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Top 10 free software apps for your laptop

Downloads to help you get more on the go

Laptops in general, and netbooks in particular, may give you the freedom to work on the go, but we also find that working on the move throws up a few frustrations. Here are our 10 favourite free downloads to solve your woes about working on the go.

Wireless-networking utilities

One of the main reasons to use a laptop is that you can connect wirelessly when you're away from your home or office. But finding a connection - and keeping safe when you are connected - can be problematic. Here are two downloads that can help.

Hotspot Shield
When you use your laptop to connect to a hotspot at a public location such as a coffee shop or airport, you put yourself at risk.

Hackers may be able to sniff your data packets, invade your PC, and steal your username and password when you log in to websites.

Here's a freebie that promises to keep you safe by encrypting your connection when you're at a hotspot so that no one else can read the information you send.

The program is extremely easy to use. Install it, and it logs you in to a virtual private network (VPN) that performs the encryption.

A few installation notes: If you don't want various toolbars to install too, make sure to uncheck the boxes next to the toolbar items during installation. And if you don't want your home page and search engine to be changed, uncheck those options as well.

WeFi
If you're a laptop owner and a fan of social networking, you can combine the two with WeFi. Not only does this program find hotspots so that you can connect to them, but it also finds people to whom you can connect as well.

After you install WeFi, the app lists nearby hotspots along with information about each, such as the signal strength and whether the hotspot is encrypted.

To connect to one, double-click it. You can also go to a web page that displays a map of where you are and shows nearby hotspots.

To see people who are connected to hotspots near you, click the People tab. You can then see more information about any of them, and get in touch with them via the software.

WeFi also includes a feature that will warn you away from suspicious web pages. If you prefer, however, you can turn it off during the installation process: Uncheck the box next to ‘Include Wi-Fi Secure Browsing'.

Note that this program will make WeFi Search your home page, establish WeFi Search as your default search, and install a toolbar.

If you prefer that it not do that, during the installation process select Custom and uncheck the boxes for 'Toolbar', 'Make WeFi Search my default search engine', and 'Make WeFi Search my homepage'.

Also, during installation, WeFi will ask you to install a variety of additional software; to be safe, uncheck the boxes next to those items.

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Small business IT advice

NEXT PAGE: USB flash drive programs

  1. Software downloads to help you get the most when on the go
  2. Xmarks
  3. Wireless networking utilities
  4. USB flash drive programs


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