Trending February 2024 # 5 Microsoft Student Discounts You Shouldn’t Miss # Suggested March 2024 # Top 6 Popular

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Like many tech giants, Microsoft wants to make a difference in the world, so it’s offering some products and services at discounted prices for select categories of people. This article discusses five current Microsoft student deals, how and where to access them, and who is eligible to receive them.

1. Free Office 365 for Schools and Students

Office 365 Education comprises several applications and productivity services offered at discounted prices for students, teachers, and schools. The package is offered to proven accredited academic institutions that apply by signing up on the Office 365 Education site using a valid school email.

Image source: Microsoft

If your school is eligible, you’ll receive a verification code and gain access to a set of products and services, depending on the pricing option your school has chosen. Without your school’s eligibility, you would have to purchase a plan for personal use.

How to Get the Discount

    If your school is eligible, a form will appear for you to fill in your details.

    2. Free Microsoft 365 Education

    When schools (K-12 or higher) purchase Microsoft 365 (any of the three packages) for teachers, faculty, or staff, it works on all devices and comes at no cost to the students.

    Not all academic institutions will be eligible for Microsoft 365 Ed ucation subscriptions. However, students enrolled in Title IV accredited U.S. colleges and universities can still get Microsoft 365 Personal at a 50% discount, paying just $2.99 monthly. Microsoft must verify your enrollment with details that include your school email and student ID before granting you this discount.

    How to Get the Discount

    Microsoft Office 365 Education doesn’t offer a self-service signup for students, so to become recipients of this discount, students should confirm their school’s eligibility from the school’s IT administrator or department and ask for free access to the package.

    3. Microsoft Student and Military Discount

    The Student and Military discount grants eligible students, parents, teachers, and military personnel (active, former, or retired) discounts on specific products and application packages in the Microsoft store. This includes:

    Free Office 365

    5% off Surface Go devices

    Up to 10% off selected computers, devices, and accessories

    This particular discount cannot be combined with other discounts, but when products are on sale, students with this discount will be charged the lower amount of the two prices.

    In addition to the items listed above, eligible individuals can get access to free virtual workshops to enhance study skills, free shipping, and 60-day returns. Microsoft extends a promise to students who purchase a product or application package with a price that was discounted within 30 days of purchase. The difference will be refunded.

    How to Get the Discount 4. Office Home & Student 2023

    Office Home & Student 2023 is available to students whose schools are ineligible for the free Office 365 or whose schools haven’t acquired any Microsoft Education packages. This one-time purchase of $149.99 offers 2023 versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on only one PC or Mac.

    This package doesn’t include OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access, or other services that come with a Microsoft 365 subscription, like 1TB of OneDrive storage and 60 Skype minutes per month. It is also not upgradable, so you can only obtain upgraded versions of applications by repurchasing the package at full price.

    How to Get the Discount 5. Device Discounts for Students

    Students, parents, and teachers are eligible for discounts up to 45% on select Microsoft devices, including:

    Stain-resistant keyboards

    127-watt power supplies

    10.5”-13” touchscreen surface tablets

    Surface laptops

    Surface noise-cancellation headphones

    Earbuds and touch pens

    Image source: Microsoft

    Tip: Chrome users who just purchased a new device may want to install one of these extensions for students to help with completing schoolwork.

    How to Get the Discount

      At this point you should have an array of discounted products on your screen. Note that deals have a yellow tag plastered on them that display the amount you’ll be saving if you purchase the product.

      Select your preferred device and follow the payment prompts until you’ve completed the order.

      Other Microsoft Student Discounts 1. PC Deals

      Although Microsoft PC deals aren’t specifically for students, they don’t leave out students with other brand preferences and give up to 32% off. The online store sells PCs manufactured by brands like Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, and Samsung and gaming laptops by BuyPower, Razer Blade, Corsair desktops, and more.

      2. Surface Deals

      For other Surface devices that don’t make it to the student deal list, the Surface deals section offers nice discounts on devices, such as the new Surface Pro 8 and other Surface accessories under $50.

      Frequently Asked Questions Can I share my student Office 365 plan with others?

      No. If you have a classmate needing Office 365, they must log in and go through verification to get their license from Microsoft. If your friend goes to another school, they must verify their eligibility and get information on which plans are available for their school.

      Can I return purchased devices?

      Yes. Most devices on the Microsoft store are returnable, but you must check whether they are eligible. To request a return, sign in to the account the device was purchased on, proceed to “Order History,” then select “Request a Return.” If the “Request a Return” option isn’t available, the device may not be eligible, such as single items in a bundle deal. Microsoft Store will generate a unique shipping label for the return.

      Will I get a student discount code from Microsoft?

      Microsoft student offers don’t come with discount codes. The only codes currently in use are redeemable for gift cards. Student discounts are automatically updated, so after you sign in to your Microsoft account, Microsoft presents you with the best deals and discounts. If you find that you’re ineligible for Microsoft’s discounts, or the discounted products and packages don’t check your boxes, read up on other strategies to find great deals and save money.

      Image credit: Surface via Unsplash

      Tayo Sogbesan

      Tayo Sogbesan is a professional writer who enjoys curating tech and marketing content. She’s currently a technical writer at Make Tech Easier, and looks forward to exploring the depths of the tech space. If she’s not typing away on her computer, she is probably catching up on The Office.

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      You're reading 5 Microsoft Student Discounts You Shouldn’t Miss

      10 Best Minecraft Parkour Servers You Shouldn’t Miss

      Best Minecraft Parkour Servers (April 2023)

      Parkour and fall damage usually go hand-in-hand. So make sure you know the many ways to avoid fall damage in Minecraft. Moreover, the list isn’t ranked, so use the table below to explore each parkour server at your convenience.

      1. OPBlocks

      Living up to its name, our first pick among the best Minecraft parkour servers is overpowered (OP). It is packed with custom games, including a prison break, boss fights, dungeons, and even a custom skyblock. Beyond the games is a whole world of creative parkour mini-games, and almost each of them gets daily challenges to keep you hooked.

      Much like other popular Minecraft servers, OPBlocks has a friendly active community, responsive staff, and exclusive quality content. And if challenges aren’t enough for you, there are also many server quests that you can explore.

      2. Jumpcraft

      Java Address: play.jumpcraft.org

      The drawbacks of this server are that it’s exclusive to Java players, and it’s not as active as most servers. But if you get your friends to join you, it’s an amazing place to hang out. Though, even without other people, a huge number of parkour courses are there to keep you on the server.

      3. Mineplex

      Also a part of our best Minecraft servers list, Mineplex is one of the most celebrated servers across the community. It has many cool mini-games, exclusive content, and the most reliable back-end. But what it’s most known for is the massive number of active players with whom you can compete and collaborate at any hour.

      As for the parkour content, it is one of the best Minecraft servers and has tons of fun mini-games and dedicated courses. So yeah, if you are looking for variety in and around parkour maps, this is the server you should join. Not to forget, the active number of players on it is also a major bonus.

      4. Minr

      Java Address: zero.minr.org

      5. Happy HG Network

      Our next server isn’t only a parkour server, but if it was, it would have been the most unique one. It has around 100 parkour challenges, and each of them follows a unique theme. There are parkour maps dedicated to Minecraft biomes, mobs, and even foods. Some of these servers even have special enchantments involved and give players special jumps, sprints, and more.

      Beyond the parkour, the server also offers survival, skyblock, creative, and puzzle game mode. So, even though it doesn’t have many active players, the server does everything in its power to keep you entertained even in your break periods away from parkour.

      6. Play In A Box

      Java Address: playinabox.minehut.gg

      Our next best Minecraft parkour server seems like any other popular server on the surface. It has various game modes, including survival, PVP, SMP, and more. But the most interesting thing about this server is the fact that it allows players to create their own parkour courses and list them on the server. Other players can then try these custom courses by paying with in-game stars.

      The community-based parkour world of this Minecraft server creates an unforgettable experience. And if you are planning to create your own Minecraft server for parkouring, this is a great place to get the community’s opinion on your creations.

      7. Triumphia

      Java Address: chúng tôi Address: chúng tôi : 25848

      Thanks to the level-based increasing difficulty, this is also one of the best Minecraft servers to learn parkour from scratch. It also has an in-game leaderboard and time tracking, but you can also use its simple tracks to develop your skills at 3 levels of difficulty.

      8. Upcraft

      Java Address: mc.upcoin.world

      Now that world has dedicated crypto browsers, it’s no surprise that Minecraft servers are following the trend as well. Upcraft combines the world of blocks with the conversations of blockchains in this crypto-themed server. Almost all its players are crypto enthusiasts, but its parkour courses are enough to keep you occupied even if you are not one.

      The parkour courses on this server are inspired by the dynamic trend of crypto graphs. The ups and downs definitely look like good parkour spots, and now you can try them as well. But even with such a creative concept, the major drawback of this server is that it prompts users to get “Upcoin” for even basic features like teleportation.

      9. UltimisMC

      This is one of the best Minecraft parkour servers as it tries to be as inclusive of Java players as possible. It runs on the latest Minecraft 1.18 version, but accepts players from much older versions too. Moreover, it’s one of the very limited cracked servers. So, even if you can’t verify your copy of Minecraft due to some reasons, you can still play on this server.

      10. The Cyclone Network

      Java Address: chúng tôi Address: mc.cylonemc.net

      Last but not least, we are wrapping up our list of the best Minecraft parkour servers with the Cyclone Network. It has plenty of game modes for you to explore, including exclusive co-op parkour courses. You and your friends can hop in for a unique shared parkour experience. But if you are not ready for that, there are 4 sets of individual parkour courses, each with its own difficulty level.

      If you consider yourself a skilled player for even the harder levels, the server also has some special jump courses. Here, you can attempt doing some not-so-common parkour jumps, and in all honesty, none of my friends reached its final level.

      Test Your Skills on the Top Minecraft Parkour Servers

      5 Android Apps You Shouldn’T Miss This Week

      Joe Hindy / Android Authority

      Welcome to the 399th edition of Android Apps Weekly. Here are the big headlines from the last week:

      Netflix is experimenting with a free plan in Kenya. The free plan gives access to one-fourth of the app’s catalog as a sort of extended trial. It doesn’t require you to add a payment method but you do still need an account. Netflix said it was testing the free plan in Kenya first and may roll it out in other countries sooner or later.

      WhatsApp went under fire for its reporting system. It compromises user data by having live people check on reports. Reporting a person requires WhatsApp to check the entire account. That’s an obvious breach of privacy. WhatsApp is working on a system that lets you report specific messages instead of whole accounts. That way checkers can’t see everything that everybody posts. We don’t know when it’ll come to stable builds, but it is in the works.

      YouTube is experimenting with some new features for premium members. One of them is the ability to download videos on your computer. It’s live now as part of YouTube’s experimental Labs features. The feature is available to test until October 19th as part of the test. Give it a shot and enjoy offline YouTube support on your computer.

      Google is bestowing some new Android features upon the masses this autumn. It’s a separate set of new things from Android 12 and it should roll out to most users. Some of the features include new accessibility features, new Android Auto features, the Locked Folder function in Google Photos (previously a Pixel exclusive), and Nearby Share improvements. Hit the link to view everything.

      We have started a new segment to introduce all of our readers to more wallpapers. The goal is to give you a lot more options for wallpapers and we’re taking submissions every day for both photo and abstract wallpapers. Hit the link to check out the rules and check back to the site every Wednesday to see more. Enjoy!

      Valor Legends: Eternity

      Price: Free to play

      Valor Legends: Eternity is an idle game mixed with a gacha mobile RPG. Players collect various heroes, set them up, and let them duke it out all day. You get a lot of control over your heroes. There is a grid in combat to place them where you want and you can reset heroes and re-grind them over again if you want to. Additionally, this game has an actual story line and a bunch of content to do. It could be better, but it’s not too bad as far as idle games go.

      Hotwarts Live Wallpaper

      Price: Free

      Hogwarts Live Wallpaper is a pretty simple live wallpaper app. It puts one of the four Hogwarts house flags as your wallpaper. The wallpaper is inert most of the game. However, when you swipe your home screen, the flag moves around. There aren’t a ton of customization options. You can have the flag change with every swipe or leave it static each time. It’s not the most exciting new live wallpaper, but it’s quite nice for Harry Potter fans.

      Doomsday: Last SurVivors

      Price: Free to play

      Doomsday: Last SurVivors is an online strategy game. It plays like most free-to-play online strategy games. You have a base that you build up and defend over the course of your playing time. Your primary task is leading your troops and defending your base. As with all other mobile strategy games, you can also attack other players for their resources. There are also missions, a story to play through, and more. It’s very close in mechanics to games like State of Survival. The early game is pretty nice, but there are some aggressive microtransactions later in the game.

      Kontxt

      Price: Free

      Kontxt is a call screening service from the developers of RealPlayer. The app answers your phone and finds out if a call is real or a spam bot before you have to deal with them. It’s similar in scope to Google’s call screening feature. Basically, the app answers the phone and says a thing. If it detects that it’s a robocall, the app hangs up the phone. Otherwise, it puts the call through to you. This helps cut back on robocalls because there is a buffer between you and the caller. The app seems to work okay in our testing, but it is in early access beta so it’s certainly not perfect yet. Keep an eye on this one, though, because robocalls are super annoying and this might solve them.

      Pokemon Unite

      Price: Free to play

      After months of teasing, Pokemon Unite is finally out. It’s a five vs five MOBA where you and four other people duke it out with five other players. You all control a Pokemon with different skills and strategies. As a MOBA, it’s a pretty typical MOBA with a mix and match of popular mechanics. The game includes a ranked mode, voice chat, and unique moves depending on the game mode. The gameplay is smooth and it actually feels much better to play than most mobile MOBAs. You can also play it on your Nintendo Switch with the same account as your mobile phone. It’s new, so it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely more stable than most new mobile games.

      Why You Shouldn’t Worry That Microsoft Has Stopped Selling Windows 10

      Microsoft stopped selling both Home and Pro versions of the operating system on 31 January 2023, leaving Windows 11 as the only version available on the site.

      However, nothing has changed in regards to Windows 10 support. All users will continue to get security updates until October 2025, and there may even be new features added between now and then. 

      The fact that Windows 10 will no longer be available to buy is nowhere near as significant as it sounds. Here are four key reasons why. 

      1. It’ll still be available at other retailers

      This 31 January deadline specifically referred to Microsoft itself. Windows 10 has been available from several third-party retailers throughout its life, and that’s not expected to change anytime soon. 

      In the US, you can still buy Windows 10 from the following: 

      Amazon – Home and Pro

      Best Buy – Home and Pro

      In the UK, here are the retailers to choose from: 

      Amazon – Home and Pro

      Box – Home and Pro

      Remember, installing Windows 10 first is the easiest way to get a free upgrade to Windows 11. But you don’t necessarily have to pay for it. 

      2. You can still get Windows 10 for free

      When Windows 10 was released in 2024, Microsoft offered a free upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8. It technically expired a year later, yet it remains live and working at the beginning of 2023. 

      Choose ‘Upgrade this PC now’ if you’re using the device you want updated, or ‘Create installation media’, if you want to upgrade a different device or more than one.

      Anyron Copeman / Foundry

      Learn more about how to get Windows 10 for free. 

      3. New devices come with Windows 10 (or 11) pre-installed

      If you bought any Windows laptop or pre-built desktop PC from 2024 to 2023, it probably had Windows 10 pre-installed. Support lasts until October 2025, so there’s no need to get Windows 11 yet unless you want to – upgrading is free. 

      But any devices released since October 2023 will likely use Windows 11 instead. You can downgrade to Windows 10 if you don’t like it, and both will be fine for a while yet. 

      Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

      If you’re building your own PC, this might make it more difficult to get your hands on a copy of Windows 10. But it’s far from impossible, as we’ve explained.

      However, if you’re still running an older version of Windows for some reason, it’s important to upgrade to at least Windows 10 as soon as possible. 

      4. You shouldn’t be using Windows 7 or 8 anyway

      Microsoft generally supports each major version of Windows for around a decade, but the deadlines for both Windows 7 (January 2023) and Windows 8 (January 2023) have now passed. 

      Unless you ignored the warnings, you’ll have now updated to Windows 10 or 11. Continuing to use older versions is a serious security risk, leaving you open to bugs or other vulnerabilities that Microsoft won’t fix. 

      Even if Microsoft continued selling Windows 10 beyond January, it wouldn’t be a reason to ever use Windows 7 or 8. There’s no need to rush out and get Windows 10 now, because you probably already have it. If not, this deadline passing doesn’t change things. 

      Why You Shouldn’t Just Delete Outliers

      This article was published as a part of the Data Science Blogathon.

      Introduction

      Outliers are a very important and crucial aspect of Data Analysis. While doing data preprocessing for a Data Science project, we always think about the extreme values present in the dataset, i.e, should we keep those values for our analysis or we have to just delete them from our dataset.

      Let’s highlight the difference between natural and non-natural outliers?

      No matter how alert you are during the data collection, every Data Analyst has felt the frustration of finding the outliers. Outliers are one of those problems which we come across almost every time while doing machine learning modeling.

      Now, a question comes to mind: ” Are Outliers and Noise the same”?

      The answer to this question is “No” since outliers are different from the noise data.

      Noise is considered as a random error or the variance in a measured variable.

      The process of noise removal should be done before outlier detection.

       

      Table of Contents

      👉 What are Outliers?

      👉 When are outliers dangerous?

      👉 Which statistics are affected by the outliers?

      👉 When to drop or keep outliers?

       

      What are Outliers?

      In terms of statistics, Outliers can be defined as,

      “An Outlier is that observation which is significantly different from all other observations.”

      From this definition, we can conclude that an outlier is something that is an odd-one-out or the one that is different from the crowd. Some statisticians formally define outliers as ‘Observations having a different underlying behavior than the rest of the observations’.

      Alternatively, outliers are those observations that are significantly different from other observations.

      Fig. Image showing an outlier

      Image Source: link

      An analogy of Outliers in Real-life Examples,

      Example-1: In a class, we have 100 students and one student who always scores marks on the higher side concerning other students and its score is not much dependent on the Difficulty level of the exam. So, here we consider that guy as an outlier.

      Example-2:  let’s have to find the average salary of a group of people and accidentally Bill Gates or Elon Musk-like people entered the group. So, think now about the average salary of new groups of people. Here average salary is not a true representation due to outliers.

      When are outliers dangerous?

      Outliers are not always dangerous for our problem statement. In fact, outliers sometimes can be helpful indicators.

      They represent errors in the measurement, bad data collection(not careful while data collection), or simply show those variables that are not considered while collecting the data. Many data analysts are directly tempted to delete outliers. However, this is sometimes the wrong choice for our predictive analysis. One cannot recognize outliers while collecting the data for the problem statement; you won’t know what data points are outliers until you begin analyzing the data. Since some of the statistical tests are sensitive to the outliers and therefore, the ability to detect them and treat them accordingly is an important part of data analytics.

      Let’s consider the following three different scenarios,

      Scenario-1: Let’s we have a data of Age for population and the age of a people in that data is 356, and we know that the age value 356 is not possible, so here this data point considered as an outlier and we not know what value we have to replace to this value. So, we have to remove the data point completely from our dataset.

      Fig. Showing point for Age=356

      Image Source: link

      Scenario-2: Let’s have a use case of credit card fraud detection, outlier analysis becomes important because here, the exception rather than the rule may be of interest to the analyst.

      Scenario-3: Let’s have a regression problem, whereas hours of study are the independent variable and marks are a dependent variable. We have some outliers present, so they attract the line of regression to our side. To resolve this, we can create an IQ column then the outlier behavior may be justified from the IQ column.

      Fig. Effect of outliers on the regression line

      Image Source: link

      From these three scenarios, we conclude that the role of outliers is different for different problem statements. So, the main problem is what we have to do with outliers, but finding the outliers in our dataset is not a very difficult task.

      Which statistics are affected by the outliers?

      Let’s discuss one by one for each statistic,

      👉 Mean: It is the only measure of central tendency that is always affected by an outlier since it is calculated as the sum of the observed values and then divide by the total number of observations. Since in the expression of mean, the total sum is included, and due to outliers, there are some abnormal values i.e. Outliers will affect this sum.

      For Example, the Let’s outlier is having a bigger positive value than the other values that will make the sum large enough so that the mean will also be slightly larger while if the outlier has a very small value, then the mean will also become a bit smaller. Hence the presence of outliers in our dataset can largely affect the mean.

      👉 Standard deviation (SD): It is calculated with the help of every observation in the data set. It is a sensitive measure because it will be influenced by outliers since standard deviation is calculated by taking the difference of sample case from the mean, outliers will affect Standard deviation.

      👉 Median: The median is defined as the middle value in a particular distribution. It is the data point at which half of the observations are above, and half of the observations are below wrt that point. It is not affected by outliers, therefore the median is preferred as a measure of central tendency when a distribution has extreme observations.

      👉 Inter-Quartile Range (IQR): The IQR is the difference between the 75th and 25th percentile. The IQR is more resistant to outliers. The IQR by definition only covers the middle 50% of the data, so outliers are well outside this range and the presence of a small number of outliers is not likely to change this significantly. If you add an outlier, the IQR will change to another set of data points that are probably not that dissimilar to the previous ones (in most datasets), hence it is “resistant” to change. This is especially the case of a large dataset.

      Now if you add some crazy extreme data point at the end, the 75th and 25th percentile doesn’t change much, because extreme outliers or no, 75% of the data still lies below roughly the same amount.

      👉Range: Most affected by the outliers since it is the difference b/w the max and min value present in the dataset.

      When to drop or keep outliers?

      Sometimes outliers indicate a mistake in data collection. Other times, though, they can influence a data set, so it’s important to keep them to better understand the dataset in the big picture.

      Drop an outlier if:

      👉 You know that it’s completely wrong

      For example, if you have a really good sense of how range our data should fall in, like people’s ages, which we discussed above in scenario-1, you can safely drop values outside of that range.

      👉 You have a lot of data in hand

      👉 You have an option to going back

      Don’t drop an outlier if:

      👉 Your results are critical

       When your results are critical, then even minor changes will matter a lot.

      For example, You can feel better about dropping outliers of the dataset in which there are people’s favorite TV shows, but not about the temperatures at which airplane seals fail.

      👉 There are a lot of outliers

      By definition, Outliers are rare.

      End Notes

      Thanks for reading!

      Please feel free to contact me on Linkedin, Email.

      About the author Chirag Goyal

      Currently, I am pursuing my Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur(IITJ). I am very enthusiastic about Machine learning, Deep Learning, and Artificial Intelligence.

      The media shown in this article are not owned by Analytics Vidhya and is used at the Author’s discretion. 

      Related

      Essential Free Software You Can’t Afford To Miss

      Free doesn’t have to mean cheesy, especially when it comes to freeware. A developer’s passion project can become something you can’t imagine being without, and the fact that you don’t have to lay out any cash to acquire it is a major bonus. Some developers accept donations to further development, so consider giving what you can if you find value in their efforts.

      Security

      It’s imperative to secure your PC against the nasty stuff it will encounter on the open seas of the Web. Fortunately, it’s easy to assemble a bullet-proof security suite for nothing.

      The free version of Malwarebytes is excellent. Upgrading to the pay-for edition delivers additional features, including protection from zero-day malware (which is new enough to confound traditional AV programs).

      Malwarebytes will shield your computer from the nasty stuff floating around on the Web.

      Microsoft Security Essentials or AVG AntiVirus Free Edition are other good, no-cost options. Choose only one, though, because it’s usually not a good idea to install two AV programs on the same PC (they’ll suck up system resources and might conflict with each other).

      Utilities

      File-archiving utilities make big files smaller and easier to manage, and there’s code for creating those archives—and opening existing ones—right inside Windows. But third-party alternatives are faster and more efficient (meaning they create smaller archives). WinZip and WinRAR are two popular examples, but they’re trialware (meaning you can use them for free for a limited time, but you’ll eventually need to purchase a license). 7-Zip is just as good, if not better, and it’s absolutely free (although the developer does accept donations). It can even secure the contents of a zip file using 256-bit AES encryption.

      USB thumb drives are handy for carrying documents and other files with you, but storing files in the cloud saves you some schlepping—as well as the risk of loss or failure. Dropbox is one such service, but we found SugarSync to be even better when we compared cloud-storage services last year. Get the crud out of the hard-to-reach places with CCleaner.

      CCleaner is the Murphy’s Oil Soap of disk-cleanup tools. Instead of just dusting out old log files and junk you threw in the Recycling Bin, CCleaner digs deep into your PC’s cracks and crevices to give everything from your browsers to your Windows Registry a good scrubbing.

      The folks at CPUID make great hardware-monitoring tools. Two of the company’s utilities, CPU-Z and PC Wizard, deserve a permanent place on your desktop. CPU-Z presents detailed information on your system’s central processor: Its make and model, manufacturing process, clock rate, cache size, and more. It can also tell you which company manufactured the motherboard, its model and revision numbers, which core-logic chipset it uses, and the date of its BIOS. Finally, it will specify the type of memory inside your system and its clockspeed. It’s a great way to make sure you got exactly what you paid for. PC Wizard does all that, plus it benchmarks your system as well as audit its components. PC-Wizard reports everything you’ll ever want to know about your computer.

      Your Ultrabook might not have an optical drive, but your desktop machine almost certainly does—and with good reason. CDs and DVDs are the best way to share hundreds of megabytes of data with friends and family: A disc is a much cheaper alternative to a high-capacity USB thumb or hard drive that you might not get back. Burning a disc—be it music on a CD, a movie on a DVD, an image file, or what have you—might be an activity you perform rarely, but you will need to do it at some point. Install ImgBurn on your PC now, and you won’t have to scramble to do it later.

      Life on the Web

      For those of us with family members—and/or business associates—spread across the globe, staying in touch via landline or mobile phone can be prohibitively expensive. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a much better, considerably cheaper alternative. Microsoft’s Skype adds video (you provide the webcam) and instant messaging to the mix for free, but the person at the other end of the call must also be using Skype. For a small fee (subscriptions are also available), you can call landline and mobile numbers in the United States and in other countries (see the Skype site for details).

      Online instant messaging is another great way to stay in touch, but not everyone likes to use the same IM service. Trillian consolidates them all: AIM, Skype, and even Facebook. And since there are versions of the utility for just about any device you might be using, you can start a conversation on your smartphone and finish it on your desktop—or vice versa!

      Teamspeak offers tons of options and channels to make talking to the right people in game easy.

      If you enjoy playing online games with your friends, utilities such as Ventrilo, Mumble, and Teamspeak let you stay in contact with each without tying up your hands to furiously tap out messages. You can simply speak to each other over the Internet using these push-to-talk VoIP services. They’re light on bandwidth and easy to set up and use.

      Gaming

      Speaking of games, Valve’s Steam is the 800-pound-gorilla of games distribution and is the close-to-ultimate service for acquiring and playing games on the PC, Mac, and Linux platforms. Steam is also available in mobile versions so you can stay in touch with your game-playing friends using Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. If you play EA games, such as SimCity, or anything in the Battlefield series, you’ll also want to download and install EA’s Origin. Both Origin and Steam are free to use, and both have free as well as pay-for games in their libraries. Steam organizes your games and saves you cash.

      You can’t buy games using Raptr, but this social-networking tool will let you launch all your games from one place, allow you to grab screenshots that you can stream via chúng tôi track how much time you spend playing games, and more.

      Other digital entertainment

      Spotify is a must-have service for music lovers on tight budgets. We can’t always afford to buy the latest albums, but Spotify lets us listen to unlimited music from countless artists. It’s also a great tool for music discovery. Rate tracks and artists, follow what your friends are listening to, and Spotify will lead you to new music you might like.

      Spotify is the best place for free music.

      When it comes to managing media libraries, iTunes is hard to beat—it’s essential if you own an iOS device. It will organize all your music, movies, TV episodes, and podcasts, automatically download new content, and then sync that content across your PC or Mac/iOS device.

      For a simple media player, the open-source VLC Media Player is the best free program available—especially now that Microsoft has detached Windows Media Center and made it a separate purchase. Why bother with that? VLC Media Player will play virtually any media file, and there’s a version for most every popular operating system.

      Creative pursuits

      Audacity is a deceptively simply audio-recording and editing tool that’s just the ticket for anyone from podcasters to musicians to audiophiles. This tool is easy enough for novices, but sophisticated enough for engineers.

      Become a music-mixing pro with Audacity.

      You don’t need to line Adobe’s pockets to gain access to powerful online photo-editing software. chúng tôi delivers a similar degree of power and sophistication (including blending, layers, transparency, and even a host of plugins) as Photoshop at the price of, well, nothing (the developer does accept donations).

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