Browse the largest-ever collection of utilities to install on Windows XP and Vista (and, in some cases, even Windows 7) and you’ll find the functions you need at prices you’ll like.
www.bumptop.com Free; Pro edition, $29
Make your Windows desktop look like a regular three-dimensional desk, complete with piles (representing files) you can toss around or flip through and walls you can stick things to. Works with Windows XP, Vista, and 7.
2. Chameleon 2
Feel safe in your cubicle when surfing nonsense and playing time-wasting games. Chameleon quickly hides the apps you predetermine with a Ctrl-Win keystroke combo.
3. Cleandesk Organizer & Desktop Expert
Desktop Expert is a beautified and far-more-functional replacement for Windows Explorer; Cleandesk Organizer ensures your desktop space is spick-and-span, based on rules you set for systematizing icons. Try them separately for free.
4. Clicky Gone
The lightweight Clicky Gone hides apps that are normally found in the taskbar when minimized, either in a menu or using the Clicky Gone icon in the system tray. It comes in a portable version for USB flash drives.
There are lots of widget engines for Windows (from Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft itself), but the prettiest widgets are arguably on the Mac OS. You can still use them on Windows with the open-source Kludgets. It’s still in beta, but the free tool is worth a try if you’re a Machead stuck in a Windows world.
Minime minimizes all windows to the system tray with a single hotkey and hides them behind a single icon, which you can then click for a menu of what’s running. Or try the PCMag.com utility TrayManager, which minimizes apps to a system tray icon and organizes them into categories.
7. Nimi Visuals
This portable app (no installation required, just run the EXE file) gives Windows visual effects that are similar to those found on the Mac OS or the Linux add-on Compiz, including better transparency, sparkles, blurred backgrounds, and more. Nimi Visuals is fun, albeit frivolous, and best run on very fast systems.
www.stardock.com $39.95; Ultimate edition, $69.95
Give XP or Vista a whole new look. This collection includes WindowBlinds for new skins, DesktopX for building widgets, DeskScape animated wallpaper, and more; the Ultimate version throws in tools like ObjectBar, for customizing your desktop, and TweakVista, which does just what it says.
Right-click a file in Windows and you’ll seen an “Open” option; install Open++ and you’ll have options to open a file in any way you can think of. Customize it to the nth degree.
Did you fall in love with tabs in your Web browser? Add the feature to Windows Explorer and fall in love all over again.
If you hate not being able to resize a window (such as a browser pop-up), save your anger. With this utility, you can make sure that never happens again.
Get a closer look at all the special folders Windows usually hides. You’ll see them all in one place; double-click in the list to open the hidden directory of your choice.
Everything online is tagged with keywords these days, and your files under XP and Vista can be as well. TaggedFrog makes it a little easier to tag files, documents, and Web links using drag-and-drop.
14. Taskbar Shuffle
Portable and simple, Taskbar Shuffle lets you do one thing: move around the buttons for open applications found on the Windows taskbar.
This lightweight, portable app lets you dispense with the taskbar altogether by installing a system tray that lists the programs running on your PC; that’s where you’ll access them when they’re minimized, rather than the taskbar.
www.ubit.ch/software/ubitmenu-languages/ Free; $13.50 for businesses
Do you love Microsoft Office 2007, but hate the ribbon interface that replaced the menus of yore? UBitMenu puts the drop-downs back in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, just as they appeared in Office 2003. Switch back and forth between menus and ribbon whenever you want.
17. Vista Start Menu
www.vistastartmenu.com Free; Pro edition, $19.99
Vastly improve the look of the Start Menu in Windows, and get faster access to just about all aspects of the OS, with this replacement menu tool. It’s also accessible from the system tray.
18. Vista Transformation Pack
Transform the look of XP to that of Vista (or Windows 7 using the Seven Transformation Pack) without upgrading. This utility adjusts the boot screen, log-in screen, icons, toolbar icons, and even progress dialog boxes.
Right-click the title bar of any window and you can roll the window inside it, and do the same to all open windows at the same time.
With a quick keystroke of Win-F11, this utility makes the current window go full-screen, discarding the title bar at top to give you even more real estate to play with. (Missing title bars will come back, don’t worry.)
21. BackUp Maker
BackUp Maker’s simple interface might make all the difference for average users saving their data. It sends files to another drive (including USB drives), a CD/DVD, or an FTP site. It also handles file restoration if you lose something. BackUp Maker’s simple interface might make all the difference for average users saving their data. It sends files to another drive (including USB drives), a CD/DVD, or an FTP site. It also handles file restoration if you lose something. Works with Windows 7.
22. Acronis True Image Home 2009
The slickest version of this disk-backup tool to date comes with several advanced features, such as the ability to back up system states (similar to Windows System Restore function) and lets you keep disk changes for a brief period without storing them directly to your system, so you can try out programs without going through a lengthy uninstall process if you decide not to keep them. Read our full review.
Carbonite.com $54.95 per year for unlimited space
Carbonite monitors important files and backs them up online for future restoration, should you need it. It also provides remote file access from any computer.
24. Cucku Backup
Why back up to extra storage or online when you can stash files with friends? This social-backup tool sends encrypted files to storage you share on your buddies’ PCs using Skype’s file transfer abilities (without Skype, Cucku handles only local storage). You, of course, should share back.
25. DirSync Pro
It’s probably obvious that DirSync Pro is short for Directory Synchronize Pro, and that should give you an idea of what the app does. This utility can sync content from one folder to another, say from a hard drive to a USB drive; it’s open source and written in Java, so it runs on all OSs, including Windows, Linux, and Mac.
26. Drive Backup 9.0 Personal
www.paragon-software.com/home/db-personal/ Free 30-day trial, then $39.95
Back up an entire hard drive, or, in this latest version, just select files (like music or documents) and, for recovery from catastrophe, boot from a USB flash drive. Use Drive Backup to restore your XP or Vista setup on an entirely different PC or in a virtual machine.
27. DriveImage XML
DriveImage XML will create a disk image even while the PC is in use (using Microsoft’s Volume Shadow Services feature). Later you can restore a drive entirely, or browse that image to retrieve select files.
Use it to back up hardware drivers, then restore them after a fresh nuke-and-reinstall of Windows. DriverMax will even check for driver updates.
29. Driver Backup! 2
This alternative to DriverMax performs a similar function (backing up all the drivers for your peripherals), but it’s small and portable. Throw it on a USB flash drive; it doesn’t need full installation.
www.getdropbox.com Free for up to 2GB; Pro plan, $9.99 per month or $99 per year for 50GB
The darling of the world of online sync is Dropbox: Put all your files in the My Dropbox folder and they’re immediately stored online; set up the software on other computers (even Macs and Linux PCs) and the files synchronize whenever changed. Read the full review.
Create “fling folders” on your PC and the software will keep them synced between computers, or your computer and a Web site using FTP. Updates happen continuously, whenever a change is detected.
On start-up, your PC looks for the master boot record (MBR), typically the first sector in the first partition of the disk. The MBR reads the partition table that tells your PC where the OS is—it’s essential to booting properly, in other words. Make sure your PC’s MBR is backed up so the PC is always bootable. HDHacker will back up and restore the MBR instantly when you’re in Windows.
33. KLS Mail Backup
You’ve got a lot of important e-mail within Windows Mail/Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Outlook, SeaMonkey, or even Windows Live Mail, right? KLS will back up and restore the messages. It’ll also back up user profiles and bookmarks from IE and Firefox.
mozy.com/home Free for 2GB; $4.95per month for unlimited space
MozyHome runs in the background, monitoring folders you specify, and when all is idle, it backs up those files to the cloud.
If you’re a big user of Google Docs and Apps but can’t get away from Microsoft Office (or vice versa), OffiSync combines both worlds. Manage and open all your Google Docs files from Office apps, and store all new Office documents online so you can access them anywhere with Google Docs.
36. PING (Partimage Is Not Ghost)
Burn this distro to a CD and boot any computer into Linux, where you can make a complete image of the existing hard drive setup, including BIOS data. Since PING recognizes most network cards, you can even write the image to a network drive, not just to a DVD.
This add-on for Microsoft Outlook 2007 adds a button to do exactly that—save all your e-mail attachments from all your e-mails, all at once. This frees up space in your Outlook PST file.
38. Single Click Restore Point
System Restore can put a Windows PC back to rights, but the feature works only if you have a restore point worth using, and making them can be a hassle, especially in XP. This utility (also for Vista and Windows 7) handles that with aplomb, because that’s all it does. And did we mention that it’s portable?
39. SyncToy 2.0
A Windows XP PowerToy that also works fine with Vista, SyncToy does a good job of making sure folders on your system are synchronized with their counterparts on external drives or network-attached storage.
A perennial fave, SyncBackSE is the midrange utility in 2BrightSparks’ line of backup tools, complete with file versioning, smart two-way sync between folders, auto-start at log-in, and more. If you want even more features, like backup to single or multiple CDs or DVDs, the Pro version is $49.95. Or try the very popular PCMag.com utility InstaBack, an easy-to-use, always-on tool for continuous backup coverage.
41. Windows Live Sync
The tool formerly known as FolderShare is now part of Windows Live, but it still does a masterful job of synchronizing files in multiple folders across multiple computers (including—gasp!—Macs).
42. PortableApps.com AppCompactor
If you like running apps from a USB flash drive, but your drive doesn’t have lots of room, turn to the AppCompactor. This program will compress apps as much as possible (how much varies depending on the app) to fit your drive and still function.
Compress files in ZIP or 7z format (and get AES-256 encryption), and get support to compact or unpack formats from CAB to RAR.
44. SecureZIP Desktop
This PCMag.com Editors’ Choice is all about the ZIP format, because it’s from the creators of the ZIP format. It does everything an archive manager should, such as integrating with MS Office and Outlook.
Why defragment an entire drive? Defraggler is one of the few tools that allow drag-and-drop of individual files or folders for defrag work. It’s free for home or business.
Learn everything there is to know about the hard drive(s) in your PC with this utility. It supports the Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) found in most contemporary storage devices.
47. Easeus Partition Master Home Edition
www.partition-tool.com/personal.htm Free for home use
Resize, copy, or create new disk partitions from within Windows (2000 up to Vista, 32-bit only with Home Edition). It can convert existing partitions from FAT to NFTS on drives up to 1.5 terabytes in size.
Learn just about every property of files on your system when FileAlyzer analyzes them. Seriously, it’s a lot of info.
GParted is technically a Linux distro. When launched it has one goal even on Windows systems: to provide full access to hard drive partitions, letting you resize and adjust them as you see fit using a graphical interface.
50. Partition Manager 10 Personal
Windows 7 and 64-bit OSs are ready to get their drives partitioned, resized, and optimized with Paragon Software’s utility. It even defrags.
Give each of your multiple monitors its own Windows taskbar or wallpaper, span one long wallpaper across displays, move windows to new screens with a single click, and get better overall management of your program windows via hotkeys. DisplayFusion is ready to work with Windows 7.
Virtual desktops let you set up several distinct desktops on one monitor, so several apps can run simultaneously but you’re presented with only one piece of software at a time. DeskHedron provides up to nine desktops, with fancy 3D animation when you switch between them.
Why let the cursor stop at the edge of your display? Edgeless lets it wrap from one side to the other, even when using multiple monitors.
Easily unclutter your desktop shortcuts and icons with Fences. It groups the items on your desktop into transparent containers you can hide or unhide at will. Works with Windows 7, too.
On a big monitor with a lot of screen real estate, it doesn’t make sense to run every application full-screen. MaxTo segments a display into regions for easily tiling windows as you see fit. It works with Windows 7.
www.maxivista.com Free 14-day trial, then $29.95
Turn your laptop (or any second computer with a monitor) into a second monitor for your main system. What you’re really doing is controlling as many as four computers on your network using one keyboard and one mouse, to extend your primary computer’s desktop space. (Issues with Vista and Windows 7 are still being worked out, but it works fine with XP.)
Take control of how windows in Windows work. Make sure edges snap together rather than overlap, ‘prevent windows from extending beyond the screen, disable special keys like Insert or the Windows key, and more.
Dock windows to the edges of the screen and when you resize them with PowerResizer, they stay docked. If you put the windows side by side or atop each other, dragging one to resize will also resize the other so they never overlap.
Exposé on the Mac instantly shows you the desktop, or all your open windows in various views, when you invoke a keystroke combo. Switcher brings that same function to Windows, and it works with a multi-monitor setup. The utility runs only on Vista, however.
ThetaWall does more than just change the desktop wallpaper at prescheduled times; it also works with dual monitors and includes a screensaver.
UltraMon is all about multiple monitors; it adds icons to title bars to make moving windows from one screen to another faster (no dragging), creates shortcuts that open programs on the monitor you prefer, and puts separate wallpaper images or screensavers on each display. And there are even more tools to handle all that real estate.
Add up to nine virtual desktops to your system, on computers running Windows 98 all the way up to Vista. Access the other desktops via an icon in the system tray
63. WinSplit Revolution
Split your big screen into multiple smaller “monitors.” Drag program windows around with the mouse while holding Ctrl-Alt to bring up a shaded area—that’s the grid section that the window will snap to when released. If there are multiple targets, pick one with the mouse scroll wheel.
Give Windows an Ubuntu-esque virtual desktop manager. This portable app integrates with the Windows taskbar to provide 4 instant virtual screens, but you can go up to 12. Right-click any open window’s title bar to send it to the virtual screen of your choice.
A disc-authoring tool for CDs or DVDs, ImgBurn can create and write ISO files—the kind you’ll find with Linux distros and other big downloads that run from a disc.
This software works with Windows Vista and 7, not just XP despite the name, to burn CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, even HD DVDs if you’ve got hardware for that format.
Sometimes you download a big AVI file, typically in the DivX codec, and when you try to play it back—nothing. Or you get a few seconds of viewing, then—nothing (that’s worse). DivFix++ rebuilds files so they’ll play back properly.
68. DVDSmith Movie Backup
Believe it or not, it is legal to back up a DVD you own. The sharing part is where the legality grows fuzzy. Any DVD Cloner will make an exact disc duplicate, but DVDSmith is all about copying files to your hard drive, stripped of copy protections that might make them impossible to view on the computer.
Open-source InfraRecorder can record anything you want to a CD or DVD, make a disc image of the same to share, or burn disc images to CD or DVD, of course.
70. Express Burn
www.nch.com.au/burn/ Free; Plus version, $38.20
Express Burn will create CDs—and, with the Plus version, DVDs and Blu-ray discs—chock-full of your favorite audio and video for playback, converting files as needed. Works with Windows 7.
71. Nero 9
PCMag’s pick for all-around disc-creation suite isn’t cheap, but Nero 9 builds in just about every feature you’ll find among individual titles, including Blu-ray authoring, disk image burning, and a lot more. Read the full review.
72. My Lockbox
This utility locks down or hides a special folder, not just from snoops on the same PC (even those with admin privileges) but also from any kind of remote access, all with a single password to protect every one of your settings.
73. Cypherix LE
www.cypherix.com/hide_files_and_folders.html Free; pro edition, $45
Make a virtual drive (called a vault) on your hard drive that holds up to 25MB of data with 128-bit encryption, even on a mobile unit like a USB flash drive. If you buy the Cypherix PE pro edition, the vaults increase to 25GB in size.
74. File & Folder Unlocker
A locked file on Windows isn’t encrypted, but it can be a pain to work with. Unlocker will change a file from locked to unlocked–by finding the process or app holding it open, resetting the file’s attributes, changing permissions, and more—so you can manipulate it again without getting errors.
OTFE stands for “on-the-fly encryption” and that’s just what FreeOTFE does, creating a virtual disk where copied files are instantly encrypted and stored. It’s portable and works on thumb drives, and FreeOTFE has its own Explorer to access encrypted files without installing software.
76. Rohos Mini Drive
Make a hidden partition on a USB flash drive that only you (or someone else with the right password) can access. It’s not limited to portable drives, but that’s where it shines. Rohos has to be installed for the hidden partition to be made visible, but a mini executable can be used on other people’s PCs.
A granddaddy in disk-encryption software, TrueCrypt will encode an entire drive—even a thumb drive—for security in real time. Wizard software provides help with decisions like how big the virtual drive should be (just one file or the whole hard disk).
78. CryptArchiver Lite
www.winencrypt.com/products/winencrypt-cryptarchiver-lite.htm Free; standard edition CryptArchiver
Drag and drop files onto the encrypted virtual drive and they become inaccessible without a password. CryptArchiver Lite uses 128-bit Blowfish encryption; the standard version adds strong 448-bit Blowfish and AES encryption.
Erase and Delete
79. Cyber-D’s Autodelete
Set time limits for folders on your drive and Autodelete will, uh, automatically delete files that are too old. Great for getting rid of older backup archives taking up space.
80. Darik’s Boot And Nuke
Download DBAN, write the software to a bootable CD, and then use the disc to erase the contents of a hard drive completely and utterly. After that, those files will never come back.
Rather than send a file to the recycle bin for “deletion”—where it can potentially be recovered—this utility securely deletes the space the file took up, making it impossible to get back.
www.bigbangenterprises.de/en/doublekiller Free; Pro edition, $19.95
Remove duplicate files across your local and network drives, including pictures and music. DoubleKiller compares size, name, date, and content to see what files may be a bit too similar. Pro version supports multiple languages and can search on extra criteria. Or try the trusty PCMag.com utility Dupeless, which scans your disks and shows all the duplicate files it can find, then deletes, moves, or even ZIPs up the results.
www.codesector.com/teracopy.php Free; Pro edition, $19.95
Windows copies files from place to place just fine, but if you want copying to go faster and wouldn’t mind some neat extras—like pausing and resuming—TeraCopy is what you need.
If you and your friends or coworkers on any platform (even Linux) set up accounts and download the FilePhile software, you can send data back and forth with no limit to file size or quantity.
FileZilla is a fully loaded but absolutely gratis File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client, as professional as they come (though, despite the name, it doesn’t come from the Mozilla folks).
www.netdrive.net Free; $29 for commercial use
You don’t need an FTP client. NetDrive maps an FTP or WebDAV server to a drive letter on your PC, so you can swiftly drag and drop files from Windows as needed.
Add your server information to Rightload and, with a quick right click, it will instantly upload files to the site. It works with FTP and HTTP transfers, as well as services like Facebook and Flickr.
A fave among BitTorrent users, µTorrent handles torrent downloads and uploads quickly and cleanly; the support for RSS feeds makes grabbing files almost automatic.
Three steps are all it takes: Pick a bunch of digital photos, select resize settings, and let it rip. All the images are reduced, replacing the original images or duplicating the source, as specified.
90. EXIF Date Changer
Photos taken with digital cameras get a time stamp, but if the camera’s clock is off, your photo might say it was taken years ago. This utility can adjust the EXIF time stamp on digital images to the second, and does so by the batch.
A compact classic dating back to 1996, IrfanView can view any kind of image thrown at it (some video and audio too), plus convert and edit it.
Wondering if that beautiful-looking JPG file you’re viewing is an original right off the digital camera? JPEGsnoop looks at the metadata inside to see if the file has been modified, and if so how it’s changed.
93. JPEG & PNG Stripper
A lot of data other than the image itself can be stored in JPEG and PNG files. This tiny program strips that data out, leaving the picture itself intact and unaffected.
Radical Image Optimization Tool (RIOT) reduces image size—not the dimensions, but the actual file size. Smaller GIFs, JPGs, and PNGs on Web pages mean faster load times. RIOT will display old and new side by side for comparison.It’s also an IrfanView plug-in.
95. Quick Media Converter
QMC will convert media files in one format to just about any format you can imagine, including some for playback on iPhone, PlayStation Portable, and Zune.
96. Clone2Go Free Video Converter
Bulk-convert video files from one format to another, including WMV, FLV, MPEG-4, AVI, and more. Perfect for making a big downloaded or ripped video ready to run on a handheld player or phone.
97. Direct MP3 Joiner and Direct WAV MP3 Splitter
If you’ve got audio in WAV or MP3 format that you want to split into multiple files, or lots of MP3s you want to combine into one big MP3 (great for ripped audiobooks), this line of products comes to the rescue. The separate Direct Audio Converter and CD Ripper can rip the audio off your disks in the first place.
This ultra-popular, multi-platform, open-source media converter rips and encodes video from DVDs—or just about any video source—to other formats like MPEG-4 or H.264. It converts audio, too.
You’ve got more playlists in iTunes than can be believed… but how do you easily move them to a new computer? iExporter backs up playlists and MP3s to load on your second PC. (It grabs only the MP3s, though, not the DRM-filled AAC files.)
100. iTunes Sync
Sync your playlists in iTunes, both dynamic and static, to any MP3 player—not just iPods and iPhones. In fact, the utility can support multiple MP3 players.
101. iTunes Toolkit
This iTunes add-on makes adding and deleting tracks easier. It even traces dead tracks (those files iTunes can’t find on your hard drive); a future version of the app promises to help fix ’em too.
This is a batch media transcoder for converting video and audio files into different formats. The key word is batch: Let it run on multiple files while you wait.
103. SolveigMM AVI Trimmer
If you’ve got an AVI file of any size that you want to trim down to something manageable—perhaps to make that next viral YouTube clip—this utility cuts out what you don’t want. (Other formats? Try the $40 SolveigMM Video Splitter instead).
104. TCP Optimizer
Even if you don’t know MTU from QoS (check our Encyclopedia for definitions), you can still optimize the speed of your broadband Internet connection. SpeedGuide.net’s TCP Optimizer has an interface that’s easy enough even for newbies; just don’t tweak anything you’re not sure about.
105. Application Access Server
Install Application Access Server on your home computer and you’ll be able to use any Web browser to remotely start (or kill) applications. It uses DynDNS so you can make an easy-to-recall name for your home computer.
106. Comodo EasyVPN
easy-vpn.comodo.com Free for personal use
Secure the connection between you and other computers with this virtual private network that’s a snap to install and set up.
Put CrossLoop on the computer you use and the remote computer you want to control (even on a Mac). Sign up for an account, input the access code, and you’ll soon be sharing screens remotely.
www.gotomypc.com $19.95 per month to access one PC, $29.95 per month to access two PCs
We all know this one: GoToMyPC makes connecting to a PC remotely almost as easy as using it live. Download the free trial to access one PC for 30 days.
109. Leaf for Windows
Get ready for peer-to-peer network sharing, to stay connected to your network on the road (even through Facebook), share data with friends, or even set up Xbox and Xbox 360 consoles for head-to-head games. Leaf’s client is free for Windows, and coming soon to Linux.
110. LogMeIn Hamachi
secure.logmein.com/products/hamachi/vpn.asp Free; commercial license, $4.95 per month per PC
With LogMeln Hamachi, you can put multiple remote computers on a virtual private network (VPN) so that they all appear to be in the same building—perfect for remotely sharing files. With the free version, a user can join 256 Hamachi networks, each of them able to handle 16 users; networks can handle 50 users if they are registered with the Pro version.
www.teamviewer.com Free for non-commercial use
Control any Windows or Mac PC on the Internet, even through firewalls—great for remote support. The remote system needs to run only a tiny executable.
?topic=18189.msg162881 Free (donationware)
If you’re ready to embrace the world of keyboard shortcuts (hotkeys) to get more work done, you’ll want to know what keystroke combos are available to put to use. This utility gives you a list.
113. Advanced Renamer
There are eight different ways to create batch-renaming jobs for your files with Advanced Renamer, including changes to the file’s attributes and timestamp; it also supports ID3 functions to work with MP3 audio files. Or try the PCMag.com File Utility Pack, which wraps three handy utilities (batch renamer MultiRen, list creator FileGrab, and attribute modifier FileTouch) into one easy download.
114. Ant Renamer
www.antp.be/software/renamer Free (donationware)
Windows’ ability to rename files in a batch is pathetic at best, but programs like Ant Renamer take away some of the pain. Drag in files to rename, pick options for the file name and extension, and preview before the changes take effect
Set up macros to automate everything you can imagine doing in Windows, using preset keystroke combos and mouse clicks, or just about any input button. Read the full review.
Macros of otherwise complicated step-by-step procedures are not limited to Microsoft Office. AutoIt will record your actions and play them back on your schedule—or when you click an icon.
Portable and relatively uncomplicated for a file viewer and Windows Explorer replacement, Cubic supports tabs for multiple browsing sessions to take place at once.
118. Free Commander
Get dual panes of data (side by side or stacked) with this Windows Explorer replacement, plus features like FTP, tabs, file renaming tools, and compressed archive support.
www.gladinet.com Free (for now)
Get access to your online files—such as those in Google Docs or Windows Live Skydrive—as if they’re stored locally. Gladinet mounts the services like network drives that are accessed from Windows Explorer.
120. Keyboard Tweaker
How much of your keyboard do you really put to use? With this app running in your system tray, you can do more, by assigning tasks and functions to any number of keys and keystroke combos.
121. Portable Snowbird
Snowbird is built for speed as well as portability (run it from a USB flash drive on any Windows system). The main window of this Windows Explorer replacement has the typical tree on the left, breadcrumbs at top, and a list of recently visited files—but what it lacks in features it makes up for in performance.
zabkat.com/x2lite.htm Free; professional version, $29.95
Two panes of files listings, plus a folder tree to the side? Tabs? FTP access? That’s just the beginning with this longtime favorite Windows Explorer replacement. The free version comes also in a portable edition. The pro version adds such individual folder settings, “hyperfilters,” scrap containers, duplicate cleanup, and more.
migeel.sk/projects/empathy/ Free (postcardware)
You use a password to access many Web sites. Why not on programs? Empathy can prevent anyone from launching Word, an IM client, e-mail software, or any other executable without the right password. Unlock every function by snail-mailing a postcard to the developer —who’s in Slovakia.
124. Keeper Desktop
Compatible with Windows or Mac, Keeper promises military-grade encryption of passwords, log-in info, and other notes, and it syncs via Wi-Fi with smartphones (like the iPhone) running Keeper Mobile. Five incorrect password entries can initiate a self-destruct of your saved data.
125. KeePass Password Safe
Store the passwords for your network log-on, FTP sites, e-mail, and (naturally) all those Web-based services. All are stored in a master database locked with a master password.
www.lastpass.com Free; $1 a month to avoid ads
Store your passwords and other data for filling in Web forms offline; PCMag.com Editors’ Choice winner LastPass requires you to know only one password but enters many others in various sites and services. Read the full review.
Forgot the password that automatically logs you in to your favorite instant-messaging application? This software can extract it from AIM, Digsby, Google Talk, ICQ, MSN/Windows Live, MySpace, Trillian, Yahoo, and other software.
128. Password Safe
www.password-safe.net Free or $4.95
Ready for Windows 7, Password Safe uses 256-bit encryption to store passwords, credit card info, bank codes, and more safely. It comes in a portable version, perfect to take on the road with a USB drive.
www.roboform.com Free; Pro version, $29.95
The Editors’ Choice here at PCMag.com, RoboForm does it all. It saves passwords, fills in Web forms, logs you in to Web sites, encrypts everything it stores, syncs passwords with smartphones, works well with IE and Firefox—and that’s just the start. The Pro version offers unlimited passwords, user IDs, and other data sets. Or try the PCMag.com utility Password Profiler, a similar program for filling in forms and automatically logging you in to sites.
Recover and Restore
www.recuva.com Free (donationware)
Pronounced “recover” (what accent are they using?), Recuva has one goal: to bring back files you accidentally trashed (or that were trashed by crashes and other errors), using a simple-to-grasp interface.
We all know the Ctrl-Alt-Delete salute to get out of a borked computer (or get to the running processes list and kill an offending program), but AntiFreeze may offer a better way. It waits in the background for trouble, and when called displays all running processes, suspending most without killing them until necessary.
132. File Alert Monitor
Get a red alert whenever a file or folder of your choice gets changed or deleted (or a new file/folder is created). Warnings come as a pop-up alert or audio.
www.donationcoder.com/Software/Skrommel/index.html#GoneIn60s Free (donationware)
If you closed an application within the last minute, you can open it up again without losing anything (by right-clicking the icon in the system tray)—but only if your PC is already running GoneIn60s.
Another Linux distro to put on a CD and boot from, this one recovers data after a system crash. It can also partition drives and has a host of system tools for advanced users.
135. Smart Installer Pack
This one utility will install up to 24 of the most frequently installed software tools on a new Windows system, all at once. That includes OpenOffice, Adobe Reader, QuickTime, Adobe Flash Player, Skype, WinAmp, Gimp, Thunderbird, Firefox, Google Chrome, Picasa, and more.
Fix bad or lost partition tables with TestDisk, to make once-bootable disks bootable all over again. If nothing else, it collects disk info you can send to experts who may be able to help.
137. Undelete Plus
www.undelete-plus.com Free trial, then $29.95 per year
No matter the volume type (FAT12 on up to NTFS5), Undelete Plus promises to restore files you’ve junked but want back. Great filtering makes it easy to find one file among the many you’ve deleted.
You can do more than take a picture of your screen and annotate it with Jing. The utility will also record video of actions you take on the computer. For Jing, it’s all social networking to show people how to do stuff on the PC, so the software integrates quick ways to share your captures via IM, e-mail, or on a blog.
139. FastStone Capture
Capture and annotate whatever is on your screen with this little toolbar, then send it to a file, printer, e-mail, Web site via FTP, or another application (like Word or PowerPoint).
Open-source screen grabber Greenshot isn’t particularly green, actually, but it is small (the installer is less than 400K) and includes an image editor for adjusting or annotating captures.
141. Screen Capturer
Put that PrtScn key to use. Screen Capturer uses it to activate and make images you can save to the clipboard or in BMP, JPG, GIF, PNG, or TIFF formats. It will even capture animation of your screen in action in WMV format.
Good in any version of Windows from XP to 7, SiteShoter works with IE to take grabs of entire Web pages, even the areas that aren’t visible on-screen.
www.techsmith.com 30-day free trial, then $49.95
TechSmith has upped the price of Snagit by $10 this year, but the new version of this perennial PCMag favorite is worth it. Version 9 of this screen-capturing tool is completely rewritten and includes new features like a live preview, a mini-toolbar (like the one for formatting selections in Word 2007), and software stamps you can slap into captured images.
Open-source ZScreen will give you many options, like taking pics of a single window, a small selection, or the full screen; it can upload images directly to a Web site or send them to your image editor; and customized naming lets you append time, date, and more to the final file.
Rather than use the anemic search interface built into Windows, use SearchMyFiles to access all the search extras—wild cards, file sizes, date ranges, attributes, and more—on one screen.
146. Copernic Desktop Search
www.copernic.com Free; Professional version, $49.99
An old hand at indexing and searching your files, Copernic continues to look inside 150 different types of files so you can search their contents. Now you can search the Web via the same interface, and even make Copernic a default Web search engine.
For NTFS drives only, this program promises to search, well, Everything, and fast. Really fast. It’s for NTFS format only because it uses the drivers for the hard drive to create its index. Also comes in a portable version, and will work with Windows 7.
148. Google Desktop
Integrate your Web searches with your hard disk searches, throw in a gadget engine for the thousands of widgets available for iGoogle, and you’ve got a four-star product. Read the full review.
149. Index Your Files
Use this portable software to make compact indexes of everything on your hard drives, both local and networked, for fast searches.
If Unix is where you’re comfy, but you’re stuck with Windows, maybe Locate32 will make you feel at home. It databases info about Windows files and folders (just like Unix’s updatedb and locate commands), which makes for fast searches once you’ve indexed the system.
151. Ultimate Windows Tweaker
Ready to tweak Windows 7? So is Ultimate Windows Tweaker, building on the vast array of what it can do for Vista and the IE Web browser.
152. Device Remover
Replace the lackluster Windows device manager with Device Remover and you’ll get a whole new feeling of power over the hardware on your computer. See an in-depth list of all installed devices and drivers—which you can remove en masse, at will. So be careful. Works with Windows 7.
153. Game Booster
Get more out of your game by making it the most important thing on your computer. Game Booster will do that by shutting down unnecessary stuff in the background, cleaning up leaky RAM, and giving it processor priority. Works with Windows 7.
154. nLite / vLite
www.nliteos.com and www.vlite.net Free
Want to customize the installation of Windows options before you even install the operating system? nLite helps you do that with XP, and vLite does it for Vista. Each makes a bootable disk image for future installations, minus the extras—such as Windows Media Player and MSN Explorer—that you don’t want.
155. Photoshop Speedup
Some applications are just so powerful that it’s their nature to run sloooow. Photoshop is such a beast. This speed-up app allows you to disable unnecessary plug-ins, presets, and fonts that may bog it down. It also optimizes memory used by Photoshop. (Check out PDF Speedup to make Adobe Acrobat zing along.)
www.totalidea.com Free; Premium edition (for one year of updates), $36.99
Anything and everything you can imagine tweaking and futzing with in Windows Vista—typically in the Registry—is easily accessible via the TweakVI interface. (Total Idea Software also offers Tweak-XP and a public beta of Tweak-7.) Plug-ins let you add even more tweaks. Take a snapshot of settings to run the same tweaks on other systems.
157. Startup Cop
The first version of Startup Cop was a hit a decade ago; it’s still our most popular program to date, having become the de facto standard in Windows start-up management (if we do say so ourselves). It lets you find out what programs are launching at system boot, and where they reside, then lets you disable or delay those you don’t want to start at boot-up.
158. XdN Tweaker
It doesn’t offer as many tweaks as the paid tools, but XdN Tweaker makes up for that with a price that can’t be beat. It requires Windows .NET to run on XP; .NET is a given with Vista and Windows 7, both of which XdN supports.
A truly green utility? Edison helps you adjust the power settings and schemes for XP SP2 and Vista so that your hard drive, monitors, and CPU all power down after a certain amount of inactivity. It will also calculate how much you’ll save, in money and energy.
It’s the comparison we all make: Who boots faster? BootRacer will tell you the time it takes to reboot a Windows PC.
161. Flash Drive Reminder
Don’t leave your USB flash drive behind. This utility will pop up a warning if the drive is still attached to a system you’re shutting down or logging out of.
162. Marxio Timer
Marxio Timer can perform any action (or actions) you preset for a select time, everything from shutting down to logging off to hibernating to displaying text to running a program. It can even simulate the press of a specific key on the keyboard, or take a screen grab, or several grabs one after the other.
External hard drives are handy and useful, and occasionally infuriating when you find them in automatic sleep mode and you want to access some data quickly. This little bit of code prevents that from happening by writing an empty text file to the drive every few minutes.
164. WinPatrol 2009
winpatrol.com Free; Plus edition, $29.95
WinPatrol does a lot: It’s a security monitor alerting you to changes you may not have made, for starters, and it comes in a (slightly less powerful) portable version. Where it excels is in assisting your Windows system at start-up, delaying or deactivating processes as you see fit.
Security suites are notoriously hard to get rid of entirely—that’s a feature, not a bug, as each suite thinks it’s doing you a favor by digging in its heels. AppRemover eradicates the remnants of McAfee, Norton, TrendMicro, and more—the list seems never-ending—so you can switch to a new security suite. Works with Windows 7.
It’s no secret that the first C in this program stands for “crap,” and that’s exactly what it goes after, in your browser, the Registry, and all the other spots in Windows where flotsam like temp files and log files can accumulate. Its creator, Piriform Ltd., updates the app frequently and promises CCleaner is malware-free.
167. Little Registry Cleaner
Another portable tool for the arsenal on your USB flash drive, this app checks the Registry for unneeded items and cleans them out—a must for tackling your family’s and friends’ computer issues. It also has options for speeding system start-up and creating restore points.
168. nCleaner second
If you’re afraid your Windows Registry is filled with gunk left behind after you’ve installed and uninstalled all of the utilities we list here, try nCleaner. It gives you control over what you erase and what you don’t, and promises it can go deep even into Web browsers to clear up as much as 2GB of unnecessary stuff on the average PC.
169. Norton Removal Tool
Symantec’s Norton products are super-popular but not always perfect. And even Symantec had to admit that getting rid of one to try a different security suite is hard with the built-in tools. That’s why the company built this tool, which has only one job: to uninstall Norton 2003 to 2009, and a few others titles like SystemWorks and Norton 360.
170. Stalled Printer Repair
We’ve all seen it happen: You send a job to the printer, it never pops out, and every job you try to print after that adds to the traffic jam. This portable app automatically takes care of that, purging all the stalled jobs it detects in your PC’s print spooler service.
Need to know how much space on your disk is in use, and what’s using it? Windows Directory Statistics (WinDirStat) eliminates the guesswork, providing multiple views—including some graphically beautiful color-coded views—that spell it out for you.
172. Auslogics System Information
www.auslogics.com/en/software/system-information 15-day free trial, then $19.95
Want information about your PC with you when you’re ready to buy an upgrade? This utility generates a full report on systems running Windows 2000 through Windows 7, whether 32- or 64-bit, which you can read on-screen or print to take on your shopping trip.
173. Disk Usage Analyzer
This program does one thing: It creates a list of all the files on your hard disks and tells you which are taking up the most room. Put it to use when you’re running out of disk space, to quickly determine what should get tossed or at least moved to a permanent berth on a backup drive.
www.tiler.com/freemeter/ Free; Professional edition, $22.95
Your performance monitor shouldn’t impact performance. FreeMeter’s 888K free version fills the bill, looking at drive space, CPU usage, memory usage, system up time, and five more stats; the pro version has 19 different monitors.
175. Kiwi application monitor
Time for a better-looking process and application monitor! Select a process from the Kiwi monitor to get more information, or run the utility in the background to automate tasks and alerts.
176. Process Explorer
This extra from Microsoft is a major step up from Windows’ built-in Task Manager, especially for power users. Rather than just show processes alone, it also displays handles or DLLs in use by that process. Use the search to find problem areas, or skip out to Google and look up what a listed process does. Once downloaded it’s fully portable, or you can run it right from the Web.
This utility from Uniblue scans processes on a PC and compares them to its online database. You get back a report in your Web browser spelling out exactly what you’ve got running, with details no other process scanner can match.
Runscanner calls itself a “startup and hijack analyzer,” meaning it not only checks everything running on your system but also tells you what processes could be problems. Expert mode is for those willing to do some Windows surgery. Users of Beginner mode can submit a report log to an expert and get back a file that Runscanner uses to perform fixes.
www.uderzo.it/main_products/space_sniffer/ Free (donationware)
Get a graphical representation of every file on your computer (called a treemap) delineated by boxes that are big for big files, small for smaller files. You can decrease the number of boxes you see if the interface becomes overwhelming. Portable and ready for use on your USB flash drive.
Check under the hood of your PC with SpeedFan. It monitors data points you may not even realize are important, from the temperatures of your hard disks to the speed of the fans that keep everything from overheating.
181. SpyMe Tools
Sometimes things happen to the Windows Registry that shouldn’t—such as changes made by malware. SpyMe outputs a copy of the Registry from before and after a change, so you can restore the older version if SpyMe detects something amiss. It’ll also make Registry backups.
182. System Information for Windows
www.gtopala.com Free; Technician’s version, $69
The fully portable SIW—it could even run from an old-school floppy disk—will spy inside your PC and tell you things you didn’t know about your own computer, including passwords from your browser; product keys and licenses; and the kind of motherboard, CPU, drives, and RAM you’re using. And that’s just the beginning. It works with Windows 7, and all the way back to Windows 98.
You can analyze one folder, one drive, or many—even network drives—in a single report. What you get is graphs galore, all of which can be saved for report comparison at a later date.
tinyspell.m6.net Free; tinySpell+, $10
Not all applications have a spell-check feature, but tinySpell handles that function for them. As in Word, it tells you as you type if something appears misspelled. The tinySpell+ version even checks text for spelling errors as you copy it to the clipboard.
Frequent cutting and pasting of formatted text can lead to annoyance when the formats become garbled. This app monitors your clipboard and removes all formatting from whatever it sees—even HTML tags (if you want it to)—so you paste only clean, unformatted text. Or try the PCMag.com utility ClipTrak Pro, a clipboard manager that lets you organize your clips, edit and spell check them, and more.
www.phraseexpress.com Free for personal use; $50 for commercial use
PhraseExpress runs in the background, looking for predefined typed text (for example, “sig”) and then replaces it with whatever snippet of copy you want, be it plain text or a full helping of HTML. It can run off a USB flash drive, so your text replacements are available on any PC.
The fine folks at Lifehacker built their own text-substitution tool to share with the world. It supports wildcards for inserting data like the current date and time. If you turn on the instant-replacement feature, you don’t even have to hit space or return. Texter now has a universal spelling autocorrect feature, just like Word’s, but it works in every application.
188. Zilla PDF to TXT Converter
www.pdfzilla.com/zilla_pdf_to_txt_converter.html Free; PDFZilla, $29.95
Stick a big batch of Adobe Acrobat files into this tool and it will extract all the ASCII it can find and spit out plain text files. The $29.99 PDFZilla product (Zilla’s big brother) converts to other formats, including HTML and Word.
189. Revo Uninstaller
Maybe the perfect replacement for Windows’ own uninstaller, Revo chucks programs with the usual built-in uninstall routine but follows up with a check of the hard drive and the Registry for anything left behind. It comes in a portable version for USB flash drives.
190. Absolute Uninstaller
A far more powerful uninstaller than the typical Windows control panel, Absolute will clean up after deleted programs that leave bits of themselves around the Registry and your hard disk.
AppLocker doesn’t get rid of applications, but if, for example, you can’t uninstall one, or you just don’t want someone else to get access to one, the utility can prevent it from running.
192. The PC Decrapifier
When you get a new PC at retail, chances are it came preinstalled (read: bogged down) with extra unwanted and unneeded software (read: crapware). The PC Decrapifier should be the first item you install, as it knows what to look for on your new PC and how to delete that stuff en masse.
193. Remove Empty Directories
Afraid you’ve got a bunch of empty folders on your Windows system? You won’t have them after this utility has its way. (Just don’t delete any temp directories needed by your other programs.)
194. Secunia Personal Software Inspector
Keeping apps up-to-date is important because older software can have security holes. This inspector checks specifically for programs that may leave you exposed.
195. FileHippo.com Update Checker
Run this utility once in a while and it will compare installed apps against the vast collection at FileHippo.com, even against updates still in beta. The results come up in a Web page where you can download new versions to install.
196. Update Notifier
Linux users know the joys of frequent updates, not just in an OS that’s kept up-to-date but also third-party software that never gets old. Windows users have to work at that. Update Notifier helps: When a new version of a third-party program you’re running becomes available, the utility makes it easy for you to download and install it.
www.virtualbox.org Free for personal use
Install open-source VirtualBox on just about any OS that runs on x86 chips (even Mac, Linux, and OpenSolaris) and you can run a “guest” OS inside it—including those above plus Windows NT, 2000, XP, Vista, and 7. It’ll even load a 64-bit OS inside a 32-bit host OS.
198. Parallels Workstation
A venerable virtualization tool, Parallels runs other operating systems inside Windows, and now vice versa with Ubuntu and Fedora supported as host OSs. The $79.99 Parallels Desktop 4.0 is also popular for running Windows inside the Mac OS.
199. Portable Ubuntu Remix
Want to try Ubuntu? Install a full-blown version of the popular Linux distro as an application within Windows. It can even be installed on a USB flash drive, so it can be your portable OS—any changes you make to Portable Ubuntu Remix stick with it. Windows will just treat it like any other application.
200. Returnil Virtual System 2008 Personal
www.returnilvirtualsystem.com/returnil-virtual-system-personal Free for personal use
If you’ve got a system with XP, Vista, or 2003 server, you can mirror it completely on the same system, entirely in system memory. Why do that? So your software will run entirely on the virtualized side. If something goes wrong, your primary installation is still okay. It’s a great way to experiment with software you might otherwise be nervous about.
With a motto like “trust no program,” you know Sandboxie is ready to protect you. An isolated sandbox for running programs, it protects against malware, makes for truly secure Web browsing, and improves privacy because temp files and cookies can’t write to your main OS.
202. Virtual Sandbox
Run programs in the virtual sandbox to stay safe. They’ll work just fine but won’t have full access to the real operating system’s services. This protects the OS if you want to try something unique; programs in the sandbox can’t even erase files from your drive, only from the virtual environment.