Essential Free Software for Students

Maybe it’s just because I’m a student, but I’m always on the lookout for free stuff and software is no exception. There are a number of free resources and must-haves for your computer. Below is a list of free software and services that I think every student should know about:

Free Antivirus

According to the University, it’s your responsibility to secure your computer! Lots of people stick with the antivirus that comes preinstalled on their computer, but I’ve found them to be too expensive. There are two free alternatives that I would recommend:

  • Avast! provides fairly comprehensive coverage with its free suite for Windows PCs.
  • Microsoft also provides its own antivirus for Windows in the form of Microsoft Security Essentials (Windows 7) or Windows Defender (preinstalled on Windows 8).

It should be noted that with free antivirus software, protection isn’t going to be quite as proactive as with professional packages – but I’ve found that if you use common sense with sketchy websites and email attachments, and run a scan once in a while, you will be adequately protected.

Cloud storage services

When you’ve got an important paper to write, you want to make sure you’re not going to lose it halfway through. If I want to be able to walk down to the Hive to finish and print my paper, I could just save it on a USB disk. But, as one of my friends found out last year, they can sometimes corrupt if you’re not careful. And besides that, you can lose the disk itself.

Now, you can either devise a system of backups between computers to prevent this, or you can move… to the cloud. I rarely use USB disks or anything else for transfer any more – most of my schoolwork is stored in free online services.

  • Dropbox is a good all-purpose solution for file storage. It provides 2gb free for registering, but if you keep an eye open they occasionally offer extra free space. I’ve gotten an additional 8gb by tweeting/sharing/recommending friends to the service.
  • There are a ton of storage services with online office tools – my favorites are Skydrive (for its compatibility with Microsoft Office) and Google Drive (for its simplicity and reliability)

Microsoft DreamSpark

The University of Worcester subscribes to the DreamSpark program, which gives you Microsoft development software for free. Simply go to the website, search for the University and look around the store – the University also lists deals on Corel products in addition to Microsoft software.

The most notable item, and my favorite, is the Visual Studio Professional product line, which lets you make applications for Windows and Windows Phone.

I like free stuff, especially when that stuff is something that can help me with school. Hopefully these can help you, too!

Do you have any other recommendations, questions, or comments? Know of anything else I can get through the University? Let me know down below!