March 29, 2011, 9:36 PM — Instant organization: Instead of clicking around in Windows Explorer to find where Windows hid your newly downloaded MP3 file, try DropIt. This open-source utility lets you set up folder associations for specific file types. Just drop files on the big target icon on your desktop, and DropIt will automatically whisk them away to their appropriate (and easy-to-find) destinations.
Cleaner desktop: Stardock's Fences lets you create separate areas on your desktop to organize unruly desktop icons into a manageable system. Keep programs in one fence and Word documents in another, for instance, or group them any way you like.
Complete removal: No list of great free tools would be complete without Revo Uninstaller. Windows' built-in Programs control panel simply isn't as good at removing the bits and pieces of programs that you want to banish from your hard drive.
Virtual machine: Oracle's VirtualBox lets you run multiple virtual machines on your PC, so you can have multiple instances of Windows, Linux, or any other OS installed. It keeps a working image of a machine as a backup. Then, if things go horribly awry, you can delete the damaged image in favor of the backup.
All-in-one uncompressor: If you've ever asked "What's a .rar file?" you need 7-Zip. It supports all of the essential file compression formats-and more than a few obscure ones, too-so it can unpack anything you download. The utility adds file management tools to Windows' context menus, too, enabling you to zip files, unzip files, and convert file formats on the fly.
FTP essential: People who transfer lots of files still rely on the old File Transfer Protocol to move their bits around. FileZilla remains one of the best FTP clients on the market, and it's still free.