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This is the fastest, safest way to install free Windows apps

Originally posted on zdnet.

A simple, open-source Windows tool lets you skip the tedious process of downloading, installing, and manually updating apps. Meet the Winget command-line utility.

Ask a longtime Windows user to share their biggest frustrations about the operating system, and you’ll probably get an earful about the headaches of installing and maintaining apps. And for good reason!

For starters, it can be a challenge to find trustworthy downloads. If you’re not paying close attention to the results in your search engine, it’s easy for a malware author to trick you into clicking a link on a copycat site that installs the app you wanted plus a little something extra. In recent years, this type of search poisoning campaign has been brutally effective at targeting people who are using Google to try to find popular apps like Zoom, TeamViewer, and VLC Media Player.

Even if you find a legit download, keeping that app up to date can be a hassle. And if you miss an important security update, you can find yourself vulnerable to malicious intruders.

If you’d like to reduce the risk of encountering those scenarios and generally simplify your Windows app management burden, allow me to introduce the Windows Package Manager, aka Winget.

All my Linux-centric followers are doing double-takes right now. Wait, a package manager for Windows? Isn’t that a Linux thing?

Well, yes. In case you haven’t noticed, Microsoft has gotten serious about open source in recent years, and one of the results is the Microsoft Community Package Manifest Repository. That’s a trustworthy, properly vetted collection of installer files that can be managed with the help of an open-source command-line tool called Winget.

How Winget works

Winget works with all currently supported versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11. Yes, you’re going to have to open a command prompt, such as a PowerShell session or a Cmd.exe window, to use Winget. But it’s shockingly easy, once you get proficient with a few basic techniques. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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