Microsoft doesn't earn billions every month by giving away its software, but the software giant is no stranger to offering freebies in a bid to increase customer loyalty.

Let's take a look at some of the free Microsoft products that might appeal to IT pros, business users and consumers alike.

Security Essentials

Microsoft's free anti-malware product for Windows PCs was first released in September 2009, and Microsoft recently altered the licensing agreement to let small businesses run Security Essentials on up to 10 computers. Microsoft also offers EMET (Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit), a free download that can harden legacy applications and generally make it more difficult for attackers to exploit software vulnerabilities.

Network Access Protection

This "free, basic NAC for Windows-only shops" is included with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008. "Features are relatively primitive," according to Joel Snyder, from PC Advisor's sister title Network World, who tested the software. "Microsoft NAP will work best in an all-Microsoft operating system environment where all devices are joined to a Windows domain."

Windows Live Essentials

Designed to boost Windows PCs with several free programs, Windows Live Essentials  includes a photo gallery, movie maker, instant messaging, email and social networking. Also included is Live Writer for bloggers and Live Mesh for syncing photos and documents between personal computers and the Microsoft SkyDrive cloud service.

Office Web Apps

Microsoft's free online versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote launched this year when the company started offering Office Web Apps, a cloud-based consumer service. The free version of Office Web Apps is not intended for business use, but could be enticing to home users. However, some of the early reviews of Microsoft's cloud-based Office tools indicate that Google Apps is still superior.


Microsoft's answer to VMware, the Hyper-V server virtualisation platform is available for free, and also within new versions of Windows Server. Although most customers use Hyper-V to virtualise Windows, Microsoft has submitted source code to the Linux kernel to let Linux run on Microsoft's hypervisor.

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  1. Free software for business and home users
  2. Windows Live Essentials