Must-Have Windows Apps for Any New PC 2022: Whether you’ve just purchased a new PC or reinstalled Windows, the first task you’ll likely do is install apps. While there are dozens of amazing Windows programs, knowing which ones are the must-have software for Windows 10 or Windows 11 makes setting up a new installation easier.
In no particular order, let’s step through 10 essential apps for Windows that everyone should install right away.
Unsurprisingly, Google Chrome is still our top browser pick. It’s super-speedy, includes little conveniences like letting you instantly search Google Lens for an image, and has a vast library of Chrome extensions. 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.
Even the built-in Microsoft Edge is based on Chromium, so give it a try if you prefer Microsoft’s approach over Google’s.
If you only pick one cloud app service, Google Drive is the one you should install due to the amount of free space it includes. It offers 15GB of free storage, which is shared across your Google account with Google Photos and Gmail too.
Google Drive offers an app for every major platform, so you can take your files anywhere. In addition to syncing files you place in the dedicated Google Drive folder, the desktop app makes it easy to back up folders on your computer and external devices, too.
It’s also super easy to share files with others, plus the service 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 app pick for Windows 10 and 11.
Paired with OneDrive (which comes built into Windows) or another free cloud storage provider, you can get plenty of storage space and separate your files logically by service.
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 is a lot of music streaming services available, but we think the essential pick for Windows 10 or 11 is Spotify. Its ad-supported free plan lets you listen to as much music as you like, and there are several Spotify Premium plans that are worth it for avid listeners. Spotify is also home to millions of podcasts, making everything available in one convenient place.
Spotify also has a dedicated Windows app, unlike some of its competitors. If you’re already invested in another ecosystem, though, Apple Music or YouTube Music might be a better choice for you.
Chances are you’ll need a productivity suite 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 get such access, 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 once-popular alternative, is basically dead now. If you don’t want to use LibreOffice, try FreeOffice. You can use web apps like Word Online or Google Docs too, but we’re focused on full desktop downloads here.
Whether you want to try your hand at basic image manipulation, need a way to blur sensitive info in 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 a must-have Windows app for your image editing needs. 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, and it’s also available at no charge.
Windows 10 and 11 include Windows Defender, which is a good enough antivirus for most users. However, it’s wise to keep a secondary security program installed to supplement it.
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, upgrading to Malwarebytes Premium is worth the cost.
Thanks to YouTube’s ubiquity, you probably don’t watch local videos too often. However, everyone should still keep a solid video player around on their desktop when they need to play media files locally. Even if it’s not one of the tools you think to download on a new computer right away, it will come in handy someday.
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 while you’re setting up your PC. You’ll save yourself the hassle of messing with video codecs or using QuickTime, which hasn’t been supported on Windows for years.
Taking a screenshot on Windows 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 in your pack of essential Windows apps.
You won’t find a more powerful free screenshot tool than ShareX. With tons of capture methods, a solid built-in editor, the ability to run 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. It’s a bit simpler but doesn’t compromise on features.
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, a file extractor is still a must-have PC app 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 need advanced features will still find them in 7-Zip, though.
The only drawback of 7-Zip is its aged, spartan appearance. If you can’t get over that, take a look at PeaZip, which is a similar tool with a much more attractive UI. Either way, you certainly don’t need to pay for tools like WinRAR.
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 have all of them in one place?
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, Discord, and many more. You can even add other web apps, like Apple Music, to it.
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 these apps in your browser, and you can easily close or minimize one window (instead of a half-dozen) when it’s time to focus.
While Rambox’s free plan has some limitations, it offers more for free than competitors like Franz.