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The nine best free Windows 7 downloads

These essential tools and enhancements make Microsoft's OS even better

Windows 7 is one year old. And what an impressive first year the operating system enjoyed. Of course, even the most nimble, secure, and versatile OS has room for improvement. So check out these nine essential tools, tweakers and enhancements make Microsoft's OS even better.

Beyond the PC: What Windows 7 can do with devices, other PCs and the web

Windows Live Mail 2011
In designing Windows 7, Microsoft famously cleaned house, eliminating assorted programs that were once built into the OS. Among them was Windows Mail (which, prior to Vista, existed as Outlook Express). As a result, Windows 7 lacks an e-mail client out of the box.

Thankfully, Windows Mail lives on - you merely have to download it. Through the newly minted Windows Live Mail 2011, you can manage not only your mail accounts (as many of them as you want, including those from third-party services such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail), but also your contacts and calendar. You do so though a stylish, intuitive Ribbon interface that's similar to the one in Outlook 2010; it's a vast improvement over the bland, awkward toolbar found in the last iteration of Windows Live Mail.

In other words, Windows Live Mail 2011 is kind of like Outlook Lite - or, dare I say, Outlook Express.

Windows Live Mesh 2011
If you use more than one computer, as most people do nowadays, wouldn't it be great to have access to the same documents, MP3s, photos, and other files on all of them? That's the idea behind Windows Live Mesh 2011 (the direct descendant of Windows Live Sync), which automatically keeps all your stuff synchronised between two or more PCs.

Windows Live Mesh is a set-it-and-forget-it program - after you install the software on your PCs, sign in to your Windows Live account, and choose the folder(s) you want to sync, you're done. It works in the background, copying files back and forth when your machines are online. You also have the option of syncing selected folders to your Windows Live SkyDrive, which allots 5GB of free storage and lets you access your data online instead of just on your chosen PCs.

In addition to files and folders, Mesh can sync Internet Explorer favourites and Microsoft Office styles, templates, email signatures and other settings. It even permits you to connect remotely to other computers that are part of your Mesh network.

ZumoCast
ZumoCast
turns your PC into a kind of media server, giving it the ability to stream music, video, and files to any other PC - or even to your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. (Android support is coming soon.) It neatly overcomes a major problem for mobile devices: limited storage space. Plus, it's really cool.

After installing developer Zecter's ZumoCast client on your PC (it's available for Macs, as well) and creating an account, choose the items you want to make available. By default the software pulls from Windows' Documents, Pictures, Music, and Video folders, but you can just as easily add any other folders. As long as you leave the PC running, you'll be able to access that media elsewhere. You can listen to music on your work PC, play videos on your iPhone, grab documents on your iPad, and so on. The free ZumoCast app even lets you download selected files to your device.

ZumoCast is perfect for storage-strapped devices, or for any PC that doesn't have all the media housed on your other computer.

See also: The 5 best Windows 7 security features for businesses

  1. Microsoft's OS even better
  2. Utilities for security and peripherals
  3. Beyond the PC

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