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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

2009 Windows Utility Guide

2009 Windows Utility Guide
Check out the biggest collection of time-saving utilities for Windows XP, vista, and even Win 7 ever assembled. The best part? Most of them are free.


Make your Windows desk-
top look like a regular
three-dimensional desk,
complete with piles (repre-
senting fles) you can toss
around or fip through and
walls you can stick things
to. Works with Windows
XP, Vista, and 7. Free; Pro
edition, $29

Minime minimizes all windows to the System
Tray with a single hotkey. Plus it hides them
behind a single icon, which you can then
click for a menu of what’s running. Free

Nimi visuals
This portable app (no installation required,
just run the EXE fle) gives Windows visual
effects similar to those found on Mac OS or
Linux add-on Compiz, including better trans-
parency, sparkles, blurred backgrounds, and
more. Nimi Visuals is fun, albeit not useful,
and best run on very fast systems. Free

Did you fall in love with tabs in your Web
browser? Add the feature to Windows
Explorer and fall in love all over again. Free

Taskbar Shuffe
Portable and simple, Taskbar Shuffe does
one thing: It lets you move around the but-
tons for open applications usually found on
the Windows taskbar. Free

This lightweight, portable app installs a Sys-
tem Tray icon that lists the programs run-
ning on your PC; that’s where you’ll access
them when minimized, rather than on the
taskbar, saving valuable real estate. Free

Give XP or Vista a whole new look. This col-
lection includes WindowBlinds for new skins,
DesktopX for building widgets, DeskScape
animated wallpaper, and more; the Ultimate
version adds ObjectBar for customizing
your desktop and TweakVista, which does
just what it says. $39.95; Ultimate, $69.95

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 Offce 2003. Switch
back and forth from menus to ribbon when-
ever you want. Free; $13.50 for businesses

vista Start Menu
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 sys-
tem tray. Free; Pro edition, $19.99
Right-click the title bar of any window and
you can roll the window inside of it, and do
the same to all open windows at the same
time. Free


BackUp Maker

This simple interface might
make all the difference for
average users saving their
data. It sends fles to another
drive (including USB drives),
a CD/DVD, or an FTP site. It
also handles fle restoration
if you lose something. Works
with Windows 7. Free

Carbonite monitors important files and
backs them up online for future restoration,
should you need it. It also provides remote
fle access, so you can access your data from
any computer. $54.95 per year for unlimited

Cucku Backup
Why back up to extra storage or online
when you can stash fles with friends? This
social-backup tool sends encrypted files
to storage you share on your buddies’ PCs
using Skype’s fle transfer abilities (without
Skype, Cucku handles only local storage).
You, of course, should share back. Free

DriveImage XML
This utility will create a disk image even
while the PC is in use (using Microsoft’s Vol-
ume Shadow Services feature). Later you
can restore a drive entirely, or browse that
image to retrieve select fles. Free

The darling of the world of online sync is
Dropbox: Put all your fles in the My Drop-
box folder and they’re immediately stored
online; set up the software on other com-
puters (even Macs and Linux PCs) and the
fles synchronize whenever changed. Free
for up to 2GB; Pro plan, $9.99 per month or
$99 per year for 50GB

Dimio's Tools
On start-up, your PC looks for the master
boot record (MBR), typically the frst sec-
tor in the frst 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.

Running completely in the background,
MozyHome monitors folders you specify,
and when all is idle on your PC, it backs up
those fles into the cloud. Dead simple. Free
for 2GB; $4.95 a month for unlimited space

OffiSync - Enabling Collaboration
If you’re a big user of Google Docs and Apps
but can’t get away from Microsoft Offce (or
vice versa), OffSync combines both worlds.
Manage and open all your Google Docs fles
from Office apps, and store all new Office
documents online so you can access them
anywhere with Google Docs. Free

SyncToy 2.0
A Windows XP PowerToy that also works
fne with Vista, SyncToy does a good job of
making sure folders on your system are syn-
chronized with their counterparts on exter-
nal drives or network-attached storage. Free
A perennial fave, SyncBackSE is the mid-
range uti l ity in 2BrightSparks’ l ine of
backup tools, complete with fle 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 mul-
tiple CDs or DVDs, try the Pro version. $30;
Pro version, $49.95


Compress fles in ZIP or 7z format (and get
AES-256 encryption), and get support to
compact or unpack formats from CAB to
RAR. Free 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 pro-
gram will compress apps as much as pos-
sible (how much varies depending on the
app) to fit your drive and still function.

SecureZIP Desktop
This Editors’ Choice is all about
the ZIP format, because it’s from the cre-
ators of the ZIP format. It does everything
an archive manager should, such as inte-
grating with MS Offce and Outlook. $39.95

DiSk utilitieS

Why defragment an entire drive? Defraggler
is one of the few tools that allow drag-and-
drop of individual fles or folders for defrag
work. Free for home or business

Easeus Partition Master home Edition
Resize, copy, or create new disk partitions
from within Windows (2000 up to Vista,
32-bit only with Home Edition). It can con-
vert existing partitions from FAT to NTFS
on drives up to 1.5 terabytes in size. Free for
home use

Learn just about every property of fles on
your system when FileAlyzer analyzes them.
Seriously, it’s a lot of info. Free


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 mon-
itors. Free
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. Free

On a big monitor with a lot of screen real
estate, it just doesn’t make sense to run
every application full-screen. MaxTo seg-
ments a display into regions so that you can
easily tile windows as you see ft. It works
with Windows 7. Free

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 Win-
dows 7 are still being worked out.) Free 14-
day trial, then $29.95

Dock windows to the edges of the screen,
and when you resize them with Power-
Resizer, 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. Free

Exposé on the Mac instantly shows you the
desktop, or all your open windows in vari-
ous views, when you invoke a keystroke.
Switcher brings that same function to Win-
dows, and it works with a multi-monitor
setup. The utility runs only on Vista, how-
ever. Free

Give each of your moni-
tors its own Windows
taskbar or wallpaper,
span one long wallpaper
across displays, move
windows to new screens
with a single click, and
more. DisplayFusion is
ready to work with Win-
dows 7. Free

UltraMon is all about multiple monitors: It
adds icons to title bars to make moving win-
dows from one screen to another faster (no
dragging), creates shortcuts that open pro-
grams 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. $39.95
Add up to nine virtual desktops to your sys-
tem, on computers running Windows 98 all
the way up to Vista. Access the other desk-
tops via an icon in the system tray. Free
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. Free


File & Folder Unlocker
A locked file on Windows isn’t encrypted,
but it can be a pain to work with. Unlocker
will change files from locked to unlocked
so you can manipulate them again without
getting errors. Free See also Unlocker

OTFE stands for “on-the-fly encryption,”
and that’s just what FreeOTFE does, cre-
ating 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
fles without installing software. Free

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 deci-
sions like how big the virtual drive should be
(just one fle or the whole hard disk). Free
See also Maintain XP well until Windows 7 arrives

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. Free

erase and delete

Set time limits for folders on your drive and
Autodelete will automatically delete files
that are too old. It’s great for getting rid of
older backup archives taking up space. Free

Darik’s Boot And Nuke
Download DBAN, write the software to a
bootable CD, and then use the disc to com-
pletely and utterly erase the contents of a
hard drive. After that, those files will never
come back. Free

Rather than send an unwanted file to the
recycle bin for “deletion”—where it can
potentially be recovered—this utility securely
deletes the space the fle took up, making it
impossible for you to get it back. Free

Remove duplicate files across your local
and network drives, including pictures and
music. DoubleKiller compares size, name,
date, and content to see what fles may be
a bit too similar. The Pro version supports
multiple languages and can search on extra
criteria. Free; Pro edition, $19.95
Download DoubleKiller Pro


A compact classic dating back to 1996, Irfan-
View can view any kind of image thrown at
it (some video and audio too), plus convert
and edit it. Free See Also Unable to open PSD files in Photoshop

Wondering if that beautiful-looking JPG
fle you’re viewing is an original right off the
digital camera? JPEGsnoop looks at the
metadata inside to see if the file has been
modifed, and if so, how it’s changed. Free

Radical Image Optimization Tool (RIOT)
reduces image size—not the dimensions,
but the actual fle 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. Free

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
specifed. Free


Comodo EasyvPN
Secure the connection between you and
other computers with this simple-to-install
virtual private network. Free for personal

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. $19.95 per
month to access one PC, $29.95 per month
to access two PCs

Leaf for Windows
Get ready for peer-to-peer network shar-
ing, to stay connected to your network on
the road (even through Facebook), share
data with friends, or even set up Xbox
and Xbox360 consoles for head-to-head
games. Leaf’s client is free for Windows,
and coming soon to Linux. Free

LogMeIn hamachi
With LogMeIn Hamachi, you can put mul-
tiple remote computers on a virtual private
network (VPN) so that they all appear to be
in the same building—perfect for remotely
sharing fles. With the free version, one user
can join 256 Hamachi networks, each of
them able to handle 16 users; networks can
handle 50 users if registered with the Pro
version. Free; commercial license, $4.95 per
month per PC


Advanced renamer
There are eight different ways to create
batch-renaming jobs for your files with
Advanced Renamer, including adding extra
characters, changing the case of letters in
the flenames, and changing the fles’ attri-
butes and timestamps; it also supports ID3
functions to work with MP3 audio fles. Free
everything you can imagine doing in Win-
dows, using prearranged keystrokes and
mouse clicks or just about any input button.

Set up macros to automate just about
everything you can imagine doing in Win-
dows, using prearranged keystrokes and
mouse clicks or just about any input button.
Free See also HotKicks ( Hotkey Utility )

This file viewer and Windows Explorer
replacement is portable and relatively
uncomplicated, supporting tabs for multi-
ple browsing sessions to take place at once.

Free Commander www.Free
Get dual panes of data (side by side
or stacked) with this Windows Explorer
replacement, plus features like FTP, tabs,
fi le-renaming tools, and compressed
archive support. Free
Get access to your online files—such as
those in Google Docs or Windows Live Sky-
drive—as if they’re stored locally. Gladinet
mounts the services like network drives that
are accessed from Windows Explorer. Free
(for now)

Portable Snowbird
Snowbird is built for speed as well as porta-
bility (run it from a USB flash drive on any
Windows system). The main window has the
typical tree on the left, breadcrumbs at the
top, and a list of recently visited files—but
what it lacks in features it makes up for in
performance. Free

You want two panes of fle listings, a folder
tree, tabs, and FTP access? That’s just the
beginning with this longtime favorite Win-
dows Explorer replacement. The free version
also comes in a portable version. Pro adds
individual folder settings, “hyperfilters,”
scrap containers, duplicate cleanup, and
more. Free; professional version, $29.95

recover AnD reStore

We all know the Ctrl-Alt-Delete salute to get
out of a borked computer (or to get to the
running processes list and kill an offending
program). But AntiFreeze may offer a bet-
ter way. It waits in the background for trou-
ble, and when called, it displays all running
processes, suspending most without killing
them until necessary. Free

If you closed an application within the last
minute, you can open it up again without los-
ing anything by right-clicking the icon in the
system tray—but only if your PC is already
running GoneIn60s. Free (donationware)

No matter the volume type (FAT12 on up to
NTFS5), UndeletePlus promises to restore
fles you’ve junked but want back. Great fl-
tering makes it easy to fnd one fle among
the many you’ve deleted. Free trial, then
$29.95 per year Download Portable_Undelete_Plus_2.96

Pronounced “recover”
(what accent are they
using?), Recuva has one
goal: to bring back fles
you accidentally trashed
(or that were trashed by
crashes and other errors)
using a simple-to-grasp
interface. Free (donation-

Screen cApture

FastStone Capture
Capture and annotate whatever is on your
screen with this little toolbar, then send it to
a fle, printer, e-mail, Web site via FTP, or to
another application (like Word or Power-
Point). $19.95

Good in any version of Windows from XP
to 7, SiteShoter works with IE to take grabs
of entire Web pages, even the areas you’d
have to scroll because they aren’t visible on
screen. Free

TechSmith (which is also behind Jing, next
page) has upped the price of SnagIt by $10
this year, but this perennial PCMag favorite
is worth the money. Version 9 is completely
rewritten and includes new features like a
live preview, a mini-toolbar (like the one for
formatting selections in Word 2007), an
software stamps you can slap into capture
images. 30-day free trial, then $49.95


Copernic Desktop Search
An old hand at indexing and searching your
fles, 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. Free;
Professional version, $49.99

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. It also comes in a portable version,
and will work with Windows 7. Free

You can do more than take a picture of
your screen and annotate it with Jing;
it will also record video of actions you
take on the computer. Using social
networking to show people how to
do stuff on the PC, it integrates quick
ways to share your captures via IM,
e-mail, or on a blog. Free

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.


A truly green utility, Edison helps
you adjust the power settings and
schemes for XP SP2 and Vista, so
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. Free

Marxio Timer
Marxio Timer can perform any action (or
actions) you preset for a select time, every-
thing from shutting down to logging off to
hibernating to displaying text to running
a program. It can even simulate the press
of a specifc key on the keyboard, or take a
screen grab, or grabs, one after the other.

WinPatrol 2009
WinPatrol does a lot—it is a security monitor
alerting you to changes you may not have
made, and it even 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 ft. Free; Plus edition, $29.95

SyStem cleAnerS

It’s no secret that the first C in this program
stands for “crap,” and that’s exactly what it
goes after, in the browser, the Registry, and
all the other spots in Windows where fotsam
like temp fles and log fles accumulates. Its
creator, Piriform, updates the app frequently
and promises it is malware-free. Free

Little registry Cleaner
Another portable tool for the USB fash drive
arsenal, this app checks the Registry for
unneeded items and cleans them—a must
for tackling your family’s and friends’ com-
puter issues. It also has options for speeding
start-up and creating restore points. Free

Norton removal Tool
Symantec’s Norton products are super-
popular but not always perfect. Getting rid
of one to try a different security suite is so
hard with the built-in Windows tools that
even Symantec had to admit it and built
this tool with only one job: Uninstall Nor-
ton 2003 to 2009, and a few other titles like
SystemWork and Norton 360. Free

SyStem monitorS

Need to know how much
space on your disk is in use,
and what’s using it? Win-
dows Directory Statistics
(WinDirStat) eliminates the
guesswork, providing mul-
tiple views—including some
graphically beautiful color-
coded views—that spell it
out for you. Free

Disk Usage Analyzer
This program does one thing: It creates a list
of all the fles on your hard disks and tells you
which are taking up the most room. Put it to
use when running out of disk space, to quickly
determine what should get tossed, or at least
given permanent berth on a backup drive.

When monitoring performance, your per-
formance monitor should not impact per-
formance. FreeMeter’s 888KB 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. Free; Pro version,

Process Explorer

This extra from Microsoft is a major step up
from the Windows built-in Task Manager,
especially for power users. Rather than just
show processes alone, it also displays han-
dles or DLLs in use by that process. Use the
search to fnd problem areas, or to skip out
to Google and look up what a listed process
does. Once you’ve downloaded it, it’s fully
portable, or you can run it right from the
Web. Free

SpyMe Tools
Sometimes things happen to the Windows
Registry that shouldn’t—such as changes
made by malware. SpyMe dumps a copy of
the Registry from before and after a change,
so you can restore the older version if you
detect something amiss. It’ll also make Reg-
stry backups. Free

You can analyze one folder, one drive, or
multiples—even network drives—in a single
eport. What you get is graphs galore, all of
which can be saved for report comparison
at a later date. Free


Game Booster
Get more out of your game by making it the
most important thing on your computer.
Game Booster will do that by temporar-
ily shutting down background processes,
cleaning up leaky RAM, and giving the
game processor priority. Works with Win 7.

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. Free

XdN Tweaker
It doesn’t offer as many tweaks as the paid
tweak tools, but XdN makes up for it 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 sup-
ports. Free


Filehippo Update Checker
Run this utility once in a while and it will
compare installed apps against the vast
collection at, even against
updates still in beta. The results come up in
a Web page where you can download new
versions to install. Free

Update Notifier
Linux users know the joys of having not only
their OS kept up to date, but also third-party
software that never gets old. Windows
users have to work at that. Update Notifer
helps: When a new version of a third-party
program you’re running becomes available,
it makes it easy for you to download and
install it. Free


PC Decrapifer
If you got a new PC at retail, chances are it
came preinstalled (read: bogged down)
with extra unwanted and unneeded soft-
ware. PC Decrapifier should be the first
item you install, as it knows what to look for
on those PCs and deletes them, en masse.

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.) Free

Revo Uninstaller
Maybe the perfect replacement for Win-
dows’ own uninstaller list, 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 fash drives. Free

Virtual PCs

Portable Ubuntu
Want to try Ubuntu? Install a full-blown ver-
sion of the popular Linux distro as an applica-
tion within Windows. It can even be installed
on a USB fash drive, so it can be your porta-
ble OS—any changes you make to Portable
Ubuntu stick with it. Windows will just treat
it like any other application. Free

Returnil Virtual System 2008 Personal

If you have a system with XP, Vista, or 2003
server, you can mirror it completely on
the same system, entirely in system mem-
ory. Why do that? So your software runs
entirely on the virtualized side. If some-
thing goes wrong, your primary installation
is still okay. It’s a great way to experiment
with software you might otherwise be ner-
vous about. 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. Free for personal use

Source: PC Magazine, July 2009

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