You’ve spent so much money already – on a laptop, tablet, computer, router, network extender, printer, and smartphone. You’ve signed up for the internet, and you’re paying monthly fees. You’ll be relieved to know that a lot of tech is free.
Open-source software is like the “generic” brands you find in a supermarket; they cost nothing, and they often work just as well as their big-brand counterparts. Then, some websites give you something for free hoping you’ll upgrade to a paid plan someday.
Speaking of sites, if you want to know about some great ones, I recently put together a list of 10 you’ll use time and time again. I still cannot believe how many people reached out to thank me for that list.
Here are 15 of my favorite tech freebies, available whenever you want them.
1. Free online storage in the cloud
Cloud storage is a great way to access and share your computer’s media library remotely. If you save documents, photos, and videos in the cloud, you’ll be able to reach them at work, on your laptop while traveling, or on your phone or tablet wherever you are located.
If you’re already a Google user, Google Drive is a versatile option. This free cloud storage system gives you five gigabytes of free online storage, and you can buy more storage as needed.
iCloud is the online storage program available to Apple users. This service makes it easy to transfer and view files across your iPhones, iPads and iMacs. You get an initial 5GB free and can purchase more space if and when you need it.
If you are an Amazon Prime member, you get 5GB of Amazon Cloud Drive space for free and unlimited photo storage at no additional cost.
Dropbox is another reliable cloud storage site. It gives you 2GB of space for free when you sign up, and you can earn more storage when you recommend others to sign up for a Dropbox account.
Not sure which one is right for you? I have your back.
Keep in mind that these cloud services can store your files, they are not true backup services that can completely restore your files if disaster strikes. For these situations, you’ll need a cloud backup service.
2. Free office software
Microsoft Office remains the most popular productivity software around. It’s not free, of course, and many people waffle on whether to buy it. Fortunately, you can get pretty much the same power and performance without the hefty price tag.
First, there’s the free and open-source office suite LibreOffice. This suite offers six programs that will feel instantly familiar if you’ve ever used Office. Writer, Calc, and Impress are equivalent to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Even better, it can open and edit the documents you made in Office and can save new files in Office formats.
Another great free online option is Google Docs. Google Docs is more than just a word processor; it’s an entire suite of productivity programs that have become steadily more powerful over years of development. Next time you need to start a spreadsheet, build a presentation, create a form, or make a digital drawing, try Google Docs, Sheets, Slides or others and see if it’s something you can use.
3. Free photo editing software
If you know a professional photographer or a serious hobbyist, they’re using Photoshop. For everyone else, GIMP is a compelling, top-quality, free alternative to Photoshop.
GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It has a lot of the same capabilities as Photoshop. There are filters, brush tools, gradients, smudging, cropping and erasing tools. You can add colors with a pencil, a paintbrush, or fill in whole areas of your image.
If you’re comfortable exploring new software programs, plunge into GIMP. Open a photograph or image that you want to manipulate.
GIMP is useful in that it puts almost all its tools into pop-up boxes surrounding the image. If you want to touch up an image’s shape, or angle, add text, erase parts of the image, or add on layers of texture, you’ll find all the tools right in front of you.
4. Free stuff from Amazon.com
There’s free tech, and then there’s free stuff. As in physical commodities that will arrive at your home – dog treats, cat food samples, luxury beauty items, nutrition, and men’s grooming supplies, among others.
Amazon’s Sample Box program lets you get free samples from Amazon. The product page for each box gives you a good idea of what will be inside, but Amazon may substitute some of the products if necessary.
Amazon’s Sample Box program gets better with a Prime account.
5. Free Audiobooks
For audiobook fans, Audible and iTunes have become vast treasure troves. Whether you listen to audio books at work, at the gym or on long drives, these narrated volumes provide hours of enlightenment and entertainment – for a price.
Audiobooks can cost far more than a paperback, and if you’re not hungering for this week’s best-seller, you might consider Overdrive, which connects you to your local library or academic institution. Just use the free app and your library card, and you’re entitled to any number of audio books (and Kindle eBooks as well).
If you’re interested in classic literature, LibriVox specializes in public domain works, read and recorded by an army of volunteer narrators.
6. Free product samples
In a similar vein to Sample Box, TheFreeSite will send you free samples of consumer products. If you like them, you can purchase more substantial portions, but otherwise, there are no strings attached. TheFreeSite offers everything from doughnuts to pain relief cream. You
7. Free internet speed test
For low and hiccupy Wi-Fi connections, these free internet speed tests can help you figure out if you’re genuinely getting your advertised rates.
One of the most reliable free speed tests around is Speedtest.net. This site will measure various statistics like the ping time, download speed and upload speed of your internet connection.
If you’re a streaming video buff, try Netflix’s own free internet speed test, Fast.com. This site only measures download speeds, but it will give you a pretty accurate measurement of your internet speed at any given time.
If your internet speed turns out to be lower than expected, there are ways to improve it.
8. Free incredible software and images courtesy of NASA
Yes, that NASA – the same people who put human beings on the moon are giving away computer programs for free.
NASA’s software catalog includes software products for a wide range of technical applications. NASA scientists say that software has been critical to each of its mission successes and discoveries and over 30 percent of all NASA’s reported innovations are software, and anyone is welcome to tinker with its programs at home.
Meanwhile, NASA also opened its massive library of high-quality images. Browse and view historical archived photos from years past, including the Mars Missions, New Horizons, and shots from the International Space Station.
9. Free sound editor
If you are looking for a free audio editing program, your search should probably start and end with Audacity. Audacity is a free and easy-to-use open source audio editor. It can record live audio and computer playback, and even convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
Part of what makes Audacity great is that it will allow you to do pretty much anything you could ever want or need with audio. Just recording something? It can do that. Need to edit, combine or enhance some sound? No problem.
In some ways, such as ease of use, Audacity rivals or outperforms professional software like Audition. For recording demos or simple podcasts, Audacity has almost all the capabilities you need, including background noise removal.
10. Free firewalls
Aside from your antivirus or malware protection software, another essential tool that will protect your computer system from hackers and cyberattacks is a firewall.
Although newer Windows systems all have built-in software firewalls, there are plenty of free and more powerful third-party firewall options out there.
TinyWall, as its name proudly suggests, is a small, non-intrusive, almost invisible, free firewall program. Unlike other free firewalls that seem to announce everything they do, TinyWall does not use annoying pop-up messages and warnings to alert you that it’s doing its job.
Another option is ZoneAlarm. ZoneAlarm is a free, downloadable firewall and antivirus system that is highly configurable and effective against many kinds of cyberattacks. It’s popular for a reason - it’s powerful and feature-packed for something that’s free.
11. Free disposable emails
There are millions of spam emails that get sent every day. Similar to robocalls, it’s a tech problem that won’t go away anytime soon.
One way to fend off these unsolicited messages is to use a disposable email address. You can use a free disposable email service like Mailinator or Maildrop. These services let you create a fake, temporary and disposable email address to ensure your security, so you don’t have to give away your personal and work email addresses all the time.
12. Free video editors
Most free video editing programs like iMovie and Windows Movie Maker are pretty good entry-level tools, but they are severely limited.
Unfortunately, more advanced software tools like Final Cut Pro can be expensive. However, there are some free advanced video editing software options out there that you can use.
First is this fully-featured video editing program from VSDC that is completely free. This program has most of the capabilities that are usually reserved for expensive professional software.
Another free professional video editing tool you can try is Lightworks. This program has been around since the 1990s and it’s actually been used on major Hollywood films like “The King’s Speech” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
13. Free grammar and writing tools
English grammar is tricky. To avoid embarrassing mistakes, here are websites that can help you check your grammar and spelling instantly.
For grammar checking, Grammarly has taken homes and offices by storm. You can paste a document and have it checked at the Grammarly site for grammar and spelling errors. You can also get Grammarly’s browser extensions and have it check your writing as you type.
Another writing tool that can help you is Hemingway Editor. Copy and paste a few paragraphs into the site’s text box, and the editor will outline problematic parts such as long sentences, obscure words, and confusing passages.
14. Free 3-D design software
Are you a budding 3-D designer looking for a free alternative to computer-aided design (CAD) software like AutoCAD? If you don’t want to spend money on professional 3-D software, try these free alternatives instead.
For your occasional 3-D modeling needs, you can try SketchUp Make. This free tool lets you quickly create 3-D designs and models. With an intuitive push-and-pull system and a robust tutorial program, even beginners can start creating their own images in no time at all.
For budding homeowners, another fun but handy 3-D web tool is EasyHome Homestyler. With this free tool, you can design a floor plan, populate it with doors, windows, furniture, appliances, and even people and then experience it in real time 3-D space.
15. Distraction-free writing tools
When you have to write something dull, we often struggle to type out all those words. Our desktops conspire against us: there are just so many cool things on the internet, so many IM conversations, so many alerts and updates and games we’d rather be paying attention to.
That’s why they invented FocusWriter, a distraction-free word processor. Not only does FocusWriter’s interface look like an old DOS screen, with plain green text and a black background, but it also keeps data on your productivity, so you know when you’ve been slacking.