The 10 Best Sites to Get Free Software for Students

Get word processors, anti-virus software, and more for free

The Ultimate Guide to Online Learning at Home
The Ultimate Guide to Online Learning at Home
Introduction


As a student, your budget is limited, and your expenses are high. The last thing you want is to spend an exorbitant amount of money on licensing fees for software. Fortunately, there are dozens of ways to find free software, some of which require only proof of enrollment (usually a student ID or email address) to qualify. These sites provide everything from word processing software to audio and image-editing programs.

Unfortunately, not all websites are safe. Even the most visited sites with a friendly, inviting front might hide viruses and malware inside the downloads. As you search for software, make sure you pay attention to your downloads folder. If you see any file downloading other than the one you selected, delete it immediately. Do not open it. You should install an anti-virus program on your computer before you begin searching for any software or download any applications.

Other Ways to Get Free Software

Check with the student resources center at your school. Many universities provide some software free as part of your tuition, but many students don't know about this and never look. Depending on your area of study, advanced, powerful software may be available to you. For example, many art schools provide photo-editing tools such as Photoshop for free (or at a steep discount) for students enrolled in graphic arts studies.

10 Best Sites for Free Student Software or Services

Here are some of the best websites for students to find free software or services they can use in their studies and their lives.

01
of 10

Avast

Avast for Mac website
What We Like
  • Works on Mac, PC, and Android.

  • Has both system and browser scanning.

  • Easy interface that's intuitive to use.

What We Don't Like
  • Significant performance impact when running scans.

  • Free personal security version shows ads.

Avast is a well-known anti-virus program that automatically scans your computer for viruses, spyware, Trojans, and other malicious software. It's free to use and also has in-browser protection against phishing and spam. The downside is that it can sometimes slow down the performance of your system, especially when a scan is active. The best way around this is to schedule scans for the middle of the night (although, as a student, you might still be awake).

02
of 10

GIMP

Gimp on macOS
What We Like
  • Free, powerful image editing.

  • Active community with hundreds of other plug-ins.

What We Don't Like
  • Learning the program can be difficult.

  • Searching for plug-ins requires a level of awareness about the sites that provide them.

GIMP is a free, open-source photo-editing program that is almost as powerful as Photoshop. It's a popular choice when you can't afford the fees Adobe charges, especially considering the hundreds of plug-ins and third-party additions to the program that its community has created. GIMP is available for Linux, macOS, and Windows, and is automatically compatible with other free software such as Inkscape (a good choice for color management for art students). The only downside is that GIMP is a complicated program that has a substantial learning curve. Even students familiar with Photoshop need to learn their way around GIMP's UI.

03
of 10

Pixlr X

Pixlr website
What We Like
  • Available on both laptops and mobile devices.

  • Dozens of basic and advanced tools.

  • Offers two skill-level versions: X and E.

What We Don't Like
  • Not as powerful as premium alternatives.

  • Slow internet connection makes working on large files annoying.

Your college career is one of the best times of your life. The photos you take may need an extra touch to make them pop and net you all the Instagram likes you know they deserve. Pixlr is a great photo-editor that provides dozens of filters, brushes, and masks. For less-experienced photo editors, Pixlr can also perform many of these tasks automatically.

With the deprecation of Adobe Flash, Pixlr Editor was discontinued and replaced by entry-level Pixlr X and advanced Pixlr E.

04
of 10

Audacity

Audacity on macOS
What We Like
  • Works with a wide range of file types.

  • Incredibly powerful, especially for a free program.

What We Don't Like
  • The learning curve can be intimidating.

  • Isn't supported by macOS Catalina.

Audacity is one of the most popular free options for sound and audio editing. At first glance, its interface seems basic, but a wealth of features and tons of power lie hidden beneath its bland facade. Audacity takes a bit of time to learn, but once you get the hang of it, it's the best choice for editing audio and video short of high-priced software like Adobe Audition.

05
of 10

LibreOffice

LibreOffice document editing window
What We Like
  • Compatible with all Microsoft file formats.

  • Does everything Microsoft Office can do.

What We Don't Like
  • The difference in names for operations can cause confusion.

The Microsoft Office Suite may seem like the default application suite for the entire world, but that demand means the attached price point is a bit prohibitive. While students can get discounts, it often isn't worth it for the basic tasks they have to do. On the other hand, some free word processing applications aren't powerful enough. LibreOffice strikes the perfect balance and gives students access to six programs: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math, and Base. These are just different names for software that mimics the features of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more. LibreOffice is open source, free, and immensely useful. This article's writer made use of it for his entire degree!

06
of 10

Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 welcome screen
What We Like
  • Access to familiar, powerful tools.

  • 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage.

What We Don't Like
  • Not all universities qualify for the free education version.

While LibreOffice is a powerful program, some people may prefer the familiarity of Microsoft Office. There is a free option for students that don't want to pay for the full Microsoft 365, known as Microsoft 365 Education. You need a student or faculty email address to access the software, but once you do, you have access to a full-featured version of the software applications you know best.

07
of 10

Blender

Blender user interface/window
What We Like
  • Full suite of professional features.

  • Regular improvements and updates.

What We Don't Like
  • Blender has a steep learning curve that can be overwhelming for first-time users.

If you're an art student working with 3D modeling or a game designer who needs sprites for your upcoming project, Blender is the go-to program to do those tasks. Blender provides professional-grade animation software for no cost, and the fact that it is open source means there are constant improvements made to the software by the community. After you get the hang of Blender, you can create entire films entirely through animation.

08
of 10

Dropbox

Home page for Dropbox
What We Like
  • 2 GB of free storage.

  • The ability to grant other users access to the files even without a Dropbox account.

What We Don't Like
  • 2 GB fills up quickly, depending on project type.

Gone are the days when students needed to carry around a thumb drive loaded with their assignments. Cloud storage is easy to come by, especially when Dropbox offers all users 2 GB of storage for free. Just sign up with any email address and take full advantage of one of the best free storage options on the web.

09
of 10

Cold Turkey

Cold Turkey window on macOS
What We Like
  • The program can't easily be disabled.

  • Custom timers and controls.

What We Don't Like
  • No way to bypass in the event of an emergency without restarting the computer.

When you don't feel like working on your latest assignment, it can be hard to focus. The constant pull and temptation of social media can distract even the most strong-minded student. That's where Cold Turkey comes in. This program allows you to block access to certain websites during a specified time. The only way to turn it off is to restart your computer. It's the perfect solution for staying focused during hours of study.

10
of 10

f.lux

Flux on macOS desktop
What We Like
  • It helps college students sleep.

What We Don't Like
  • Not all image editing programs automatically deactivate f.lux.

College is notorious for late nights spent working on assignments. The problem is that it can be hard to take advantage of those three hours of sleep when you've been exposed to blue light for hours on end. F.lux is a free program that automatically shifts the color of light produced by your monitor to a warmer color that is not only easier on the eyes but also avoids the adverse effects of blue light so that you can fall asleep faster. It automatically deactivates when you watch media players so that the color of the movie isn't affected.