By Tracey Capen
Throughout our publishing year, Windows Secrets contributors recommend utilities — some from Microsoft, others from third-party vendors — that help improve our Windows experience.
To wrap up the year, here’s a list of utilities mentioned in the Windows Secrets newsletter. Feel free to pass the list along to friends, family, and coworkers who live in Windows.
As we noted when we published the Oct. 4, 2012, “ultimate utilities list,” most of these apps have been around for years and have proven to be useful, safe, and reliable. However, given the endless variety of Windows configurations, there’s no guarantee that a specific utility won’t have unanticipated effects. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a hundred times: run a full system backup before using any application — Windows cleaners, for example — or making and significant settings tweaks to your system.
Speaking of cleaners, there are very few system cleaners recommended in the editorial pages of Windows Secrets. In fact, Piriform’s CCleaner is possibly the only system cleaner we’ve consistently mentioned. (You can make recommendations or comment about products on this list in the Windows Secrets Lounge. Just click the link at the bottom of this story.)
These days, most utilities have both free and paid versions. Free products are typically limited to personal use or have fewer features. They might also be supported by ads or unrelated software offers — those annoying “potentially unwanted programs” (PUPs). For tips on safely downloading free utilities and other apps, see our June 13 Top Story, “Avoiding those unwanted free applications.” This is another story you’ll want to share with friends and family. You might also give them the Jan. 10 Top Story, “Let your PC start the new year right!” For security, the April 11 Top Story, “A dozen tools for removing almost any malware,” is a must-read.
(Note: We have linked each product to its information/download page online. All products below have been recommended by Windows Secrets contributors.)
When we set up a new PC, here are the first 10 utilities we install.
- Dropbox (free/paid; cloud storage/file synching)
- Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (free/paid)
- Secunia Personal Software Inspector (free; application updating service)
- Piriform CCleaner (free/paid; diagnostics and repair)
- 7-Zip (free; file compression)
- KeePass Password Safe (free; see excellent alternatives below)
- Foxit Reader (free/paid; PDF reader/creator)
- VideoLAN VLC media player (free)
- IObit Start Menu 8 (free; start-menu replacement for Windows 8)
- IrfanView (free; image editor)
- PassMark DiskCheckup (free/paid)
- Paragon Drive Copy 14 Pro (paid)
- Paragon Hard Disk Manager (paid)
- EFD Software HD Tune (free/paid)
- Paragon Alignment Tool (paid)
- Parted Magic (paid)
- CMRR Secure Erase (free)
- GIMP (free)
- Paint.NET (free)
- CodePlex Image Resizer (free)
- Mp3tag (free; music metatag editor)
- PhotoFiltre (free)
- ISO Recorder (free)
- Avanquest PowerDesk Pro (paid)
- Jam TreeSize Free
- Oracle VirtualBox (free)
- Karen Kenworthy’s Replicator (free).
- Microsoft SyncToy (free)
- Microsoft Windows Automated Installation Kit for Windows 7 (free)
- Nitro Pro (free trial/paid; PDF creator)
- TechSmith Snagit (free trial/paid; screen capture)
- NoScript (free; Script blocker for Firefox)
- Metageek inSSIDer (free)
On demand antivirus scanners
- ESET Online Virus Scanner (free)
- Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (free)
- Microsoft Safety Scanner (free)
- Trend Micro HouseCall (free)
Online password checkers
- How secure is my password?
- How big is your haystack? (Gibson Research Corporation; free)
- Password Meter (free)
- Microsoft Safety & Security Centre page (free)
- Fluff Busting Purity (donationware; Facebook tool)