Best 2010 Windows Utilities and Applications for PCs
I wrote an article late last year here about the open-source and freeware applications that I used on my Windows XP PC (a Dell D620 Duo Core with 4GB RAM and a 100GB hard drive). It is now about time to update this article with what I’m using on my new laptop (a Lenovo W510 with an i7 Quad Core processor and 16GB of RAM). I’m a pretty heavy duty user and along with using Office to write docs and create presentations I do a lot of virtualization with VMWare for my consulting practice, but most of the tools I use to keep my Windows PC running smoothly will work for you as well. With Windows there are a few things you really must do if you time and data are worth anything to you like mine are. These are the “must dos” that I follow and recommend you should too. Below them are the tools you will need to do this so the next time you get a virus or a hard drive crash you aren’t out data, cash, time and customers.
- Run good anti-virus software and a spyware/malware scanner and cleaner.
- Buy the largest USB drive you can afford to do backups and then do your backups.
- Use CloneZilla to make a clean back up your operating system partition when you get a new PC. You never know when you might need to do a bare metal restore. Bare metal restore is the solution of last resort for hardware and malware/virus problems.
- Back up your registry and know how to restore it if you have to do so.
- Back up your operating system when you have all your applications and tools installed and configured (without your data) so you don’t have to reinstall everything if your hard drive crashes or you get a virus that can’t be removed.
- Back up your data to the USB drive on a regular basis. I keep all my data including e-mail in the My Documents folder and I copy it all to my USB drive regularly.
Here is a list of the most useful applications and freeware that I use all the time that would be appropriate for regular everyday users. Most, but not all of them are open source or freeware, but most are well under $100. Thus with a modest investment in tools and time you can have everything you need to keep your PC running smoothly and your data and applications safe. The first thing I always start with is the anti-virus software:
- AVG Free 11.0 – I use this on my Windows PCs and on all my family and friends computers to keep them safe from viruses. http://free.avg.com/us-en/download-avg-anti-virus-free-edition
- Spybot Search & Destroy – This is one of the best free applications I have found to find and kill malware. http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html
- Mozilla FireFox Web Browser – IE is better these days, but FireFox is much more secure when browsing the Web. I use it as my default browser. http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/products/
- Thunderbird E-mail – If you don’t own MS Office or you like open source then Thunderbird is your app – http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/products/
- CloneZilla Live – I used Ghost for years, but just used this on my new laptop and it works great! Download the ISO and burn it to CD and go – back up your hard drive. http://clonezilla.org/
Here are a few more useful tools I keep handy or install on my
- Lavasoft Ad-Aware – Another good anti-malware tool. http://www.lavasoft.com/products/ad_aware_free.php Do NOT run two malware tools at the same time.
- CCCleaner – CCleaner is a system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner and it’s fast (normally taking less than a second to run) and contains NO Spyware or Adware!
- ERUNT & Free Registry Cleaner – Registry Backup, Restore and Registry Optimization for for Windows NT/2000/2003/XP http://www.larshederer.homepage.t-online.de/erunt/
- Partition Magic – This is a great application for managing your partitions on disk, but unfortunately Symantec discontinued it and it only works on Windows XP and earlier. I’m now testing QTParted and GParted LiveCD. EASEUS Partition Master is also a free replacement, but I haven’t had a chance to test it yet. Here is the link to Partition Master. http://www.partition-tool.com/ If you prefer commercial software Paragon, Acronis and Maxtor have commercial disk partitioning software available too and Acronis has a good reputation.
- Deep Burner Free – A good freeware tool for burning data to CD or DVD and for burning ISO images. http://www.deepburner.com/?r=download
- Shields Up! – from the Gibson Research web site, http://www.grc.com/intro.htm , is a great site to test your router’s internet security and I often use their incomparable Spin Rite 6.0 disk utility to keep my hard disks in shape.
Now these tools above are not the only tools that can do the job. They are just what I use or have used and can recommend. There are many more available tools and there are also many free tools, both Windows and Linux, that can be used to perform most or all of the same functions: anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware, disk partitioning, disk imaging and CD/DVD burning. Some tools will work well and others may not. Some will be easy to use and others may be really difficult or not have good documentation. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend or guarantee the freeware and Linux tools will always work properly or are easy to use (but mostly they do), but they are available if you want to try them out. Some may take an expert level of *nix skill to get them to work properly and easily. I don’t use “free” as a criteria to protect my valuable data, however, there are many capable open source and Linux tools that will do the job well. I try to balance how efficient a tool is (how effective, easy and how much time it takes to use) with how much is costs as my criteria on which tool to use. I have had success in the past with Partition Magic and Ghost because they were the first tools of their type for OS/2 and Windows and my employers at the time had purchased them for our use, but I am transitioning to CloneZilla and GParted LiveCD. I will continue to edit and expand this list and will add any open source and Linux tools that I manage to test successfully.
I also use these three open source software packages on my Windows laptop and when I’m on my Linux desktop:
- Ubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx) or 10.10 which is just out
- Linux Mint 9 – easiest of all installs and the best looking out of the box
- CentOS Linux secure server operating system