Best of the best

If you had only one choice of a security firewall, multimedia player, and browser to download onto your computer, which apps would it be? We're not cruel enough to limit you to one, but here are our top freeware picks for your PC.

Like it or not, the season of sales is upon us. Whether the shiny new computer that's soon to be encased in gift wrap is a present for you or for someone else, you should know what to do with that laptop, desktop, or Netbook when the time comes to boot it up. You're in luck--we've laid out the best freeware apps for 2010 in our freshly-updated Windows Starter Kit.

Our top picks include the browsers, image editors, utilities, and social networking applications that you should consider downloading before you fill up your computer with anything else. We don't want to give too much away, but if you're looking for a multimedia player, find out why The KMPlayer gets five stars. See also which nine essential system utilities have made the cut, including the disk-space visualizer WinDirStat.

If it's security software you're after, we have that ground covered in our Security Starter Kit. Antivirus suites, spyware removers, and firewalls are just part of the puzzle. We also suggest freebies to help protect you while surfing (like LastPass Password Manager), and to encrypt your sensitive data. You're welcome.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.