, Kim Komando
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, The Kim Komando Show
While advances in technology tend to make life easier, they often come with a bigger price tag. But you don’t always need the most expensive version of software or tech to get all the features you need.
In fact, many great programs and services were developed specifically to be free to users. For example, you don’t need to pay a penny to see if you’re getting all the internet speed you pay for. Click or tap for 4 free ways to check your connection.
It’s not just new tech costing you money. The things you already own could be adding up, too. You’re probably spending way more than you should be on your electricity bill thanks to these power-draining devices. Click or tap to see which 6 gadgets are costing you and what you can do about it.
Now, time to make your wallet really happy. I found eight tech freebies that will definitely make life that much sweeter — and safer. Whether it’s protecting your data from hackers or simply being more productive at work, I’ll show you how some things in life really are free.
1. Keep hackers out
A firewall keeps hackers and other unauthorized users from getting into your computer, while still letting you send files and emails out into the world. It’s an incredible piece of technology that keeps you and your personal information safe while perusing digital space.
RELATED: What do you really need to keep your computer protected? If you’ve got a PC, you may rely solely on Windows Defender. Click or tap here to find out if it’s enough to keep your computer secure.
Many computers come with a firewall, but if yours didn’t — or you want another one — you can get a firewall for free. One of the best free options is ZoneAlarm, a Windows-based piece of software that acts as a firewall for your computer and adds extra protection when you’re on public Wi-Fi networks, as well as real-time security updates to keep you safe and secure. Download it here.
GlassWire offers similar protection, detecting malware from people trying to access your computer, which allows you to disable apps that contain viruses and keep yourself from downloading a virus in the first place. Getting these free firewalls will make your computer safer, particularly when you’re using the internet, and it won’t cost you a penny. Download GlassWire.
2. Keep it in the cloud
If you want to quickly access or share a document or a photo from any device, whether they’re yours or someone else’s, it makes sense to put that document or photo in a form of cloud storage. Cloud storage is accessed online and protected through a username and password, allowing you to upload and download to your heart’s desire.
Remember, with free versions of cloud storage, there’s a storage limit to consider.
OneDrive, the cloud storage service offered by Microsoft, gives you 15GB of cloud storage when you get a free Microsoft account. OneDrive lets you upload any files you want, but also stores Microsoft Office documents in such a way that you can edit them anywhere and share them with collaborators easily. Sign up here.
If you have a Mac, you can still sign up for OneDrive, but you also have inherent access to iCloud with your Apple ID. iCloud gives you 5GB of storage for free. Did you know you can access iCloud from Android devices too? Tap or click to learn how.
Your Gmail account also gives you 15GB of free storage in the form of Google Drive (which lets you store any file in Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides).
You get even more free storage by signing up for a Dropbox account, which gives you 2GB of storage for sharing files quickly and easily for free. Dropbox also offers payment plans to increase your storage if need be. Learn more about how Dropbox works.
You really can’t have too much storage in the digital world and since it’s free, it’d be silly not to take advantage.
3. Expand your productivity
Microsoft created the ultimate office software with the Microsoft Office Suite, giving you Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus programs like Outlook, Publisher and Access. Microsoft’s Office Suite can be a bit expensive, but thankfully there are open source equivalents and even some free ways of using Microsoft Office itself.
LibreOffice is a set of open source software that’s equivalent to Microsoft Office. It lets you save and open documents in Microsoft formats and do everything you can with Microsoft Office, like create documents, set up spreadsheets and create presentations. Click or tap here to download it for Windows or Mac.
You can also get a free trial of Office 365 for a month or try Office Online, a cloud-based version of the Microsoft Office Suite available to those with Microsoft accounts. Find out how to access them.
4. Edit photos like a pro
Photoshop is a program that lets you edit photos in highly skilled ways and also lets you draw and paint digitally. Once you master it, you can create gorgeous works of art — so long as you don’t mind paying an exorbitant amount for a subscription through the Adobe Creative Cloud.
Thankfully, there are lots of free Photoshop equivalents out there, and you can download them right now.
RELATED: Struggling to take great photos worthy of editing and displaying? Click or tap for 5 common mistakes that ruin your photos — and simple ways to fix them.
One of the best Photoshop equivalents is GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). GIMP lets you edit photos, as well as draw and paint, and you can work in vector as well as raster, giving you high quality results. Get it here.
If you want a mpbile Photoshop alternative for no cost, try Adobe Photoshop Express. It doesn’t give you as many drawing options but still has a lot of photo editing features. Download this app and make your social media posts beautiful in a flash.
None of these strike your fancy? Check out even more Photoshop equivalents here.
5. Free samples and products
These items might not be strictly tech-related, but who doesn’t like free stuff?
Get free samples of Amazon products by signing up for the company’s sample box program. Sample boxes can get you nutrition and wellness snacks and products, pet foods and treats, skin care and beauty samples, and even sports nutrition boxes and baby items.
You get to pick what kind of items to arrive in your sample boxes, and they come right to your home with free shipping (if you have Amazon Prime). Here’s a closer look at what you can expect and how to set up your delivery.
You can get other sample boxes from TheFreeSite and PINCHme. Subscription boxes also sometimes offer samples, so always keep your eyes peeled for that option if you find a box that intrigues you.
6. Know who’s on your network
Your router is how you connect to the internet, and if that gets hacked, your computer and every other device connected to your network are fair game for malware and other attacks. Protect yourself by doing a router safety check free of charge. Click or tap here to see if your network is secure.
RELATED: It’s not just hackers to watch for on your Wi-Fi. Yes, you should hide your wireless network from your neighbors. Click or tap here to find out why it’s so important and exactly how to do it.
7. Tell stories through your videos
Yes, you can even find complicated software like video editors, which can cost $1,000 or more, for free. Programs like iMovie and Windows Movie Maker (for older PCs) come with your computer and can do a lot of basic editing.
For a more advanced video editor that’s still totally free, I recommend Davinci Resolve 16. It’s available on Windows, Mac and even Linux systems, and it allows you to edit video footage and even uses artificial intelligence and smart detection technology. The technology can identify faces in clips and organize them automatically into smart folders. Download it here.
For Windows users, there’s also VSDC Free Video Editor. It works with Windows 10, unlike the discontinued Windows Movie Maker. VSDC lets you alter color and edit in a non-linear way, so it’s also an excellent option for video editing. Click here to get your copy.
8. Get lost in a book
In addition to free ways to create entertaining content, you can get some forms of free entertainment as well — namely books and audiobooks. With just a library card (free with an ID or other proof of residency), you can borrow books and audiobooks free through the Libby app. Here’s a link to download it.
Libby gives you access to your local library system right on your phone or tablet. You can use the app to read books directly or send them to your e-reader, as well as listen to audiobooks wherever you want.
You can access Overdrive with school credentials for free books and audiobooks, or use LibriVox, a site that lets you hear public domain audiobooks read by volunteers. Download Overdrive here.
BONUS: 5 tricks I use to keep my inbox in check
I don’t want to be a slave to my emails but at the same time, I don’t want to lose a great vacation buzz because my inbox has 5,000 messages waiting for me when I get back to work. So, apologies to my family and friends when I take time here and there during my off-hours to monitor my inbox.
As an entrepreneur and someone in the public eye, I get thousands of emails a day. How, you might ask, can I possibly run my company without being crushed under the weight of all those emails?
Over the years I’ve developed and perfected 5 important tricks that have served me well in controlling my ever-needy inbox. Click or tap here for my tips to get your email in check.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.
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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
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