Note: This article was updated in February of 2019.
You just spent quite a bit of money on a brand new gaming PC or you successfully created a custom build. While gamers may quickly flock to the must-have software’s such as Steam, there are a whole bunch of great software out there that you’ll want to download. Likewise, it may be too easy to label Steam in this list so we’re going to recommend some alternatives among other free software worth checking out.
These programs listed below will not only help aid in your overall gameplay experience but can also make sure your PC is running smoothly and efficiently. Here are our picks for the top twenty free PC programs that every gamer should own.
Likewise, we would like to know what some of your favorite free PC programs are by leaving us a comment down below!
#22 Epic Games Store
We have a few digital storefront marketplace applications posted on this list and no doubt most of you have heard about Valve’s Steam. It’s a great online digital storefront that features a wide range of video game titles and has the luxury of being a piece of software that’s been around for years. As a result, not only is the digital storefront used frequently but it has a strong positive reputation. That means when there is any competition that comes up in hopes to battle against Valve’s Steam storefront, they are fighting an uphill battle. That is until Epic Games delivered their updated storefront known simply as the Epic Games Store.
There are a few reasons that this storefront could really stand against Steam. For starters, it’s gathering plenty of users simply by providing free video game titles every month. Gamers are getting access to titles such as Subnautica, Super Meat Boy, Axiom Verge, and Thimbleweed Park. Furthermore, it’s starting to secure a number of PC exclusives thanks to the larger profit margins developers along with publishers gain through Epic Games Store resulting in Steam losing out on select titles. While there are still some areas that could be tweaked for Epic Games Store, it’s worth downloading the storefront at the very least to enjoy some of those free monthly video game titles.
Outside of Steam which we made mention in our intro paragraph, there are other digital distribution storefronts such as Origin. This service us owned by Electronic Arts and its become a must own if you wish to purchase and enjoy select video game titles such as the more recent release, A Way Out. Chances are most of these games won’t find its way outside of Origin if you’re looking to enjoy the game on the PC platform and as a result, you’ll want to make sure this Origin program is downloaded to your gaming desktop. Again this is just another storefront outside of Steam and you’ll find several other programs out there that offer a similar experience.
Emulators and ROMs can be a touchy subject. Collectors will oftentimes prefer to play the original hard release of a video game title and of course, there is sometimes the legality side of things. However, if you’re looking to play those classic old video game consoles and titles then chances are you downloaded a few ROMs and emulators but the whole process of managing the games and seamlessly playing a title is a bit cumbersome.
Instead of scrolling through a long list of video game titles on your hard drive, we suggest checking out Launchbox. This is by far the best frontend for an emulator we’ve come across. This program neatly organizes your ROMs and emulators while allowing gamers to also use their controller to browse for a game to play with ease.
Games are oftentimes broken up in a plethora of categories making it even easier to locate a game. The program is free to download though if you wish to toss in a bit of money then we highly recommend going for the paid version which certainly opens up more tools and features that are well worth owning.
When it comes to displays, players often seek out the vibrant panels with a slew of features. From colors that pop to a brightness that can assure you’re not missing out on anything of importance during those dark dungeon raids. However, when you begin to start playing a video game towards the evening hours, the bright and beautiful display can start to turn into an eyesore.
Late at night staring into a bright display can be a bit of a pain. Additionally, I’ve been known to hop onto the computer late at night and forget the display is cranked up to deal with the daylight into the room so I’m left with a bright annoying cast of light being sent directly into my eyeballs. Yeah, that’s no fun to deal with and luckily there’s a program to help aid you.
Introducing F.lux. This is a program that can adjust your display depending on the time of day it is. If you’re jumping onto the PC early in the morning with a bright natural light filling the room then your display will have been adjusted thanks to the time schedule settings.
With this program you can have a display that looks great no matter what time of day it is and best of all, there’s no more fiddling with the settings yourself in order to bring down the brightness.
#18 Pin Steam
When Microsoft introduced Windows 8, they introduced a brand new design for the operating system. The design wasn’t the most welcomed change up from Microsoft, but for those who enjoyed the tile view and setup then we have a program you won’t want to pass up on.
Pin Steam is a program that makes use of the tile Start Menu though it integrates Steam. With Steam being the most popular gaming marketplace and software for PC gamers, chances are you have a number of video game titles sitting in your library.
With Pin Steam, gamers can decide to pin whatever game they wish on the Start Menu. Visually, it looks seamless to the Windows 8 operating system design. Additionally, with this software, gamers can also pin their close friends so you can be updated in real time on what video game they are playing.
#17 GameSave Manager
When it comes to computers, it’s not uncommon for users to have an extra storage solution to use as a backup means for their operating system, pictures, videos, and any other files that wish to save. This is also true for gamers as nobody wants to deal with a corrupt hard drive or file.
If you’re a gamer that’s working on a long RPG or if you simply like to keep your game saves in a safe place, then we recommend downloading GameSave Manager. This is a program that easily navigates all the video game saves on your computer so you can back them up on a different drive.
Now if you’re unlucky enough to have a drive go bad or a corrupt save, you don’t have to lose all your progress. This software also serves as a means to restore a game save so you’re in good hands. Now you can game on without fear of losing progress for good or even take a save with you in case the opportunity to enjoy your favorite video game arrives.
Much like most of the programs on this list, gamers can download GameSave Manager completely for free. However, if you enjoy the program and wish to support the developers then you can place a donation through PayPal.
WinDerStat is another program that deals with storage. However, unlike GameSave Manager which was our previously covered point, this program aids with the help of deciding just what to get rid of on your computer. Video games are only getting more advanced and after a new release hits the market, you’ll likely have to check just how much storage space is required to play the game.
Games are continuously getting bigger so if you’re not interested in picking up a bigger drive to store the video game titles or if the funds won’t allow it then you’ll be left on deciding just what to purge. WinDirStat is a great way to see the content stored on your drives. Not only does this program will showcase the usual graphical statistics of storage availability, but it will also give a more visually appealing way to see how much a program is taking up space.
With an additional panel window open, the program will unveil a series of different colored and sized rectangles. The bigger the size the larger the file is on your hard drive. This is a user-friendly way of showing just how much cushion room a program or file takes up and that can likely greatly help when it comes to clearing out space for a new game install.
#15 MSI Afterburner
When it comes to PC gaming, users who opt to create and build their own PC will tend to tinker with it a bit more. As new games release, there can be that urge in seeing if you can get a few more frames from tweaking the settings.
If you’re looking past the in-game settings then you can really open up with a slew of options and tools. One of those tools that are highly regarded is MSI Afterburner. This is a program that specializes in various graphics cards. With the GPU being one of the key elements in a gaming PC it’s easily one of the first components to look at when increasing the overall frames-per-second along with stability.
With MSI Afterburner, gamers will have control over the graphics card. You’ll be able to overclock it and push the card to the limits while also seeing a vast monitor system in order to see just how far the GPU can go in a safe matter. There are even options to run a monitor system on your smartphone with the ability to make adjustments without having to exit out of a game.
For those looking to tinker a bit more with a custom gaming PC then this is a program worth researching.
Everyone has come across this problem in their life. When you’re on the PC and suddenly a program freezes and refuses to exit than its an instant annoyance. Furthermore, there are programs out there in which doesn’t abide by the standard Alt+F4 shortcut.
With this download, the program on the foreground of your computer should exit out on command. However, as we said, this doesn’t always work so we suggest SuperF4. With this program, gamers can kill any program that’s in the foreground with Ctrl+Alt-F4. It’s a small little program but one that is well worth downloading especially if you have a program or software that refuses to quit.
Most often developers are pretty cool with giving gamers the ability to remap controls. However, there are certain cases in which the development studio decided that the player must abide by the control scheme they have created for the title. If you ever come across a game that wouldn’t allow you to change the key inputs then KeyTweak is a workaround.
KeyTweak does exactly what the name suggests. Gamers will be able to tweak the keys in order to get the appropriate control scheme that works for them. It’s a rather easy program to work with as well, The software will showcase a full keyboard and from there you can remap keys that may work well within the game.
This is a simple interface workaround than dealing with the registry or any additional files for the program. Best of all, when you’re done with the game, the software can remove all the re-mapped keys with a single button. Of course, there are some limitations into the game such as combining a series of keystrokes into a single key or the use of the Fn key on most laptops.
You may very well be surprised by just how useful this software can be even if you’re only needing to make one small adjustment to your control layout.
#12 Borderless Gaming
From narrative focused journeys to time killing titles, you’re most likely playing a video game in a full-screen mode. So for those few video game titles that don’t offer a means to play in a full-screen mode we suggest looking into the program known as Borderless Gaming.
This is another easy and simple program that really becomes useful. Within the program, players can stream any game in a borderless full-screen mode. This tosses out a lot of uncertainties as well for video game titles. There are titles out there that can’t seem to handle the Alt+Tab feature in order to handle another program or web browse for a guide.
With Borderless Gaming, players can tab out of a video game and tweak your playlist, look up a guide or even open up another program without the fear of crashing your video game title. The program is also open source which means anyone can help contribute.
Ever come across a great view of a game or want to capture a funny moment, there are a few means of going about it, but we’re suggesting Sharex. This is a program that not only acts as a simple way to capture an image but it also comes packed with all sorts of tools and features.
Just to name off a couple this program can provide, Sharex may allow a watermark to be placed on your image automatically and also there’s an option in which the program can automatically upload the image to image hosting sources online.
When you really start to tweak the settings and preferences, capturing images is not only easy with Sharex, but the program can help finesse the screenshot to be visually appealing and marked appropriately.
Your days of using the old print screen button are behind you along with having to toss it into an image editor in order to work out the fine details prior to releasing it on the web. Trust us, using this program will help save you plenty of time.
#10 OBS Studio
If you are fond of video recording your gameplay for later uploading online along with using streaming services such as Twitch then you’ve likely come across a wide range of software to choose from. One of the best software’s that we can recommend for you is OBS Studio.
This does both video recording along with being a useful program for streaming gameplay. OBS Studio is open source allowing anyone to help aid in updating the software. Some of the features included in the program is an audio mixer with a slew of filter options, multiple scenes to help record various screens or cameras and a useful docking system making the user interface more seamless to the tools or features most needed.
As mentioned, the software does allow streaming and its supported on the major three platforms that being Twitch, Mixer and lastly YouTube.
#9 Nexus Mod Manager
The Nexus Mod Manager is a software worth downloading if you opt to download and use mods for certain video game titles. Essentially, this manager is available to make installing mods to select video games extremely easy though you’ll want to look into the mods and games supported just in case certain developers are not supporting this feature. This can also affect your account as well so again we really stress looking into the games and mods before progressing in case of being hit with a banned account.
However, with this manager, you can download mods made available online from other creators. Currently, the most popular game mod downloads have been for titles such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fallout 4, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and XCOM.
Of course, this manager will only work for a certain number of video games but it seems that some of the more popular open-world titles are included in the mix. We’ll likely see more titles become supported in the future so you can always bookmark the website to see just what new titles become available.
Likewise, outside of just installing the mods, this manager will help organize the mods you’re using along with options to uninstalling them.
#8 GeForce Experience
If you own a Nvidia graphics card then you’ll want to get GeForce Experience. This is a useful program that does a wide assortment of things. For instance, the software will help make sure that your computer is running the latest drivers for the GPU.
Outside of just making sure your GPU is running up-to-date, the software will also allow gamers to record and share gameplay videos with the software’s record system which can also be used for streaming.
Another interesting aspect that comes with the software is the optimize game settings which can automatically adjust your games so its running at the best settings for your PC configuration. Now while this program is intended for Nvidia graphics cards, AMD users can get something similar with the Radeon software from AMD.
If you don’t recall the various components in your build or if you didn’t build the system yourself, then you may want to download the utility software known as Speccy. Now there are all sorts of different software that can be used in Speccy’s place but this software is easy to read and navigate through.
Within the program, gamers can see just what components are installed such as RAM, graphics card and the processor. Likewise, there is a decent breakdown of the useful information between all the components such as the temperature, drive speed, and various model numbers.
It’s always a good idea to gauge your temperature for the components as well. If you’re running too hot then you could get some stability issues and potentially hurt the components longevity. With this software running you can get a better idea of if you need to upgrade something like the CPU cooler or if your case is even pulling in enough airflow.
#6 PC Decrapifier
When you purchase a PC it’s gonna come with useless programs and startup items that could clutter or slow down your PC. Every PC comes with this if you go through a manufacturer as they’ll likely load up programs that may seem helpful but in actual cases, the software is considered junk.
This is where the program PC Decrapifier comes into play. We find that this is a great tool for a brand new PC as it will help get rid of all the software that is not likely wanted. However, the program can also help users out in the long run so it doesn’t necessarily become useful for just new PC purchases.
When you find that your PC is starting to slow down over time, it could mean that you happened to come across too many useless programs that are taking up your precious resources. If this happens to be the case then just pop in this program via a USB drive and let it do all the hard work.
Just as a new PC purchase, PC Decrapifier will hunt down all the programs that are not being used often or are considered junk and recommend uninstalling them. Afterward, your computer will likely be running smoothly once again.
Ultramon is another simple but useful tool for gamers. If you own multiple monitors which are likely the case as dual monitor setups have become the norm then you may run into some issues. That might not be the case for everyone but to avoid any inconsistencies or issues in the future you should download UltraMon.
With the software, users can set up a few different monitor configurations as it supports wallpapers, screensavers and helps improve productivity. Even if you already have a configuration setup to your liking, running this software could help unlock even more potential and stability.
For those of you who really start to tinker with their gaming PC then you may have opted to do some overclocking. This is a great way to help improve the speed and gameplay experience with the latest titles that may potentially be a bit too resource heavy for your setup.
While you’ll want to be careful with your builds and overclocking, you’ll also want to check the stability of your system. This is where programs such as Prime95 comes into play. With this program, users can check to see the stability of their CPU and RAM. During tests, you should be able to tell if your overclock was a success or if there are any underlying issues that may need to be addressed before you start gaming.
Connecting with friends online is easy and there are all sorts of applications and means of going about it. Though it’s clear that the main source gamers are using today is Discord. This is a VOIP software in which gamers can chat via text or voice to friends.
Most everyone uses Discord and it’s incredibly easy to set up a private channel in which your group of friends or team can communicate during gameplay. Likewise, there are several popular online media personalities and channels that use the application for gamers to join in and talk among themselves.
Due to its simplicity and popularity, you’ll likely want to give Skype the uninstall and look at using Discord as your main source of communication when online. Furthermore, if you don’t wish to install the program on your computer, there is a web client available so you can still communicate with your friends online.
JoyToKey in a way is similar to Keytweak that we covered earlier in this article. However, unlike Keytweak, instead of remapping your keyboard keys to a different button, you can remap any gamepad you like on the PC. After all, some gamepad controllers simply don’t seem to work out very well with certain video games.
While most games work flawlessly with the Microsoft Xbox controllers, you do run into issues where a game simply doesn’t support anything outside a keyboard and mouse or perhaps the title is too old to have really support gamepads.
#1 Flawless Widescreen
If you jumped onto the ultrawide monitor craze then you likely run into an issue with a video game display once or twice. There are still some video games that release into the market that don’t offer an ultrawide monitor support and that often means playing a video game with black bars on the sides. This also goes without saying that older games will run into the very same problem.
For those who are looking for a quick fix then we suggest Flawless Widescreen. This is a program that helps out in FOV making select games work with your widescreen display. Now not every game will be supported, in fact, the download page will bring you to a list of what video games work with this software, but you should find that most of the popular triple AAA video game titles will be included.
Hopefully going forward, developers will keep in mind the group of gamers out there that are more fond of the ultrawide display setup than the traditional gaming monitor. But until then, Flawless Widescreen will do the trick.