Most Useful Free Applications for Windows

Unlike any Linux distrubution, Microsoft Windows lacks number of utilities or tools that you will need from time to time. If you are IT professional, there are number of utilities you will need to get through your day in addition to what Microsoft Windows comes with. Thanks to open source methodology and licensing, number of these utilities are available free along with their source codes. And there are bunch of softwares available for Windows which are free but closed source which is totally fine as long as you don’t have to go through number of hoops to get your hands on the software.

For me, the free software is one:

  • which is totally free as in free beer 😉
  • which doesn’t comes with adwares, spywares or other kind of hidden methods to make some profits from the users.
  • which doesn’t require activation or registration after few days or otherwise some of the features will be locked down and so called ‘free’ app will be stripped down version of what you were expecting.

On the other hand, I love the free applications which provide in-built update checks and auto-update features and…. well lets not get too greedy 🙂

Lets get started with our list of applications. The list below is not sorted out by popularity or functionality because why take extra headache of sorting and I will keep adding new apps in the future.

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Customizing Windows install CD

Have you ever been into situation when you wish Windows can install the drivers for you hard disk drive controller from USB flash drive or network instead of Floppy Disk Drive which are becoming obsolete day by day. Well, I been into those situations where I need to provide SATA RAID controller drivers for my PC which unfortunately doesn’t have old fashioned ATA floppy disk drive. And even though I can use USB floppy disk drive to provide the drivers during first stage (text based) Windows installer, it will refuse to use the same drivers from USB floppy disk drive during second stage (Graphical based) installer. I started searching as how I can work around to this problem and one of the method which I came across is called slip-streaming. Basically slip-streaming means customizing the Windows install CDs.

Now there are number of other reasons for customizing install CDs other than just adding custom drivers to it. These include adding latest service packs to install CD, including custom softwares, automating the installation where you don’t have to enter Name, Company Name, CD Keys etc manually. This is very helpful if you manage multiple PCs or have test lab environment where you need to re-install Windows again and again and you wish that you don’t have to sit in front of monitor during the installation.

There are number of ways you can do slip-streaming and most of it includes copying files here and there and changing some INI files to include your custom drivers or automating installation. But as always, easiest and simplest method is to have some kind of GUI tool to do all of this for you. Many thanks to Dino Nuhagic, who created Windows based tool to do exactly this and its called nLite ( You can download this powerful tool from

So, lets get started and customize that Windows installation CD of yours. nLite can customize any release of Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows 2003. If you want to customize Windows Vista, than you will need vLite ( In this tutorial, I will be customizing Windows 2003 Standard R2 so all the screenshots and steps are related to nLite.

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