8 Safe Free Software Download Sites for Windows

There’s a lot of free Windows software download sites, but are they safe? Every time you download something, there’s a possibility that you’re downloading malware or viruses. Sure, you’ve got the best antivirus app, but there’s no sense making it do work that it doesn’t have to do. 

In this article, we’ll talk about how you can check whether a download is safe and we’ll also mention a couple of our favorite sites to download free software for Windows.

Are Free Software Download Sites Safe?

There are only two ways to know if a download site is safe. You can check its reputation and you test its downloads yourself. 

There are businesses that rank how safe sites are. One of the most popular sites for this is WOT or Web of Trust. WOT rates sites based on community ratings, reviews, and their own machine learning algorithms. There are WOT plugins for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera browsers. If you have the plugin installed, you can check the download site.

You can also check the site before you go to it. Go to Virus Total and enter the web address of the site. It’ll check with a bunch of other sites that track reputations and viruses and lets you know if the site is safe.

That does not mean that what you download from the site has no malware or viruses. There are a couple of ways to test the download. 

  1. Use a sandboxed web browser like Sandboxie to download it. In the sandboxed web browser, go to Virus Total and submit the download for testing.
  2. Download the program inside a virtual machine and test it there.

Safe And Free Software Download Sites for Windows

To compile this list, we researched the sites on WOT, VirusTotal, Norton Safe Web, URLVoid, and ScanURL. At the time of writing this, none of the download sites showed any issues on the website checkers.

FileHippo

On the web since 2004 and Alexa-ranked at 625, FileHippo is solid. FileHippo states that they hand-pick the software, and test it for malware and viruses. They also don’t allow software that bundles other software into it or browser toolbars. FileHippo currently has over 40,000 program versions listed.

Be careful if you do a web search for FileHippo. There are a lot of sites out there with similar names and URLs. 

Nirsoft

Nirsoft is a freeware utility site that was created and currently run by a guy named Nir Sofer. He’s single-handedly written all of the software utilities that you see on the site.

Each utility is completely free and usually very tiny in size. That’s because each utility is designed to perform one task and one task only. For example, some of the most popular utilities on the site are the password viewers, which will show you passwords stored on your computer, in your browser, etc.

Ninite

More than just a free software download site, Ninite is also a package management system. Using it as a package management system, Ninite can be used to automate the installation of your favorite software and keep it up to date, with just one click. This is likely the safest site on the list.

The number of free apps is limited. It does cover most of the software that you’d install first on a new computer though. Chrome, Firefox, 7-zip, iTunes, VLC, Malwarebytes are amongst the free downloads Ninite can provide and manage.

Softpedia

Even older than FileHippo, Softpedia has been a software download staple since 2001. Softpedia hosts a lot of free downloads on their own physical servers. That means they have even more to gain from making sure the apps are safe. That’s a lot of work when they have over 1.2 million apps, drivers, and games available.

Download Crew

Offering some of the most well-known Windows freeware in an easy to read, easy to search site, Download Crew should be on your list. Download Crew has been around for over 10 years, boasts almost 300,000 members, and over 33 million downloads. 

Its sister site is Download Crew Store, where you can get deeply discounted proprietary software. Between the two you’ll get all you need as cheaply as possible.

File Horse

When it comes to free software download sites, it’s hard to tell them apart. They all do the same thing. They all offer downloads. What might set File Horse apart is that they also keep archives of previous versions of the software. 

So if an update to your favorite app makes an unwanted change, you could download the older version here and roll it back. File Horse also curates a directory of free cloud apps.

Major Geeks

Don’t let the early-2000’s design fool you. Major Geeks is a legitimate free software download site. Founded in 2001, Major Geeks built a reputation by being one of the first to test all the software they offer. 

First, they check the reputation of the company and software, then they scan it with several virus scanners, including VirusTotal. If it makes it past that, Major Geeks actually installs the software on their own VMWare Workstation to test the functionality. If it meets their standards, then the software gets listed. This thoroughness warrants their military-style theme.

Microsoft Store

Partly a website and partly an app that’s probably already on your computer, Microsoft Store does have a lot of good freeware. Being Microsoft, there’s already a reputation in place and you’d like to think they’re hosting safe software.

Some of them are from the big names you already know, like Netflix, Apple, and, of course, Microsoft. Some are made by smaller development teams but can be very useful. Not all apps are free. There are thousands that are and it’s easy to find them. Just search on ‘free’.

Beyond that, you should also check out the great Sysinternals tools that used to be a separate site, but Microsoft purchased. The tools are still updated, but are geared more towards geeks.

Anymore Good Free Software Sites?

There are a few more good safe free software sites, but if you can’t find what you need on the sites above, then they’re not going to help much. Over time, you’ll get to know the sites you like that have the software you need. 

Remember to always check the downloaded file with your antivirus app or through Virus Total. If possible, test the program installation in a virtual machine or sandboxed environment. 

The Kindle Desktop App: Is It Any Good?

The Amazon Kindle kickstarted the eBook revolution, putting millions of books within reach on a single, handheld device. While Amazon Kindle still offers the best experience for eBook reading, you’re not restricted to them—you can access your Amazon eBook collection on your PC and mobile using Kindle apps.

The Kindle desktop app is free for you to use and is available for Windows and macOS devices. To help you decide whether the Kindle app is as good as the physical device, we’re going to talk you through some of the pros and cons behind the Kindle Desktop and answer a simple question—is it as good as a real Kindle?

Benefits Of Using The Kindle Desktop App

If you want the best eBook reading experience, you need an eBook reader—there’s no question about it. If that’s out of the question, however, then the Kindle desktop app is probably the next best thing. It gives you immediate access to your Kindle eBook collection as soon as you sign in using your Amazon account.

To save space, the Kindle desktop reader will automatically download any book you choose to open, rather than downloading hundreds of books at once. eBooks aren’t very big, so this is usually only an added delay of a few seconds.

The Kindle interface is simple to understand and navigate, with your library most prominent and accessible from the left-hand menu, but with a quick-access link to the Kindle store in the top-right. Any books you purchase on your Amazon account will appear here immediately for you to download and read.

It has many of the features you’d expect to see from an eBook reader, including many seen on Kindle devices, offering the ability to change font and font sizes, alter page widths for better reading, as well as switch to an accessible viewing color mode. 

You can also use a built-in text-to-speech mode to create auto-generated audiobooks you can listen to while you work, as well as annotate your books directly—perfect for students or academics. 

Kindle Desktop vs. Kindle Mobile vs. Kindle Devices

While the Kindle desktop app isn’t designed to be portable, it does have one distinct advantage over Kindle mobile apps—size. The larger screens on desktop PCs and laptops allow you to view much more text at once, which could be useful for those studying books and those who want to catch up on reading from their PC.

Amazon wants you to buy its books through its own store and, while it isn’t impossible to read non-Amazon eBooks on Kindle devices, it isn’t the easiest process—unless you’re using the Kindle desktop app. 

This leads to another direct advantage that the Kindle desktop app over other Kindle products. Using it, you can open .mobi eBook files using the Kindle app natively with no additional fuss.  

Otherwise, there really isn’t a huge amount of difference between the Kindle desktop app, Kindle mobile apps, or Kindle devices themselves. For instance, many of the accessibility features are common across all Kindle products, although the Kindle devices lack some of the more advanced features like text-to-speech.

You can also share the same collection, keep your saved position and sync it across your devices, and do the same with any book annotations you make across all Kindle products.

Alternatives To The Kindle Desktop Reader

If you want to escape the Amazon ecosystem, then alternatives do exist for desktop users. The most popular of those is Calibre, the desktop eBook reader available for Windows, Linux, and macOS devices.

Like the Kindle desktop app, it allows you to read your eBooks, share your collection with others, sync it across multiple devices, and more. It’s free, open-source software that you can extend further (if you have the skills) by helping to develop it directly, or by creating additional plugins for others to use.

While it isn’t as polished as Amazon’s own desktop app, Calibre is still a great alternative eBook reader that is more than capable of supporting your Amazon eBook collection (as well as accessing and using other non-Amazon eBooks, too).

If Calibre isn’t for you, paid alternatives do exist, like Adobe Digital Editions. It supports desktop and mobile users and, like Calibre and Amazon, it allows you to share and read your eBook collection across multiple devices.

How To Download & Use The Kindle Desktop App

The Kindle desktop app is freely available for anyone with an Amazon account, even those without any existing Amazon Kindle eBooks. Downloading it and setting it up on your PC or Mac is a pretty straightforward process.

  1. To start, download the Kindle desktop app for your operating system and install it. Once you open the Kindle app, you’ll need to sign in using your Amazon account details—type your details in, then press Sign-In to begin.
  1. Your Amazon Kindle eBook collection will automatically begin to sync to the Kindle desktop app once you sign in. To access any of the books in your collection, simply double-click on them—the book will download and open as soon as the download has completed.
  1. By default, the Kindle desktop app will default to showing only a single page. You can change this by opening an eBook and clicking one of the page width options in the top menu bar.
  1. To view your eBook in full screen without distractions, press the full-screen icon in the menu bar.
  1. To access the Kindle desktop app’s accessibility features to change font, font size, color scheme, and more, tap the Aa button in the menu bar. This will bring up the options menu, allowing you to change various font and style settings as desired.
  1. If you want to purchase any Kindle eBooks through the Kindle desktop app, tap the Kindle Store icon in the top-left. This will take you straight to the Kindle store, where any books you purchase will sync automatically to the app for you to download.

Reading eBooks On Desktop & Mobile

While the Kindle desktop app is a great option for your Amazon eBook collection, there are other ways you can read your favorite books for free, with websites like BookBub working well with third-party Kindle alternatives like Calibre to build up an ebook collection without Amazon involvement.

That said, the Amazon Kindle still remains one of the best services for eBooks, with millions of books, a great set of eBook readers, and feature-filled and easy-to-use apps for desktop and mobile users. If you’re a keen writer, you can even write your own eBook and get it published on the Amazon Kindle store for others to enjoy.

10 Best Tools to Tag MP3s and Edit Metadata

Often when you download your music from unofficial sources, it comes with no metadata and no album artwork. Metadata can get lost due to various other reasons as well, such as when you convert your files from one format to another but the converter doesn’t carry over the required tags.

This metadata is actually what allows your music player apps to organize your files. When your files lack this information, they remain unorganized and make it difficult for you to filter through your files.

One of the ways to fix the problem is to edit the MP3 metadata of your files. This way, you can add the missing information in each of your music files and make them searchable using various filters. There are plenty of apps to tag MP3s and you can use any of them to edit your files’ metadata and add in the missing information.

MusicBrainz Picard (Free)

MusicBrainz Picard is a multi-platform open-source tool that lets you easily add metadata to your music files that miss them. It supports almost all the music file formats available out there and so your files don’t necessarily have to be in MP3 format in order to edit the metadata

It uses something called AcoustID that helps it identify your music files by their contents and not their other meta fields. So even if your MP3s have zero data available, you can use the tool to add the missing information.

MP3Tag (Free)

MP3Tag is a popular app to tag MP3s and it supports batch processing as well. That means if you have a number of music files sitting on your computer without any metadata, you can load them all into this tool and let it find and add the required metadata for you.

It looks up various online databases to find the required information and album artwork and adds that to your files. It even lets you rename your MP3 files based on the tag information.

Frigate3 (Paid)

Frigate3 is actually a file manager but it has various other features as well. One of these features lets you view and edit MP3 metadata. You basically need to navigate to the folder where your MP3 files are, click on any one of them, and you have a window open on the right-hand side pane to add the missing information.

Besides letting you edit MP3 metadata, it lets you view other information as well such as the MP3’s bit-rate and the frame numbers.

The GodFather (Free)

If there are several MP3 files that you want to add metadata to, The GodFather can help you do it with ease using its batch processing mode. It supports various tag formats even for non-MP3 files, helps update all the tags at once, lets you use the replacement matrix, and also allows you to delete all the tags at once, if you want to do it.

The tool is suitable for those of you wanting to update the metadata of a number of MP3 files at once. It makes the job a whole lot easier for you.

ID3 Tag Editor (Free)

ID3 Tag Editor is a Unicode supported app to tag MP3s and you can use it to add missing metadata values to your files in various languages. It also lets you add a cover art to your MP3 files which remains embedded in the main file itself.

Other features include the ability to add custom comments to your files, remove all the tags at once, and compatibility with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows.

Music Tag (Paid)

Most apps that let you edit MP3 metadata use manual methods to do the task. Music Tag is unlike those apps and lets you automatically download and add missing metadata to your music files. To use the app, all you basically need to do is give it your MP3 files and it’ll download the required information and add it to all of your MP3 files.

This way it’s quicker than the other apps and gets the job done in no time. Also, it recognizes over 35 million music tracks and it’s highly likely your files are included here.

TigoTago (Free)

If you like Excel spreadsheets, you’re going to love the TigoTago app to tag your MP3s. It uses a spreadsheet-like format to let you edit and add new information to your MP3 files. Any changes you make to your files are first visible to you before they’re actually applied to your files.

It’s convenient for mass-tagging tasks and requires almost no typing as most of the data is fetched from online databases.

EasyTAG (Free)

EasyTAG is a feature-rich program for both Linux and Windows that helps you edit the metadata part of your audio files. It lets you view, read, and edit any part of the metadata for your files. You can also apply a single change to all of your MP3 files at once.

It has an easy to use interface and is available in multiple languages.

Kid3 (Free)

Kid3 is both an MP3 metadata editor and a tag converter to help you convert your tags into multiple formats. You can use it to tag almost all the audio file formats out there including MP3, generate tags from file names, and import data from online databases to add to your files.

It comes with a command-line interface as well to help you use it from a Command Prompt window and to automate some of its tasks.

Metatogger (Free)

Metatogger helps you both edit your existing tags in your MP3 files and clean-up any junk content in these tags. As you start using the app, you can go for either the manual mode or with C# scripts to speed-up the process. It also lets you organize your files by their tags content which is something not offered by many other tag editors.

It identifies your music files using the acoustic fingerprinting technology and downloads the required data from various online databases.

The Best Resources for Royalty Free Music to Use for YouTube Videos

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at a
number of resources you can use to find royalty free music to use in your
YouTube videos. We will also explain how you can make sure that the music you
use doesn’t get you copyright claims, and what happens if you do get one.

Hopefully, by the time you’ve read through
this article, you’ll have a solid understanding about how music copyright works
on YouTube and how you can stay on the good side to ensure your videos can be
monetized.

How to Find Royalty Free Music

To start with, let’s take a look at the best
ways to find royalty free music for YouTube videos. There are plenty of sources
online, so it should be quite easy to find music that’s suitable to your video
and your tastes.

Here is a quick overview of what we’ll be
covering in this section;

  • Copyright free music through YouTube search
  • YouTube provided royalty free music

We’ll start with the safest option and that is to use royalty free music offered directly by YouTube. Simply navigate to YouTube.com/audiolibrary/music and you’ll be able to browse through thousands of free music tracks and sound effects.

Not only are these tracks royalty free, but
you can use them in your video without worry that they may mistakenly get
copyright claimed. YouTube specifically provides the audio on this page for
creators to avoid getting copyright claims.

Whilst you may not be able to find exactly
what you are looking for, you can use this page to filter music by genre,
instrument, duration, and even mood, which makes it a powerful tool to find
music specific to your needs. The sound effects tab is a nice addition, too.
You can organize by sound category and all of these sounds are free to use,
too.

Next, we have copyright free provided by different channels on YouTube itself. Performing a simple search for ‘copyright free music’ can often return some useful results.

You can even include specific terms like ‘copyright free piano music’ or ‘copyright free comedy music’ to find more specific tunes. Keep in mind that just because a video has copyright free in its title, doesn’t mean it’s free to use on YouTube.

Carefully read the description of the video
and see what rules apply. In many cases, it will state that you are allowed to
use the song for free, so long as you credit the artist. In some cases, the
video may state that you must pay first on their website to use their song –
avoid these ones.

In some rare cases, using these songs, even if
they are marked as copyright free, can cause you to run into copyright claim
issues. At any point, artists can get signed or set up copyright for their
content and this could make an older video that has promoted it invalid. We’ll
talk more about how you can avoid this in the next section.

How to Make Sure Your Music Doesn’t Get You Demonetized

If you do not want to risk it, you should
always use the music and sounds provided by YouTube on the music library that
we linked earlier in this article. However, if you are willing to go further
for slightly more enjoyable music, you can ensure your videos don’t get
demonetized by following the steps I will outline below.

Step 1
Make sure you read
the description
of any video you want to use the music from. Make sure it
says in the description you are free to
use their song
without
demonetization
.

Step 2
Ensure you go
through the proper routes to claim the music
that has been provided for
free. Usually, this may be a third party 
link or hosted on a music website like Soundcloud. Don’t just rip the
music from the video.

Step 3
Add the music to your video, making sure to save the
project file in case you need to remove the music in the future. Next, upload
the video to YouTube, let it process, but do not upload it.

Step 4
Fill in all of the details you normally would, such
as video description, tags, title, and thumbnail. Do not press publish.
Instead, set the video as unlisted and then press done. Don’t worry, you can
still switch it from unlisted to public in the future and your subscribers will
still get notifications.

Next, you’ll need to wait some time. The best
bet is to wait roughly 2 hours. If YouTube’s content ID system detects
copyrighted material on your song, you’ll be notified by email. You can then
remove your uploaded unlisted video, go back to your original project file, and
choose a new song.

If you’ve followed the first steps, it’s very unlikely your video will get copyright claimed, however. But, this makes sure you don’t get caught out by rare cases where it does happen.

For example, once I used a song that was on a copyright free channel, but the artist got signed by a record label after it was published to that channel, which meant the information they provided about it being free to use was outdated.

By following the steps above, you make sure
you test the system first to ensure you don’t fall victim to something like
this. This then allows you to publish your video knowing that it’s safe for
monetization and there’s no risk that you might have to reupload and lose your
views.

What Happens if You Get a Copyright Claim on Your Video?

If you get a copyright claim on your video for
using music, don’t worry. It won’t impact your channel. In most cases, any of
the revenue you would have earned will just go to the original artist instead.
In some cases, the video will be blocked from being published.

Copyright claims like this are completely
different to channel strikes, which can cause your channel to be banned.
Channel strikes are often only applied when you blatantly steal content without
any fair use applied, for example uploading an entire movie, and a company
manually files a DMCA notice. When using audio, this is very rarely going to
happen, especially if you follow all of the steps in this article.

Summary

Thanks for reading this far. If you’ve read up
to this point, you will have learned the following things:

  • How to find music that’s safe to
    use on your YouTube channel.
  • How to test that music won’t
    demonetize your videos.
  • What happens if you do get a copyright
    claim and why you don’t need to worry.

I hope that this article has been useful. Do
you have any questions about YouTube’s copyright or content ID system? If you
do, leave your question below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

5 VR Applications that Aren’t Games

Virtual reality is finally good. If you lived through the VR technology of the 90s, that’s something you may never have expected to hear. However, if you own any current generation VR gear, you’ll know that there’s plenty of AAA fun to be had in virtual spaces.

VR gaming in particular has really taken off, which might lead to the impression that this is all that VR is good for. However there are some nifty applications out there that makes use of VR technology for something other than innovative gaming experiences.

From actual useful utilities to educational experiences to art. There’s a VR app for just about everything. These five VR applications are perfect examples of how VR can be used for much more than video games.

Virtual Desktop for Oculus Go

The Oculus Go is a standalone, self-contained
VR headset from Facebook-owned Oculus. Many applications that were originally
designed for the tethered Oculus Rift have been ported in one form or another
to the Go.

One popular application is Virtual Desktop. Basically, it puts you into a virtual space and then replicates your desktop displays within that space. There’s a lot of reasons to do this.

For one, it’s a great way to work in private without distraction or shoulder surfing. It also means you aren’t constrained by your physical monitors. Have as many as you want, in any arrangement and at any size. VR desktop software also lets you watch VR content like 360-degree YouTube videos natively.

Bringing the software to an untethered VR
headset really opens up possibilities. Use it with a Bluetooth mouse and
keyboard and you can bring your desktop with you anywhere in your home, within
reach of the WiFi. You can also the software over an internet connection from
anywhere in the world, but obviously latency and bandwidth become factors to
consider.

Get it here.

Google Earth VR

Google has done a lot to digitize and map our planet. From satellite images in Google maps to Google Street View, you can see an amazing amount of the world from the comfort of your chair.

The apex of all this geographic data capture is certainly Google Earth, which doesn’t get that much attention these days. So you might be surprised to hear that Google Earth has a full-on VR version, compatible with both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Using advanced photogrammetry and 3D rendering
tech, Google Earth VR lets you fly around the world, looking down into cities,
soaring through canyons and experiencing the world as some sort of titanic god.
The imagery on offer here is really an impressive achievement and it’s a
fantastic educational tool, even if you don’t opt for the VR version.

Get it here.

vTime

One of the best things about modern VR is
something called “presence”. That’s the sensation you get when your brain
thinks you really are wherever the VR world tells you. It means you perceive
the virtual objects around you as really there, which includes virtual people.

This means social VR apps have the potential
to bring us a whole new social experience online. vTime is one of the most
impressive examples of this VR app type. It’s a cross-platform application that
lets people use VR and traditional 2D devices to hang out with each other
seamlessly. They refer to it as a “cross-reality” platform, which essentially
means people in the same virtual space will have different experiences.

Those spaces are pretty nice too. From tropical islands to cosy fireplace lounges, vTime makes a space for you to be with other human beings. Albeit in the form of cartoony avatars.

While the effect may not be all that impressive using something other than VR, the surprising feeling of presence with a headset when using social apps like these really make you feel like this is something special.

Get it here.

Henry

While VR uses plenty of technologies that we already know, it’s actually a properly new medium. Which means people still have to figure out how to tell stories effectively using it.

Unlike a film frame, you can’t take total control over what the viewer sees or pays attention to. So creators have to invent new ways to subtly and effectively give people the experience they intended when making their content.

Henry, a VR animated short, is currently the best example of how to tell a story in VR. It’s a showcase title for the Oculus Rift, Oculus Go and Gear VR. Expertly rendered and designed, with Hollywood-levels of production quality, Henry shows what’s possible with VR and has yet to be topped.

The story itself is pretty charming, but it’s just as important as a technical and artistic milestone and showcase. If you own the right VR gear and have never seen Henry, that’s something you need to rectify right away.

Get it here.

Tilt Brush

VR has been promoted mainly as a way to
consume things that other people have created. Whether it’s a VR video, game or
other interactive piece of software. Google looked at it from another
perspective and instead created a tool that allows you to use the unique
attributes of VR to make content instead.

Tilt Brush is available for the Vive, Oculus and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. It’s a painting tool that works in three dimensions. Or perhaps it’s a VR 3D modelling tool that works with brushes. Really, you’ll have to re-evaluate how you think about things for it to really make sense.

Even if you don’t want to make your own creations, you can explore the works of others in VR, as they are meant to be seen. It’s a whole new way to approach art, and it is glorious.

Get it here.

VR – More Than Meets the Eye

As with any new medium, creators and developers are still exploring what’s possible. It took decades from TV’s mainstream adoption to the pinnacle of modern day television.

Proper, practical VR has only been around since around 2016, so seeing such a diversity of apps already bodes well. So if you’re a little burnt out on VR games, there’s no reason for that headset to gather dust. There’s plenty more to do!