Trending December 2023 # The Best Canon Lenses For Your Camera # Suggested January 2024 # Top 20 Popular

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Canon’s kit lenses are great, but at some point, you need to step out of your comfort zone and get nicer glass. Those looking for the best Canon lenses have come to the right place. We have put together a list of our favorite lenses from the photography giant. We’ve included lenses from different price ranges and shooting styles to fit all users’ needs.

First: The best Canon cameras you can buy right now

The best Canon lenses

Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best Canon lenses regularly as new ones launch

The best Canon DSLR lenses

Also read: The best DSLR cameras

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro

Every photographer should have a good macro lens in their bag, and the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM is one of the best Canon lenses. A 12-inch focusing distance and 10mm focal length will let you get up close and personal with any subject. Meanwhile, an f/2.8 aperture can allow plenty of light into the sensor while keeping a shallow depth of field.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

In the photography scene, the “holy trinity” is a trio of the best lenses a photographer can get. These can take care of most focal lengths while outputting maximum quality. The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens is the first one, and the following two lenses complete the “trinity.”

This 24-70mm lens has an f/2.8 aperture and quality optics. It is considered the king of standard zoom lenses, but it also comes at a steep price. Regardless, it might become your most valued lens, and it’s definitely among the best Canon lenses.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L is III USM

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L is III USM Lens can zoom in even further while keeping a wide aperture. It is an excellent lens for those who need to shoot subjects from a distance. Sports, nature, and street photographers love it. It comes with a mighty price tag, though.

Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L III USM

A 16-35mm focal length keeps you covered for capturing wide-angle images. It’s great for landscapes, large subjects, and crowds. The f/2.8 aperture is also great for letting in light and keeping a tighter control on the depth of field. It’s expensive, but it’s worth the price.

The best Canon mirrorless lenses

Also read: The best mirrorless cameras

Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM

This is one of the first Canon lenses with an RF mount you should get. It is pretty affordable for what you get, and the 35mm focal length and f/1.8 aperture will make this a great all-around lens for general purposes. Not only that, but this lens has macro abilities and can focus at a distance of 0.56 feet or 0.17 meters from the subject.

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM lens

If you’re looking for a more serious macro lens for your Canon mirrorless system, it doesn’t get much better than the Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM. The 85mm focal length makes it easier to capture close-up images, and the f/2 aperture is very wide for a macro lens, which usually come with an f/2.8 max aperture at their widest. The price is also very reasonable for a macro lens of this caliber.

Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 IS USM

The 24-70mm focal length is considered part of the “holy trinity,” but this lens is specifically made with an RF mount for mirrorless cameras. This is a premium lens that will fit many photo scenarios. With an f/2.8 aperture, the lens is also pretty fast. This is a premium lens, and its price shows it.

Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens

The 70-200mm focal length range is great for getting up and close with your subject when you can’t physically get close. This RF mount lens is native to Canon’s mirrorless systems. It is praised for its smaller size, solid construction, and excellent image quality. Its f/2.8 max aperture is also very nice to have. You will have to pay up for the new mount and reduced size, though.

Now that you have the right photography equipment, it’s time to further polish your skills and knowledge on the topic. We have some great educational content you can use to improve your images regardless of your gear.

Photography terms

Mastering manual mode

Photography tips

How to edit on Lightroom

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How To Utilize Your Smartphone Camera And Take The Best Photos

There are various reasons why modern mobile cameras are not able to take realistic photos and fail in concrete scenes:

Over-rendered algorithms drive to over-brightness in night shots.

The photos with prominent colors have higher saturation.

The beautification features focus more on marketing than the true reproduction of colors.

Usually, both the main and the ultra-wide-angle lenses are wide-angle sensors. (When “the edge is elongated and the middle is compressed,” we call them wide-angle lenses.)

Lastly, the phone’s screen will display colors that have nothing in common with the real colors. So the same photo will look different on different screens.

How To Solve Smartphone Camera Common Issues?

Disable AI photography mode

Almost all smartphones released in the few years come with a special AI photography function, except the iPhone. Its purpose is to recognize the scene and make targeted optimization. Frankly, none of the current phones can accurately restore the real scene. When it’s turned on, the photos are always bright.

Use a native camera app

You know that every smartphone maker has its own camera app. Generally, they all are good. But the software works well only for concrete hardware. So one camera app that works accurately on a concrete brand can provide terrible results on another. In this sense, maybe GCam is an exception. But in the rest of the cases, we do not recommend using apps from other manufacturers.

This is especially true for the front cameras that usually have lower resolution and come with more optimizations in the app.

Take some photography courses

When saying this, we not only mean you should have some knowledge of light and shadow effects but also know how various lenses work. For instance, the edges will be stretched when the object is in the middle of the display.

Use the professional mode correctly

We recommend using the professional mode in the following situations:

Landscape photography

To shoot a good landscape photo, you must have a good camera position, timing, and post-processing method.

Trying to capture the real scene is better if you are a newbie in the field. This will leave more room for processing later.

In professional mode, setting the photo format to “RAW format” can preserve the camera’s original data to the greatest extent. Also, it will obtain a higher dynamic range and adjust the exposure parameters according to the weather conditions.

Starry sky photography

We guess you are familiar with most phones’ starry sky photography mode. Unfortunately, not all smartphone cameras can show off good results.

The reason is that the smartphone camera will face difficulties focusing on distant stars in a dark environment. To overcome this problem, first, we can increase the ISO to improve the picture’s brightness; second, we can use manual focus. Afterward, we can adjust the ISO to around 800 once we reach the focus we like. The shutter time should not exceed 30 seconds. Otherwise, it will produce a smear. Lower the ISO if the photo is too bright, and lower the shutter time if the stars are smeared.

City night view

There are two options for shooting city night scenes. One of them is the night scene mode. The camera uses a similar stack method to present a photo with details in the dark and underexposed highlights. But you should know that the effect of this photo will be different from what we see with the naked eye.

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The second method is the professional mode. To use professional mode to shoot night city scenes, you must prepare a tripod. When shooting, reduce the ISO to about 100, reducing the picture’s noise. The shutter time is about 1 second. Of course, you need to adjust the shutter time according to the scene environment.

Sports snapshot

In low-light environments, the camera will “take care” of the exposure of the entire photo. So the success rate of motion capture in normal mode is often not very high.

When shooting a moving car, we can set the shutter at 1/100 and ISO at around 200 in professional mode and use continuous shooting mode.

Defocused photography

On smartphone cameras, the automatic focus and exposure are interrelated. So when we lock the focus, the exposure will also be locked. This will drive inaccurate exposure when we shoot distant scenes.

So we have to slide the focus point to the left in professional mode to make the picture blurred. Then, we can adjust the photo’s exposure through ISO and shutter.

Smartphone camera glossary

ISO (sensitivity): Raising the ISO value will brighten the picture in low light. However, at the same time, there will be obvious graininess or noise in the dark parts of the photo. So keep in mind: the lower the ISO value, the less noise in the photo, and the clearer the picture.

EV (Exposure Compensation): Pulling to the left makes the picture darker overall, and pulling to the right makes the picture brighter. At the same time, the ISO and shutter values ​​will also change.

The smartphone camera has three focusing methods: AF-S, AF-C, and MF.

AF-C (Auto Focus): The phone automatically adjusts the focus point according to environmental changes.

MF (Manual focus): We can drag the focus ruler to control the distance of the focus. Drag it to the left to focus at close range, and drag it to the right to focus at a long distance.

There are also three metering methods:

Matrix metering: perform average metering on the shooting environment to obtain a photo with a relatively average exposure. It’s suitable for shooting landscapes.

Center metering: The camera performs spot metering on the center of the frame to obtain a photo with slightly darker edges in the middle.

Spot metering: The camera measures the light at a certain point in the screen to obtain a photo with a prominent subject, which is suitable for shooting silhouettes or petals with large contrast between light and dark.

Choosing the photo format

JPG: Through the pixel four-in-one technology, 48MP photos are compressed into 12MP. So you will get clearer photos under normal light conditions.

JPG-L: It’s a full-pixel format. So you can obtain more details in good light. However, the photos’ effect is not as good as in the JPG format if there is insufficient light.

RAW: This format can retain the most original photo data. The original photo has more space for post-processing, but the photo storage data is high. Also, it should pass many post-processing steps. So this is mainly for professionals.

Top 10 Smartphones With The Best Camera For Less Than $500

Choose the smartphone that best suits you from our selection of today’s top 10 models that stand out in the photographic category without paying much.

The best camera smartphones with less than $500 Redmi Note 11 Pro+ 5G

Redmi Note 11 Pro+ 5G is one of the most affordable models available right now with a top-notch camera. It includes a 4500 mAh battery with a 120W quick charge that is more than enough to last you through the day snapping pictures, a good MediaTek 920 processor, huge RAM, and a 120 HZ FHD AMOLED screen.

A 108 MP f/1.8 primary lens, an 8 MP f/2.2 wide-angle, and a 2 MP f/2.4 macro lens make up its triple camera system. Furthermore, it has a 16 MP front camera so you can capture the greatest selfies from any position.

For the best image quality, even in night mode, this is coupled with a variety of photo and video modes. It provides an excellent photographic experience despite not being a high-end or pricey model.

Google Pixel 6

With a 50-megapixel f/1.85 OIS main lens and a 12-megapixel f/2.2 wide-angle lens, the Google Pixel 6 not only boasts a fantastic camera system but also produces images with rich colors and fine details. An 8 MP sensor is on the selfie front.

With the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G, you can get a phone at a reasonable price that shoots great pictures, and because it’s currently on sale, you can get one while prices are still low and save more than $100. It boasts a big 5000 mAh battery with 25W rapid charging, a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED screen, and many other features. It has a camera with many lenses that produce stunning images.

You can take sharp pictures with its 64 MP OIS camera’s f/1.8 aperture and optical stabilization, while the 12 MP ultra-wide angle camera widens the viewing angle and the 5 MP macro camera makes you stand out more.

The 32 MP f/2.2 front camera will provide you with excellent results in any circumstance so that you can take better selfies.

OnePlus 9

This smartphone distinguishes by its camera. It has a 6.55-inch AMOLED 120 Hz FHD+ screen, a Snapdragon 888 processor, 12 GB of RAM, and 256 HB of storage. It has three cameras: a 48MP main camera, a 50MP ultra-wide camera, and a 2MP monochrome camera.

Thanks to its Free-form lens and integrated 50 MP ultra-wide angle lens, it offers remarkable clarity. You’ll also like the 8K Video experience.

Xiaomi 12

The Xiaomi 12 is a smartphone that can stand out for its camera quality thanks to its 6.28-inch AMOLED screen, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, and 5000 mAh battery. It has a 50 MP main camera that is pro-grade, with new focus technology, AI, and image processing algorithms, in order to preserve more detail even in low light.

It also has a 13 MP wide-angle and a 5 MP telephoto macro camera. Its 20 MP front camera has an f/2.2 aperture for excellent selfies.

Google Pixel 6a

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With the release of the Pixel 6a, a more affordable alternative to the flagship Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, Google has re-entered the race for the title of best low-cost smartphone. Even though this phone is under $500, it has a lot of features thanks to the same Tensor chipset that powers more expensive models.

It has two cameras instead of the three found on most smartphones today in its rear array, which is a pretty respectable camera setup, but Google’s real strength lies in software, not hardware. As a result, the Pixel 6a is loaded with clever little processing tricks, resulting in photos that are just as vibrant and punchy as those taken on phones that cost twice as much. Having an OLED display on a phone this affordable is also nice.

Oppo Find X3 Neo

With its sophisticated camera technology, including a 50 MP main camera with a bigger sensor co-developed with Sony and All-Pixel Omni-Focus, this Oppo provides you with high-quality images and movies. It has a 2 MP macro, a 13 MP telephoto, and a 32 MP front camera for great selfies. Its sensor is incredible for producing sharper images whether it’s day or night.

It has also enhanced HDR for the backlight. It has many settings that enable you to capture images in a variety of lighting and action-oriented situations.

Honor 50

As long as you choose the 128GB model, Honor’s newest smartphone officially falls just under the price cap and features a 108MP main camera in addition to an 8MP ultra-wide and two 2MP auxiliary cameras.

The 32MP selfie camera, though, steals the show because self-portraits come out vivid and colorful.

With well-balanced highlights and shadows, excellent contrast, wonderful color, and realistic-looking Bokeh background blur. We thought this was terrific in both normal and Portrait modes. We discovered that we were well-detailed even in our selfies taken at night.

The rear cameras, while not horrible for photography, weren’t as impressive to us as they were with other mobiles on the list. The decision is really up to enthusiasts of selfies.

The Redmi Note 11 Pro+ is a better option if you need a 108MP camera phone. Other than that, this is your typical mid-range Android phone with a medium-power processor, long-lasting battery, and good-looking display.

OnePlus Nord 2T

The OnePlus Nord 2T is an update to the Nord 2 that was released a year later. To explain its existence, the Nord 2T offers a few minor improvements here and there.

The Nord 2’s cameras are unaffected. You will receive the same 50MP Sony IMX766 main sensor on the OnePlus Nord 2T, which excels in low-light conditions.

An 8MP ultra-wide and 2MP depth sensor rounds out the camera array, which will be useful for some. But the AI on this phone stands out because it seems to enhance colors in photos more than other AI optimization tools on other phones.

Apart from the cameras, this is a well-rounded mid-range phone with a respectably powerful processor, a nice-looking screen. And incredibly quick charging, though it is not a significant improvement over its predecessor.

iPhone SE

The Apple iPhone SE (2023) is a superb camera phone for the money. The smartphone combines wireless charging, water resistance, and good performance—all flagship features. The major drawback of this smartphone is its old design. With big bezels around the display and the old home button. The design is very reminiscent of earlier iPhone models.

Although there is only one lens on the rear of the camera, the 12MP sensor can capture high-resolution portrait mode images and even record 4K video. You obviously do not receive all of the features of the iPhone 13. Such as Night mode, Dolby Vision HDR, or Cinematic Mode for video. But you do get the essential tools, such as Portrait Mode for people, that improve the images. Photos don’t have as much dynamic range or color vibrancy as those taken with an iPhone 13 Pro. But they are very detailed. Apple is now officially defeating many Android smartphones in the game they typically dominate. The smartphone offers good value for money, given that it starts at just $399.

Canon Powershot Px Uses Ai To Be Your Robot Photographer

Canon PowerShot PX uses AI to be your robot photographer

Canon will not allow the always-watching, always-shooting camera dream to die. Today they revealed a device called the Canon PowerShot PX, a camera that captures moments in your life without your input. This camera sits on a base on which it can rotate, and its head can move up and down, giving it a large area of potential coverage, so it can watch you whenever you are near.

Canon PowerShot PX is a self-motivated go-getter of a camera that uses artificial intelligence to operate. You’ll power the device up, turn it on, and leave it to move around on its own. The camera’s default protocol has it search for human faces and snap photos at the most optimal moments.

Ths PowerShot PX works with 110-degrees of vertical movement and 340-degrees of horizontal movement. Together these areas of movement allow the camera to deliver its pan-and-tilt feature with aplomb. This camera works with a 19-57mm (35mm equivalent) focal length range, with the ability to capture 11.7-megapixel photos or 1080p 60fps video.

The camera works automatically but can be operated with voice commands and on-screen controls (with a connected smartphone and the official app). The PowerShot PX app (for iOS or Android) also allows the user to select photos and video to keep and store on the camera’s memory card.

Canon suggested this week that this version of the camera works with both WiFi and Bluetooth for wireless connectivity, in addition to USB-C. The camera also charges using a USB-C cord.

If you have the Canon webcam utility app, this camera can be used as a webcam. That might be the low-key best part about the device, barring the relatively massive price for the camera’s next-generation features and AI capabilities.

The Canon PowerShot PX is the latest iteration of a device they first introduced earlier this year. Back in February of 2023, Canon revealed the Canon PowerShot PICK. That device was first released with Japanese crowdfunding platform Makuake, and released only in that one country. That device – which you might find very familiar – had an initial release price of 40,900 JPY, roughly $390.

Now the form of the device – if not basically the same device in a new package – is ready for Europe. Canon Europe has the PowerShot PX ready for release with a price of approximately £500/€500. That’s a bit of a bump from its original price under a different name in Japan, mind you. Canon has not yet announced any sort of availability or pricing for a version of this camera for the United States.

The idea of an always-watching, always-snapping camera also appeared in a device released by Google and discontinued as of October of 2023. That device was Google Clips. That device could be placed on a flat platform to take photos straight forward, or attached to a necklace or “clipped” to a user’s clothing for on-the-go snapping.

The Best Free Software For Your Pc

Stocking your PC is an intensely personal task. But some programs are so helpful that we heartily recommend them to everybody. These free PC programs—a mix of must-haves and delightful auxiliary apps—deserve a place on almost any computer (unlike, say, this more niche roundup of 5 free Windows power user tools we can’t live without). There are times when a paid alternative makes sense, however. We’ve pointed out the circumstances where an upgrade over the free offering is warranted, along with our recommendation for the category.

And if you’re selecting these programs as part of breaking in an all-new PC, be sure to check out our guide to how to set up new computer up the right way. Let’s dig in!


FREE disk partition software – EaseUS Partition Master Free

Free Download

A better browser


Before you roll up your sleeves and start slinging software around, make sure to snag your web browser of choice. Using Windows 10 and 11’s default Edge browser when you’re accustomed to something else feels like wearing somebody else’s shoes. (Blech.)

That said, our money’s actually on Edge, which earned top honors in PCWorld’s extensive best browser showdown, barely nudging out Google’s just-as-superb Chrome browser. But hey, they’re all free! Try before you “buy”—we’ve published some extensive looks at compelling features you’ll only find on Edge, Firefox, and Vivaldi (a.k.a. the enthusiast’s browser). 

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

Maybe. Browsers are largely free, and mostly fantastic already. For Windows users there is Ghost Browser, which lets you sandbox separate online identities while viewing them all in a single window. At $120 per year, however, you’ve got to really need what Ghost Browser’s offering.


Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

No. For most users there really isn’t a worthy alternative, and even if there was it wouldn’t justify the cost. That said, there is a paid complementary utility called Ninite Updater that costs $10 per year that makes it easy to keep all your desktop programs up-to-date.


Accidentally installing unwanted bloatware is one of the greatest dangers of free software, the sanctity of Ninite aside. For everything else, use Unchecky. Unchecky automatically unchecks all of the checkboxes when you’re trying to install a program, and warns you if shady software is trying to sneak something ugly onto your machine. 

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

No. Again Unchecky is in a league unto itself, and while you might find similar capabilities bundled in an antivirus program, there’s little reason to look elsewhere.

Microsoft PowerToys

Jared Newman / Foundry

If you want to fine-tune your Windows experience, be sure to check out Microsoft’s killer PowerToys suite. Ostensibly for enthusiasts, PowerToys is absolutely loaded with tools designed to streamline all sorts of PC hassles. It offers utilities to batch resize images, quickly find your mouse cursor, always keep a chosen window on top of your others, remap your keyboard keys, show file previews in File Explorer, and a whole lot more. And you should definitely be using FancyZones, Microsoft’s killer multitasking app.

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

Nope—no premium alternative exists for Microsoft’s awesome collection of tools.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free

The Windows Security software enabled by default in Windows 10 provides solid protection for most users, but no single antivirus utility offers bulletproof protection, especially against the latest and most clever threats. MalwareBytes Anti-Malware Free was designed specifically to find and eliminate those cutting-edge “zero-day” vulnerabilities. You can’t schedule scans or even use it as a regular antivirus program, but it’s invaluable when you think that something nasty has slipped by your primary antivirus utility.

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

Norton 360 Deluxe

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Yes. As the saying goes, “a few megabytes of prevention is worth a terabyte of cure,” or something like that. Malwarebytes is great at saving infected computers, but Malwarebytes Premium at $40 per year is on guard to stop the malware from getting in its hooks in the first place.

Beyond that, premium antivirus options offer a combination of excellent protection, a worthwhile selection of features, and minimal impact on your PC’s performance. PCWorld’s guide to the best antivirus for Windows PCs can walk you through your options.


On the surface, Launchy is a simple app launcher, and that’s swell all on its own! App launchers let you activate software far faster than navigating Windows, even if you use the Windows key and search for an app by name. But Launchy can do much, much more: Open any file or folder in mere seconds, shut down your PC, or even kill processes and perform math calculations with the right plug-ins. Read Lifehacker’s superb tutorial and forget about your Start menu.

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

No. Launchy is another Windows utility that is unto itself; however, the developers do accept donations, and we highly recommend tossing the developers a few dollars for this excellent program.


Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

No. 7-Zip is great, and paid parallels such as WinZip really don’t offer enough to justify the fee. If you spend all day unzipping massive archive files then maybe a faster utility like WinZip is worth it. For most of us, however, 7-zip is just great.


Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

No. VLC is just fantastic, and you won’t find a paid option that justifies its worth compared to this free workhorse. You can, however, send the VideoLAN organization a donation as a thank you for its hard work.

Don’t let’s freebie status fool you: This image editor may not have all the bells and whistles of Photoshop, but it packs everything that most people need (even layer-based editing) and costs hundreds of dollars less. We’ve got chúng tôi tips to help you get started with this killer no-cost software.

If you’re a graphics professional, and you can’t afford Photoshop but require more than chúng tôi offers, check out GIMP. It has a challenging learning curve, but its capabilities are damned impressive once you wrap your head around it. Those aren’t your only options though. Check out our roundup of the best free Photoshop alternatives for more no-cost programs for everything from quick and dirty tweaks to nitty-gritty image edits.

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?


If you need to record or mix audio without spending big bucks on pro software, Audacity is hands-down the best option around. This powerful open-source audio editor offers excellent production capabilities—and a dizzying array of buttons and options. Snag it, then read PCWorld’s Audacity primer to wrap your head around the basics.

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

Maybe. For most users Audacity is a powerful tool, but if you’re rising to the level of semi-pro and need a deeper level of audio editing then Adobe’s Audition CC for $21 per month might be worth it. Keep in mind, however, that Adobe Audition is a pro tool and not a starter option.

Revo Uninstaller

When you delete software using Windows’ default uninstallation utility, it can leave a lot of remnants behind in weird places, sucking up precious storage space. Revo Uninstaller wipes out everything. It’s great. 

(Pro tip: If you encounter a program that says it can’t be deleted because it’s currently in use by your system, IOBit’s free Unlocker can loosen its grasp.)

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

Yes. Revo uninstaller only takes care of the basics. If you need features like getting rid of remnants from previously uninstalled programs or mass uninstalls then spending $20 on Revo Uninstaller Pro or a $20 yearly subscription to Iobit Uninstaller Pro is worth it.


Michael Crider/IDG

Managing your computer’s storage space is kind of an all-or-nothing experience. Windows will tell you how much space is left on your drive, and that’s it; it’s up to you to dive into a million different directories and clear out the gunk when you’re running low on space. SpaceSniffer (try not to giggle) from Uderzo Software solves this by scanning an entire drive and presenting your files and folders in a visual grid, which makes it easy to find “lost” programs eating up huge chunks of your hard drive space. It’s one of the five Windows power tools we can’t live without.

WinDirStat is another free program that behaves similarly to SpaceSniffer. If you’re looking to free up some space for the latest massive game install, you’ll want one of these installed on your PC.

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

Nope. Enough said.


But what if you want to bring a deleted file back to the realm of the living? Recuva is a clean, simple undelete program from Piriform, the makers of CCleaner.

Be warned: Recuva won’t be able to recover all deleted files, and the odds are even lower if you erased a program with a secure delete tool like Eraser (another top-notch free program). Still, Recuva has saved my bacon on more than one occasion. 

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

Maybe. Recuva helps you recover files, but if you want power user features like virtual hard drive support and automatic updates then the $20 for Recuva Pro might be worth it.

Sumatra PDF

Adobe Reader may be the go-to PDF reader for many people, but it’s clunky, constantly updating, and frequently targeted by malware peddlers. If you need only basic functionality, go with Sumatra PDF instead. Sumatra lacks the fancy extras found in many full-featured PDF readers, but when it comes to straight-up reading Portable Document Format files, Sumatra PDF is blazing-fast and completely accurate. Oh, and since it’s less ubiquitous than Adobe’s offering, hackers tend to stay away from Sumatra PDF.

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

No. There are paid PDF readers such as Adobe’s Acrobat or Wondershare’s PDFelement. But they offer features that few people need such as the ability to edit PDFs, watermark, and annotate them.

Spotify or iTunes

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

A password manager

The high-profile hack attacks of the past few years have driven home the point: You need strong passwords, and you need a different password for each site you visit. Rather than juggling dozens of alphanumeric codes in your noggin, download a password manager. 

There are several options available, but our favorite freebie is Bitwarden, a no-cost password manager with few restrictions (unlike the free offerings from premium favorites like LastPass and Dashlane). PCWorld’s guide to the best password managers and the best free password managers can help walk you through all the available options.

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

Yes. Password managers are important tools, but you need them on all your devices to be effective and that means paying for the service. LastPass Premium is the cheapest subscription at $24 per year, but there’s also 1Password and Dashlane Premium.

A productivity suite

PCs excel at helping you Get Things Done—but few of them ship with a productivity suite installed. Fix that, stat! Even if you don’t plan to use a productivity suite regularly, it’s smart to have basic editing capabilities available on your computer.

Legions of people swear by Microsoft’s legendary Office; I do, too. But you don’t have to drop big dollars on Office if you don’t need its myriad bells and whistles. Free—and good—alternatives abound, with LibreOffice (pictured) being the flagship free-and-open-source option. The online-only Google Docs also rocks. PCWorld’s guide to the best free Microsoft Office alternatives explains your various options. 

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

Maybe. You can get a lot done with LibreOffice or Open Office, or even Google Docs. But there’s a lot to be said for Microsoft’s subscription service, Office 365, with its added 1TB of OneDrive storage and monthly Skype minutes. 


Macros sure are great in Microsoft Word and Excel, aren’t they? AutoHotKey lets you create customized keyboard shortcuts for any program or action on your PC. It’s not exactly beginner-friendly, as configuring AutoHotKey requires some very basic scripting, which most people will be able to pick up quickly enough. It’s downright magic once you wrap your brain around it though.

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

No. Even if you could pay for a pro version, why would you? But if you like keyboard shortcuts, Vimium is another great free option for adding keyboard controls to your browser.

TunnelBear VPN

Browsing websites and sending private data over open Wi-Fi hotspots is just begging for hackers to capture the details. Virtual private networks secure your connection. If you need to log in to your work website or email at Starbucks, use TunnelBear to keep your data safe. It’s fast, easy to use, and has a straightforward privacy policy, unlike many VPNs.

The free version is limited to just 500MB of data per month, though. 

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

Yes. This is another one where “Hell Yes!” would be appropriate. TunnelBear is great, and we think it’s a trustworthy product, but the 500MB monthly limit is so tiny. There are numerous VPNs to choose from. Check out our roundup of the Best VPNs to find the one that suits you. Our current top pick is ExpressVPN.

Free games!

All work and no play makes Homer something something! Valve’s outstanding PC game marketplace, Steam, makes it easy to shrug off the stress of the workday and blow off some … well, you know. You’ll find tons of free games available on Steam, and games are frequently given away free for a limited time. If you want a steady stream of freebies, the rival Epic Games Store gives way a free game or two every single week.

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

Probably. Free games can only take you so far before you’re left wanting more. Steam, GOG, EA’s Origin, the Epic Games Store, and Blizzard can all satisfy your gaming needs once the free games aren’t enough. 

Bonus: Back up your PC!

This isn’t an official recommendation because the best way to back up your PC for free is to use a hodgepodge of native Windows utilities and no-cost third-party solutions. But backing up your data is so vital—especially in this rising age of ransomware—that it needs to be highlighted here.

If the idea of using a mish-mash of tools makes you wince, check out PCWorld’s guide to the best Windows backup software  for more options. You’re going to need some portable storage to stash your bits on, too. PCWorld’s best external drives roundup can help there.

Is it worth it to upgrade to a paid version?

Yes. The best strategy for backing up your PC isn’t just throwing your files on a hard drive over USB. You also need to have an online backup, and there are many services to choose from such as Backblaze, and Carbonite. Check out our guide to the best online backup services for more details.

Master your Windows PC

Now that you’ve loaded up your PC with the best free software around, it’s time to put Windows itself to work. Head on over to PCWorld’s guide to 10 little-known Windows features that will blow your mind to seize even more control over your PC for the low, low price of nothing.

How To Choose The Best Intrusion Prevention System For Your Needs

Cyber threats pose significant risks to organizations of all sizes, making robust security measures imperative. An intrusion prevention system (IPS) is one critical component in an organization’s cybersecurity arsenal, acting as a vigilant gatekeeper to actively monitor network traffic and prevent unauthorized access and malicious attacks. Choosing the right IPS can depend on everything from whether it is network-based or hosted to how well it integrates with existing systems and how much it costs.

We’ve rounded up the best intrusion prevention systems to help make the selection process less daunting. Here are our top picks:

Here’s a look at how the top IPSs compared based on key features.

Real-Time Alerts Integration with Other Security Systems Type of Intrusion Detection Automatic Updates Pricing

Cisco Secure Next-Generation Intrusion Prevention System Yes Yes Network-based Yes On-contact

Fidelis Network Yes Yes Network-based Yes 15-day free trial

Palo Alto Networks Threat Prevention Yes Yes Network-based and host-based Yes Free trial

Trellix Intrusion Prevention System Yes Yes Network-based and host-based Yes On-contact

Jump to:

Best for comprehensive network security

This highly flexible solution can be easily deployed across different network environments as its open architecture supports Amazon Web Services (AWS), VMWare, Azure, and other hypervisors.

Enhanced visibility with Firepower Management Center

Constantly updated early-warning system

Flexible deployment options for inline inspection or passive detection

Cisco Threat Intelligence Director for third-party data ingestion

Real-time data inputs optimize data security

Easy integration without major hardware changes

High scalability with purpose-built solutions

Expensive for small-scale organizations

Initial integration challenges

Cisco offers free trials for most products, including its IPS, but does not make its pricing readily available. For details, contact Sales Support.

Best for Advanced Threat Detection Response

This specific network defense solution helps prevent future breaches with both real-time and retrospective analysis.

Patented Deep Session Inspection for data exfiltration

Improved response with the MITRE ATT&CK framework and intelligence feed from Fidelis Cybersecurity

Unified network detection and response (NDR) solution for simplified network security

Customizable real-time content analysis rules for proactive network security

Faster threat analysis and improved security efficiency

Deeper visibility and threat detection with more than 300 metadata attributes

Single-view and consolidated network alerts with rich cyber terrain mapping

Complex configuration and setup

High-traffic environments cause network latency

Tighter integration with other tools is required

Fidelis Network offers a 15-day free trial, and will schedule a demo before it to show off the system’s capabilities and features.

Best for Zero-Day Exploits

ML-Powered NGFWs for complete visibility

Customized protection with Snort and Suricata signature support

Real-time analysis with enhanced DNS Security Cloud Service

Latest security updates from Advanced WildFire

Ultra low-latency native cloud service

Combined App-ID and User-ID identification technologies

Customized vulnerability signatures

Complete DNS threat coverage

Overly complex implementation for simple configurations

High upfront costs

Palo Alto Networks offers free trials, hands-on demos, and personalized tours for its products and solutions, but does not make its pricing models publicly available. Contact sales for details.

Best for On-Prem and Virtual Networks

Botnet intrusion detection across the network

Enhanced threat correlation with network threat behavior analysis

Inbound and outbound SSL decryption

East-west network visibility

Both signature-based and signature-less intrusion detection

Unified physical and virtual security

Maximum security and performance (scalability up to 100 Gbps)

Shared licensing and throughput model

Older variants and models still exist

Confusion pricing options

High rates of false positives

Schedule a demo to learn whether Trellix meets specific requirements. The vendor does not make pricing models publicly available; contact sales.

When deciding on an intrusion prevention system, make sure the features and capabilities match specific needs. Key features include the following:

Proactive threat detection and prompt incident response require real-time visibility. Timely alerts help implement preventive measures before any significant damage to the security posture. Advanced IPSs have real-time monitoring capabilities to identify potential vulnerabilities and minimize the impact of security incidents.

Intrusion prevention systems cannot operate in isolation. For the efficient protection of the entire business security infrastructure, they must integrate with other security solutions and platforms for a coordinated response. This also helps with the centralized management of security incidents.

There are mainly two types of intrusion detection: network-based and host-based. While network-based intrusion detection examines and analyzes the network traffic for vulnerabilities, host-based intrusion detection checks individual systems like servers, endpoints, or particular assets.

Automatic updates can help ensure an IPS adapt to the continuously evolving threat landscape of new threats and newly discovered vulnerabilities. They can also help keep pace with changing compliance and regulatory requirements and implement the latest security patches.

Threat intelligence helps an IPS enhance detection capabilities and minimize vulnerabilities with efficient mitigation strategies. With threat intelligence capabilities, IPS solutions access timely and actionable information to develop effective response strategies.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing an IPS:

There are broadly four types of IPS configurations depending on the network environment, security policies, and requirements where they will be implemented: network-based, host-based, wireless, and network behavior analysis system. Multiple configurations can also support complex pathways.

Intrusion prevention systems use different detection techniques to identify malicious activities—primarily signature-based, anomaly-based, and protocol-based. Signature-based detection helps detect consistent cyber threat patterns from a static list of known signatures, while anomaly-based detection can detect abnormalities within normal activity patterns. Protocol-based systems offer the flexibility to set references for benign protocol activities.

Intrusion prevention systems can be integrated using dedicated hardware and software, or incorporated within existing enterprise security controls. Businesses that don’t want to upgrade system architecture or invest in products or resources can rely on managed service providers for security, but an IPS purchased and installed on the network offers more control and authority.

Intrusion detection systems help detect security incidents and threats and send alerts to the Security Operations Center (SOC). Issues are investigated by security personnel and countermeasures executed accordingly. Essentially, they’re monitoring tools. While intrusion prevention systems also detect potential threats and malicious incidents, they automatically take appropriate actions, making them highly proactive, control-based cybersecurity solutions.

Intrusion prevention systems are key to enterprise security as they help prevent serious and sophisticated attacks. Some of the key benefits of IPS for businesses are:

Reduced strain on IT teams through automated response

Customized security controls as per requirements

Improved performance by filtering out malicious traffic

In order to provide an objective and comprehensive comparison of the various IPSs available in the market, we followed a structured research methodology. We defined evaluation criteria, conducted market research, collected data on each solution, evaluated and scored them, cross-verified our findings, and documented the results. Additionally, we considered user reviews and feedback to gain valuable insights into the real-world performance and customer satisfaction of each intrusion prevention solution.

The top intrusion prevention systems all work to protect enterprise networks from the ever-present, always evolving threat of cyberattack, but some stand out for different use cases. Selecting the right one will depend on the organization’s security needs, goals, and budget. Regular evaluation and updates are crucial to staying ahead of evolving threats and ensuring a robust security posture—the right IPS can enhance network security, protect sensitive data, and safeguard a business against potential cyber threats.

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