Friday, March 28, 2008

Lots Of Free PC Utilities

I happen to also be a PC Service Technician (aside from everything else I do for work), and I survive on having the right utilities to service your computer whenever you call on me. PC Magazine is running an article that comprehensively reviews over 90 utilities you can use to tweak your Windows PC. I spent all evening pretty much checking out all the free ones (not evaluation copies) I didn't already have, and I'm quite impressed. Most are small downloads that install cleanly (no need to reboot) and are unobtrusive in your daily computing tasks.

Missing from the list are some on my wish list:
  1. A tool to convert movies from DVD, AVI or YouTube to iPod format easily. My current setup takes all night to rip a DVD - but it works.
  2. Networking tools such as one that can load-balance network bandwidth between multiple NICs on a system. Theoretically, if I use a wireless card and regular ethernet, I should have double the bandwidth, right?
  3. Program backup - a tool that can backup individual programs. Say, if I want to backup my MS Office, this tool should know which files, registry keys, DLLs, etc that are needed so that you can make programs more portable. Something that goes beyond System Restore and regular file-based backup/restore.
  4. A daemon to lock up your registry and startup folders (such as Adaware's Adwatch used to do). I having to manually clean up these areas once in a while.
  5. Optimization tools - anything that'll make your machine run faster.
  6. CD/DVD copyright restrictions cleanup. After a while, DVD players refuse to play encrypted CDs and DVDs because someone thoughtlessly decided that protection by region should be tracked.

Nonetheless, the PCMagazine's list is a good start for someone wanting to milk more from their Windows system. There's just too much stuff out there that perhaps it all couldn't be covered in one article.
My personal favorites from that list:
  • IrfanView = See any image file and most digital videos, convert files to other formats and do some quick editing and annotation.
  • Microsoft PowerToys = Useful tools that don't come with Windows, especially SyncToy, ClearType Tuner, Open Command Window Here, Alt-Tab Replacement, Power Calculator, Virtual Desktop Manager, Taskbar Magnifier, and Webcam Timershot.
  • FreeCommander = Much better than Windows Explorer in controlling your files.
  • QTTabBar = Advanced, tabbed interface.
  • 7-Zip = No more expiration popups from WinZip and Winrar, and it does better zipping up stuff in a variety of formats.
  • TrueCrypt = For those files for your eyes only. I don't think Administrators can get past this. Good for USB thumb drives.
  • TeraCopy = If you are tired of single-file copying or having to start over when something goes wrong.
  • FileZilla = New favorite FTP client. Supports SSL too.
  • ┬ÁTorrent = For the file sharing nerd in you, torrents and many P2p networks are your friends.
  • WinDirStat = Visual statistics of what's on your hard drives.
  • Xinorbis = Even better file statistics of what's on your hard drives.
  • System Information for Windows (SIW) = Their tagline of "everything you want to know about your PC" isn't wrong.
  • Absolute Uninstaller = If you ever want to uninstall multiple programs all at once - instead of one at a time.
  • Undelete Plus = Now you can recover files you didn't mean to delete. Watch for this program's cache, and empty it periodically.
So yea, I'm officially a geek and my computer has never had issues (not).

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