The 2013 ultimate Windows Secrets utilities list


Tracey CapenBy 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.)

The Windows Secrets Top 10 utilities

When we set up a new PC, here are the first 10 utilities we install.

Diagnostics and repair

Total system

Hard drive



Imaging applications

General Utilities

Browser addon

  • NoScript (free; Script blocker for Firefox)

Firewall checkers

  • HackerWatch Probe (free)
  • ShieldsUP (Gibson Research Corporation; free)


On demand antivirus scanners

Online password checkers

Password vaults

Oddball applications

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