Best free weather apps for Windows computers and devices
Ever hear the old saying "Everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it?" Today, although we still can't change the weather, we have many ways of checking the forecast so we can at least be prepared for what's coming. Every operating system offers a variety of weather apps to suit nearly anyone's needs. After checking out the offerings for Windows 8.1, iOS and Android over the years, I figured that getting similar apps from the new Windows Store would be easy. Mmmmm… not so much. Here's why:
NOTE: The apps shared in this article work both in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1.
Navigating the Windows Store
While the Windows Store under Windows 8.1 wasn't the whippiest, at least you could search for something and stand a chance of finding lots of relevant entries. The Windows 10 Store could most charitably be described as chaotic. Ever try searching on Amazon using something other than "relevance" as your sorting term? Ever notice that you get pages of entries that have nothing whatsoever to do with what you're searching for? Well, then, you know what's in store for you (pun intended) with Windows 10. Here's a screenshot of just part of what showed up when I used "weather" as my search term. Now, I understand that newspapers carry weather reports… but The Economist? Police scanners?
I tried looking for the names of familiar apps and found that some of them were just not available for Windows 10 desktops, like the one I use most often on iOS and Android, Weatherbug (it is available only for mobile devices) or the one many of my friends and family like a lot, Weather Underground (maybe the programmers thought Windows 10 users would associate the name with a bunch of bomb-happy Sixties nutjobs?) Then I tried changing my search term to "weather forecast"
Yeah, guess that wasn't a good search term. .:)
How I chose my favorite weather apps for Windows 10
I only had a few criteria. The app had to be free, have reasonable ratings, had to be in English (although I can read some other languages I am by no means fluent), had to provide useful information and, alas, I had to add "has to actually work" to the list. Several of the apps I tried provided no useful information and some just flat-out refused to run. I don't know how (or whether) these things are vetted by the Windows Store staff, but it's clear that not everything even comes close to being worth the download, even if they are free.
In the end, I did my best and picked some that looked promising out of the few whose language I could understand and which seemed to offer actual weather forecasts. I also chose one that I thought would be amusing and one that is a cautionary tale.
Since everyone's preferences are different, and what would be best for one person would be useless to another, I'm not presenting these as the best apps, and I'm not listing them in any particular order.
1. MSN Weather
MSN Weather comes pre-installed with Windows 10, so all you have to do is pick it from your list of apps (where it is just called Weather). It's a minimalist app that will give you the basics with no frills. You can see the current conditions, a 7 day forecast, details of the day, the moon phase and data like precipitation and wind speed.
The menu on the left side of the screen lets you see a radar map and a graph of historical weather, among other things.
If you want a quick weather forecast and a no-frills look at the radar, MSN Weather is a good choice. And it comes with Windows 10 so you don't even have to wade through the Windows Store to find it.
Download: MSN Weather
2. The Weather Channel
This one's been around for a very long time, as has the Weather Channel website. The app is ad supported and I recommend you to be careful what you click on. And, like the Weather Channel on cable, it often offers video content that has only a very hazy connection to actual weather.
The app opens with a background photo that seems to have nothing to do with the location you set. Still, it's nice nature photography.
However, if you scroll past all the screen mulch, you can get a lot of information.
As you scroll down the opening page you can see hour by hour and day by day forecasts, followed by things like the UV index, pollen count and moon phase. It's a comprehensive and visually attractive page. If you want more, the menu bar on the left offers choices for maps, news and videos (the news and videos are not necessarily weather related). The maps section shows you the radar for your chosen location. You can zoom in and out and scroll the map around if you want.
The Weather Channel is a nicely designed and comprehensive app that offers a lot of information in an easy to understand format. Clicking on the ads and videos is entirely optional, so you don't have to sit through any of that to get the weather information that you want.
Download: The Weather Channel
If you like seeing weather radar maps, this app might appeal to you. That's all it shows (along with ads, which I will have more to say about in a minute). You can look at the entire globe but you have to scroll the map to your exact location yourself. There is no way to set any particular location as a default.
And if there are no weather radar reporting stations in the area you're looking at, you'll just see a nice satellite map and no radar data. For example, Africa and Russia don't have radar, or at least their radar isn't available to the app.
I don't know if it would work this way worldwide, but for me, MyRadaropens up with a map of the USA.
It was a simple grab-and-slide to move the map to the Los Angeles area. If you move your pointer to the left, a zoom in/out bar will open up.
Or to Europe, for my Romanian colleagues' weather. :)
Unfortunately, the ads became more obnoxious as time went on. Open the app after closing it down and you start getting "Message of the Day" which you can't turn off.
And if you should see this particular ad space, do not click on that message icon. It will open up your browser to take you to yet another ad (the people who designed the Accuweather app used this particularly noxious intrusion as well). There is a paid version of the app that removes the ads.
You can zoom in and out as you can with any other satellite map, so you can get a good idea of what kind of weather is headed your way. But that's about it. What you see is what you get.
Within its limitations, MyRadarworks well and is attractive to look at. Being able to look at the entire globe, even without radar data, can keep some people busy for hours. As long as you're able to ignore the ads, of course. It's clear the designers really want you to pay up.
4. 8bit weather
OK, I included this one just for fun. It's a pretty useless app but it's cute. :) What you see is what you get: a classic 8-bit style graphic of a castle with a sky that changes color to tell you whether it's day or night. When you start it, it briefly displays instructions.
The list of locations appears to be pretty comprehensive, at least. Once you do this, an on-screen cursor "types" the word CURRENT at the bottom of the page, which try as I might I could not capture. And you get a little box that shows the current conditions for your location. That's it.
I thought it was amusing, but then again I started out with Commodore 8-bit graphics so perhaps there was a bit of nostalgia coloring my opinion. :)
Download: 8-Bit Weather
I'm including this one not so much as a recommendation but as a caution. It's a well-known name in weather reporting (many newspapers and TV stations in the USA use Accuweather reports) and you may be tempted to pick it based on its reputation. Honestly, I would not advise it. It's the only app that had a separate opening screen that demanded acceptance of its terms and conditions before it would load. A few of the others had an "if you continue then it's the same as if you accepted" notice that is pretty commonly found. But it wasn't a big white pop-up that effectively barred the door.
And it's the only app that would not even load unless you picked a default location.
Once you get into the app you get a minimalistic data screen. You can re-order the tiles that appear on the screen, but when the app is opened for the first time you may see an ad in the center space on the top row. An X sometimes appears in the corner of the ad but clicking it does nothing.
And in the lower right corner? That's just empty space. It doesn't show or do anything. I could not find an option to put a tile there. My guess is that that's where the paid services go if you choose to pay for them (I didn't).
NOTE: The screenshot was taken after I rearranged the tiles, so the ad in the center of the upper row is gone.
The settings screen offers a few choices.
The Purchases tab is self-explanatory. By the way, the screenshot doesn't show this, but if that message icon in the bar at the bottom of the screen starts jumping up and down and flashing at you, don't click on it. It's not a message, it's a link to an ad. Good thing I have an excellent security suite installed, so I could click and find out.
Clicking on the burger menu in the upper left corner just offers an option to change location or sign in with your Microsoft account. I did not sign in because at that point I did not trust the app. So if you want to see Accuweather, in the USA, you might do better to find a local TV station or newspaper that uses its reports.
Download: AccuWeather - Weather for Life
Finding weather apps in the Windows 10 Store is a really iffy proposition. The store's a mess and the search engine's worse. There are a few nice weather apps available but some of the good apps that were available in the Windows 8.1 store are gone or have become mobile-only. Several of the apps I picked for evaluation either gave no useful information or flat-out refused to run. And some app designers clearly do better at ad-supported software than others. It was a disappointing experience all around. Still, there were a few that I felt were worth trying, and since they're free, you can evaluate them for yourself, without risking financial disappointment.
Can you recommend other free weather apps for Windows 10? Please let us know in the comments section below.