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How to Add Subtitles to a Movie or TV Series

Subtitles are one of those things many people sneer at. But once you start using them to better understand what’s going on, it’s hard to stop using them. And if you’re watching a foreign-language movie, you might have no choice but to use subtitles.

In this article, we’ll show you how to add subtitles to movies or TV series on your computer. It’s quick, easy, and totally free to do.

Reasons to Start Using Subtitles

If you’re hard of hearing. subtitles are a lifesaver. They allow you to follow the plot or a movie or TV show without having the volume turned up to room-shaking levels.

If you’re watching a movie in a foreign language, you need to use translated subtitles to understand the plot. For most people, subtitles are less jarring than dubbed audio because you can enjoy the original performance of the actors without getting distracted by out-of-sync dialog.

But there are good reasons to add subtitles to a movie or TV show even if it’s in your native tongue:

  • Inaudible dialog: It’s tough to understand characters with thick accents, even when they’re speaking a language you know. This also happens when actors mumble their lines, making them impossible to hear over other sound effects.
  • Narrative comprehension: Sci-fi and fantasy shows include a wealth of made-up proper nouns for names, planets, and technology. When you’re watching complex shows like this, subtitles make it easier to follow what’s going on.

The Abyss movie with subtitles turned on

Unfortunately, when you download movies and TV shows to watch offline, they don’t always come with subtitles. This means you need to add them yourself, which is actually a lot easier than you might think.

How to Add Subtitles to Movies or TV Series

Now that you know why you should consider adding subtitles to movies or TV series, we can move onto the process of adding them. Which starts with finding subtitle files.

Where to Download Quality Subtitles

Before you can apply subtitles to a downloaded movie or TV show, you first need to find and download a subtitle file for that particular title. If possible, it’s best to download the subtitles from the same place you got the content. That way they are most likely to sync up with your video file.

However, if there aren’t any subtitles available from the same place, you can use other websites to download subtitles from instead.

We recommend the following two sites:

  • Subscene: Unless the movie or TV show you’re trying to watch is rare or decades old, you’re almost guaranteed to find working subtitles on Subscene. Subtitles are categorized by title, language, and closed captions for hearing-impaired people.
  • OpenSubtitles: This is a large database with plenty of working subtitles—including some that are missing from Subscene—but it is very heavy on the ads. Downloading subtitles can feel like a game of elimination as you try to figure out which download links are genuine and which ones are spam.

Subscene website showing subtitles for The Abyss

After downloading the subtitles you need—which should be in an SRT or SUB file—there are two methods you can use to add them to your videos: soft and hard.

Soft subtitles allow you to turn them on and off, switching between different languages or no subtitles at all while watching. Whereas hard subtitles merge with the video file itself. You can’t turn them off, but you never need to worry about adding subtitles again.

We’ll explain how to add subtitles, both hard and soft, to a movie or TV series below…

How to Add Soft Subtitle Tracks to a Downloaded Movie

All of the best modern video players support file-based subtitles. This means you can add as many subtitle tracks to a downloaded movie as you like, and switch between them at any time from the subtitle menu.

We’ll demonstrate how to add subtitles using VLC Media Player, which is free, open source, cross platform, and the most widely used video player around. But most other video players operate in much the same way.

Download: VLC Media Player for Windows | macOS | Linux (Free)

Add Subtitles to a Movie Automatically

The easiest way to add subtitles to a movie is to give the subtitle file exactly the same name as the video file (excluding the format extension). Then keep both files in the same folder. When you open the movie in a media player, such as VLC, it automatically loads the subtitles along with the video.

So if your video file is named:

The.Abyss.1989.BluRay.1080p.x264.mp4

Then you need to make sure the subtitle file is named:

The.Abyss.1989.BluRay.1080p.x264.srt

Since it doesn’t allow you to add a specific language to your subtitles file name, this method is best if you only want to add subtitles in a single language.

Folder with video and subtitle file with the same name

Add Subtitles to a Movie or TV Show Manually

If you want to use different file names for your video and subtitles files, you need to manually add the subtitles instead. This is the best method to use if you have multiple subtitle tracks you want to add to the same film.

There are two manual methods you can use to add subtitles in VLC.

First, open the video file in VLC, then go to Subtitles > Add Subtitle File from the menu bar and select the subtitle file you want to add.

Add Subtitle File menu from VLC options

Alternatively, open the video file in VLC, then click-and-drag the subtitle file from your file manager and drop it into the VLC window.

Drag-and-drop subtitle file in VLC

If you add multiple subtitle tracks, use the Subtitles option in the menu bar to switch between them.

How to Permanently Add Hard Subtitles to a Video

If you want to permanently add subtitles to a movie or television show, you can create a new video file using HandBrake. This isn’t as quick or easy as the methods above. But since HandBrake is free, open source, and cross platform, it’s still a good option if you never want to worry about adding subtitles again.

Download: HandBrake for Windows | macOS | Linux (Free)

To get started, launch Handbrake and select the video file as the Source. Switch to the Subtitles tab, then open the Tracks dropdown box and select Add External Subtitles Track. Select your subtitles file from the browser that appears.

Next to your subtitles track, turn on Burned In to permanently add hard subtitles to your movie. Alternatively, add multiple subtitle tracks, select a Language for each of them and choose one to use as your Default subtitles. This allows you to switch between various subtitles tracks without worrying about different files.

HandBrake window showing Subtitles track

After configuring your settings, click Start to burn the new video file.

Create Your Own Subtitles

You might struggle to find subtitles for niche or independent movies. You also might not find subtitles in a particular language if it isn’t widely spoken across the globe. In either of these circumstances, you should consider creating your own subtitles to add to a movie or TV show instead.

It’s a time-consuming endeavor. But you can follow our instructions detailing how to make your own subtitles, then use the steps above to add them to your movie. If you do a good job, don’t forget to share your subtitles online for other people to use as well!

Read the full article: How to Add Subtitles to a Movie or TV Series

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How to Convert the MOD Camcorder Video Format to MPG

Recording videos these days is so easy. There’s no need to carry a camcorder around when you have a smartphone video camera. Clips can be easily edited and shared online. It’s rare to come across a file format you can’t view or convert.

Whether you’re still using an old camcorder, or you’ve been tasked with copying and converting the footage, there’s a chance you’ll come across MOD files. These media files are difficult to read which means they need converting—but how do you convert MOD to MPG video formats?

What Is a MOD File?

You’ve probably never heard of a MOD video file, but if you have you’ve probably had the misfortune of using one.

It’s not that it is a bad file format. It is just that the MOD file is rarely encountered. In fact, the MOD file extension often appears in other places such as video game modifications. That’s not the MOD file we’re talking about here, however.

So: How do MOD files play? Why is this format used?

MOD and TOD files (the high definition equivalent) can be found on tapeless camcorders. These are the type of device that use memory cards rather than tape. MOD files are no longer used and only found on old camcorder hardware. If you have a reliable handheld video camera that you still use, you probably encounter the MOD file extension regularly.

Can you convert MOD files in Windows
Image credit: Mikus/Wikipedia

Therefore, this file extension becomes frustrating. MOD files cannot be easily read. Converting to MP4 format is bad enough—it’s tricky to convert MOD files to write them to DVD or Blu-ray. Most burning tools don’t recognize MOD files.

Another problem with MOD files is that you would assume from the name and the lack of support that it is a proprietary format. However, this isn’t the case. JVC and other well-known brands simply renamed a standard video file format.

MOD files are in fact standard MPEG2 audio/video files. As such, they should be simple to convert and watch.

What Devices Record in the MOD File Format?

Numerous camcorders record video in the MOD file format. They’re produced by JVC, Panasonic, and Canon, and were sold between 2004 and 2011. They range between using built-in media storage to removable SD cards, as well as compact hard disk drives (HDDs).

Where the storage is not removable, a USB Mini port can be used to transfer data to your computer.

But how can you view MOD and TOD files on a PC? Is there a MOD file converter?

How Do You Convert MOD Files?

If you have MOD video files that you need to convert you have three options:

  1. For older files, simply rename the file extension
  2. View in VLC media player
  3. Convert using FFmpeg

Let’s check those in turn.

1. Convert MOD Files to MPG by Renaming the Extension

To clarify the first option, older camcorders that save video as MOD files simply rename an existing format. The solution is to just rename the file. So, a file called movie.MOD, can be renamed to movie.MPG.

You should be able to see the MOD file extension on your video clip. If not, you’ll need to force Windows to show it.

Start by opening Windows Explorer and browsing to the location where the MOD file is stored. Open File > Change folder and search options and select View.

Here, clear the check against Hide extensions for known file types. Click OK to confirm.

Next, right-click the MOD file and change the file extension from .mod to .mpg. Tap Enter, then click OK when prompted to proceed. That’s all there is to it.

As alluded above, this probably will not work on the later devices using MOD files. In which case…

2. View MOD Files in VLC Media Player

VLC media player can convert media files

VLC media player is the Swiss army knife of media player software. It will play almost any media file, even some that other players declare corrupt. VLC can even play partially downloaded files.

MOD and TOD files can be played in VLC media player. Simply download the tool, install, then double click the file concerned to watch it play. Alternatively, in VLC select Media > Open File and browse the file and click OK to view the MOD file.

Download: VLC media player (Free)

3. Use FFmpeg to Conver MOD Files to MPG

Don’t want to use VLC media player? It’s one of the top must-have apps for Windows 10, but if you prefer an alternative, MOD and TOD files can be converted to MPG using FFmpeg. This is a command line tool that can be instructed to convert MOD files.

Download: FFmpeg (Free)

Once installed, FFmpeg is accessed in Windows PowerShell. You’ll need to know and enter the file path of the MOD file on your computer. Otherwise, open Windows Explorer then File > Open Windows PowerShell from the MOD file location.

In PowerShell, use the FFmpeg command to call the program, then use the conversion command:

ffmpeg -f mpeg -i originalClip.MOD -vcodec copy -acodec mp2 -ab 192k copyClip.mpg

Note that changing the file type will not improve the quality of the video file.

For high definition TOD files, convert using

ffmpeg -i myClip.TOD -vcodec copy -acodec copy myClip.mpg

With MOD files converted they should playback in any player. If you run into trouble, use VLC.

Play MOD Files on Your PC

Now you know what a MOD file is, and you know how to play them. The VLC media player is the answer to so many playback issues—it should be everyone’s default media player.

It’s important to maintain personal archive material, whether video, audio, or other data. CDs are as susceptible to decay as magnetic tape and vinyl, just in different ways.

Once you’re done backing up old MOD file video data, it’s time to convert your classic audio media to MP3.

Read the full article: How to Convert the MOD Camcorder Video Format to MPG

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How to Play Unplayable Videos on Your PC: 6 Methods to Try

Found a video file you can’t play? It could be due to a poor media player, missing codecs, or be a problem with the file. Perhaps it’s an issue with Digital Rights Management (DRM) preventing a video from playing.

You might also run into problems playing videos online from a PC, such as on Amazon or other sites.

In many cases, you can overcome problems and get the videos running. Here’s what you need to know about dealing with error codes, codecs, streaming, and video playback errors.

Common Reasons for Video Playback Errors

It’s often frustrating to find a video file on your PC that won’t play, especially if it worked previously.

Various factors impact the playback of a video file:

  1. Your media player cannot play it
  2. Codecs are missing from your computer
  3. The file extension is unrecognized
  4. A DRM decryption key is missing
  5. The video file is corrupt
  6. The online video service has a problem

Some of these errors can be resolved; others cannot. Let’s take a look at how to play online and local videos on your PC and fix any errors.

1. Confirm the Video File Extension

Most video files feature recognizable extensions. For example, you’re probably familiar with WMV, AVI, MP4, or MKV. Many other file extensions are in use for video, however. (Some of these denote the format of the video files; others are merely container formats.)

In some cases, the file extension might have been changed. It’s important to find the correct file extension, although this might be a process of trial and error.

If your video file won’t play and you’re convinced it should, try changing the file extension:

  1. Open Windows Explorer
  2. Go to File > Options > View
  3. Find Hide extensions for known file types
  4. Clear the checkmark, then click Apply
  5. Click OK to confirm

Hide file extensions to fix video errors

You can then see the file extensions of your video file. This will appear as described above. To change the video file extension, first make a note of what it is to start with.

Then use the right-click menu to find Rename and change the extension to another recognized suffix. When asked Are you sure you want to change it, click Yes.

Rename video file extensions

Changing the file extension doesn’t work often, but it’s worth taking the time to ensure the correct extension is set.

2. Upgrade to VLC Media Player

Windows 10 features two media players pre-installed. First is the legacy Windows Media Player 12, which while regularly updated, was released with Windows 7 back in 2009. Second is Film & TV, a video playing app supporting a wide selection of video formats.

At first glance, the Film & TV app might be the smart option. After all, a modern video player should be able to play all file formats that came before.

However, this is not necessarily the case. To save money on licensing, Microsoft has omitted support for some video codecs from Windows 10. As such, a video that might have worked under Windows 7 or 8 might not play in Windows 10 using the preinstalled media players.

The solution to this is simple, however: use VLC media player instead. There’s a very good chance the video file will play.

Download: VLC media player (Free)

VLC isn’t the only solution, however. Other Windows 10 media players are available too.

3. Install the Latest Video Codecs

To play any video file that exists in the wildest corners of the web you need two things:

  1. A media player (or the software)
  2. A codec

You know what a media player is—but what is a codec?

In simple terms, it is software that knows how to convert the video into a viewable state.

Many codecs can be used to encode video. In some sense, the codec is like the key and your video is like a locked file. You need the same key or the codec to view the file that was used to encode the file.

This causes problems if you don’t have the right codec installed.

VLC media player is the solution to many video playback issues. It can play almost any video format, from XviD to Real Video, and even optical discs. Codecs are built into VLC media player, although other techniques are used to playback videos.

Furthermore, VLC media player can play partial files, which can prove useful in establishing the viability of a file.

If you’re already using a different media player and don’t want to switch, don’t worry. You can install all the codecs you need using the K-Lite Codec Pack. This is a bundle of free codecs that should allow you to play any video and audio file.

With the right codecs, video files should play smoothly. Choppy video playback can be fixed in several ways, including by updating to the most recent codecs.

Download: K-Lite Codec Pack (Free)

4. DRM Issues Are Preventing Playback

In other cases, some video files are locked to a specific media player.

This is most commonly the case with the M4V video format, a DRM-encoded version of the MP4 format. Unlike MP4, M4V can only be played on Apple’s media player software.

M4V files are purchased from the Apple TV app, and previously iTunes. So if you have used this service to buy video files and they won’t open in your regular software, use Apple’s media player software.

If the file has also corrupted, you may need a new copy of it. Check your purchases in iTunes to re-download the file.

5. Repair or Partially View Corrupt Video Files

Fix the 0xc00d36e5 video playback error

In Windows 10 you might come across error messages that affect MOV and MP4 files. But with the right tool you can fix the 0xc00d36e5 or the 0xc00d36c4 error. It’s typically accompanied with the message “Item is unplayable, please reacquire the content.”

The tool you need to bypass this error? It’s the VLC media player again.

When Windows 10 is unable to play a video using the native tools, VLC is the alternative. Error codes can be overcome, and even corrupt and partially downloaded video files can be played back.

Of course, corrupted video files are ultimately useless. Where possible, you’ll need to replace a damaged file with a backup or download it again from a reliable source.

Be aware that the 0xc00d36e5 error can also occur due to other factors. As well as a corrupt file, the storage media might be corrupt. Power supply issues can cause the 0xc00d36e5 error as well.

There might also be an issue with the Windows Registry causing playback problems. Resetting the Windows Registry can help resolve this.

6. Resolve Issues With Your Online Streaming Service

It isn’t only video files hosted on your PC that can result in error messages. Unplayable videos from the web can also run into trouble.

Here’s an example: Amazon Prime Video error code 9074. Usually limited to Roku errors, it is one of several error codes that Prime Video displays, but they’re often interchangeable.

Prime Video playback error codes can be caused by:

  • Server issues
  • VPN and proxies
  • An error on the playback device
  • General service outage

In some cases, waiting will fix the problem. But it’s also worth rebooting your PC to be certain the problem isn’t at your end.

Unlike media player playback, streaming video from the web doesn’t require specific additional codecs. However, other issues preventing playback can be reset with a reboot—and who knows, by the time Windows 10 reboots, the Prime Video server could be back up and running.

You could also avoid problems with streaming video from Amazon. Simply download Amazon videos to your PC first, then watch at your leisure.

Now You Can Fix and Play Unplayable Videos on Your PC

If you’re running into any problems playing locally stored videos, on removable media, or on Windows 10, VLC media player should be your first solution.

For other problems, consider the file extension, DRM issues, and streaming issues.

At times, Windows 10 error messages can be caused by other underlying issues. Be sure to take the time to fix them. Failure to deal with these can lead to worse problems, such as the Windows 10 Black Screen of Death.

Read the full article: How to Play Unplayable Videos on Your PC: 6 Methods to Try

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How to Play Video Smoothly on Your PC: Here’s What You Need

Watching choppy video playback is like sailing choppy waters: rough, frightening, and may lead to nausea. While modern hardware can handle most tasks you can throw at it, every so often, you’ll encounter an issue. Choppy video playback, whether through a DVD or online, happens.

Here’s how to fix it!

What Factors Affect Video Playback Quality?

Smooth video playback boils down to a few hardware and software choices. These choices affect offline and online video playback differently. Here’s what can negatively affect video playback:

  1. An outdated media player
  2. A low-performance PC which would stifle high-quality Blu-ray playback
  3. A souped-up PC, but a bad internet connection

Whatever the case, smooth video playback is within your sights.

Two other factors impact playback quality: offline or online video.

Offline Video Playback Quality

Choppy offline video playback concerns playing video from video files or DVDs. This is different from online video playback, due to network connection or other service issues (more on these in a moment).

There are certain steps you can take to ensure smooth video playback with an offline source.

  1. Update your media player
  2. Install and update video and audio codecs
  3. Check your hardware capabilities
  4. Update your GPU drivers

Let’s take a look at those steps in a little more detail.

1. Update Your Media Player

The first thing to do is to update your media player. There are many excellent free video players for Windows. If you use a third-party media player, head to the company’s website and download the latest software version.

2. Install and Update Video and Audio Codecs

Second, ensure that all video and audio codecs are installed properly. Codecs, to put it simply, process audio and video data. Sometimes certain video formats are not playable on your PC. This is because you do not have the appropriate video codec installed.

Codecs sometimes become damaged or corrupted, which may lead to jarring playback. To fix them, download, and install codec packs.

Microsoft has an official codec pack for these exact purposes. Download the file, then double-click to install, following the on-screen instructions.

Video codecs are a little confusing. If you want to learn more, here’s all you need to know about video codecs, containers, and compression.

3. Check Your Hardware Is Capable

Ensure that your PC is within the hardware range necessary to playback these videos. Video formats come with different qualities that determine their ease of playback.

For example, a 1080p video playing at 30 FPS (frames per second) will require slightly less performance than the same video at 60 FPS. The difference grows when comparing 1080p video with 4K or UHD video.

The same goes for video rendering. While video playback consumes less performance than video rendering, both involve PC performance. Generally, the more powerful hardware you have, the better the video playback will be. If you have very old hardware, video playback can struggle for a few reasons.

For instance, an old 5400RPM hard drive (or even a 4800RPM) might struggle to process a massive 4K video file quickly enough for stable video playback. You might run into similar issues using a drastically underpowered CPU, or if the system has a seriously small amount of RAM.

There are solutions for these issues. For example, the VLC media player is well known to assist with smooth video playback on older hardware. Or, you might have an older system with a discreet graphics processing unit (GPU). Some media players can use the GPU hardware acceleration to shift some of the video processing load from the CPU, helping video playback.

There is no exact rule of thumb for minimum hardware required for smooth video playback. If you have a PC built in the last few years, you should not struggle with offline video playback of 4K and other high-resolution video formats.

Hardware and Video Encoding

There are other issues with hardware, such as GPU and video encoding compatibility issues. Even some modern GPUs that can play the latest games on high settings won’t work with certain video encoding types.

If you have a modern GPU and powerful system yet still encounter video playback issues, double-check if your GPU supports the video encoding type you’re trying to use.

vlc media player show codec information

4. Update Your GPU Drivers

Fourth, and finally, ensure you install up-to-date GPU drivers.

The GPU drivers will allow for the maximum output of your hardware. As the CPU and GPU are often the main indicators of PC performance, updating their drivers will ensure video playback. At the very least, it can eliminate some video playback stuttering issues.

Find out how to replace outdated Windows drivers with our handy guide.

Online Video Playback Quality

Smooth online video playback often comes with the same requirements as offline video playback. Yet, there are a few additional parameters to look out for.

  1. Is your internet fast enough?
  2. Are other programs using your internet?
  3. Disable hardware acceleration in the browser
  4. Update your web browser

1. Is Your Internet Fast Enough?

The first question you must ask for online video playback relates to your internet speed. Streaming Full HD, UHD, and 4K video online is a data-intensive task. The data requirements vary slightly, but in general, you need:

  • 2-4Mbps for standard-definition video playback
  • 5-10Mbps for high definition video playback
  • 25Mbps minimum for 4K video playback

There are variations between online video streaming services, too. Netflix requires at least 3Mbps for standard-definition video playback, whereas Amazon Prime Video requires just 0.9Mbps.

With online video playback, a faster internet connection will always yield better results.

2. Are Other Programs Using Your internet?

Second, ensure you are not clogging your network with data-hungry programs.

You can do this by right-clicking on your Taskbar and selecting Task Manager. You will see the Processes tab of your Task Manager.

Click on Network tab (and percentage number indicating network usage) to see which programs other than your browser are hogging up data.

windows task manager show network use

That also goes for RAM usage. Remember, smooth online playback requires optimal hardware.

Click on the Memory tab to order your selection from most usage to least. Right-click any program not necessary for video playback (that is also not essential to your PC use) and select End task. This will free up some performance power.

The Windows Task Manager is a versatile tool. Here are some Windows Task Manager tricks you can use to manage your system better.

3. Disable Hardware Acceleration in Browser

Third, disable hardware acceleration.

Hardware acceleration allows browsers to hand off certain tasks to certain hardware parts. While your CPU can render, say, 3D models, it’s better to use a specialized hardware component, such as the GPU, to render that model.

That’s because it can do so more quickly and usually has more processing power available to complete the activity. Sometimes this process can lead to playback issues.

Check the Video Player Type

Google Chrome is permanently disabling Flash Player at the end of 2020. The majority of browsers are switching to HTML5, a more secure and stable video playback option. If the video player is attempting to use a Flash Player, your browser may no longer support that option.

As Adobe will stop officially supporting Flash at the end of 2020, the Flash Player will become (even more!) insecure.

4. Update Your Web Browser

Update your web browser. Current browser versions can handle high-quality video playback, as more video repository sites like YouTube allow for higher quality footage uploads. Old browser versions, or bugged browser versions, may limit video playback.

How to Smooth Out Choppy Video

To summarize, here’s how you stop your video playback problems:

  1. Are you using the most recent version of your media player?
  2. Do you have the codecs required to watch that video format?
  3. Is your hardware powerful enough?
  4. Do you have the latest drivers installed?
  5. Is something clogging up your network or consume your RAM or CPU capacity?
  6. Have you disabled your browser’s hardware acceleration?
  7. Is your web browser up-to-date?

Fortunately, ensuring smooth video playback is a simple and non-invasive procedure.

VLC Media Player is one of the world’s most popular video players. Here are the best VLC features you’re not using—but absolutely should be!

Image Credit: Dmitriy Kozhanov/Shutterstock

Read the full article: How to Play Video Smoothly on Your PC: Here’s What You Need

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New PC? 15 Must-Have Windows Applications You Should Install First

Whether you’ve just purchased a new PC or reinstalled Windows, the first task you’ll likely do is installing apps. While there are dozens of amazing Windows programs, knowing which are the must-have software for Windows 10 makes setting up a new installation easy.

In no particular order, let’s step through 15 essential apps for Windows 10 that everyone should install right away, along with some alternatives.

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1. Internet Browser: Google Chrome

Download Chrome Page

Unsurprisingly, Google Chrome is our top browser pick. It’s still super-speedy, includes little conveniences like instantly searching Google for an image, and the library of Chrome extensions is vast. Throw in cross-platform syncing that lets you open your desktop tabs on your phone and vice-versa, and you’ve got a fantastic browser for all purposes.

Chrome isn’t without its faults, however. Plenty of people want to avoid Google’s pervasive tracking in Chrome, and it gobbles a lot of RAM. But the good news is that you have plenty of other fantastic browsers to choose from, like Firefox and Opera.

Download: Google Chrome (Free)
Download: Firefox (Free)
Download: Opera (Free)

2. Cloud Storage: Google Drive

Google Drive Homepage

If you only pick one cloud app service, Google Drive is the one you should install. It offers 15GB of free storage, which is shared across your Google Photos and Gmail accounts.

Google Drive offers an app for every major platform, so you can take your files anywhere. On Windows, the app is now called Backup and Sync from Google, which allows you to back up folders on your computer and external devices, too.

It’s also super easy to share files with others, plus it plays well with Google’s productivity suite. Whether you use it as part of your backup plan, as a cloud flash drive, or for setting up shared folders with others, Google Drive is an essential pick.

Paired with OneDrive that comes built into Windows 10 or another free cloud storage provider, you can get plenty of storage space and separate your files logically.

Download: Google Drive (Free, subscription available)

3. Music Streaming: Spotify

Years ago, listening to music on your desktop meant painstakingly importing and organizing a collection of MP3s. That’s no longer the case; music streaming services eliminate the need for buying individual albums physically or digitally.

There are many music streaming services in the market, but we recommend Spotify. Its ad-supported free plan lets you listen to as much music as you like, and the Spotify Premium upgrade is definitely worth it for avid listeners. Spotify is also home to hundreds of podcasts, making everything available in one convenient place.

Spotify also has a dedicated Windows app, while Apple Music requires the bloated iTunes and Google Play Music is web-only. If you’re invested in either ecosystem, though, the respective music app might be a better choice for you.

Download: Spotify (Free, subscription available)
Visit: Apple Music (Free trial, subscription required)
Visit: Google Play Music (Free, subscription available)

4. Office Suite: LibreOffice

Chances are that you’ll need a tool that lets you work with documents, spreadsheets, and presentations at some point. You might think that paying for Microsoft Office is the only way to do this, but that’s far from the truth.

No Windows user should go without LibreOffice. It’s a completely free and powerful office suite that includes alternatives to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and more. Once you get used to a few small aesthetic differences from MS Office, you’ll be flying through your work with LibreOffice.

Note that OpenOffice, a popular alternative, is basically dead now. If you don’t want to use LibreOffice, try FreeOffice.

Download: LibreOffice (Free)
Download: FreeOffice (Free)

5. Image Editor: Paint.NET

Paint.Net Windows

Whether you want to try your hand at image manipulation, need a way to blur sensitive info on screenshots, or want to retouch old photos, everyone should have an image editing program installed. Photoshop is the gold standard for this, but there are plenty of free tools that are more accessible.

Paint.NET is our top choice. It’s far more powerful than Microsoft Paint but doesn’t overwhelm you with loads of confusing tools. You can easily blur out parts of an image, auto-level photos to make them look better, and add text and shapes to your pictures in just a few clicks. Plenty of plugins allow you to expand its functionality, too.

If you find Paint.NET too basic, GIMP is a more advanced solution.

Download: Paint.NET (Free)
Download: GIMP (Free)

6. Security: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Malwarebytes Windows

Windows 10 includes Windows Defender, which is a good enough antivirus for most people. However, it’s wise to keep a secondary security program installed.

For this, you can’t beat Malwarebytes. The free version lets you scan your system for malware that your antivirus might not catch. And for a powerful blended security solution, we think upgrading to Malwarebytes Premium is worth the cost.

Download: Malwarebytes (Free, subscription available)

7. Media Player: VLC

Thanks to YouTube’s ubiquitous nature, you probably don’t watch local videos too often. However, you should still keep a solid video player around on your desktop for when you need to play media files locally.

For this task, nothing beats VLC Media Player, which packs a ton of features and is capable of playing nearly every video and audio format imaginable. You might not break it out often, but give VLC a download and save yourself the hassle of messing with video codecs or using the awfully insecure QuickTime.

Download: VLC (Free)

8. Screenshots: ShareX

Taking a Windows screenshot is useful for everything from capturing funny moments to having a record of important information. The basic Snipping Tool and Snip & Sketch apps only provide a barebones feature set, so you need something better.

You won’t find a better free screenshot tool than ShareX. With tons of capture methods, a powerful built-in editor, automated steps after you take a screenshot, and extra tools like a color grabber and ruler, ShareX has an impressive feature set for no cost.

If ShareX overwhelms you, give PicPick a try instead.

Download: ShareX (Free)
Download: PicPick (Free)

9. File Compression and Extraction: 7-Zip

Windows includes native support for simple zipped files, but anything beyond the basics requires a more powerful tool. While this isn’t the most exciting software category, it’s important to have so you can work with any kind of archived files you might encounter.

7-Zip is the gold standard for file compression and extraction apps. It’s small and installs in seconds, is easy to use, and stays out of your way when you’re not using it. Those who needs advanced features will still find them in 7-Zip, though.

The only drawback of 7-Zip is its aged appearance. If you can’t get over that, take a look at PeaZip, which is a similar tool with a much more attractive interface. Either way, you certainly don’t need to pay for tools like WinRAR.

Download: 7-Zip (Free)
Download: PeaZip (Free)

10. Messaging: Rambox

Chances are that you use at least one messaging service to stay in touch with your friends during the day. With so many options to choose from, there’s no way we could pick the best messaging service because it all depends on what your friends use. So why not pick all of them?

Rambox is our pick for the best messaging app on Windows. It lets you add accounts from dozens of popular messaging services, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Telegram, GroupMe, Hangouts, Discord, and many more.

The app simply adds a new tab for every service you use, letting you keep up with every group in one window. It includes some extra features that make it more useful than opening them in your browser, and you can easily close one program when it’s time to focus. While Rambox’s free plan has some limitations, it offers more for free than competitors like Franz.

Download: Rambox (Free, subscription available)

A Few More Important Software for Your PC

Let’s quickly wrap up with five other programs that everyone should install. These don’t fit into any of the above categories, but are handy nonetheless:

  • LastPass is a great free password manager. Using one is essential for creating strong logins and keeping track of your passwords for you.
  • ClipClip increases the usefulness of the Windows clipboard many times over. With it, you can keep recently copied entries close at hand, pin frequent snips for easy access, and search through your clipboard history.
  • Macrium Reflect is our favorite free backup software for Windows. Making a backup is vital so you don’t lose data in the event of a system failure.
  • ExpressVPN is our recommend VPN service. Use it to protect your web activity from surveillance and access geoblocked content.
  • TreeSize Free allows you to quickly analyze your storage usage and see which folders are taking up the most space.

Windows 10 Essential Apps and Programs: Installed!

We’ve looked at must-have apps for Windows 10 that everyone should install right away—and they’re almost all free! If you don’t prefer one of our favorites, you’ll find a suitable alternative without much trouble. Most people will get plenty of use out of these programs and appreciate them much more than basic default software.

Now that you know the essential software for PC users, you should also be aware of unnecessary Windows apps that you should uninstall.

Read the full article: New PC? 15 Must-Have Windows Applications You Should Install First