with Spybot, CCLeaner, Zone Alarm, Index.dat Suite for security.
    -Firefox partly because of the add-ons like RetailMeNot (for automatic notification of coupons that are available for any website, such as free upgrades on Enterprise car rental).
    -Cryptainer LE, free edition. I use it to store passwords and other private files.
    -WinRAR for several reasons. OK I paid the one-time licence fee (good forever). One benefit of the licence is I get offers of other software, such as the recently released free version of JetDrive, which did a better job of defrag than XP did.

  43. First, folks, remember that this list is simply the top 6 per Pitstop data collections. Having said that there are several good recommendations here for follow up. One that I haven’t seen anyone else mention that I like tremendously is Foxit Reader. A .pdf reader from Much smaller footprint on the hard drive than Adobe and so far I haven’t had a .pdf file I couldn’t read.

  44. I prefer Microsoft Office, especially for the looks and ease of use, I also think more of a percent of all computers use FireFox, and that avast anti-virus is best anti-virus, comodo firewall is best firewall, a-squared is best anti-spyware (and adware, etc) and GIMP is best photo editor, and google chrome has got to be by far one of the fastest and easiest browsers to use, but it was just released so give it time

  45. As for IE vs other browsers… seriously, I dont know what you nall are using for computers, but IE7 is much much faster than any of the others. Mozilla is an absolute dog and really runs terribly using Shockwave or Flash. Opera is so slow, I would rather use the Trident browser. (for those who do not know, the Trident browser is part of Outlook, if you want to get around work related filters, thats what you should use, but dont tell em I told you)

  46. AvG has alot of issues with various video cards. I cannot even put it on my system without significant errors. I run Avast! and Spybot and never, never get any viruses or spyware. By contrast, work computers run Trend, which used to be a decent product, but now stinks. We have had over 20 viruses in the last 6 months.

    As for MS Office: it is far, far superior to Open Office in alot of ways, especially Office 2007 (which many companies have a partnership which will allow you to purchase Office for only $20, I got Office 2007 Small Biz).

    the biggest problem with freeware, or open sourceware, like Open Office and Linux is that, if they DID grab majority market share, they would be destroyed by hackers in a matter of days. Opensource is great for addins and such and really does expand the realm of possible capability. But it also means that is is absolutely simple for hackers to hack. Windows has its share of vulnerabilities, but that is only becaus eit owns nearly 90% market share. If Linux of Mac had 90% market share, they would be targetted just as badly, probably worse since anyone with a shred of programming experience knows Unix.

  47. @ freeprograms that actually no one should be missing imo are
    Total Commander (, which takes over all the good functions of the old DOS based Norton Commander and much more – easiest way for file maintenance, copy, delete, zipping built in, ftp built in. This thingis the first programi install on every PC so I don;t have the deal a lot with windows annoying explorer.
    Plus for graphics, irfan-view. It does nearly anything I ever need when organizing, naming, sorting, converting large a,ounts of grphic and also other files

  48. I tried the AVG antivirus, the free version and it was great, so I purchased the whole package that AVG offers and boom, I suddenly, could run certain anti mall ware, if I let them run and couldn’t get to the web at all, and after many words with AVG I deleted the whole group and tried to just use the Antivirus but it would not work right or worth a d–m so bah on AVG.

  49. All the Pitstop choices are very good, but few will agree that all belong in the “top six” — peoples needs and desires vary, so then must their perceptions as to which classes of software, and which features are important. Only those which meet their personal criteria can therefore be “tops.” Also, the scene changes so fast that any such list can be somewhar obsolete by the time it gets published.

    For exaample, IE8 RC1 (release candidate) became available just this week. I find it superior to Firefox 3 (my previous default brpwser) and a friend finds it better than Chrome, which he had ben using. When IE8 is finally released, I am sure it will be tops — until Firefox 3.x or Chrome 2.0 is released.

    With regard to Merv’s comments re. IE8: It is obvious he was using one of the betas, perhaps betaa1. You mus always expect problems when using trial versions — that is their purpose. Beta users are expected to roport these problems immediately so that the programmers can track down the causes and fix them; beta users should never complain that the software is flawed — they should expect this.

    And a final comment on free antivirus. i have used Avast! for years on one of my old systems, and still do for compatibility reasons. On newer systems I have used Avsast!, then AVG, then back to Avast! as versions, capabilities, and incompatabilities changed. I am now using Comodo, both for real-t-me antivirus scans and for my firewall (replacing Zone Alarm), and am quite satisified for now. I also periodically scan with Avast!, Malwarebytes, Housecall, Kaspersky online, Spybot S&D, Ad-Aware, and others, as no single program is capable of catching every baddie.

  50. Sorry guys. I’ve used Firefox since it came out but with the advent of Firefox 3.0 have practically had to revert to IE. Every time I try to do a search in Google it crashes and sends an error report that no one seems inclined to help with. And all the friends I talked into using it have the same prob. Went to the firefox helpsite and all that guy tells you is that “firefox probably changed your profile” as if that is supposed to be helpful. Comodo is a great firewall but it’s a real nag. Open office is great.

  51. I love free software, whether portable or not. There’s a free software that’s web-hosted that I think deserves a mention. [formerly Freewebs] They are the best free website software I have ever used and I’m still using it. Its easier, accessible, and requires no knowledge of any coding.

    I agree with you, though… too much idiocy comes with the computers/laptops you buy. I always advise uninstalling everything except the OS, then install what you like. Another alternative is to tell the computer shop that you are willing to tack on extra to buy a computer that has nothing on it except your choice of OS.

  52. I’ve been a Firefox fan since V 1.0 now at 3.0.5, same for open office, And 2 months ago I found a [Free] much better way to defrag my drives from Auslogics, the one came with XP kept refusing to defrag lots of files while Auslogics did them all..
    I also agree that for the most part freeware is far superior to most all of the pay through the nose corporate stuff.

  53. Opera, opera, opera has to be the best browser.
    Comodo works OK as firewall and antivirus. bernie, is the name of the program not the url.
    The splash/nag in AVG can be disabled I googled for instructions, it seems like many agree with that sentiment.
    The list goes on and on, irfanview, vlc media player linuxmint or whatever your favourite distro is, sandboxie, picasa, lupas renamer, gimp, scribus. Where do you stop?

  54. Bruce (1st posting “Bruce Says”) is so right in his opinion, at least as far as what the majority of average users have installed. Of course as time goes on and they become more experienced they will, like most of us did a long time ago, learn their lessons from the school of hard knocks(who among us hasn’t trashed a few machines simply because we didn’t know any better). Case in point: Norton Anti-Virus is probably the one name best known by most because it’s visible everywhere starting with the purchase of a new machine. It comes installed on a huge number of new PCs and it’s bundled with tons of other products. Years ago I tried Norton simply because I figured it must be good or I wouldn’t see the name everywhere I looked. BIG MISTAKE. To this day Norton remains #1 on my list of “things to avoid like the plague”(my first trashed machine because I didn’t know any better). And every forum in which the name Norton comes up, it’s always severely negative. Yet Norton continues to propagate. Predominantly through it’s continued inclusion on new PCs. After reading Bruce’s posting I can now mark this one as “mystery solved”. For any company to intentionally infest their own product with crap like this leads to only one conclusion: someone is reaping the side benefits of including crap like this (can you say “kickback”?) As long as the almighty dollar is the focus, instead of customer satisfaction and pride in your product and company’s reputation, the consumer will continue to be force fed garbage.

  55. With regards to AVG updating – You actually have to uninstall AVG previous version and then install AVG 8 – Then there are no snags and everything works great.

  56. Favorite free software:

    Belarc Advisor- Quick profile of computer.
    FavOrg- for my Favicons.
    FileHippo for their software updater.
    HiJack This
    Eusing Free Registry Cleaner
    BitDefender AntiVirus
    Google Earth
    Everest Home Edition

  57. OK, folks, you are dealing with computer “dummies” like me and yet I have found some free programs that are GREAT!! First, I HATE Firefox 3 and have gone back to a previous version if I use Firefox at all. I have downloaded AVANT browser and it is fast, reliable, and I have had far fewer problems downloading and such. Also, have been using AVG Free for years and it has never allowed a virus invasion. I had previously used both McAfee and Norton and got an infection with both of them Panda drove me crazy. I have had Lavasoft Ad-Aware and never had any trouble with any version. Comodo Firewall is absolutely great but I have a Magic Jack phone now and Comodo will not let it operate properly so had to find a different firewall. My favorites, though, when it comes to free system tools are Advanced System Care & Smart Degrag from iObit, Auslogics Disk Defrag and Registry Defrag. Of course, I use PC Pitstop Optimize 2.0, but the freeware I have mentioned is a wonderful corollary to Optimize.

  58. I have used Firefox since it came out, but I find it has gotten slower with each successive “upgrade”; to the point where it is almost as slow as IE. I have been using Seamonkey for a month now, as am quite pleased with it.

  59. I also would 2nd CCleaner, I was so impressed I donated to their cause. i reccommend to all my friends and family. has to be in top 10

  60. I agree with the comments about some of the progams that are far superior to those installed by MicroSoft. Revo, CCleaner, Spybot, Avast and Comodo. These programs will keep your PC running clean and free of rogue files. Micosoft doesn’t get it. There firewall, Add/Remove Progams and Spyware progams are primitive compared to the free progams

  61. To Bernie:
    What?? No paint.NET!!! Are you smoking something?

    Go directly to the site and download it. Besides the download the site also has tutorials, helpfiles, and a very active forum community.

    Paint.Net is an excellent program, especially for advanced image editing and enhancing techniques.

    I also regularly like to use The GIMP, XnView, and Photofiltre. All four programs are pluggin compatible, and with XnView I have never come accross an image file type that it can not open!

  62. Used AVG for a number of years, but took my machine in for some service and he techs found 3 viruses and a keyblogger that AVG had missed. Thought maybe the techs had planted it, but when I got home I ran AVG again with the viruses on-board and AVG missed all of them again. Webroot solved the problem and for $59 for 3 licenses it was GOOD RIDDENCE AVG!!!

  63. OpenOffice 3.0 is OK, but still doesn’t compare to MS Office (‘course I’m still running Ver. 2000, which works great, and I plan to use it until it absolutely won’t run on my PCs). I’m a heavey MS Access user and have found no way (whatsoever) to convert these files to OpenOffice Base. Until the OO group deals with this issue, I will not use it very often. It does however do a great job of converting MS Word & MS Excel file to .pdf files!

    I also run AVG 8.0 (licensed version) and it works great for me. I always recommend the free version for people I occasionally help to clean up their systems, usually because some type of malware gottem!

  64. Thunderbird is definitely NOT equal to Outlook. I only whish! I tried to get away from Outlook by using Thunderbird. It set up well and had some good options. However, syncing with anything was a big pain if not impossible. Hello! Who doesn’t sync a phone or PDA?

  65. I had AVG free for a about a year.Everything was great so then went for the pay option again everything great,then as all was OK decided to go for AVG scam.Downloaded and installed it then spent 7 hours trying to get stop my PC from going round and round checking disc and then restarting.In the end had to take it to a shop to have it un installed.Cost me £74.AVG definitely not recommended by me.

  66. Having skimmed through the replies above, I’m surprised that I can’t spot any reference to Zonelabs firewall app ‘Zone Alarm’. The beauty of Zone Alarm is also it’s downfall, though, as to utilise it to it’s full extent, the user has to invest some time & patience to ‘teach’ the firewall which apps & links are allowed & which are not. Personally, I think it’s worth the effort, but many people may find it irritating, as you get many alerts at first.
    As to the other apps mentioned, I also use Firefox, AVG (Anniversary Edition), AdAware, Revo Uninstaller & CCleaner). My other highly recommended freeware apps for PC happiness are Auslogics Disk Defrag & Auslogics Registry Defrag. I also pay the stipend for Registry Mechanic, my only ‘paid-for’ PC care app. It is worth noting that the basic licence is for up to 3 PCs, so even better value for the multi-PC home.
    I’m using Vista & have no problems with any of the above 🙂

  67. By definition, Opera isn’t free, nor is a lot of the software that has been discussed.

    The whole point of free software is cooperative development, so by limiting thedeveloper base to just the few people at a said company, you really only shoot yourself.

  68. Sir,
    If you really think that in many instances, the free software is superior to its (apparently evil) capitalistic competitors, how come that PC Pitstop is not freeware?

  69. Since the Pit stopped testing the older systems, I would assume information on them is not included in the above results. Even though they are now only a small segment of the community, I am sure inclusion of them would change your numbers.

  70. Those are all very fine, I’m sure, but I still prefer Opera and Pandora for browsing and mail, respectively…. And I was quite willing to pay for Corel Office Suite’s many unique features.

    I also favor shareware… which gives me the opportunity to support my favorite applications, such as CatDisk, but does not require me to pay for the privilege of trying something I may not like.

  71. Ii have to say I started out buying my AV software from Mcafee at first then some other company’s for $40. or better a yr but That was back in the 90’s. I found AVG and have been w/it since and not ever had a problem. I used to believe in IE but I tried Firefox and been w/it for yr’s also now and a huge load of other FREE-ware that a simple Google search turns up umpteen million pages for. But Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My system runs the way I like due to the choices in software and research. I felt the need to have to upgrade to Vista and that is the only software I have purchased this centry.

  72. I would like a true Free PC Game Download
    List of old games without any gimics where
    you end up having to pay for the whole game.
    There always seemjs to be a catch where games are not really free at all & where there is a bunch of advertising.
    Nathan Rosen

  73. What about linux? or do you define PC as Windows only? Switched my laptop from vista to ubuntu and my life is better for it.

  74. If you are looking for an all around great site for information on free software check out They have all sorts of free software with reviews and comments from people with what they think of the software and other suggestions for free programs. I do use Open Office and it’s OK. I recently switched from Avira to Avast. I’ve tried AVG 8.0 but if I remember correctly my computer did not like it at all.

  75. I wouldn’t exactly place Thunderbird in the same place as Outlook; the latter is far superior software.

    OpenOffice also has a long way to go before matching Office’s level of quality.

    I’m a huge fan of free (Firefox, avast!, etc.), but some of the free stuff definitely lacks the polish and features of the commercial software.

  76. Thanks for the fine report. A quick list of my favorites:

    First, the obvious: Firefox, OpenOffice, AVG, CCleaner, Opera and SpyBot.

    Gimp deserves special mention, since I’d never stand the price and learning curve for the commercial competitor. Kept the cash and did my homework to learn so I Love Gimp!

    But how about these:

    E-Sword — I’ve found it to be an excellent tool for Bible research. For me, it beats the main-line products on the market. In addition, considering that some source material is only available through purchase, it allows users for whom those items are essential to purchase them as add-ons. I feel that to be an excellent compromise.

    KompoZer — I’ve used several commercial and freeware page editors and finally settled with this program. It doesn’t seem to be well known and keeps something of a low profile; but has satisfied me quite well.

  77. Thank you for your free software review but I am left a little non-plussed by the fact that you ommited the browser Opera from your review of browsers.
    Personally I use four browsers:-
    Only when I have to because some websites have badly written code which can hamper non IE browsers.
    IE is also comparativly slow and generaly a pain to use.
    I find Firefox basicaly good for one thing and that is loading the TV schedule for day and then leaving it open at that page so the info is there as required.
    Use Chrome from time to time just to see how its development is coming along. Been a Google product I have very high hopes for it’s future.
    A good browser I use from time to time just for the heck of it and easier access to friend’s photo sites on Macs websites.
    Opera however eclipses all of them in functionality, speed, and easy access to the cache and the many inovations Opera has introduced over time, many of which have now been adapted by other browsers, make it a pleasure to use. Tabbed browsing and speed dial to name just two.
    However, because Opera IS so different in the way it works, its options etc., it really is important to familiarise oneself on it’s options and set etc. in preferences section.
    Right now I use Opera for perhaps 90% of my browsing needs, particularly for downloading files and programmes etc..
    Try Opera, understand it’s options and the way it works. Don’t expect it to function in the same sluggish way as IE in particular. It’s different and that’s what makes it better.

  78. We have 2 desktops & 1 laptop, All run AVG, never misses a beat, updates on time, Great! First job, though, get rid of the virus checker that is pre-installed. is on 2 machines and does its job admirably. All machines run Spambuster, which is very old now and was free on a cover disk. I have kept the disk to make sure I can use it on any machines we update to. It tells me it is over a year old every time I use it, but who cares if it works well.

  79. I have XP Home. I use Firefox 3.05 with with no problems. I have CCleaner, Ad-aware Anniversary Edition, Avira, Spyblock S&D. Plus a few others. It may take a few seconds longer to do things but since my main use is Email, I’m in no hurry to know I’m protected. Tried AVG and Avast and didn’t like them.

  80. I’ve used Firefox and Thunderbird for years. The only time I use IE when I do a fresh install… to download Firefox, with the help of IE Tab I can then use FF for all the MS updates etc etc.

    What Bruce says is very true….majority of “vanilla” users use whatever their computer came with and it’s a testament to FF that the number of people who use it actually went to the trouble to find out about FF, download it and use it.

    Free software rocks….:)

  81. I don’t know about all of you but one of the first things I install after the usual apps is Advanced system care Free app is quite packed full can get it at

  82. Google Chrome is SO much better than the other browsers, including Firefox. It is much faster, the homepage is fantastic (the way it shows a large real-time thumbnail of your nine most visited sites) and the way you can list all your favourites by logo across the toolbar is just ace.

    Of course, the other stroke of genius that places this browser above all others is the incognito option which allows you to browse any site you want without leaving a trace on your PC. Great for married men everywhere, LOL!

  83. Hi, i have been using Avg, Spywareblaster, Spybot search and destroy, Ad-aware for many years now and i have never had any problems(except those blasted tracking cookies!!!) I always recommend these programs to my freindsand family who think that spending 50 quid on a famous A.v is the best thing to do.I also use C-cleaner which is also a impressive free program. My firewall is of the hardware type (solid!! 😀 ) but i used to use Zone- alarm which was also good and easy to use. Anyway there are others out there but this set-up has never let me down and for free(donation if your feeling flush!) is second to none. get them and feel snug as a bug in a rug!
    p.s keep them updated on a regular basis and scan at least once a week!

  84. I was an early user and strong booster for AVG…but like some here I found a recent update/renewal was failing to load/install properly and when I tried to get tech help from them I was shocked at how bad the customer service had become compared to my original and later interactions. Maybe they grew faster than they could handle administratively, but I now use the non-free version of Eset and find it not only great from a customer service POV but much more comprehensive and user-friendly than AVG ever was.

  85. ccleaner, open office, avg, comodo firewall,screamer radio,
    kantaris media,real player basic ,yahoo msn, skype , ad-aware,spybot

    all good and free .Says it all really ! more out there of course !

  86. I use firefox but it crashes a lot and I keep getting a pop up that takes over the page..I only get it when I use firefox yet they claim it isn’t them. I would like to try but it comes in a zip file so i can’t open it. I had the trial of winzip but it has expired and I can’t see paying for something I would very rarely use.

  87. I love free software too but I’m picky. I especially like the portable apps that don’t write to the registry and they’re handy on a stick.

    I’ve never tried google Chrome and don’t intend to because its auto-updates can’t be turned off and they track whose machines have been updated, etc.

    For L. John Martin, try the GIMP, it’s fantastic.

    For chuk canuk, try disabling all your Firefox addons, then adding them back one at a time. I’ll bet there’s a conflict between two of them.

    Some of the best ‘ware is freeware!

  88. No wonder Hackers find it so easy to get into all your Computer’s. There IS NOTHING for free in this world. Avast and AVG pump out tons of false positives. My Proper Paid for Antivirus/Spyware/ firewall(all different Companies never put all in one basket) all update daily and my XpPro is now 4 Years old I have no idea what a reformat or what a virus trojan looks like. With just a Ram update to 2gig My comp Boots in 35 seconds. The word DELETE is stupid, unless a 35 overwrite it’s still on your comp hiding. Only CCleaner offers that option. I don’t open avg scanned attachments. In the world economy why can’t you all support the Companies and their employee’s by paying small change for proper security.

  89. I too am surprised with all the free software out there your list is small and somewhat out of date.
    I use Slimbrowser, it has caused no problems, has hundreds of addons etc. Has built in Utilities such as ad filters, auto logins, and many more to choose from and is skinable with again so many to choose from.
    Another freebee I use is driver max from Innovative Solutions its a great program for keeping all your drivers up to date, they have other free programs you might want to check out.

  90. I was surprised that in your comments about free software you didn’t mention “Picasa” by Google. The new version is wonderful and does an exceptional job very quickly! You can download it on the Google website.

  91. Like most people above, I have them all almost. Spybot deserves a mention, especially the resident “teatimer” application. It ALWAYS warns you if ANYTHING critical is happening in the browser or the system. Avast is the most used AV. CCleaner is very good, as is a similar product, hard to find as taken over, Internet Sweeper (Isweeper.exe. is the installer) Easy Cleaner is another useful one that should be more highly represented.

    All are free, just read the readme/help, and set the options correctly from the start. That applies to everything, the first, VERY first thing I ever do is to look at the options. You WILL need to keep some cookies, these programs wipe the lot unless you tell it otherwise.

    Good FREE computing to you all.

  92. Agree wholeheartedly with the shout outs for Revo Uninstaller and CCleaner.

    And would add that Comodo Registry Cleaner is the best of it’s type around and free.

  93. another vote for CCleaner…have used it for years, it is continually updated and incredibly useful. I am slowly falling out of love with AVG since 8.0’s reach seems to have exceeded it’s grasp.

  94. Im really sad PC pitstop is so outdated Outlook express is no longer supported by microsoft anymore. Its still default with Windows XP installs but its not supported anymore.

    Windows Live mail replaced it almost a year ago and it blows outlook express (and in some cases outlook) out of the water. With the cloud based email computing going on for home users now I think desktop clients that don’t look to the cloud (like thunderbird in some cases) are slowly going to become outdated as well.

    But as for the other “free” software titles this article bareley scratches the surface you have other titles that abound too that are quite popular.

    The fact that GIMP was not mentioned in favour of I think shows a little bit of bias on the authors part even though it is nearly as fully featured as Photoshop is ( is more of an extended paint program). Its not as elegant or the “eye candy” isn’t there but many of the professional artists I know swear for it on their home machines.

    I disagree too with AVG as their free version promotes and limits your options way too much. I found ad-aware did the same thing with its newer versions and dropped it for better programs like Spyware Terminator with the ClamWin engine installed. I would much rather go with something like Avast or Avira’s Antivar for a free anti virus product than AVG as popular security products are usually the ones that are the most attacked.

    Otherwise this article barely scratches the surface as to what is really available FOR Windows if one looks around. Then you can go to completely free with a Linux Distro if you so choose (if you want to relearn the wheel). Free software is especially effective in media editing and filtering if you so ever choose to look into it.

  95. I Installed IE8 and it slowed everything down and gave “IE has to close” error messages quite often. I took my machine to my techie who said the uninstall did not get IE8 unentangled from my system and the only way out was a fresh instal of Windows and go back to IE7. I did this and it is better but still gives “Error” messages occasionally. The thing that annoys me most was the way Skype kept blocking all my phone numbers in every web page I visited trying to get me to use Skype to make the phone call. I found it was an add-in you can disable in the IE add-ons list.

  96. I also switched from AVG to Avast’s freeware anti virus programs. I got a terminal virus on four seperate occasions while using AVG. Some seem to slip through. Also, it tended to become corrupt and crash or not start. So far Avast has worked perfectly. It looks better too.

  97. I had Photoshop before my system crashed. I can’t get it back again. It was the best photo gallery program I have seen so far. I could check all my photos, add, remove, e-mail, etc. without any problems. Does anyone know how I can download it again? It was free, although it kept asking whether I wanted the registered version at an annual fee.

  98. There is no “
    I assumed you ment since you refered to open source software..
    I downloaded gpaint. When i tried to run it, spybot identified it as MALWARE. same with adaware.
    i was surprised since i have never encountered a problem with sourceforge software.
    got any info?

  99. Agreed with AVG, preference over Avast. OpenOffice verygood also even the portable apps version is great, nice to cary and execute directly from a USB key. I now prefer Superantispyware free edition over Spybot or ad-aware, but kept ad-aware as well. CCleaner definitely a must.

  100. Open Office! I recently bought a laptop with a 60 day trial period for the MS Office app, which was okay, but the registry “forced me to use MS” for almost everything. I got tired of it, did not want to buy MS, so finally tried Open Office. It is fantastic! I cannot believe how much money I have wasted on MS Office over the years. Never again!

  101. Bryant, I had lavasoft’s ad-aware since ’02 and when they came out with ver7 they stated my “lifetime updates” were no longer for my life time. The ver7 version was very buggy when it first came out. I uninstalled it from my pc and several of my clients and no longer recommend that product to anybody. To be honest, last I heard it was still buggy and has poor scan results

  102. Rob, your stating:
    “It is also not a big surprise that there is a huge gap between home and business users, since companies tend to want to pay for their security.”

    According to AVG, business isn’t supposed to use the free version to start with! It’s only intended for home use

  103. I use firefox and open office – didn’t care for Chrome to much so uninstalled it. Firefox has a plug in for advertisement blocking that I LOVE! I got so sick of those annoying dancing idiots in the ads. I like Ad Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy. I had used AVG, but my ISP provides McAfee AV free now (they use to provide NAV, but it caused too many problems for me so I stopped using it). Open Office has been great for PC’s when I do not have a license for MS Office. I also like Zone Alarm’s firewall – the free version. How about Ubuntu?

  104. How can anyone not include Lavasoft’s (Sweden,I think) Ad-aware Free. Their new Anniversary Edition is great, and completely completely compatible with the AVG Free 8.0.
    I guess the Ad-aware Free percentage of users was just not enough to make your list.

  105. I use Thunderbird and like it. Ditto Open Office and Google Chrome. However Firefox(3) crashes ALL THE TIME. Can’t figure out why. And I’ve tried hard. Lotsa googling to no avail.So its not used very much…

  106. I use AVG and it updates correctly and regularly. CCleaner works good. Comodo is a good Firewall. PC Pitstop is a good testing site to see what needs to be cleaned up. Wade.

  107. I agree Me-thud. I was using Avast!Home Edition and switched over to AVG the first of last year BUT after AVG 8.0 was released, I could NEVER get it to “update” on my computer. So, I went back to Avast! which works just as well. Also, I use Registry Mechanic to keep my registry in order. It’s not free, but for $25 a year, it’s worth it. Plus, PC Tools let me download Privacy Guardian (it cleans hidden/embedded cookies & more) FREE for using Registry Mechanic.

  108. I second the vote for CCleaner and Revo!
    I have gone from AVG [BACK] to Avast because of the nag that was added when 8.0 came out. I just grin when I check your top freeware and I have and USE almost all. :]

  109. I just discovered the joy of free open-source firmware for other hardware.
    I updated a Linksys wireless router with DD-WRT to convert it to a WPA2 capable client bridge. This was the only way I found to connect an XBOX360 to a WPA2 protected wireless network

  110. I don’t think it is so much an issue of marketing and or advertising when it comes to the applications you have listed.

    It comes down to the majority of people use whatever their computer came with.

    Microsoft, IE, Windows Mail, Office suite whatever the OEM thumped on the macine, av whatever the OEM thumped on the machine.

    It’s more about backroom deals, and paying for a spot on the desktop then marketing.

    Ship PC’s without IE, install firefox on them, and within a year or two 90% of the users would be using Firefox.

    Ship PC’s with OpenOffice, and it wouldn’t take long to dethrone MS Office. and on and on and on

    True competition in the software industry is a joke, laughing stock.

    The fact that Open Office, Firefox, and Thunderbird find their way to so many desktops is a testament to their superiority over the crap that people are forced to use through anti-competitive business practices.

    Yes there is still a whole lot of anti-competitive business going on in the Wintel world of computing Rob.

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