10 Free Downloads for Your Laptop

With these no-cost tools, you can get the most out of your laptop or netbook.

BatteryBar

Want to check battery life, but don't like the idea of having your mouse pointer display the text? Here's another alternative. BatteryBar shows, on your taskbar, exactly how much juice you've already used and how much you have left. You can set the app to display remaining battery life either as a percentage or as an amount of time.

Hover your mouse over BatteryBar, and you'll see even more information, including the total battery capacity, the discharge rate, the battery wear, and how much total capacity your battery has in terms of time per full charge.

When you first run the program, it won't appear to work. You'll need to configure your taskbar to display it. Right-click the taskbar, and select Toolbars, Taskbar. Once you do that, the program will appear.

Download BatteryBar | Price: Free

Wireless-Networking Utilities

One of the main reasons to use a laptop is that you can connect wirelessly when you're away from your home or office. But finding a connection--and keeping safe when you are connected--can be problematic. Here are two downloads that can help.

Hotspot Shield

When you use your laptop to connect to a hotspot at a public location such as a coffee shop or airport, you put yourself at risk. Hackers may be able to sniff your data packets, invade your PC, and steal your username and password when you log in to Websites.

Here's a freebie that promises to keep you safe by encrypting your connection when you're at a hotspot so that no one else can read the information you send. The program is extremely easy to use. Install it, and it logs you in to a virtual private network (VPN) that performs the encryption.

A few installation notes: If you don't want various toolbars to install too, make sure to uncheck the boxes next to the toolbar items during installation. And if you don't want your home page and search engine to be changed, uncheck those options as well.

Download Hotspot Shield | Price: Free

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Preston Gralla

Preston Gralla

PC World (US online)
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