Sometimes the best tool is the free tool, particularly in today’s economy. In many cases, you can find feature-rich utilities lurking around the Web at no cost—tools that might even put expensive vendor-based solutions to shame. You’ll find many such tools by clicking on the links below.

And remember, at Windows IT Pro, we’re fond of pointing you toward the best tools available, whether those tools cost money or not. But in times like these, as companies downsize and budgets shrink, the overriding benefit of free tools is that four-letter F-word adjective.

Either way, these articles provide a wealth of functionality while saving you a ton of cash. Check ‘em out!

8 Absolutely Cool, Totally Free Utilities
8 More Absolutely Cool, Totally Free Utilities
Yet Another 8 Absolutely Cool, Totally Free Utilities
Douglas Toombs has published three highly acclaimed articles in a series about free utilities of all kinds.

10 Network Security Assessment Tools You Can’t Live Without
Jerry Cochran’s article provides 10 terrific tools for the network admin.

Free Virtualization Utilities
Michael Otey chimes in, “With virtualization technology making deep inroads into almost every aspect of IT, assembling your virtualization toolkit can really help you be prepared to deal with the wide variety of situations that you’re likely to encounter. For instance, what do you do if you want to convert a virtual machine (VM) from Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 to VMware? Or what if you’ve created a Microsoft Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) image, but it’s run out of space and needs to be expanded? I’ve come up with a list of some of my favorite free virtualization tools for working with Microsoft or VMware VMs that can solve these problems.”

Script Writers' Favorite Free Utilities
How about scripting tools? Karen Bemowski says, “The Internet is home to many free utilities that are helpful to scripters. However, finding such tools can be difficult because the Internet is so vast. So, we ran a contest in the September and October issues of Scripting Central to learn about the utilities that you often use and that other scripters might want to know about.” Here they are.

Feel free to share your favorite free tools!