When was the last time you bought a computer program? If it's been a while, you won't believe how expensive they can be.
Fortunately, there are free services out there that can fulfill a specific tech need. From online storage to office suites to free multimedia editing software, these are high-quality, well-developed and easy-to-use programs that you can use on a daily basis. And did I mention they're free?
Check out these 15 tech conveniences that won’t cost you a cent.
1. Free online storage in the cloud
Cloud storage is a great way to access and share your computer's media library remotely. If you save documents, videos, and photos in the cloud, you'll be able to reach them at work, on your laptop while traveling, or on your phone or tablet wherever you are.
Google Drive is great if you're already a Google user. This free cloud storage system gives you 5 gigabytes of free online storage, and Google Drive users have the ability to buy even more storage as needed.
iCloud is the online storage program available to all Apple users. It comes pre-installed on all Apple products. This service makes it easy to transfer and view files across your iPhones, iPads and iMacs. You get an initial 5GB free and can purchase more space if and when you need it.
If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can also get 5GB of Amazon Cloud Drive space for free and unlimited photo storage at no additional cost.
Dropbox is another trustworthy cloud storage site that puts an emphasis on keeping your documents protected. It gives you 2GB of space for free when you sign up and you can earn even more storage when you recommend others to sign up for a Dropbox account.
Keep in mind that these cloud services can store your files, they are not true backup services that can completely restore all your files if disaster strikes. For these situations, you'll need a cloud backup service. We recommend our sponsor, IDrive.
IDrive's free backup service can store up to 5GB but you can upgrade to more storage to cover all your PCs, Macs and mobile devices with one account.
2. Free secure password manager
Do you practice good password hygiene on all your online accounts? In light of the frequent data breaches that seem to happen every day, it should be your number one priority when it comes to your online security.
But with the increasing number of online accounts we have - work, social media, shopping, banking, entertainment - keeping track of all our email addresses, usernames, and passwords can be difficult and confusing.
Thankfully, this freebie can help you organize, create and reliably track your usernames and passwords across all your accounts.
Our sponsor LastPass offers a simple and secure password manager you can use to easily create, manage and save complex and unique passwords for multiple sites and services then access them across multiple browsers and devices.
LastPass has a free version that you can use right away, but it gets better with a LastPass Premium account. Click here to learn more about password managers and get started with LastPass.
3. Free office software
Microsoft Office remains the most popular productivity software around. It's not free, of course, and looking for compatible software to use to edit the occasional file can be challenging. Fortunately, you can get the same power and performance without the hefty price tag.
First, there's the free and open-source office suite LibreOffice. This suite offers six programs that will feel instantly familiar to you if you've used Office before. Writer, Calc, and Impress are equivalent to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Even better, it can open and edit the documents you made in Office and can save new files in Office formats.
Another great free online option is Google Docs. In case you didn't know, Google Docs is more than just a word processor, it’s an entire suite of productivity programs that have become steadily more powerful over years of development. Next time you need to start a spreadsheet, build a presentation, create a form, or make a digital drawing, try Google Docs, Sheets, Slides or others and see if it's something you can use.
4. Free photo editing software
If you know a professional photographer or a serious hobbyist, they're using Photoshop. For everyone else, GIMP is a powerful, top-quality, free alternative to Photoshop.
GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It has a lot of the same capabilities as Photoshop. There are filters, brush tools, gradients, smudging, cropping and erasing tools. You can add colors with a pencil, a paintbrush, or fill in whole areas of your image.
If you're comfortable exploring new software programs, plunge into GIMP. Open a photograph or image that you want to manipulate.
GIMP is useful in that it puts almost all its tools into pop-up boxes surrounding the image. If you want to touch up an image's shape, or angle, add text, erase parts of the image, or add on layers of texture, you'll find all the tools right in front of you.
5. Free stuff from Amazon.com
Did you know that you can get free samples from Amazon with its Sample Box program?
Amazon’s Sample Box program lets you choose from among a dozen different options, including luxury beauty items, cat food samples, dog treats, skin care, nutrition, and men’s grooming supplies.
The product page for each box gives you a good idea of what will be inside, but Amazon may substitute some of the products if necessary.
Amazon's Sample Box program gets better with a Prime account. Here are the top 20 perks you get with an Amazon Prime account.
6. Free internet speed test
We've all been there I'm sure. You're surfing the internet and it seems like webpages are taking forever to load. When this happens, the first thing that you need to check is the speed of your internet connection.
For that, these free internet speed tests can help you figure out if you're truly getting your advertised rates.
One of the most reliable free speed tests around is Speedtest.net. This site will measure various statistics like the ping time, download speed and upload speed of your internet connection.
If you're a streaming video buff, try Netflix's own free internet speed test, Fast.com. This site only measures download speeds but it will give you a pretty accurate measurement of your internet speed at any given time.
If your internet speed turns out to be lower than expected, there are ways to improve it. Click here to learn how to double your internet speed.
7. Free VPN
You may have heard of something called a Virtual Private Network or VPN, for short, as a way to boost your online security, especially when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. It is also a good way to hide your internet tracks from would-be snoops.
There are many options for free VPN services including TunnelBear, Speedify and Windscribe. These services are fine but there's no guarantee that your identity is 100 percent secure with these services.
When choosing a VPN, you need to trust the provider to respect your privacy. This one thing helps set our sponsor FREEDOME VPN apart from all the rest. F-Secure is a publicly listed computer security company with a 30-year spotless track record of protecting its customers and respecting their privacy.
8. Free incredible software and images courtesy of NASA
NASA has an impressive list of accomplishments over the years including the International Space Station, the Hubble Telescope and the Mars Rover to name a few. Now, you have the chance to explore its extensive portfolio of software, for free!
NASA's software catalog includes software products for a wide range of technical applications. The best part is that it's all free to the public, with no royalty or copyright fees. NASA scientists say that software has been critical to each of its mission successes and discoveries and over 30 percent of all NASA's reported innovations are software.
Not only that, NASA also opened its massive library of high-quality images. Browse and view historic archived photos from years past including the Mars Missions, New Horizons, and shots from the International Space Station.
9. Free sound editor
If you are looking for a free audio editing program, your search should probably start and end with Audacity.
Audacity is a free and easy-to-use open source audio editor. It can record live audio and computer playback, and even convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
Part of what makes Audacity great is that it will allow you to do pretty much anything you could ever want or need with audio. Just recording something? It can do that. Need to edit, combine or enhance some sound? No problem.
If you are looking for a fun new hobby or just want to try your hand at editing together some music, I recommend that you try Audacity first.
10. Free firewalls
With all the online threats and security risks that seem to crawl out of the internet woodwork these days, it is important that you have all your system defenses set in place.
Aside from your antivirus or malware protection software, another essential tool that will protect your computer system from hackers and cyberattacks is a firewall.
Although newer Windows systems all have built-in software firewalls, there are plenty of free and more powerful third-party firewall options out there.
TinyWall, as its name proudly suggests, is a small, non-intrusive, almost invisible, free firewall program. Unlike other free firewalls that seem to announce everything they do, TinyWall does not use annoying pop-up messages and warnings to alert you that it's doing its job.
Another option is ZoneAlarm. ZoneAlarm is a free, downloadable firewall and antivirus system that is highly configurable and effective against many kinds of cyberattacks. It's popular for a reason - it's effective, powerful and feature-packed for something that's free.
11. Free product samples
Have you ever been disappointed after purchasing a new product you've never tried before? Not many things are worse than that experience, especially when the item you purchased was expensive.
Fortunately, there's a site that lets you sample a variety of products before you commit. It's called TheFreeSite.com and it offers free samples for everything from doughnuts to pain relief cream to books, and everything in between.
It is one of the top places on the web where you can find free stuff. We know, when you hear the word "free" it's easy to wonder if there's a catch. But the good news is, in this case, there isn't one.
To use the site, you don't need to have a special membership or even a login. It's just a helpful resource that shares links to the current offers that are out there.
Do you want more free stuff? Click here for 3 websites that give away freebies.
12. Free disposable emails
There are millions of spam emails that get sent every day. Similar to robocalls, it's a tech problem that won't go away anytime soon.
These services let you create a fake, temporary and disposable email address to ensure your personal security so you don't have to give away your personal and work email addresses all the time.
Need more email privacy tips? Click here for more ways to cut down on spam email.
13. Free video editors
Most free video editing programs like iMovie and Windows Movie Maker are pretty good entry-level tools, but they are severely limited.
Unfortunately, more advanced software tools like Final Cut Pro can be expensive. However, there are some free advanced video editing software options out there that you can use.
First is this fully-featured video editing program from VSDC that is completely free. This program has most of the capabilities that are usually reserved for expensive professional software.
Another free professional video editing tool you can try is Lightworks. This program has been around since the 1990s and it's actually been used on major Hollywood films like "The King's Speech" and "The Wolf of Wall Street." It's hard to believe the software is free and available for anyone to download.
14. Free grammar and writing tools
Grammar can either set you up for success, or for ridicule. Understanding the fundamentals makes all the difference in the world when you're applying for jobs, handing in college papers or even posting a status update on Facebook.
To avoid embarrassing mistakes, here are websites that can help you check your grammar and spelling instantly.
For grammar checking, Grammarly has taken homes and offices by storm. You can simply paste a document and have it checked at the Grammarly site for grammar and spelling errors. You can also get Grammarly's browser extensions and have it check your writing as you type.
Another writing tool that can help you is Hemingway Editor. Copy and paste a few paragraphs into the site’s text box, and the editor will outline problematic parts such as long sentences, obscure words, and confusing passages.
15. Free 3-D design software
Are you a budding 3-D designer looking for a free alternative to computer-aided design (CAD) software like AutoCAD? If you don't want to spend money on professional 3-D software, try these free alternatives instead.
For your occasional 3-D modeling needs, you can try SketchUp Make. This free tool lets you quickly create 3-D designs and models. With an intuitive push-and-pull system and a robust tutorial program, even beginners can start creating their own images in no time at all.
For budding homeowners, another fun but very useful 3-D web tool is EasyHome Homestyler. With this free tool, you can design a floor plan, populate it with doors, windows, furniture, appliances, and even people and then experience it in real time 3-D space.
So there you go. The next time you're looking for a specific program, search around for a bit. There may be some free hidden gems out there that you don't know about. And of course, if there is, we'll let you know about it. Because, really, who doesn't like free stuff?
BONUS: MySudo app
We are proud of our sponsor's MySudo app that lets you send private messages, manage multiple phone numbers and email addresses, and create custom personal identities that last as long as you need them. Call, text and email other MySudo users for free. Everything inside MySudo is encrypted with a private key that never leaves your device. Click here to get a free MySudo 30-day trial!
We apologize that this article was originally published without clearly noting who are Sponsors of the show and/or site. It has been corrected with the sponsors IDrive, LastPass, F-Secure and MySudo identified.