Windows Starter Kit

Windows Starter Kit

The Windows Starter Kit is a collection of some of the best and most essential freeware to get your new PC going. From browsers to productivity to utilities, we cover all the bases. If you're looking for the best in security freeware, check out our Security Starter Kit for all your antivirus needs. Essential utilities have earned their own kit, too: the Windows Utilities Starter Kit.

File compression

7-Zip

7-Zip unpacks most archive formats, including ZIP, TAR, GZ, RAR, and its own 7z format. It can create TAR and GZ archives, which are commonly used on Unix and Linux systems. In our tests, 7z archives were up to 40 percent smaller than their ZIP equivalents, although compression did take longer. Advanced options include the ability to create solid and self-extracting archives, and to adjust the compression level and password protection. The program also has a command-line module.

Though the main interface is overly simple, it's easy to use and self-explanatory. The context menu options indicate that 7-Zip should be taken seriously.

IZArc

IZArc modestly bills itself as the ultimate archiving utility--we're not so sure about that "ultimate" bit. Nevertheless, IZArc is definitely one of the best archiving utilities out there. Compatible with a huge number of archive formats, all the major ones are represented, as well as 7z (from 7-Zip), ISO, BH (Black Hole), and TAR, among others. It can create archives for many of the formats it can read, too, including 7z and TAR. It doesn't, however, create GZ archives.

IZArc supports AES encoding and PKZip 2.0. The app offers a reasonable range of context-menu options in Explorer, although not as many as some of its competitors. The user interface is similar to WinZip's, with big, obnoxiously colored icons making it clear to everybody and their dog just which buttons do what--not that that's a bad thing.