The 10 Best Sites to Get Free Software for Students

Get word processors, antivirus software, and more for free

Student in a computer lab

Getty Images 


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. Thankfully, there are dozens of ways to find free software that 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 websites 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 being downloaded besides the one you selected, delete it immediately. Do not open it. You should install an antivirus program on your computer before you begin searching for any software or make any downloads.

Other Ways to Get Free Software

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

01
of 10

Avast.com

Avast for Mac website

 Avast is a well-known antivirus 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!) 

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

02
of 10

GIMP

Gimp on macOS

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 plugins 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 like Inkscape (a great choice for color management for art students.) The only downside is that GIMP is a complicated program that has quite a learning curve. Even those familiar with Photoshop will need to learn their way around GIMP's UI.

What We Like

  • Free, powerful image editing

  • Active community with hundreds of other plugins

What We Don't Like

  • Learning the program can be difficult

  • Searching for plugins requires a level of awareness about the sites that provide them

03
of 10

Pixlr

Pixlr website

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

What We Like

  • Available on both laptops and mobile devices

  • Dozens of tools, from basic to advanced

What We Don't Like

  • Flash Player is required to use it

  • Not as powerful as premium alternatives

04
of 10

Audacity

Audacity on macOS

Audacity might be one of the most popular free options for sound and audio editing. At first glance, its interface might seem basic, but there are a wealth of features and tons of power 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.

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

05
of 10

LibreOffice

LibreOffice document editing window

LibreOffice

The Microsoft Office Suite might 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 students 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!)

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

06
of 10

Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 welcome screen

While LibreOffice is a powerful program, some people might enjoy the familiarity of Microsoft Office. There is a free option for those that don't want to pay for the full Office Suite called Microsoft Office 365. You will need a student or faculty email address to access the software, but once you do you'll have access to a fully-featured version of the software applications you know best.

What We Like

  • Access to familiar, powerful tools

  • One free terabyte of OneDrive cloud storage

What We Don't Like

  • Not all universities are eligible for this offer

07
of 10

Blender

Blender user interface/window

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

What We Like

  • Full suite of professional features

  • Constant, consistent improvements and updates

What We Don't Like

  • Blender has a steep learning curve that can be overwhelming for first-time users

08
of 10

Dropbox

Home page for Dropbox

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.

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 the type of project

09
of 10

Cold Turkey

Cold Turkey window on macOS

Cold Turkey

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 period. The only way to turn it off is to restart your computer. It's completely free and the perfect solution to stay focused during tough homework.

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 resetting the computer

10
of 10

f.lux

Flux on macOS desktop

College is notorious for late nights 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 helps you avoid the negative effects of blue light so that you can fall asleep faster. It will also automatically deactivated when you watch media players so the color of the movie isn't affected.

What We Like

  • Anything that helps college students sleep

What We Don't Like

  • Not all image editing programs automatically deactivate f.lux