As the maker of Windows XP, Microsoft offers free downloads that can make you more productive as well as add functionality and security to your desktop. Here are 10 of the most interesting Microsoft downloads for XP.

10. Windows AntiSpyware—Still in beta as I write this, Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware effectively prevents spyware from installing on your system. The final release is planned for this year and will be a free download for genuine Windows users. Download Windows AntiSpyware at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx.

9. Malicious Software Removal tool—The Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal tool can remove many well-known viruses and other malware. Updated on the second Tuesday of each month, the tool is available at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=ad724ae0-e72d-4f54-9ab3-75b8eb148356&displaylang=en.

8. Photo Story—Microsoft Photo Story 3 for Windows lets you edit digital photos, create slideshows with narration and music, and burn your slideshows to DVDs. You can download Photo Story from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/digitalphotography/photostory/default.mspx.

7. Debugging Tools—Debugging Tools for Windows is intended primarily for device-driver developers, but it can also be useful for diagnosing systems crashes and dumps. The tools work on Windows 2003, XP, Win2K, and Windows NT 4.0. Download the package at http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/devtools/debugging/default.mspx.

6. Microsoft Java Virtual Machine—One of the most popular links on the Windows IT Pro Web site has is the link to information about how to find support for Java on XP. You can still get the Microsoft Java Virtual Machine (MSJVM) at http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/java. (Microsoft will end support for the MSJVM on December 31, 2007.)

5. Windows Media Bonus Pack—The Windows Media Bonus Pack for Windows XP is a collection of skins, visualizations, and sound effects for Windows Media Player (WMP). The bonus pack includes a tool for converting MP3 files to Windows Media Audio (WMA), a tray control for WMP, and a playlist-to-Microsoft-Excel import tool. You can download the bonus pack at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/bonuspack/default.aspx.

4. Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel—The Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel lets you mount ISO images as CD-ROM devices and comes in handy for installing MSDN software downloads, which are often distributed as ISO images. You can download the control panel at http://download.microsoft.com/download/7/b/6/7b6abd84-7841-4978-96f5-bd58df02efa2/winxpvirtualcdcontrolpanel_21.exe.

3. SyncToy—Microsoft's new SyncToy PowerToy is a revamped and improved version of Briefcase that lets you synchronize multiple sets of folders between two systems. SyncToy can combine files from two folders and can work with Universal Naming Convention (UNC) paths. To download SyncToy, go to http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/digitalphotography/prophoto/synctoy.mspx.

2. Shared Computer Toolkit—If you set up computers that multiple users share, look into the Shared Computer Toolkit. It can help you restrict end-user access to other users' data, clear the desktop settings at logoff, and prevent unauthorized use of installed applications. You'll find the Shared Computer Toolkit at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sharedaccess/default.mspx.

1. PowerToys—My favorite Microsoft download for XP is PowerToys, a collection of useful utilities. I especially like Open Command Window Here, which adds an option to Windows Explorer to display a command prompt in the current directory. To download PowerToys, go to http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx. (If you have a old version of PowerToys that you downloaded before April 23, 2002, you must uninstall the old version before installing the updated PowerToys.)