Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Installing Windows XP using a USB Flash Drive

Removable flash memory sticks are pretty much one of the most handy little pieces of technology to come along in the last couple of years. They come in various shapes and their storage size can range from a measly 128 MB to a whopping 32 GB. And you’re not restricted by what you are able to put onto these devices either. Which got me thinking today. I am regularly installing fresh copies of Windows onto new built PCs, so I look for any way to increase the speed at which my work gets done without compromising quality, of course.

So I thought, with the speed of flash drives today, it could be possible to install Windows XP onto those PCs in a much faster time than with optical media (CD/DVD). Plus with all the motherboards I use, I always make sure that the motherboards support booting from USB as it’s a very handy feature. So I decided to look into the various guides that can be found on the Internet. Originally meant for the EEEPC, I found a guide that I was able to understand. Because of the way it was written it took me longer than 10 minutes to understand the whole procedure and I’m sure the average geek would be completely confused before they had reached the second line, simply because of the total lack of explanation on the part of the guide’s creator for those who do not usually do this kind of thing.

Anyway, as with all guides, you have to realize that there is a certain amount of risk involved with the procedures I am about to give you details for and that you use this guide at your own risk; I will not be held accountable for any damages done to your hardware if something should go wrong. It will involve the use of the command prompt and it has the possibility of damaging your flash drive. Although I believe that the chances of that happening are quite slim, there is always the possibility, so I thought I would warn you before you decide if you’re going to use my guide. Now with the pleasantries out of the way, let’s get down to business. There is some preparation needed before we can start this procedure. First off you need to make sure you have the following available to you:

1. An unmodified, legal copy of Windows XP Home or XP Professional
2. USB memory stick (2 GB recommended - 1 GB minimum)
3. A motherboard that is capable of booting from a USB drive (check your motherboard manual if not sure)

As long as you have all three points above met, then you are ready to start. Just so you know, in this process your USB flash drive will be formatted, so do not use a USB that contains data vital to you. As for a motherboard that is capable of booting from a USB drive, most modern motherboards offer this as a standard feature. If your motherboard is less than two years old, chances are that the motherboard you have supports this feature.

Okay, now we have made sure that your computer is capable of installing XP from a USB disk. The next thing we need to do is to download and extract three tools that are going to help us in this procedure. You can find download links to these files below:

1. usb_prep8
2. PEtoUSB
3. Bootsect

I suggest you download these files directly to the root of your hard drive. In other words save them to a folder on the same drive that contains your operating system — for most people this will be the C: drive. Once they are all downloaded, go ahead and extract PEtoUSB and USB_Prep8 to separate folders. Once this is done you should take the contents of the PEtoUSB folder and copy them into the USB_Prep8 folder. Once this is done, you should go back to the root of your drive and extract Bootsect to the root of the drive (program files and Windows folder is stored in this area). We do not need to worry about the Bootsect program for now, however that is simply preparation for later. And as another matter of preparation I suggest you insert your Windows XP CD, create a folder on the root of your drive, name it XP, and then copy the contents of your Windows XP CD into that folder as you will need these files soon.

Okay, now that all the preparation is out of the way, we’ll start the process. It will take on average about 20-25 minutes to complete this process depending, of course, on the speed of your PC and of the USB stick you are going to be using. I must warn you now that you should NOT close any of the windows generated by the programs I am showing you how to use until you reach the point in this guide when I tell you to do so. This is quite important because, if you happen to close any of the following windows, it is possible that you can screw up the procedure and you will have to start again. With that out of the way, as long as you follow the instructions below, everything will run smoothly.

1. Go into the folder named USB_Prep8 and double-click the following: (usb_prep8.cmd)
2. Make sure you select the newly created command prompt window and click any key to continue
3. A new program is started (PeToUSB). Do not change any of the settings; just click start and let it run
4. Once PeToUSB is finished, DO NOT CLOSE any of the windows the program created
5. Go to your start menu and click run if you’re using the classic start menu
6. Enter the following command into your run window: (CMD)]
7. Once you have run that command, a new window will appear with the words command prompt
8. Provided that you have used the file setup I suggested, input the following: ( cd \bootsect )
9. Type in the following: ( bootsect /nt52 :R ) Replace R with the drive letter of your USB drive
10. You will see the message (Bootcode was successfully updated on targeted volume) if it worked right
11. You may NOW close all the windows except for the window that was created when you ran USB_Prep8
12. Providing you closed all the right windows, the USB_Prep8 Window will now contain seven options
13. Press 1 on your keyboard — this will bring up a window. Locate your XP folder and highlight it. Click OK
14. Press 2 on your keyboard — the program will ask for a unused drive letter (example: T or Z)
15. Press 3 on your keyboard — the program will ask for your USB Stick drive letter; enter it now.
16. Press 4 on your keyboard to start the USB_Prep8 process
17. The program will ask you if it is OK to format a drive contained in the letter you gave in #14; click yes
18. The program will start to copy the needed files; be patient
19. The program will then ask you if you wish to copy these files to the USB stick; click yes.
20. Finally, once it has finished copying the files, it will ask you if you want to make the stick the preferred boot drive. Click yes, after which it will ask if you wish to un-mount the USB stick. Click yes

And that’s all there is to it. The USB flash drive is now ready to install XP to any hardware that is supported by the Windows XP CD. However there are some minor differences to installing Windows XP this way than if you would with an optical drive, which I am going to go into. Of course, as I have said before, the speed at which Windows XP installs is MUCH faster when installing using a USB stick than if you were using an optical drive (CD/DVD). But the speed comes at the price of you needing to pay a little more attention to the install itself. Now from this point on, I am going to assume that your motherboard does in fact support booting from USB and that you have gone into your BIOS and have set the USB flash drive as the first drive to be booted from (make sure the flash drive is connected before you turn power on — it helps). I cannot give a generic answer to where that option is in your BIOS; I suggest you look up in your motherboard’s documentation.

Providing it boots from the USB flash drive, you will now be shown two options. One with the words GUI and one with the words Text Mode. Choose the Text Mode option first. Now you will see what you normally would see during a CD install of XP. Just follow the on-screen instructions as always. One note is that, if you need to create a new partition for your new Windows XP installation, once the partition is fully formatted, instantly turn off the PC as the install will need to be restarted so the flash drive can recognize the layout of your partitions correctly. Follow the instructions below:

1. Create a new partition and format it as normal
2. Once the partition is formatted, restart your PC and when the options come up again choose Text Mode
3. Highlight the newly formatted partition, press enter, move down to make no changes, and press enter

Okay, now after that all goes through and the PC restarts, simply chose the GUI option on the menu and let the Windows XP install go along as it would normally do. I must advise that you DO NOT REMOVE the USB stick until you’re actually past the setup stage. Once you have just booted into Windows XP for the first time, you can go ahead and remove the USB stick. Congratulations! You have just installed Windows XP without the need for a CD/DVD drive.

The benefits of installing from USB are plentiful and, providing you take the time to follow the instructions above, you need never worry about scratching your Windows XP CD again. I hope that the time I spent writing this guide will help you all to decrease the amount of time you spend having to install Windows XP when you have to. Peace!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Saving Drivers Before Reformatting

DriverMax (Windows 2003/XP/Vista)

DriverMax is a new tool that allows you to download the latest driver updates for your computer. No more searching for rare drivers on discs or on the web or inserting one installation CD after the other. Just create a free account, log in, and start downloading the updates that you need.

You can also export all your current drivers (or just the ones that work ok) to a folder or a compressed file. After reinstalling Windows you will have everything in one place!

Most of the situations when Windows is running slower are caused by faulty driver installations. Windows stores all versions of older drivers just in case you want to go back; sometimes it messes up older versions with more recent ones. The Export Wizard will only export the drivers you select by copying the needed files to a folder or a compressed ZIP file.

After reinstalling Windows all drivers will be back in place in less than 5 minutes - sparing you of searching, inserting disc after disk and losing precious time. The Import Drivers wizard allows you to install all the drivers that you exported earlier. The entire operation might take up to 5-10 minutes.

Just one single computer restart will be required after all drivers are reinstalled!

DriverMax is able to display a complete report of all drivers (versions, release dates) installed on your system. This feature can also be very useful when you want to analyze the differences between the drivers installed on different machines.


Registry Edits for Windows XP

try this...


How to Remove bar311.exe, password_viewer.exe, and pc-off.bat

Bar311.exe virus or winzip123 includes the following files: bar311.exe, password_viewer.exe, and pc-off.bat.

The pc-off.bat contains the syntax "C:/path/shutdown -s -f -t 2 -c" which automatically shutdown your computer when you run the cmd.exe or command.

To remove:
(Manual removal)

1. Run the task manager by clicking Ctrl+Alt+Del or right click on the task bar and click task manager.

In the Process tab click on the following and click end process button:
password_viewer.exe or bar311.exe or

2. Edit the registry by clicking Start then Run then type regedit then press enter or ok. The registry editor should appear.

In the registry editor you can see the following:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon]

"Userinit"="userinit.exe,bar311.exe" -> remove ", bar311.exe" only.

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced]

Delete the following by pressing delete or right click then click delete...




[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Command Processor]

"autorun"="c:\Windows\pc-off.bat" -> remove
"c:\Windows\pc-off.bat" or delete the autorun key

3. On your flash disk or thumb drive right click the thumb drive icon and click on open or on the navagation toolbar just type the thumb drive ex. f: or e: to avoid triggering the autorun.inf then delete autorun.inf and password_viewer.exe or bar311.exe.

4. Open notepad and type this following;

@echo off

del /a /f c:\Windows\bar311.exe

del /a /f c:\Windows\password_viewer.exe

del /a /f c:\Windows\

del /a /f c:\Windows\pc-off.bat


save this as a batch file, any name with a .bat extension ex. delete.bat

in saving the file, on the save as type instead of Text Documents (*.txt) change it to all files before saving the batch file.

The Connection with the Server was reset.

FTP Folder Error - The connection with the server was reset

I/O Error - Connection reset

Event ID 10 - User administrator at host x.x.x.x has timed-out after 120 seconds of inactivity

Symptoms: When trying to access Windows FTP server, you may have following situations.

1. You receive “FTP Folder Error – An error occurred opening that folder on the FTP server. Make sure you have permission to access that folder – The connection with the server was reset” if you use Internet explorer in a PC.

2. You receive I/O Error - Connection reset.

3. The server Event Viewer lists ID 10 - User administrator at host x.x.x.x has timed-out after 120 seconds of inactivity.

Resolution: 1. For PC users, uncheck Use Passive FTP. To do that, open IE>Tools>Internet Options>Advanced, uncheck Use Passive FTP (for firewall and DSL modem compatibility).

2. For Mac users, select Active (instead of Passive).

3. In the server side, try to turn on TCP port 20 and 21 in your router/firewall.

Hope it works.

Baby Ran EP4

RAN Online is campus-based MMORPG, which features schools (Mystic Peak, Sacred Gate and Phoenix) vying to become the best of the best. Players can choose to become the sword-wielding Swordsman, the melee fighter Brawler, the bow-brandishing Archer, and the Qi-Gong expert Shaman.

Previously, these job classes are gender-bound, meaning one can only create a male Swordsman/Brawler and a female Archer/Shaman. In the recent game patch called “The Rebirth”, this limitation is now a thing of the past. Players can also do better in the game with the assistance of the RAN Pets, who can perform specific skills.

Another latest addition in the game is the inclusion of the Hover Boards, which makes traveling easier, not to mention that players look cool wearing the Hover Suit as well.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

URL Shortcuts

Do you want Friendster, Yahoo, Google, Youtube and other Web Sites that you always access be part of your Desktop Icons.

So that you can easily access them if you need them the most.

Tried with Internet Explorer.
Also works with Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.

Here's how:

Open your Internet Explorer.
Open your desired Web Site. e.g.
Add your desired Web Site ( to Favorites.
Open your Favorites Center Window.
Locate your newly added Website.

For Internet Explorer 6.
Right click the icon( then click "send to" then "Desktop (create shortcut)".

For Internet Explorer 7.
Right click the icon( then click copy.
Go to Desktop, right click, then click Paste(shortcut).

Or Simply Drag the Icon to your Desktop. (much easier)

That's it. Now you can access your favorites websites easily on your desktop. You don't need to open your web browser then locate your favorite web site to your list or you don't have to search it's URL on the address bar.

for Mozilla Firefox 3.
It's just the same, bookmarked is the word used in lieu with favorites in IE.
So explore!!!

link(home): ^_^

Crazy Kart (PH)

Info About the Game
Level Up! gets ready for Crazy Kart!

How does the country's leading online gaming publisher, Level Up!, always manage to keep itself ahead of all the other local gaming companies? By tuning up the online gaming industry and boosting its line-up with some turbo-charged new titles like Crazy Kart!

The arrival of Crazy Kart to the Philippines is the result of the recent partnership made by Level Up! and Shanda Interactive China - the developer of Crazy Kart.

In Shanghai China, Shanda is the most successful Internet gaming company; operating 15,000 network servers in 65 cities of China. Last year, Shanda has earned $74 million in sales and is even expected to reach $100 million for this year. Shanda also has the biggest market capitalization as a Chinese Internet company - at $2.6 billion!

The company is co-founded by a Chinese entrepreneur -- Chen Tiangiao -- who is also branded as one of China's wealthiest men. Worth $1.6 billion, Chen has a sense for growing technology trends. Although he admits that he's not into gadgets and doesn't even consider himself as a techie, Chen knows how to tap into the business of online games: by providing players high quality games and excellent service.

As a product of Chen's philosophy, more and more Chinese players are now enjoying many hours of playing games developed by Shanda.

And now, Filipinos will also able to experience a part of Shanda's success with one of its award-winning games, Crazy Kart.

As the newest casual game ever to grace Philippine shores, Crazy Kart is an online kart racing game that will surely create a breed of racing fans among Pinoy gamers. The game features unique racing karts which players can customize its appearance as well as modify its performance; colorful avatar drivers with different characteristics or personalities; and fun, challenging race tracks where players can master and compete other drivers in every lap after lap.

And to make Crazy Kart's arrival even more exciting, Level Up! also plans to further localize the game according to the taste of Pinoy gamers. Imagine, players will someday have the option to race familiar vehicles like the Pinoy jeepney or even race on famous Philippine locations.

Level Up! will begin the beta testing for Crazy Kart very soon. And with games like this just around the corner, it's no wonder that Level Up! will always be ahead of everybody else!

PC Requirements

Processor: Intel Pentium 4 2.5 GHz
RAM: 256 MB of RAM or above
Video card: 128MB Video Card
OS: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
HD Space: 700MB HD Space
Internet Connection Speed: DSL


Speed Test is a broadband speed analysis tool that allows anyone to test their Internet connection. Ookla provides this service for free to anyone curious about the performance of their connection to and from hundreds of locations around the world. Whether you test just for fun or you really need to certify and validate the true speed of your Internet connectivity, is the place to be. You can view all of your historical results, share them easily, and even compare them to others in your immediate area or around the globe.

Our technology is used to perform over one million tests every day, making it the world-wide standard in bandwidth testing. is owned and operated by Ookla, a team of technology veterans who believe the Internet should always be an open network for the exchange of ideas and information across town and or around the globe. itself experiences over twenty million tests every month providing unparalleled global broadband statistics. At no cost, anyone can use our World Results section to browse top bandwidth speed by country, or narrow down statistics to very specific locations. If you require more detailed information on global broadband statistics please contact us. We can provide raw data or specialized reports on either a one-time cost or subscription basis. Join the many governments, universities, and corporate organizations that have utilized data as a unique resource.


Universal Drivers for Windows 98/2000/2003/ME/XP/Vista

No more need to spend hours on-line browsing for drivers .
Just pop the Universal Driver CD in
and Windows (98, 2000, 2003, ME, XP, Vista) will automatically search the comprehensive drivers.

This CD, (Iso format) contains software drivers for over
50,000 & 100,000 hardware components
from brands such as Dell, HP, Compaq, IBM, Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic,
as well as hardware component manufacturers Intel,
3Com, VIA, nVidia, ATI, SoundMax, and many more...

How to compile into ISO file:

Extract rar files, you will get multiple folders and files just save them on a single folder.

Burn everything with Nero or any burning software as data.

How to use this?

All you have to do is:

Windows XP:
Right click "My Computer" and go to "Device Manager".

Windows Vista
Right click "My Computer" then "Properties" then click on "Device Manager" on the upper left side of the information window.

At the Device Manager, when you see a device with a yellow Question Mark beside it (meaning No compatible Driver available), right click the Question Mark and click "Update Drivers".

A window will popup asking if you want to install automatically and connect to the internet and the other option is if you have a cd/driver of the said device.

Click on the second option so that Windows will automitacally search and install compatible drivers from your cd/dvd.

Note: It is best to scan the ISO file from possible malware.

50,000 drivers for Windows XP

100,000 drivers for Windows, 98, 2000, 2003, ME, XP, VISTA

Bear Share

BearShare is a file-sharing program that lets you find, download, share, and publish audio and video files. An ever-growing community of millions of registered users ensures quick location and download of virtually any type of file available on the P2P network. With the power of the Bearshare network you can listen to and download songs that are 100% legal. Our service is endorsed by the key players in the Music Industry. Bearshare 7 allows you to explore and experience the power of the Bearshare network where you can access millions of songs and a great music community instantaneously. With Bearshare 7 you get: instant connections, a powerful search engine, and great tools to share and experience music including, playlists, unique compilations and great mood music.


Rapid Library

Too much time is wasted in looking for your desired software?

Worry no more.

try this one...

Disclaimer :
1. Rapidshare search engine does not host any of the files and/or software displayed on this site.

2. ONLY indexes the files which are located on remote servers, which have no connection with / control of / association with.

3. This site is not affiliated with or other Rapidshare sites with different tld. is a Rapidshare search engine that searches sites, forums, message boards for Rapidshare file links.

4. We are just a SEARCH ENGINE, but we respect an Copyright Laws. So if You have found the link to an illegal file, please report it to Us webmaster[AT] We will remove it in 24 hours.


Limewire Pro 4.9.30

What is LimeWire?
LimeWire is a fast, easy-to-use file sharing program that contains no spyware, adware or other bundled software. Compatible with all major platforms and running over the Gnutella network, LimeWire's open source code, is freely available to the public and developed in part by a devoted programmer community. LimeWire is offered in dozens of languages and is available in LimeWire BASIC, a free version, or LimeWire PRO.

Why Should I Use LimeWire?
LimeWire is the fastest, easiest, most advanced file sharing program available and it's completely free of spyware, adware and any other bundled software. Find out more about LimeWire's features.

For the ultimate Lime experience, LimeWire PRO features access to optimized search results, faster downloads, free updates and personalized technical support for up to six months. Get your copy of LimeWire PRO today.

What's new at Lime Wire?
Lime Wire is introducing a filtering system to encourage safer, more responsible file sharing. Copyright owners interested in blocking their files from being downloaded, uploaded and shared are invited to learn more and register here. LimeWire users can learn more about responsible file sharing in Copyright Information.


Ran Online (PH)

RAN Online

RAN Online is campus-based MMORPG, which features schools (Mystic Peak, Sacred Gate and Phoenix) vying to become the best of the best. Players can choose to become the sword-wielding Swordsman, the melee fighter Brawler, the bow-brandishing Archer, and the Qi-Gong expert Shaman.

Previously, these job classes are gender-bound, meaning one can only create a male Swordsman/Brawler and a female Archer/Shaman. In the recent game patch called “The Rebirth”, this limitation is now a thing of the past. Players can also do better in the game with the assistance of the RAN Pets, who can perform specific skills.

Another latest addition in the game is the inclusion of the Hover Boards, which makes traveling easier, not to mention that players look cool wearing the Hover Suit as well.


Cabal Online (PH)

Cabal Online

CABAL Online is a free-to-play MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game) with numerous intriguing quests and exhilarating missions weaved to form intricate plots that engage players and portray them as heroes.

Intuitive and user friendly, CABAL removes entry barriers for first-time gamers and late-starters. With its exciting blend of adventure gameplay and arcade action, the visually stunning game serves a wide offering of time-limited dungeons, blazing action scenes and perplexing in-game puzzles to keep players on the edge of their seats, wanting more!


Cabal Nation Private Server


Try this one...

Cabal Online
CABAL Online is a free-to-play MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game) with numerous intriguing quests and exhilarating missions weaved to form intricate plots that engage players and portray them as heroes.

Intuitive and user friendly, CABAL removes entry barriers for first-time gamers and late-starters. With its exciting blend of adventure gameplay and arcade action, the visually stunning game serves a wide offering of time-limited dungeons, blazing action scenes and perplexing in-game puzzles to keep players on the edge of their seats, wanting more!

We do hereby release Cabal Nation beta private server !

So as we open new world of Cabal Nation Beta Server to all players we'll giving away free Nation War costume on the first time players would choose their nationality per account.

Cabal Nation provides players to maximize the players' characters' needs in-terms of in-game needs and provides also security in-terms of in-game cheat activities and disallowed illegal third-party programs in order to maintain fair gaming.

This server also provides good in-game compensations ,like the server descriptions below :

- 100% Working Craft
- 100% Working Dungeon
- 100% Working NPC
- 100% Working Tierra Gloriossa
- Max Drop : 3x
- Alz Bomb : 2x
- Mithril / Forcuim Drop : Enabled upto 3 slot!!! *
- TierrBase Character Reset System
- Built-in own security system (KIRA JUSTICE SYSTEM)


- Platinum User
- 4 Inventory Slots
- All Map Codes


Macrium Reflect Free Edition

Macrium Reflect Free Edition. An award winning disk imaging solution for free. A complete disaster recovery solution for your home and office. Protect your personal documents, photos, music and e-mails. Upgrade your hard disk or try new operating systems in the safe knowledge that everything is securely saved in an easily recovered backup file. Macrium Reflect supports backup to local, network and USB drives as well as burning to all DVD formats. This version is for personal non-commercial use only.

Note: Cloning software for free. ^_^

link: reflect.rar

Deep Freeze Standard

Faronics Deep Freeze helps eliminate workstation damage and downtime by making computer configurations indestructible. Once Deep Freeze is installed on a workstation, any changes made to the computer—regardless of whether they are accidental or malicious—are never permanent. Deep Freeze provides immediate immunity from many of the problems that plague computers today—inevitable configuration drift, accidental system misconfiguration, malicious software activity, and incidental system degradation.

Deep Freeze ensures computers are absolutely bulletproof, even when users have full access to system software and settings. Users get to enjoy a pristine and unrestricted computing experience, while IT personnel are freed from tedious helpdesk requests, constant system maintenance, and continuous configuration drift.

Balancing Security with Productivity

Deep Freeze is the only solution that effectively balances workstation security with user productivity. By mapping user and application data to a Thawed (unprotected) partition or drive, users are able to store their documents, pictures, music, etc., while still enjoying the total system consistency that Deep Freeze offers.

Flexible Resiliency

Deep Freeze offers flexible scheduling options that enable IT administrators to easily create automated update and maintenance periods. Schedule Deep Freeze to allow system and virus definition updates to occur from predefined times—either with the Deep Freeze Enterprise Console or using your preferred third-party desktop management solution.

Note: More user friendly than enterprise. And works for single pc users.


Winrar v3.71, Decompress RAR and ZIP archives

WinRAR is a powerful archive manager. It can backup your data and reduce the size of email attachments, decompress RAR, ZIP and other files downloaded from Internet and create new archives in RAR and ZIP file format.


Deep Freeze Enterprise

Deep Freeze is the standard in bulletproof disk protection Deep Freeze instantly protects and preserves baseline computer configurations. No matter what changes a user makes to a workstation, simply restart to eradicate all changes and reset the computer to its original state - right down to the last byte. Expensive computer assets are kept running at 100% capacity and technical support time is reduced or eliminated completely. The result is consistent trouble-free computing on a truly protected and parallel network, completely free of harmful viruses and unwanted programs.

Building on the power of Deep Freeze Standard, Deep Freeze Enterprise offers centralized deployment and enhanced flexibility options for customizable management of large computing environments.

Security and Control
Encrypt all components with a unique Customization Code
Preset multiple passwords to be used on a workstation or via the Command Line Control with varying activation and expiration dates
Generate encrypted One Time or One Day Passwords
Disable keyboard and mouse during maintenance periods or on demand
Boot Control window provides ability for immediate reboot

Configuring Options
Create customized installation files using the Configuration Administrator
Pre-select Frozen Drives and selectively Freeze or Thaw fixed drives
Schedule automatic Restart/Shutdown times
Restart computer on Logoff
Schedule idle shutdowns or restarts after a preset length of time that the workstation has been inactive
Schedule Thawed Maintenance periods to perform Windows updates through the Internet or a SUS/WSUS server or run a custom batch file to update your antivirus definitions
Schedule Send Message tasks

Flexibility Options
Create a ThawSpace on a workstation that can be used to store programs, save files, or make permanent changes
Specify the size and file system of the ThawSpace (up to 100GB using NTFS)
Use Stealth Mode to hide the Deep Freeze system tray icon
Override ongoing maintenance periods

Interoperability Options
Use Deep Freeze Command Line Control Utility (DFC) to manage Deep Freeze deployment remotely via command line interface
DFC included in Workstation/Seed installations
Integrate Deep Freeze protection into any Desktop Management Solution capable of executing command line control
Manage Deep Freeze protection through the LANDesk� native console with Deep Freeze plug-in for LANDesk�
Enhanced Novell compatibility during Maintenance

Action Files
Create XML-based Deep Freeze Action Files to interact with other programs via the Deep Freeze Console
Administrators will be able to create, edit, download and share Action Files with other users through Faronics Labs

Enterprise Console
Schedule restart, shutdown, Wake-On-LAN, Freeze, Thaw and Thaw Locked tasks dynamically to take place once or on a regular basis
Scheduled tasks run even when Deep Freeze Console is closed
Change maintenance and restart/shutdown schedules on the fly
Power-on workstations using Wake-on-LAN technology
Use Workstation Seed for workstation communication and installation
Manage workstations easily with User Defined Groups
Quickly populate multiple groups or sub-groups with smart automatic filters or import groups from Active Directory
Update all pre-existing installation files automatically
Invoke system maintenance on demand with �Thaw Locked� mode

Expanded Network Options
Communicate with workstations over a LAN, WAN, or combination
Support for multiple ports
Instantly send notification messages to workstations
Check for software updates and upgrade Deep Freeze installations on demand with the most recent releases

Powerful and secure, Deep Freeze is a robust software solution that offers protection and security for all computing environments.


Free Software Security List

Freeware Antivirus
Antivir Personal Edition Classic
avast! 4 Home Edition
AVG Free
BitDefender Free Edition
McAfee VirusScan Plus – Special edition from AOL

Online Antivirus Scanner
BitDefender Online Scanner
Computer Associates eTrust Antivirus Web Scanner
ESET Online Scanner
F-Secure Online Scanner
Panda ActiveScan
Trend Micro™ HouseCall

LiveCD Antivirus
Avira AntiVir Rescue System
F-Secure Rescue CD 3.00
Dr. Web LiveCD

a-squared Free
Ad-Aware Free
Comodo BOClean

Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware
Spybot - Search and Destroy
Windows Defender

Host Intrusion Protection System
Dynamic Security Agent
Online Armor Free
System Safety Monitor Free Edition

Comodo Firewall Pro
Jetico Personal Firewall 1.0
Kerio Personal Firewall 2.1.5

Outpost Free Firewall
Sunbelt Personal Firewall
Sygate Personal Firewall
Webroot Desktop Firewall
ZoneAlarm Free

Avira AntiRootkit Tool
F-Secure BlackLight
McAfee Rootkit Detective
Panda Anti-Rootkit
Sophos Anti-Rootkit
Trend Micro Rootkit Buster


P2P Security
PeerGuardian 2

HOST file
MVPS Host FIle

Specialized Malware Removal Tool
Malware Removal
McAfee Stinger
Norman Malware Cleaner
Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool

Web Security and Content Filtering
K9 Web Protection
McAfee® SiteAdvisor

Other files
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1 Best Free Web Browser
2 Best Free Anti-Virus Software
3 Best Free Adware/Spyware/Scumware Remover
4 Best Free Browser Protection Utility
5 Best Free Firewall
6 Best Free Trojan Scanner/Trojan Remover
7 Best Free Rootkit Scanner/Remover
8 Best Free Intrusion Detection Utility
9 Best Free Anonymous Surfing Service
10 Best Free Software Suite
11 Best Free File Manager
12 Best Free Email Client
13 Best Free Web Mail Accessory
14 Best Free Clipboard Replacement Utility
15 Best Free HTML Editor
16 Best Free Spam Filter for the Average User
17 Best Free Spam Filter for Experienced Users
18 Best Free Popup Stopper
19 Best Free Desktop Search Utility
20 Best Free Digital Image Viewer
21 Best Free Digital Editor
22 Best Free Digital Photo Organizer
23 Best Free Notepad Replacement
24 Best File Archiver/Zip Utility
25 Best Free Hotkey Utility
26 Best Free Registry Cleaner
27 Best Free BitTorrent Client
28 Best Free FTP Client
29 Best Free Bookmark Cleaner
30 Best Free Folder Synchronization Utility
31 Best Free Screen Capture Utility
32 Best Free Search Toolbar
33 Best Free Download Manager
34 Best Free Web Site Ripper
35 Best Free Download/Upload Meter
36 Best Free TCP Settings Tweaker
37 Best Free File Cleaner
38 Best Free Resource Meter
39 Best Free Sticky Notes Utility
40 Best Free Secure Erase Utility
41 Best Free Registry Editor
42 Best Free Process Viewer
43 Best Free System Information Utility
44 Best Free Search and Replace Utility
45 Best Free Outliner
46 Best Free Rename Utility
47 Best Free Digital Image Stitcher
48 Best Free PDF Writer
49 Best Free File Comparison Utility
50 Best Free Paint Program
51 Best Free Time Correction Utility
52 Best Free Startup Manager
53 Best Free Wi-Fi Network Finder Utility
54 Best Free NFO Viewer
55 Best Free Data Recovery Utility
56 Best Free Remote Access Software
57 Best Free PIM
58 Best Free Windows Driver Backup
59 Best Free Program Un-installer
60 Best Free Internet Accelerator
61 Best Free Windows Toolbar Backup
62 Best Free Encryption Utility for Personal Use
63 Best Free CD Catalogue Organizer
64 Best Free File Encryption Utility
65 Best Free Drive Encryption Utility
66 Best Free Non-Adobe PDF Reader
67 Best Free Disk De-fragmenter
68 Best Free Dictionary/Thesaurus Utility
69 Best Free Spell-Checker
70 Best Free Audio Editing Software
71 Best Free Web Form Filler/Password Manager
72 Best Free File Un-delete Utility
73 Best Free Outlook Express Backup
74 Best Free Outlook Add-in
75 Best Free Timesheet Program
76 Best Free CD Recovery Utility
77 Best Free Application Minimizer
78 Best Free Parental Filter
79 Best Free Route Tracer
80 Best Free Browser Scrubber
81 Best Free Instant Messaging Client
82 Best Free Video Editor
83 Best Free CD Ripper
84 Best Free Video Conversion Program
85 Best Free Reminder/To-Do Program
86 Best Free CD Burning Software
87 Best Free Notes Organizer
88 Best Free Virtual Desktop Manager
89 Best Free Duplicate File Detector
90 Best Free Program Launcher
91 Best Free Streaming Media Recorder
92 Best Free Backup Program
93 Best Homebrew Beer Software
94 Best Free Boilerplate Text Manager
95 Best Free Drive Imaging Program
96 Best Free RSS Reader/Aggregator
97 Best Free Project Manager
98 Best Free Memory Testing Utility
99 Best Free Software Cataloging Utility
100 Best Free Web Site Link Checker
101 Best Free Internet Business Guide
102 Best Free Program Scheduler
103 Best Free Tray Clock Replacement

1 Best Free Web Browser

Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) is a competent browser with enough features to meet the needs of most users but is difficult to recommend due to on-going security concerns. In the past IE has been a focus for security attacks and there is little to suggest this will change with the release of IE7. Additionally, Microsoft have a poor track record for speedily fixing IE defects and this has left users open to drive-by attacks and other forms of zero-day exploits.

There are several excellent alternatives with the new Mozilla Firefox V2 [1] a solid first choice. It's safer than IE, so safe in fact that many users have reported no spyware infections since they started using the product. It's also browses a tad faster than IE, is very stable and is more standards compliant. The program loads slower than IE but once running, it positively zips along. With tabbed browsing and over 2000 free extensions (add-ons) that allow you to customize your experience, it provides most users with a major surfing upgrade. Firefox is now my everyday browser though I still leave IE on my PC for the occasional web site that's designed around IE's non-standard features.

An equal first choice is Opera [3]. It's a speed demon; probably the fastest of all the common browsers. But it's much more than that; it's full featured, standards compliant and safe. Just as Firefox is extensible through add-ins, Opera can be enhanced using Widgets, though there are not nearly as many of these available as Firefox extensions. Then again, it doesn't need as many extensions as a lot of the features added by Firefox add-ins are already available built into the standard Opera browser. There's just so much to like about Opera V9 that you could easily create a case that it's better than Firefox. Indeed, if I could get an Opera replacement for some of my key Firefox add-ins, I'd probably switch.

Users who don't want to drift too far from the Microsoft stable can get some of the feature advantages of Firefox and Opera by using one of the many customized shells for Internet Explorer such as Maxthon [4] and Avant [5]. Their main selling feature for these products used to be tabbed browsing but now that this is available in IE7 it's hard to create a case for their general recommendation. Still if you need a specialized feature they are worth considering. On the downside these shells share most of the same security problems as IE as they utilize the IE engine.

Last but not least is the K-Meleon browser [6], a slimmed down cousin of Firefox that's optimized for Windows. Of the four browsers I use regularly on my different PCs, K-Meleon is the quickest loading and along with Opera, the fastest for surfing. On the downside there are only a limited number of add-ons and plug-ins available so you are pretty well limited to the features available in the standard product. If you are the type of person who prefers performance to bells and whistles you should definitely try K-Meleon.

[1] (5.6MB)
[3] (4.6MB)
[4] (1.9MB)
[5] (1.86MB)
[6] (6MB)

2 Best Free Anti-Virus Software

There are three equal recommendations in this category. First there is AVG Antivirus 7 Free Edition. This product [1] has been continuously refined since it was first released in 1991 and the recently released V7.5 makes further improvements to an already solid product. Additionally, it's relatively small, light on resources, has regular automatic updates and handles email scanning. There is a free and a pro version, the only difference being that the free version has a few non-critical features disabled and has no direct technical support.

Equally effective is the free Avast! scanner [2] though its funky media player style interface is not to everyone's taste. Avast! also required periodic re-registration while AVG does not. However Avast! does not seem to suffer the signature file update problems that plague some AVG users.

My third choice is the AOL Anti Virus Shield [3]. This is a cut down version of the top rated Kaspersky AV and is being made available for free to all uses not just AOL members.

On first sight it seems like an unbeatable deal but it's not quite what it seems. This really is a "lite" version. It lacks the important html and heuristics modules present in the full Kaspersky product so the protection afforded against hostile web sites is actually inferior to AVG and Avast!. Gone, too, is the ability to create rescue disks and to fully manage the quarantine area. The configuration options are also more limited.

That said, AOL Anti Virus Shield still offers more powerful malware detection than AVG and Avast! . It does however need to be augmented by other products to improve protection again hostile sites and zero-day threats. Possible candidates would be a sandbox for surfing (see section 4) and an anti-spyware product with strong real time protection (see section 3).

Both AVG and Avast! are excellent free products that will meet the needs of most users. However neither offers the best malware detection available. That title belongs to commercial products like NOD32, F-Secure, the full version of Kaspersky AV and others. They are however capable packages and offers the financially challenged a real alternative to the major anti-virus suites.

However if you use these free products in conjunction with a free on-demand scanner, you can achieve a level of detection approaching that of the best commercial products. Further improvement is possible by creating a layered defense using additional free security products such as AVG Anti-Spyware (formerly Ewido).

On-demand scans should be run regularly, at least weekly, to check for viruses and other malware that may have been missed by your main scanner.

If you don't use AOL AVS as your main AV product then this should be your the top choice as an on-demand scanner as its detection is outstanding. You should though, disable the AOL AVS real time monitor otherwise you may run into conflicts with the monitor on your primary AV product.

Another top recommendation for an on-demand scanner is AntiVir Personal Edition Classic [4]. It offers significantly better detection rates than either AVG or Avast! but the lack of email scanning precludes recommendation as a primary scanner. However as an on-demand scanner, it's first rate. If you use it in this role, make sure you disable its resident virus guard during installation to prevent it interfering with your main AV scanner. Even so , it's quite an intrusive product -you will certainly be well aware of its presence. Note that the recently released V7 unfortunately introduces a time limited license though apparently this will be renewable.

Yet another good option for on-demand scanning is the free version of the commercial AV product BitDefender [5]. It's a first class product with outstanding detection rates but as the free version lacks an email scanner and a resident virus guard, it's only really suited for use as an on-demand scanner rather than your main AV product. There are some other limitations as well. First it has an annoying habit of detecting malware products that have been quarantined by other security products and you can't exclude these areas from subsequent scans. Secondly, it is only available on a one year non-renewable license.


[1] (16.0MB)
[2] (8.8MB)
[3] (13.9MB)
[4] (8.7MB)
[5] (13.2MB)

3 Best Free Adware/Spyware/Scumware Remover

A couple of years ago most folks relied on SpyBot Search and Destroy and Ad-Aware for spyware protection. Alas spyware has evolved so quickly that these once outstanding products are no longer up to the task of providing primary protection though they remain useful as secondary, on-demand scanners.

The new generation of malware requires a new generation of defensive products. Such products need to provide stronger active protection and broader spectrum detection. The best anti-spyware programs, WebRoot SpySweeper and Spyware Doctor are both commercial products but there are two capable free products that I can recommend.

The first is Microsoft's Windows Defender program [1] which is currently available as a free beta. Defender is the latest re-incarnation of the excellent Giant Antispyware product that Microsoft purchased late in 2004. Based on my tests, Windows Defender is not as effective as its immediate predecessor but still has solid protective capability. I tested it on several drive-by download sites and its multiple real time monitors provided reasonable (though by no means watertight) defense. It appears to be a little vulnerable to polymorphic malware in particular and for this reason I suggest it should be used in combination with regular on-demand scans from the free AVG Anti-Spyware. My other reservation about Windows Defender is that it consumes quite a lot of your processing power. If you have a modern PC this should not be a problem but older machines will definitely suffer a performance hit.

Note that you need a legal version of Windows XP SP2 to run this program. I've been told cracked versions of Defender that will run on any XP SP2 PC are currently circulating on the P2P networks but I'd approach those with caution. The idea of a cracked security program strikes me as an oxymoron.

My second choice is Spyware Terminator. Unlike Windows Defender it works with all versions of Windows so it's the stand-out choice for Windows 9x users. It's no slouch either. Like Windows Defender it has strong active protection. Indeed with its built in HIPS system that warns you of any unrecognized intruders, it has stronger protection against unknown threats than the Microsoft product. This was confirmed on some tests I ran on drive-by download sites where Spyware Terminator proved to be impregnable.

Spyware Terminator has it's own spyware detection engine but gives you the option of using a second engine based on the Open Source ClamWin anti-virus program. ClamAV is not the most effective AV scanner on the market but it's certainly competent and the additional protection can only be a plus.

On the downside Spyware Terminator is slow to scan and can slow down your PC a tad though not as much as Windows Defender. I've also heard reports that support via the free forum is poor.

Choosing between Windows Defender and Spyware Terminator is not easy. As of today I thing Spyware Terminator has the edge but it's difficult to see how free product like this can remain viable, particularly in a high support product class such as anti-spyware.

[1] ( 6.4MB)
[2] (2.3MB)

4 Best Free Browser Protection Utility

There's a scumware plague at the moment. All it takes is a visit to a pushy web site or a "loaded" shareware install and next minute your Internet Explorer homepage has been changed, your default search setting altered, unwanted ads pop up on your screen and worse.

If you use Windows 2000 or later my top recommendation for safe browsing is a free program called Sandboxie [1] that creates a special contained "sandbox" environment on your PC. While browsing within the virtual sandbox provided by Sandboxie you are totally corralled off from other parts of your PC. So any files you download are isolated to the sandbox. Similarly, any programs that are executed only do so within the sandbox and have no access to your normal files, the Windows operating system or any other part of your PC.

Usage is remarkably simple. To start a sandboxed browsing session you just click the Sandboxie icon from the Quick Launch tray and this will launch your default browser in the sandbox. You can then use it in the normal way to browse to sites or download files.

If you downloaded a file it will install normally but again will be corralled off from your real PC. Anything it writes to your hard drive, any changes to the Windows Registry or changes to the Windows startup will be held in a separate area within the sandbox. Similarly, any new processes running in your computer memory will be sandboxed.

After you have finished browsing you can right click the Sandboxie icon and delete all sandboxed files and processes and your PC will be returned to the same state it was in before the browsing session. If you want retain particular downloaded files you can save them permanently before clearing the contents of the Sandbox.

The advantage is clear: any spyware, trojans, keyloggers or other malware products that infected your PC while browsing will be eliminated.

Sandboxie works fine with all browsers but requires Windows 2000 and later. It can cause problems on some PCs so backup before installing.

Users of earlier Windows versions may want to check out SpywareBlaster [2]. It's is not a sandbox but rather is a program that changes some settings in your computer to help prevent an initial infection. It provides protection against thousands of malevolent products that use ActiveX based exploits, block hostile sites and discards unwanted cookies as well. SpywareBlaster is most effective with Internet Explorer but can be used with Firefox as well. though this may be overkill as Firefox doesn't need to be protected against ActiveX exploits. Once it has changed your setting SpywareBlaster doesn't really need to continuously run on your PC other than to provide automatic updates. These can however be initiated manually. SpywareBlaster is free but the update service costs $9.95 annually.

A companion program to SpywareBlaster is SpywareGuard [3] that provides active protection. It is a monitor that checks programs before they are run for malware behavior and also does some signature checking as well. However of late SpywareGuard seems to have been rather neglected with no new updates for more than a year so I can only give it a qualified recommendation.

An alternative to SpywareGuard is to use one of the free intrusion prevention and detection utilities listed here. These provide active protection against infection and work very effectively in concert with the passive protection provided by SpywareBlaster.

[1] Free for personal use, Win2K and later, 310KB
[2] Freeware, all Windows version, 2.5MB
[3] Freeware, All Windows versions, 913KB

5. Best Free Firewall

No other single product class seems to cause as much angst to average users in their installation and day-to-day use as Firewalls. For such users, Kerio Personal Firewall is my top recommendation as it seems to cause the fewest problems yet manages reasonable protection as well.

Kerio dropped the product in late 2005 but thankfully Sunbelt Software, the makers of the excellent CounterSpy anti-spyware scanner, picked it up and will continue making it available under the name of Sunbelt Kerio Personal Firewall [1] . Note that the free and paid versions of Sunbelt Kerio are the same. If you don't buy the product some advanced features are automatically turned off after 30 days. The product will also nag you every time you start it. For some this is a small price to pay for a great free firewall. For others it's a real turn-off.

If performance rather than ease-of-use is your criterion then the Comodo firewall [2] is the top contender. The firewall itself is very robust and it comes with a well designed intrusion detection system as well. Comodo also supports internet connection sharing, while the free versions of Kerio and ZoneAlarm do not. On the minus side the IDS is initially rather talkative and this can unnecessarily alarm inexperienced users. Additionally Comodo has been known to conflict with some other security products though more recent versions seem to be better in this respect. For the technically initiated this is an outstanding free product and an easy first choice. Note that Comodo requires Windows 2000 or XP SP2.

Also technically impressive is the Jetico Firewall [3]. It rates highest on the leak tests of all firewalls but personally I find it awkward to use. It may however, be just your cup of tea.

Another tricky product is NetVeda Safety.Net firewall [4] however its performance is quite outstanding and it offers application control and content filtering as well. This highly capable product deserves to be better known and experienced users should definitely put it on their short list.

I no longer recommend the free version of the ZoneAlarm firewall [5]. First it is a very basic product compared to the commercial ZoneAlarm Pro version. The leak-test performance of the latest free version is extremely poor while the Pro version is excellent. Second, it can be a troublesome program on some PCs.

[1] (7.3MB)
[2] (8MB)
[3][ (2.7MB)
[4] (6.3MB)
[5] (9.0MB)

6 Best Free Trojan Scanner/Trojan Remover

My top recommendation here is AVG Anti-Spyware [1], a product formerly formerly known as Ewido until it was acquired recently by GriSoft.

Ewido started life as an anti-trojan scanner but has been repositioned as an anti-spyware scanner by the new owners and the new name reflects that re-positioning. Whatever ever it is called it is an excellent anti-trojan and a fine anti-spyware program as well.

In my tests Ewido/AVG Anti-Spyware emerged as was one of the few products that could detect polymorphic and process injecting trojans that were totally missed by many anti-virus products. Unfortunately the free version of AVG Anti-Spyware doesn’t have a memory monitor and this omission significantly reduces the level of active protection provided. However the on-demand scanner is excellent.

I recommend that all average PC users who don't have an anti-trojan scanner download AVG Anti-Spyware and scan
their PCs weekly. I suspect you may be surprised at what you will find. AVG Anti-Spyware is also pretty good at removing some spyware infections so bear that in mind next time you encounter a spyware product you can't remove with normal anti-spyware products like Ad-Aware.

Note that AVG Anti-Spyware only works with Windows 2000 and later so Win 9X users should consider the free version of a2 (a-squared) anti-trojan as an alternative. It's not quite as effective as AVG Anti-Spyware but is still an excellent product.

High risk PC users such as P2P file sharers and frequenters of hack sites, should however consider Trojan Hunter or the full version of AVG Anti-Spyware both of which offer the active protection they need.

Note: The free version of AVG Anti-Spyware is actually the same as the paid version but after 30 days the active protection (i.e. memory monitor) becomes non-functional, automatic updates are disabled and kernel level self protection is turned off.


[1] (6.17MB)
[2] (13.2MB)

7 Best Free Rootkit Scanner/Remover

Rootkits are a special kind of software tool used to hide trojans, viruses and other malware from your anti-virus scanner and other security products. Unfortunately, they are extremely effective which means that some of you reading this will be infected even though you believe your PC to be totally clean. Thankfully there is a new class of security product now available called rootkit detectors that use specialized techniques to detect these dangerous intruders.

Most of these detectors require quite a bit of technical skill to interpret the results but one of the simplest to use is also amongst the most effective. It's called BlackLight [1] and is currently available as a free beta from F-Secure. The beta will expire on the 1st of October, 2007 but you can use it freely up to then. I suggest everyone download this product and scan their PC. The chances of you being infected are small but for five minutes work it's not worth taking the risk.

BlackLight will detect most rootkits missed by AV scanners but is can't provide perfect detection; no rootkit detector can. That's why its' advisable to use more than product.

If you are an experienced user you should check out SysInternals RootkitRevealer [2]. It uses a totally different different technique to BlackLight so by using both products together you'll be getting excellent overall detection. RootkitRevealer is however, harder to use than BlackLight and is a bit prone to false positives so take care before deleting detected items. If in doubt, consult the SysInternals RootkitRevealer forum. [3]

Another useful rootkit detector for experienced users is GMER [4] though please read the documentation carefully before using this one. I like this product a lot but it's not for everyone. So if you are the type that simply likes to press the "scan" button then stick with BlackLight ;>)

Currently the biggest guns in the rootkit detection war are two free Chinese products called IceSword [5] and DarkSpy [6]. They are not really detectors like the other products rather they offer a set of tools that can help reveal the presence of a rootkit. These tools include a special process viewer, startup manager and port enumerator that are not fooled by rootkits. It's left to the user though, to interpret the results. In the hands of an skilled user, these are amazing tools but not much use to beginners. The Chinese download sites are slow so I've given local download links [5], [6].

The reality is that at the present time, full protection against rootkits may require the use of multiple products. For details see my article on rootkits [7].

[1] Free beta, Windows 2K/ XP/Vista, 879KB
[2] Freeware, All Windows versions, 231KB
[4] Freeware, Windows NT/ 2K/XP, 480KB
[5] Freeware, Windows NT/2K/XP, 2.1MB
[6] Windows 2K/XP/2003, 626KB
[7] <= How to deal with the threat of rootkits

8 Best Free Intrusion Prevention and Detection Utility for Home Use

These days all users face a real risk of malicious programs secretly installing themselves on your computer. Anti-virus and anti-spyware products dramatically reduce the chance of infection but are not perfect. In particular they are prone to miss new malware products not yet included in their signature databases. They can also fail to detect malware programs that are cleverly disguised to avoid detection.

To prevent these malevolent programs from slipping by your AV and anti-spyware programs you need additional defenses such as a Host based Intrusion Prevention program (HIPS). These programs pick up intruders by their behavior rather than by their characteristic fingerprint. They are not limited to detecting specific malware products but can target a wide range of interlopers. For the most part HIPS programs all work in a similar manner; they stop any suspicious behavior and then ask the user whether they want to allow it. This, as we shall see, can be a mixed blessing.

Unfortunately most HIPS programs, including the popular free programs WinPatrol and Prevx, generate a lot of warning messages many of which are quite cryptic. These messages tend to alarm many less experienced users who feel there is something wrong and simply don't know how to respond. That's why these products are only suitable for the very experienced (and very patient).

Thankfully a new generation of HIPS programs has emerged that use white lists, black lists, policies and behavior analysis rules along with other techniques to reduce the number of messages and the load on the user.

A prime example of this class of product is the free Cyberhawk program from Novatix. I use it on one of my PC's and it only occasionally issues warnings and even then the warnings are usually real and need to be taken seriously. In essence it provides a vital additional layer of protection to my AV and anti-spyware scanners at little cost in terms of annoyance and no cost in terms of my wallet. It is the stand-out free product in the HIPS category. Note: A number of readers have reported browsing performance problems after installing Cyberhawk. I've not found that myself but be aware that this may be a problem on some PCs.

There are some solid other contenders. Blink Personal from eEye [2] is a HIPS with a firewall as opposed to products like Comodo and ZoneAlarm Pro that are firewalls with HIPS. It's a useful tool for advanced users though I found Cyberhawk to be more effective and yet simpler to configure and use. Blink is also only free for non-commercial use.


[1] Freeware, Windows 2000 and later, 4.7MB[2]
[2] Free for personal use,Win2K and later 26.7MB

9 Best Free Anonymous Surfing Service

There are lots of reasons folks have for wanting to surf anonymously, ranging from simple paranoia to possibly being murdered by a malevolent foreign government. Whatever the reasons, commercial services that offer anonymity are doing real well. However one of the best services JAP [1], is totally free. In fact JAP is perhaps a little too good. That's why the German Police insisted in 2004 that a backdoor be put into the product to allow interception of child pornographers. This was done but subsequently removed as a result of court action by JAP.

An alternative to JAP is a system called Tor [2]. It not only allows anonymous browsing but anonymous P2P, email, IM, and IRC chat as well. Given the US Navy origin of Tor, the suspicion arises that this system may indeed have a permanent backdoor. However the source code is now publicly available so that suspicion can perhaps be set aside. More worrying was a raid by German police in September 2006 involving the seizing of some Tor servers in that country. Again, pedophiles were the supposed target but who really knows.

Whatever, both JAP and Tor offer a level of secrecy that is better than many commercial systems though not watertight. However expect your surfing to slow down as you'll be relayed through a chain of servers particularly with Tor which has been ground to a near standstill by BitTorrent users seeking to hide from the RIAA. Note: the latest V5 release of JAP now allows Tor users to use JAP as a software access point.

A recent development is the release of TorPark [3], a special version of the Firefox browser that has been configured to work with the free Tor anonymizing service and run directly from a USB flash drive. It's a neat idea; just plug in your USB stick to any PC with a USB port and Firefox V2.0.0.2 is automatically launched, set up for secure and private surfing.

The most obvious application is internet cafes, public terminals or indeed any PC including your own where you don't want to leave any trace of your private surfing activities. However, what attracts me is not so much the privacy side as the security potential. That's because TorPark creates a secure encrypted connection between the PC you are using and the Tor servers. This allows you to safely transmit information without fear of interception. This makes it ideal for surfing on open Wi-Fi networks. Previously, secure surfing on such networks required the use of private VPN networks, an option only available to corporates, the well heeled and the technically savvy. Now, using TorPark, any surfer can reap the same security benefits for their browsing.

[1] Freeware, Any Windows system with Java, 107KB
[2] Free BSD License, All Windows, 4.6MB
[3] Freeware, Windows NT and later, 11MB

10 Best Free Software Suite

The Open CD site [1] offers for free a wonderful collection of just about every application software product you need to run a PC including the latest version of OpenOffice. Many of these freebies substitute admirably for expensive commercial products. There is Abi Word as an alternative for MS Word, OpenOffice for MS Office XP, Thunderbird for Outlook, The Gimp for Adobe Photoshop, 7-zip for WinZip and many more. If you then add to this collection some of the other utilities from my "46 Best-ever Utilities" collection you will have all the software you'll ever need without spending a cent. Note: All of the Open CD utilities can be downloaded for free as a CD ISO image. If you have a slow connection you can purchase the CD for a as little as $1.99. In addition to the Windows versions, the CD also contains the same collection of programs implemented under a version of Linux called Ubuntu that can be booted and run directly from the CD. That way you not only get to try all these great programs you can try Linux as well, without interfering in any way with your current Windows installation.

Update: the folks at Ubuntu [2] are now giving away free CDs containing the latest version of Ubuntu Linux together with most of the programs on the Open CD. They will send you the full Ubuntu installation CDs plus a live CD where you can run Ubuntu directly from the CD. You can order as many CDs as you want and you don't even have to pay the mailing costs! When you get your CDs read this this simple introduction to Linux [3] before starting.


11 Best Free File Manager

Windows Explorer is fine for simple file management activities but when you have some serious work to do, you need a two pane file manager. I use Directory Opus which is IMHO, the best product in this class but costs $59. A good free alternative is xplorer² [1]. It offers a good part of the functionality of Directory Opus and is totally free. As a bonus, its user interface is very similar to Windows Explorer, so most users will find this tool easy to learn and use.

XYplorer is another strong contender. It uses a tabbed view rather than a two pane view which is better when working with multiple folders though not quite as efficient as the two pane approach when working with only two. XYplorer is packed with features included one of the best file-finders I've seen. It's one of those products that impresses more with use. In fact I suspect that if you use it for a month, you'll end up using it permanently. Until the 21st March 2006 it was freeware but has now morphed to shareware but the last free version is still available from the vendor's site [3] and various freeware sites [4].

Some folks just love Free Commander [5], a classic two pane Norton Commander style manager. It's certainly powerful but I find the interface a little dated. However it's free for both private and commercial use and that's a big plus.

[1] Free for private use, Win 95 and later, 899KB
[2] Free for private use, Win 98 and later, 623KB.
[3] All Windows versions, Free for private use, 633KB
[5] Freeware, Windows 95 and later, 1.61MB

12 Best Free Email Client

Thunderbird [1] is a free open source POP and IMAP email client developed by, the same folks who brought you Firefox. Feature-wise it sits somewhere between Outlook Express and Outlook which means that it offers an upgrade to Express users and a downgrade to those who use the more advanced PIM features of Outlook.

All Outlook Express users should seriously consider switching. You’ll be rewarded with a more advanced product including built- in spam filtering, built-in RSS reader, message color coding, fast email search, anti-phishing measures, spell check as you type, inbox filters, Kerberos authentication, automatic updates and the ability to view your mail in conversational threads. On top of that, the product is more secure than OE and unlike the latter, is still being actively developed.

Further features can be added through free extensions. Notable among these is Webmail [2], an extension that allows POP3 access to webmail services operated by Yahoo, Hotmail, Lycos, MailDotCom, Gmail and Libero.

Thunderbird email files can be indexed by the Google, Yahoo! and Copernic desktop search programs.

Switching from Outlook Express is made easier by the fact that Thunderbird looks and works similar to OE. Tools within Thunderbird also allow you to easily import OE account settings and stored email. If you need assistance check out this excellent guide [3] from Mozilla.

If you want an alternative to Thunderbird then try Foxmail [4]. Despite the name it's not related to Firefox but comes out of China. It's an impressive product with features matching or exceeding Thunderbird and it's also really easy to use. My only real beef is the quality of the help files. Yes, they have been translated to English but rather poorly. So poorly that they are actually quite amusing. Don't let that deflect you though, Foxmail is a top product with eight million users world-wide and is a real alternative to Thunderbird. If you need help there's a good FAQ here [5]. Note: If after installing, the program comes up in Chinese, all you have to do is delete the file chinese.lgb in the installation folder.

[1] Free Open Source software, Win 98 and later, 6.0MB
[4] Freeware, Win 95 and later, 5.5MB.

13 Best Free Web Mail Accessory

It's a real plus to be able to collect your Hotmail, Yahoo! or other Webmail using your POP3 email client. It used to be simple but these days most Webmail services only provide POP3 access for premium paid accounts. However it's still possible to do it though by using a special utility designed for the job.

If you use Yahoo! mail then head straight for YPOPs! [1] that allows you to download your Yahoo webmail from within your POP3 email client such as Outlook, Thunderbird or Eudora. It's free, easy top set up using the instructions on the web site and is simple to use. I use it on multiple Yahoo accounts and it works wonderfully.

The second suggestion is a free utility called FreePOPs [2]. It's a much more flexible product than YPOPs! and will download mail from HotMail, AOL, Yahoo!, Juno, Libero and a myriad of other webmail services as well. It's power and flexibility can confuse new users but thankfully there is a clearly written tutorial for beginners [3] . FreePOPS is for receiving email only and has no sending capabilities.

A third possibility is the Open Source program MrPostman [4] which offers similar functionality to FreePOPs and allows access to email accounts on MS Exchange 5.5 as well. It needs a bit of fiddling to work correctly but you'll find a couple of links below [5], [6} that will help you. My only reservation is that product development seems to have ceased. Note that MrPostman requires the Java Runtime Environment to be installed on your PC.

Another webmail accessory you might useful is POP Peeper, a free utility that lets you know when new mail arrived in your Webmail account. It installs a little tray icon that alerts you to new mail in your Hotmail, MSN, Yahoo,, MyWay, Excite,, or RediffMail accounts. It's particularly useful for users who have multiple webmail webmail services. It won't though, download your mail to your POP3 email client. To do that you need one of the products above. It does however, allow you to read and even respond to your mail within the product without opening your email program. This makes it very attractive to Webmail users who don't use a regular email client such as Outlook or Thunderbird.

[1] Free GPL license, Win95 and later, 1.48MB
[2] Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 813KB
[4] Free Open Source, 1.5MB
[5] <= Installing Mr Postman
[6] <= MrPostman forum
[7] Freeware, Windows 95 and later, 818KB

14 Best Free Clipboard Replacement Utility

The regular clipboard in Windows has limitations – one item at a time and no retention after logging off. Clipboard replacement utilities provide the ability to hold multiple items and store them for future use, even after logging off. There are many free clipboard replacement utilities available, including CLCL, Clipboard Magic, Clipboard Recorder, Clippy 2001, Ditto, DzSoft Paste & Save, and Yankee Clipper III. While none of these have the very extensive set of features of the class-leading shareware product ClipMate 6 ($29.95), they all offer the basic clipboard replacement features that 95% of us really want and need.

If you just need a basic clipboard replacement utility, look no further than Clipboard Recorder [1]. It will store up to 99 items that can be easily selected and pasted from the popup history list by pressing the shortcut key (Ctrl-Alt-V by default). It supports a variety of formats (text, RTF, HTML, CSV, Bitmap, etc.) and has the ability to transfer copied items between computers. In addition, it is a very small program and uses very little resources. Clipboard Recorder is what the regular clipboard in Windows should have been!

However, if you need advanced features such as the ability to support additional item types, create groups of items, search previous items, and synchronize clipboards across multiple computers, then I would recommend trying Ditto [2]. In addition to its extended feature set, its user interface is very clean, easy to use, and has many configurable options that you can configure to meet your needs. Note that Ditto requires DAO to be installed [3].

[1] Windows 98 and later, 382 KB
[2] Windows 95 and later, 422KB
[3] .3MB

15 Best Free HTML Editor

This is one of my most requested items but I've not been able to give any product my full endorsement. There have been any number of contenders: Amaya for example, impressed with its standards compliance but was incomplete while Selida looked slick but had just too many bugs. Finally a reasonably competent contender has arrived on the scene in the form of the Open Source Nvu [1]. It's not perfect by any means but it's the best out there.

In reality Nvu is nothing new but rather a reworking of the old Netscape Composer. Composer was always a solid product and the revamp has lifted the product into another class. Here is an HTML editor and site manager that's easy enough for beginners to use but powerful enough to build large sites. It's closer in concept to Microsoft's FrontPage more than any other product but unlike FrontPage it, thankfully, produces standards compliant code. Its easy-to-use WYSIWYG editor will delight HTML newbies while HTML honchos can simply click a tab to switch to code view. Multiple tabs can be kept open to allow simultaneous editing and there is excellent support for forms, tables and templates. An internal spell-checker is included. CSS is handled through the CaScadeS editor from Mozilla Composer. Nvu also has the handy ability to call W3C's HTML validator from within the product. It's also extensible via XUL.

Nvu can upload files to your site via FTP and has some basic site management features but this is not its strength. Indeed the FTP side of the program has proved so problematic for some users that they have switched to using an external FTP client for uploading their sites. Some users have also reported problems with their HTML getting scrambled.

Because of these bugs I don't recommend the official version of Nvu but rather the unofficial release called KompoZer [2]. This version is still not bug free but it's a lot better than the official release.

Overall Nvu is an impressive product that has yet to achieve its full potential. No, it's not a replacement for commercial products like DreamWeaver but for those looking for a free, easy to use, WYSIWYG HTML it's an easy first choice.

If you want an editor that puts you closer to the code then you might consider 1st Page 2000. It's a free, earlier version of Evrsoft's [3] excellent 1st Page 2006 editor and while lacking many of the features of the latter, is still a sound product. It's not the best choice though for HTML newbies. Note: The download seems to have been removed from the vendor's site. It is available elsewhere though [3].

HTML coders should also check out PSPad [5]. It's a general purpose programming editor but it supports HTML syntax highlighting and allows on-the-fly editing of your server code that relieves you of the need to separately upload code changes using FTP. As a bonus it can be run directly from the .exe file without installation.

[1] Free Open Source, Windows 98 and later plus Linux, 6.57MB
[4] Free, Windows 98 and later, 5.2MB
[5] Freeware, All Windows versions, 3.4MB

16 Best Free Spam Filter for the Average User

This is a difficult category as ordinary users need products that are easy to use and frankly, most free spam filters are way too complex to set up and use. The best products in this class are in fact, shareware not free. That said, MailWasher [1] is for most folks, the best free option.

MailWasher is an email preview utility that allows you to check your email on your mail server before you download it to your PC. The advantage of this approach is that you can kill unwanted messages including spam, viruses and large attachments before they get anywhere near your computer. MailWasher flags for you any messages containing possible spam and viruses for you to quickly check. It's a simple idea but quite effective and one which average users find easy to understand.

At the Mailwasher site you can download a free or "Pro" commercial version. The former lacks quite a few of the features of its commercial cousin. the most limiting of which is the ability to a access multiple accounts. However the last free version of MailWasher before it went commercial is still floating around the web [2] and it will handle multiple accounts. It too lacks many of the advanced spam detection features of the current commercial version but is still very effective. Alternatively, try XTerminator [3] which works much the same way as MailWasher and is totally free. I must say though, I prefer MailWasher's user interface.

If you use Outlook or Outlook Express for your email you have another choice, an excellent one actually, if you are prepared to have a small advertisement appended to the end of your outbound email.

SPAMfighter [5] is a network based spam filtering system that uses the opinions of over two million users worldwide to help classify spam and what's not.

Like all network based spam filters it requires no training: it's ready to go the minute you install it.

Each email is checked after it is received. If the email has been classified as spam by a lot of other users on the network then it deleted from your in-box and placed in a spam mail folder.

It works like a charm and is a commanding choice or Outlook users. If you can't tolerate the ads in your email you can have them removed for $19.95 a year.

[1] ( 3.05MB)
[2] (1.57MB)
[3] (1.87MB)
[4] <=brief review of the best spam blockers
[5] Windows ME and later, Outlook Express 5.5 and later or Outlook 2000 and later, 842KB,

17 Best Free Spam Filter for Experienced Users

There are many different spam filters available employing lots of different techniques. In my experience "learning" spam filters that use the Bayesian statistical approach out-perform most other types of filters I've tried. Not only are they better at detecting spam they are also less liable to classify your real mail as spam. This effectiveness takes a little time to develop as the filter has to be trained to recognize your spam from your normal mail. It takes a week or so before results start becoming accurate and best results may take a month or more. POPFile, a free, open source spam filter, was one of the first Bayesian filters and is still one of the best. It works as a proxy mail server so that means that it can be used with any POP email client. Setup is reasonably straightforward for experienced users but beginners may be better off with Mailwasher. If you use Outlook there are several excellent free Bayesian spam filters available including SpamBayes and K9. Both are simple to install though, like all statistical filters, they need to go through a training phase before they reach full effectiveness.

Code: (4.3MB) (3.6MB) (113KB)

18 Best Free Popup Stopper

The need for popup stopper utilities has fallen away in recent months as many browsers such as Firefox now have this function built in. If you need a separate popup stopper and have good PC skills I suggest you try The Proxomitron. It operates by filtering and transforming all your Web pages on the fly. As a result you can not only stop pop-ups but pop-unders, ads, flash animations, status bar scrollers and just about anything else. Besides, next time you are asked what pop-up stopper you use, you can answer; "why, I use The Proxomitron" and how cool is that ;>)

The product's author Scott R. Lemmon unfortunately has passed away but support for The Proxomitron continues through its large enthusiast following. This is evident from the main download site [1] which offers several versions of the product including the last version Scott released before his death. The site also has setup instructions, resource links and lists of sites where you can test whether the product is working. There are a number of other enthusiast sites [2], [3] that offer additional information.

If you are a novice PC user I suggest you try the Google toolbar [4] rather than The Proxomitron. It's free as well and has an excellent popup filter built in. It's nowhere near as flexible as as The Proxomitron, but it requires no setup. As a bonus it also makes Google searches easier.

[1] Freeware, All Windows versions, 1.38MB

19 Best Free Desktop Search Utility

A couple of years back there were no contenders for this title. Today we have a wealth of choices. In a close race I would have to say X1 Enterprise Client [1] comes out in front because of the clear way it presents search results. It used to be a $99 product but as from mid 2006 is now free for non-commercial use. It's fast, reliable and can index the contents of 370 different file types including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, Outlook, Outlook Express, HTML, text, ZIP and Adobe PhotoShop It also indexes files for most of the popular e-mail clients such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Netscape, Eudora and Lotus Notes. Note: If you want to use X1 commercially then you can download Yahoo Desktop Search Program which is actually powered by X1. Unfortunately the Yahoo product includes quite of other stuff as well including the Yahoo browser search bar though some of these "extras" can be disenabled during the install.

X1 can index html files but can't index your web browsing history. If the later is important to you, you may want to look at Google desktop search [3]. It not only will search your web history but offers an Outlook toolbar, integrated Gmail search and a novel desktop sidebar that allows personalized search, news, weather, photos and more. The Sidebar also includes a quite effective application launcher. Some folks love the Sidebar but others, me included, find it intrusive.

Exalead is a little known but highly impressive desktop search program from France. It's great strength is the highly customizable nature of its search, probably the best of any product. It can also do fuzzy searches as well. If you need to make highly specified searches then do try Exalead, you wont be disappointed. Versions are available for English and French speakers.

All the products I've mentioned require Windows 2000 or later. If you are stuck with an earlier version of Windows then try the free Copernic Desktop Search. Just because I'm mentioning it last don't think it's inferior to the others - it's a very competent and balanced product and one of the few freebies that supports network shares. Indeed many experienced users think that overall, it's the best available. If the email search results were as effectively presented as X1 I'd be inclined to agree.

[1] X1 Enterprise Client, Free for personal use, Windows XP, 12.9MB.
[2] Freeware, Windows 2000 SP3 or later, 5.3MB
[3] Freeware, Windows 2000 SP3 or later, 2MB
[4] Freeware, Windows 2000 or later, 8.7MB
[5] Freeware, Windows 98 and later. 3MB

20 Best Free Digital Image Viewer

Three good choices here. First there's the classic IrfanView. Irfan [1] is a first class product but one for which I have mixed feelings. That's why it's been in and out of my "46 Best Freeware" list several times. It's an amazingly capable product but it just doesn't work the way I want it to. Other users though, just love it.

A product I feel more comfortable with is XNView [2]. Like Irfan it is very versatile; it can read and display nearly 400 types of graphic files and convert any of these to over 50 formats. It displays pictures very quickly and these may be viewed full screen, as slideshows or thumbnails. It's quite capable at processing images, too; you can adjust brightness, color, apply filters or effects, crop photos, re-size, convert format and more. These operations can also be carried out from a batch file, which makes it ideal for converting large digital photos to smaller sizes for the web or emailing. It supports drop and drag, has many plug-ins, is available in 44 languages and has full cross-platform support including Mac. XNView has a lot of similarities with IrfanView, so many in fact, that it comes perilously close to plagiarism. Put positively, one may say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery however the developer of IrfanView must feel more than a little miffed. XNView is free for non-commercial use, all Windows versions plus many other platforms. The standard version for Windows is 3.3MB but I suggest you download the complete version with all plug-ins which weighs in at 6.8MB.

My third choice and personal favorite is FastStone Image Viewer [3]. This is a speed demon with a zippiness in displaying images that's reminiscent of the old ACDSee before it suffered feature bloat. It supports all major graphic formats and popular digital camera RAW formats as well. It's also got good basic image editing facilities, a great slide show and a very cute interface. Much to like here. Free for personal use, Windows 98 and later.

[1] (874KB)
[2] (3.3MB)
[3] (3.0MB)

21 Best Free Digital Editor

I use to recommend The Gimp [1] but after dozens of letters from newbies who couldn't manage to install it or work out the idiosyncratic user interface, I've decided to confine that recommendation to more experienced users. If that's you and you patient enough to learn the product's sometimes quaint ways then you may not need to consider anything else. If you are used to Photoshop you might like to look at GIMPShop [2] , which changes the user interface of GIMP to something more familiar though frankly, I prefer the original.

For other less experienced users there is, an amazingly sophisticated piece of work from computer science students at Washington State University. It's not quite as powerful as The Gimp but a lot easier to use and install. It's also getting better; the new V3 beta continues this product's impressive development record. However V2.x is only for Windows 2000 while V3 requires XP SP2. You will also need Microsoft's bulky .NET framework installed on your PC.

Another possibility is PhotoPlus 6.0 from a company called Serif [4] . It's an impressive piece of work; again it installs easily and it's loaded with features including layer support. In fact, it looks and feels like a "lite" and slightly clunky version of Adobe PhotoShop. Note: You need to register with your email address to get PhotoPlus and you may receive promotional material as a result.

Recently I've had a lot of positive reader feedback about a French product called PhotoFiltre [5]. It's available in a number of languages including English and ( for a digital editor) is a tiny 1.6MB download. Like PhotoPlus it looks and works like an old version of PhotoShop. It can read and save files to JPEG, GIF, BMP, TIFF, PNG, RLE, comes with an impressive range of tools, brushes and filters. However it can't handle layers. That said, it offers a lot of functionality for a small program.

All of the above products are for editing rasterized images. If you want a vector based editor the top choice is the Open Source Inkscape program. To quote the website "Inkscape uses W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Supported SVG features include shapes, paths, text, markers, clones, alpha blending, transforms, gradients, patterns, and grouping. Inkscape also supports Creative Commons meta-data, node editing, layers, complex path operations, bitmap tracing, text-on-path, flowed text, direct XML editing, and more. It imports formats such as JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and others and exports PNG as well as multiple vector-based formats."

Equally attractive is its small size compared to most other vector based editors, a mere 24MB versus several hundred for Illustrator. It's a product in its early stages; the current release is only at V0.45 and doesn't, for example, yet support SVG filter effects, animation, and SVG fonts. It is, however, totally usable. That usability is enhanced by an excellent user interface and the impressive set of tutorials that come with the product that help wean the user away from the world of digital images to the nodes, lines, curves and shapes that form the basis of vector editing. Overall a top product that will only get better.

[1] (7.7MB)
[2] (7.4MB)
[3] Freeware, Win2K and later, 3.6MB
[4] Freeware, all Windows, 19.4MB
[5] Free for personal use, Windows 98 and later, 1.6MB
[6] Free Open Source, Available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, 20.7MB.

22 Best Free Digital Photo Organizer

It’s rare for me to be utterly wowed by a product but this one certainly did it. When you first run Picasa 2 it offers to scan your whole hard drive (or designated locations) for photos and videos. Scanning is surprisingly quick and when finished you’ll have all your shots neatly organized into folders on a time line basis. Now you can view you shots one at a time, in slideshow or traversing the time line.

The editing features are limited compared to professional image editors yet they provide you with every function amateur photographers need including one click red eye reduction. Similarly adding labels to photos is a cinch while a simple but effective star rating system allows you to flag favorite snaps. Individual folders can also be password protected. Facilities are provided to import your images from your camera in multiple formats including RAW. You can send photos to your choice of web printing service, cut a CD, print to a local printer or share with others via your own blog or instant messaging. Simply sensational. Windows 2000 or later, 300MHz Pentium with 128MB memory or better, 4.6MB.


23 Best Free Text Editor

There are lots of text editors. Some of these aspire to be Notepad replacements while other are full-on programming editors.

My top choice in the first category is EditPad Lite [1]. It has a Notepad-like interface combined with tabbed document windows, the ability to open as many documents as you like, no file size limitations and unlimited un-do capability. It's main downside is that it's for personal use only.

If you need a free Notepad replacement that you can use commercially I suggest NotePad2 [2]. It's small, fast but unfortunately lacks the tabbed Windows that are so handy in EditPad. NoteTab Lite [3] is another possibility but personally I find it a tad slow and the single level undo a severe limitation.

If however you are looking for a text editor that can serve both as a Notepad replacement and a source editor you might like to check out Notepad++ [4]. It performs impressively in both roles. Its loaded with features to make your programming more productive including syntax and brace highlighting for many languages, search and replace using regular expressions, macro recording and more. It is also highly configurable through plug-ins, has a wide range of themes and offers multi-language support.

More specifically geared to programming is PSPad [5]. It supports syntax high-lighting for most popular languages, has an inbuilt spell checker, hex editor, macro recorder, FTP client and more.

Other source code editors worthy of evaluation are ConTEXT [6] and my personal favorite, Crimson [7].

Choosing the best programming editor is too controversial a topic even for me so I suggest you try all these and see what works best for you.

[1] Free for non-commercial use, Windows NT and later, 2.9MB
[2] Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 241KB
[3] Freeware, All Windows versions, 1.4MB
[4] Open Source Freeware, All Windows versions, 1.03MB
[5] Freeware, all Windows versions, 3.4MB
[6] Freeware, All Windows versions, 1.6MB
[7] Freeware, All Windows versions, 1.2MB

24 The Best File Archiver/Zip Utility

I checked out six utilities: QuickZip, ICEOWS, IZArc, TUGZip, ZipGenius and 7-Zip. The product that impressed me the most was the Open Source program 7-Zip. It was the only product in the group that could unpack a multi-part RAR volume embedded in a ZIP archive and the only product to give a meaningful error message when an attempt was made to unpack a 256bit encrypted WinZip archive. My only reservation is that it handles fewer archive types than some of the other products; it only supports 7z, ZIP, CAB, RAR, ARJ, GZIP, BZIP2, Z, TAR, CPIO, RPM and DEB . If that's really important to you than I'd recommend IZArc. It can read nearly 50 archive types including media formats like ISO, BIN and IMG and can write (and convert) to 12. Furthermore it can handle multi-part zip files while 7-Zip can't. You couldn't go wrong with either product. 7-Zip is a little more robust while IZArc is a little more flexible. If you already use WinZip you'll find either 7-Zip or IZArc make excellent companion products. They can can read just about all the major archive formats WinZip can't, including the widely used RAR. Note

Code: Windows 9x and later, 3.1MB Windows 9x and later, 1.05MB

25 Best Free Hotkey Utility

For sheer power you can't beat AutoHotkey [1]. It can automate just about anything by capturing keystrokes, mouse clicks and even joystick movements and linking them to just about any action you want including application launching, surfing to a particular website or inserting text or code snippets. Combined this with a powerful scripting language and you have a product of awesome capability. Indeed calling this product a mere "hotkey" utility is like calling Westminster cathedral a chapel. This power does come at a cost; AutoHotkey is no product for beginners. That said, it is the product I use and an easy first choice for the technically literate.

A good choice for average users is PS Hot Launch VVL [2] is a free utility that allows you to define your own hotkeys so that a single key press can launch an application, insert commonly used text, change your audio volume, or just about anything else. Hotkeycontrol works on all versions of Windows and is an excellent performer even on slow machines.

A second alternative is qliner's free Open Source "hotkeys" utility [3]. It's strength is ease of use, wide support for international keyboard layouts plus a handy reminder key that flashes up your current hotkey assignments. On the minus side, it's not quite as flexible as PS Hot Launch and it's only available for Windows XP.

A final option is not really a hotkey utility at all but achieves the same result by using "magic words." SlickRun [4] places a tiny text box on your screen and when you type specially assigned words into the box, it will launch a program, go to a web site or whatever. For example if you type "mail" it can launch your mail reader. Type in "46" and it can take you to the web page of the "46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities." Of course, it's up to you to define these magic words and you can have as many as you want. It all works very neatly with some really nice touches like auto-complete for your magic words which means you only have to type in two or three letters and SlickRun will complete the rest. Nice too, is an eyedropper tool that allows you to identify a program you want to "hotkey" just by clicking in its application window. There's also a built-in note jotter and a calendar date display.

Hotkey utilities overlap with another class of programs: program launchers. For details of this category see item 90 in the "extended list" of free utilities.

[1] Freeware, all Windows versions, 1.75MB
[2] Freeware, all Windows versions, 707KB
[3] Freeware, Windows XP, 804KB
[4] Freeware, all Windows versions, 170KB

26 Best Free Registry Cleaner

In my mind the best registry cleaner is one which reliably fixes problem entries but doesn't itself cause problems in the process. The products most likely to possess these qualities are those that are conservative in operation and confine their cleaning to removing definite and unambiguous errors. I say this because I have seen as many problems created by registry cleaners as problems solved. This view flies in the face of many who consider, for whatever reason, that the best registry cleaner is the one that finds the most problems. To me such products are dangerous and not worth owning.

That said, my top recommendation is Toni Helenius' free EasyCleaner [1] . It's a good reliable, conservative performer that will fix all major problems with a low risk of creating problems of its own As a bonus, it will also detect duplicate files and help you clean up temp files to make more disk space. One of its best features is a regularly updated "blacklist" of registry values that should not be cleaned. I'm sure this contributes to the products excellent record of causing few problems. Remember though, as with every Registry cleaner, to back up your Windows Registry before use.

A reasonable alternative is Eusing Free Registry Cleaner [2]. I've only had a couple of reports of it causing problems but it has an easy to use backup and recovery feature that will help you out should you get into trouble.

Many folks like RegSeeker [3] which combines registry cleaning with some registry management features. It's a nice product but its cleaning function is too aggressive and problem prone to allow general recommendation.

CCleaner (see section 37) , the class-leading disk cleaner has an inbuilt registry cleaner as well. However I'd never leave anything as critical as registry cleaning to a general purpose product; for this you really need a specialist utility.

To keep the registries on my PCs in top running order I use the Registry Cleaner in jv16 PowerTools. It's now a commercial products though you can still find the last free version of jv16 [4] on the web.

[1] Freeware, All Windows versions, 2.8MB
[2] Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 860KB.
[3] Free for non-commercial use, Windows 98 and later, 457KB
[4] Freeware, All Windows versions, 2.1MB

27 Best Free BitTorrent Client

It's amazing how quickly BitTorrent has become one of the major download formats. With good reason, too: it's fast, equitable and efficient. If you haven't yet installed a BitTorrent client on your PC, you should as there are some great free clients available. I recommend the Open Source program Azureus [1]. It's beautifully implemented, well supported and, being Java based, is available for multiple platforms. It's very feature rich and supports embedded tracker so you can host your own torrents, UPnP, a distributed decentralized database for decentralized torrents and DHT (Distributed Hash Table) which distributes indexing responsibility across multiple clients rather than relying on a single web-based tracker plus many other features too numerous to mention. There are also a lot of plug-ins available for Azureus including a competent RSS feed scanner. One downside with Azureus is that the Java code will eat up your CPU cycles so you need a reasonably fast PC.

A good alternative is uTorrent [2] which comes in at a tiny 170KB. Small it may be but it's very fast and will show Azureus a clean pair of heels of most downloads. It's also lean on resources, easy to use and requires no installation. It formidable feature list includes trackerless downloads, multiple simultaneous downloads, multi-scrape, UPnP and has an inbuilt RSS reader which is an impressive achievement for such a tiny package .One downside is that uTorrent has recently been acquired by, a company that many torrent users feel is uncomfortably close to digital copyright owners and their RIAA enforcers.

A new arrival on the scene is BitTyrant, a hot-rodded version of Azureus..

The modification is fiendishly clever. While most clients only consider the number of peers available for downloading, BitTyrant also considers the capacity of each peer and the data rate required to ensure reciprocation. It then utilizes this information using a dynamic algorithm to send only to the highest capacity peers data at the minimum rate for them to reciprocate.

In plain English this translates to your downloads running faster, much faster; around 65% on my tests.

Now, the standard Azureus client may be one of the most full featured clients available but it's certainly not the fastest kid on the block. With the BitTyrant mods, though, it's a speed demon. In fact, it's the fastest client I've tried.

But there's a downside: this kind of mod breaks down some of the fairness characteristics of the BitTorrent protocol. If you are not comfortable with that then don't use BitTyrant.

[1] Open source, any PC that supports Java, 8.6MB
[2] Freeware, all Windows versions, 170KB
[3] Freeware, any PC that supports Java, 8.1MB

28 The Best Free FTP Client

I used WS_FTP Pro as my principal FTP client for years. What started out as simple but effective product gradually with each new version became more feature-bloated and less effective for simple routine tasks. With the release of Version 9 it was clear to me that the product had totally lost its way so I started looking for an alternative. After trying seven different FTP clients I decided that the best for me was the Open Source utility FileZilla [1]. It uses a simple layout based on a two pane interface that looks a bit like the early versions of WS_FTP. But this simplicity is deceptive, it is actually a quite powerful product There's a full featured site manager, firewall and proxy support, SSL and Kerberos GSS security, restart, drop and drag and a lot more. The only significant feature that's missing is site-to-site transfer but that's of no importance to me. What is of importance is that FileZilla is fast, totally reliable, secure and and very easy to use. There's also a free FileZilla FTP server which I haven't used but I hear that it's just as good as the client.

If you find FileZilla's user interface a little minimal you may want to try SmartFTP [2]. It's a commercial product but is free for personal, educational or non-profit use.

If you want a SCP (secure copy) client for Windows that uses SSH and offers a rich feature set there's WinSCP [3]. It features a built-in terminal, it can launch Putty directly, allows remotely file editing edit files, direct transfer and transfer queuing and the ability to limit download speed rates. Me, I'll stick with FileZilla.

[1] Free Open Source, Windows NT and later, 3.4MB
[2] Free for non commercial use, Windows 2000 and later 3.3MB
[3] Free GNU license, All Windows version, (1.4MB)

29 Best Free Bookmark Cleaner
AM-DeadLink scans your browser bookmark file for dead links or duplicate links. When I tried it on my huge favorites file I discovered 17% of my links were dead. I've now got a much leaner set of favorites and the comfort of knowing that the links actually work. Freeware, all Windows versions, Internet Explorer, Opera, Mozilla and Firefox, 1.1MB.


30 Best Free Folder Synchronization Utility

This is getting scary. First I recommend Microsoft Defender and now I'm going to recommend another Microsoft product as the best in this category. Well, equal best. It's called SyncToy v1.0 for Windows XP [1] and, as the name implies, is only for XP - SP2. This program is more than a syncing program; it can copy, move, rename, and delete files between any number of folders and even computers. The program operates on the principal of pre-defined folder pairs. You define and name these pairs and then when you want to perform a sync or other task, you recall one of these pairs and carry out the operation. Syncing can be in either direction and covers all options from complete sync to updating newer files only. The handling of files with changed file names is exceptional as is the backup of overwritten files. Overall, pretty well everything you ever wanted in a sync utility. Note that SyncToy requires V1.1 of Microsoft's .NET framework.

Also highly recommended is 2brightspark's SyncBack [2]. It works for Windows 98 and later and has a number of features that SyncToy lacks such as the ability to sync to a remote FTP server.

[1] CCE41AF06EB7&displaylang=en (844KB)
[2] (1.9MB)

31 Best Free Screen Capture Utility

Three recommendations here: The first is PrintScreen [1]. It's a prime example of the KISS principle. It does exactly what I want, in the way I want while avoiding the trap of providing lots of useless and confusing features. It's the little things that count like making the hot key PrtSc so I don't have to remember it, and automatically sequentially naming the output files for multiple screen shots.

A second recommendation is Screen Hunter [2]. It's a commercial product but the "lite" free version is excellent, offering more features than Gadwin at the cost of a little added complexity. It can save in .jpg, .bmp or .gif formats.

Also highly recommended is FastStone's Screen Capture [3] It doesn't require installation and yet has more features than you could ever want including the ability to capture scrolling screen shots across more than one screen page. It can also save in BMP, JPEG, JPEG2000, PNG, GIF, TIFF and TGA formats. In many ways it's like the full commercial
version of ScreenHunter except that it's free for personal use. NOTE: Since version 5.4 Screencapture has become commercial shareware. You can however get the last free version from here [4]

All three products work with Win 98 and later versions.

[1] (2.7MB)
[2] (2.6MB)
[3] (1.4MB)

32 Best Free Search Toolbar

Search toolbars allow users to do web searches without having to go first to the home page of a search engine. This really saves a lot of time. In the last year search toolbars have become a hotly competed product class and as result, users now have an excellent choice. The "best" in terms of features is probably Yahoo's Toolbar whose features include anti-spyware capabilities as well as popup blocking. It's for Internet Explorer but they are currently offering a beta version for Firefox. My only beef with the Yahoo product is that I prefer to use Google for my web searches rather than Yahoo and that's why I use the Google Toolbar which also offers popup blocking though no anti-spyware features. On the other hand it includes a useful web form spell-checker and a few other goodies not found in the Yahoo product. Google also offers a full Firefox version as well as the standard IE version.

Some folks still like Dave’s Quick Search Bar because it gives access to multiple search engines. Another advantage is that it resides in your task bar rather than your browser so it's easily accessible from any application. Other Dave's features include a dictionary, thesaurus, calculator and a lot of customizability.

Code: (3MB) (327KB) (447KB)

33 Best Free Download Manager

You have several good choices in this category. To me a good downloader is one that does the job, is well integrated into your browser and is not intrusive.

That's why my top recommendation for some time has been Star Downloader [1]. Unfortunately the freeware version has been effectively frozen at version 1.44 with future enhancements restricted to the shareware version. It is however, still a fine choice.

After trying half a dozen other products, I've settled on "Free Download Manager" [2] as my current top selection. It's fast, stable and integrates well into both Internet Explorer, Opera and Firefox though the later works best with the free FlashGot extension installed. "Free Download Manager" offers simultaneous multi-part downloads, easy restarting and recovery, a powerful scheduler, downloading from mirrors and just about everything else you need in a download utility. Additionally, there is no embedded adware or nag screen. I've had some reports that the author's site shows up red on McAfee site Advisor and I've recently double checked the download file and it is 100% clean. However the cautious may want to download it from Softpedia [3] who also rate it as "spyware free."

After using it for a couple of weeks, I've decided that it's actually just as good as Star Downloader with the advantage that it's still being actively developed. Indeed, version 2 released in April 2006 adds even more features to this already impressive product.

If you are looking for another option the commercial FlashGet [4] program is now available for free. It's certainly full featured and nicely integrated but I find it overly complex to use. The product has a bit of a history of bundling in other products with the install but when I tried V1.72, it was totally clean.

Another excellent choice is the time-proven LeechGet [5] program which is free for personal use. Again it's got pretty well everything that you want in a download manager. Some folks find its colorful graphical presentation attractive, I find it a little gaudy and intrusive. Looks aside it certainly does its job well. Note that the indicated download rates are a tad optimistic so don't mistake this for superior performance. There is a separate plug-in for Mozilla/Firefox, Netscape and Opera integration.

Finally for Firefox users there is the superb free add-in called DownThemAll [6]. It's not as configurable as some of the other products I've recommended but for most users it's all they will ever need.

[1] Freeware, All Windows versions, 2.34MB
[2] Freeware, All Windows versions, 1.59MB
[4] Freeware, all Windows versions, 1.43MB
[5] Free for personal use, All Windows versions, 2.9MB
[6] Free Firefox extension, 425KB

34 Best Free Web Site Ripper

HTTrack is one impressive product: it's easy to use, has an excellent user interface, offers every feature you could want, is blindingly fast and free of any adware as well. If you like to download web sites so that you can "browse them offline", this is the product to get.

Code: Free GPL, All Windows versions, 3.3MB

35 Best Free Download/Upload Meter

NetMeter [1] shows upload and download speeds, along with cumulative weekly and monthly volumes and projected values. The program reminds me in many ways of Hagel's excellent $20 shareware product "DU Meter." It's freeware and works with all Windows versions. In essence, everything you really need for nix.

A good second choice if you have the Microsoft .NET package already installed on your PC is BitMeter II from Codebox Software [2] . It's a little more feature rich than NetMeter but uses a tad more of your PCs resources to deliver those features.

[1] (601KB)
[2] (806KB)
36 Best Free TCP Settings Tweaker

Whether you use a modem or broadband, you'll get a faster connection if you tweak your connection's TCP parameters. Among the most important of these is MaxMTU which, in simple terms, needs to be set to the largest value possible without your data being broken up into smaller chunks en-route. Most techies determine MaxMTU by trial and error pinging using different packet sizes but it's a tedious procedure and definitely not for beginners. TCPOptimizer from is a free utility that will do the job for you automatically. Furthermore, it will use this value to advise you on your other TCP settings and then apply these values at the press of the button. There are commercial programs that will do much the same thing but TCPOptimizer does it just as well and is totally free. The only minus is the lack of in-program help however you'll find a useful FAQ at the SpeedGuide site. (225KB)


37 Best Free File Cleaner

My first choice here is CCleaner [1], a product that started off as pretty basic but has continued to improve to the point where it is now very close to the best in its class regardless of price. It's very effective in freeing up disk space by removing unused and temporary files, cookies, Recycle bin entries, Windows hot-fix files, sold prefetch data, history and cache files in many applications such as Internet Explorer and Firefox and much more. Additionally it will check the Windows Registry for invalid entries.

There are some minuses: first the installation settings are quite aggressive so do check them carefully. Second the product installation, by default, includes the installation of the Yahoo Toolbar so if you don't want it, make sure you uncheck that option. Finally I wouldn't trust this product to do your Registry cleaning; that's a job for a specialist utility. Similarly if your aim is to remove all your surfing traces rather than just to clean up your disk I'd be inclined to use a specialist cache cleaner.

However if simply freeing up disk space is your objective the CCleaner is hard to beat.

A good companion to CCleaner is Empty Temp Folders. It's not as complete a product as CCleaner and it's been a while since it was last updated however I find it always manages to clean more temporary file than CCleaner. That's why I suggest you use both.

Another cleaner with a solid following is Steven Gould's CleanUP! [3] It's a compact, well designed and very well maintained and is a real alternative to CCleaner. I've had a couple of instances of it causing problems on my test PC but this may be specific to my setup. Certainly the feedback I get from users has been uniformly excellent.

[1] Freeware, all Windows versions, 1.4MB
[2] Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 667KB
[3] Freeware, Windows version unstated, 331KB.

38 Best Free Resource Meter

This is cute. TinyResMeter [1] is an itsy-bitsy system monitor. Unlike many other monitors, it doesn't consume a lot of CPU utilization in order to tell you your CPU utilization. In addition to CPU usage, you can optionally monitor cache, RAM, page file and swap file usage, running processes and threads, disk space utilization and a number of other parameters as well. Also built-in, is a screen grabber that saves the current screen to disk when you press PrintScreen. How the author fits all this into 92KB beats me. A new version is on the way offering even more functionality.

If you are like something a little fancier than TinyResMeter then check out StatBar [2]. It's got more features than you could ever want though but at the cost of a higher resource overhead needed to run the program. Nice product though and easy to try out as the program doesn't require installation.

[1] (92KB)
[2] (1.65MB)

39 Best Free Sticky Notes Utility

Some people hate these programs others swear they can't work effectively without them. I used to be in the first category but with so many things on my plate these days, I'm slowly being converted. The function that I find really useful is the reminder that pops up at a designated time and date. I use it for simple things like "put up the latest issue on the web site." ATnotes is a neat implementation that features configurable alarms, resizable windows, variable fonts and a host of other useful features. The product is remarkably similar to the class-leading commercial sticky notes utility called, TurboNotes, a case perhaps of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

NOTE: As of the 30th of May 2005, development work has ceased and the author's site pulled down. However someone has built a mirror of the author's site [1] where you can read about ATnotes and download the final version. You can also download ATNotes from the a number of other sites including the second link below. If you want an alternative that is still being developed try StickyPad. Some folks actually prefer it to ATnotes and I must admit the interface is very slick but I find the alarm function to be rather inflexible. It cannot for example handle recurring events such as birthdays. If you want that functionality you are better of with another sticky note program called "Stickies" from Zhorn Software. It's not quite as svelte as the other two programs I've mentioned but it's very effective in operation.

[1] (723KB)
[3] (550KB)
[4] (596KB)

40 Best Free Secure Erase Utility

Eraser [1] is a free, GNU license utility that will securely erase files, folders or even whole disks from any Windows or DOS PC. Eraser overwrites data area with selectable random data patterns and also wipes data in the paging file, Internet cache, temporary files, Internet cookies, unused disk space and a number of other places where data can secretly lurk. It handles FAT16, FAT32 and NTFS partitions as well. Erasing files with high security will always be a difficult and time consuming task and can never offer absolute 100% safety. However Eraser makes the task about as easy as it be, with a security level beyond most conceivable requirements. The author's site is sometimes unavailable but you can find Eraser at numerous download sites including MajorGeeks [2].

If Eraser is overkill for your needs try Simple File Shredder[3]. It's not as comprehensive a solution to secure deletion as Eraser but it's much easier to use.

Another rather different alternative is Darik's Boot and Nuke [3]. Its an Open Source program that's used to construct a floppy disk or CD that will automatically wipe the all hard drives of any PC booted from the disk. It's great for bulk disk cleaning of PCs and is useful too as an emergency tool for quickly removing sensitive information. However this power makes it a dangerous tool in the hands of beginners.

[1] Free GNU license, all Windows versions, 2.4MB
[2] Freeware, Windows NT and later, 1.24MB
[3] Free Open Source, All Windows versions, 1.99MB

41 Best Free Registry Editor

I've used the full version of Resplendent Registry Editor for years and have never had any reason to look for an alternative. Recently a subscriber asked me what was the best free registry editor and that made me realize I've never looked at that particular product category. The first product I checked out was Registrar Lite [1], the free version of Resplendent Registry Editor and I'd have to say it's an impressive freebie. To start with, it works totally reliably - an essential feature for any registry editor. On top of that, the user interface is simple, the functionality excellent and, perhaps most importantly, it has a really fast search. I did, however, miss a "search and delete" option - that's unfortunately only available on the full product. That said, it leaves Regedit for dead. If you know a better free registry editor, drop me an email. NOTE: It looks like Resplendent have pulled the Lite download page from their site. You can still get it though from various download sites including MajorGeeks [2].

[1] Freeware, All Windows versions, 2.0MB.

42 Best Free Process Viewer

PrcView has long been my personal choice but Process Explorer [1] has pushed it aside. The reason? A better display setup coupled with more features and even more information. Process Explorer uses two vertical panes. The top contains all active processes while the second shows either all the handles opened by a selected process or, optimally, a list of DLLs and memory mapped files. A very handy search feature allows you to work backwards from named DLLs or handles to the owning process. The feature list is almost endless though only a few will ever be used but average users. The latest V10 release adds even more features including a faster refresh rate. Quite simply Process Explorer is an astonishing product and a freeware gem.

Another option is What's Running [2] , a new comer that has number of features that could make it the best choice for a lot of users. First, processes are shown in a tree rather than a list, a representation that makes the parent and child relationship crystal clear. Second, What's Running doesn't only show processes; it also displays, in separate tabs, running services, dlls, drivers, IP connections, startup programs and system information. The startup tabs and IP tabs are of particular interest as they are of sufficient quality that you don't need separate dedicated applications to provide this information.

So is What's Running better than Process Explorer? For expert users no, but all other users will benefit from the clear, non-confusing display and the fact they get a first class startup manager and IP enumerator in a single product. NOTE: If you can't download What's Running from the developers website [2] try the MajorGeeks download site [3].

[1] Freeware, Windows 9x and later, 640KB.
[2] Free beta, Windows 2000 and later, 1.09MB
[3] <= alternative download link

43 Best Free System Information Utility

The freeware utility AIDA32 was the best system information / inventorying tool ever, regardless of price. It documented just about every aspect of your hardware and software configuration as well as checking networks and providing memory benchmarks. However the developer announced in March 2004 that the free product had been frozen and development work shifted to another organization where AIDA32 was re-launched as a commercial product called Everest [1]. You can however still find the old AIDA32 at the second link below [2] and the non-discontinued free version of Everest called Everest Home here [3]. The old AIDA32 works better across networks while Everest Home covers more modern hardware than AIDA32.

Another inventory utility for networks is Spiceworks [4], currently available as a free beta version. It's a browser based inventory program that allows LAN managers to quickly discover and document the hardware, software and patch status of their network PCs.

That rather bland description seriously under-sells the usefulness of this product. It's got a terrific filter system
that allows you to target your inventory request plus a highly customizable reporting system. On top of that it has a great interface, is easy to use, can handle Linux and Mac OS X workstations and uses standard network protocols.

If you only need to inventory a single PC then you should also check out Belarc Advisor [5]. It's free for non commercial use and while not quite as thorough as AIDA32, it has the advantage of being actively developed.

My current favorite for home use is the SIW utility [6] written by Gabriel Topala. It "displays detailed specs for motherboard, BIOS, CPU, devices, memory, video, disk drives, ports, printers, operating system, installed programs, processes, services, serial numbers (CD keys), users, open files, system uptime, network, network shares, as well as real-time monitors for CPU, memory, page file usage and network traffic. It also displays currently active network connections, passwords hidden behind asterisks, installed codecs, and more. " That's impressive enough for a freebie but my favorite feature is SIW does not need installing; all you need to do is run the executable. This means one less installed program on your PC as well the fact that you can run the program directly from a USB flash drive.

[2] Freeware, all Windows versions, 2.9MB
[3] Freeware, all Windows versions, 4.0MB
[4] Free beta, Windows XP Pro with 512MB RAM on the administrator's PC, 7MB.
[5] Free for personal use, all Windows versions, 945KB
[6] Freeware, Win98 and later, 1.18MB

44 Best Free Search and Replace Utility

Many programs have a search and replace function that allows you to replace text in the file you are currently editing. However search and replace utilities allow you to replace text across multiple files or folders.

The most powerful free program in this class is BK ReplaceEm [1]. It will carry out replacements in individual files, in a group of selected files, in a set of files determined by a file mask or indeed every file in a folder. Replacement can be by text string or by using regular expressions. You can even replace text within a nominated range such as html tags. The interface is both logical and powerful but it does take a little getting used so read the Help file before using. Power users need look no further than this product.

A little less powerful but a tad easier for normal users is A.F.9 from Fauland [2]. It allows multiple search and replace operations in the one pass, can save search and replace operations for later re-use and has full drag and drop support.

Note that these programs are designed for use on text based files such as .txt and .html and must not be used on binary files or proprietary formats such as Microsoft Word. If you want to search and replace these kind of files then check out InfoRapid Search and Replace [3]. It's not as powerful as the best binary editors but with suitable add-ins it can handle certain Microsoft Office file types plus .rtf and .pdf.

[1] Freeware, all Windows versions, 572KB
[2] Freeware, all Windows versions, 992KB
[3] Free for private use, 1.03MB

45 Best Free Outliner

I'm not a great fan of outliners - my brain doesn't work that way. Some folks however, swear by them and if that includes you, then you should check out Keynote, a freeware program that has a dedicated band of followers. Its major design attribute is its ease of use. Words like "natural" and "seamless" come close to the mark but really don't capture the essence of what is really a great design. What do you do with it? Well to quote the web site “KeyNote is used by screenwriters to draft screenplays, by medical doctors to keep patient databases, by developers to store source code snippets - and to everyone it serves as a place to put all the random pieces of information that have no particular structure of relationship to other data, and do not fit easily in task-specific applications such as word-processors, databases or spreadsheets.” Unfortunately the program is no longer being developed but is totally usable in its current form.

If you find that a turn-off you might like to consider NeoMem [2] as an alternative. It's not really a dedicated outliner rather more of a general purpose note taking program that can be used as an outliner. It's a kind of hybrid of a database and word processor that's designed to allow you to organize, store, hyperlink and search information. That bland description totally under-sells the product. It's one of those programs that you really need to use in order to understand the potential. It works with all Windows versions so try it.

Another possibility is FreeMind [3]. It's an Open Source program "mind mapping" program written in Java that can serve as an outliner as well. Functionally it's closer to Keynote than NeoMem. It's slower than Keynote but is more powerful for mapping complex relationships.

[1] Free Mozilla Public license, Windows 98 and later, 1.7MB
[2] Free MIT X11 License, all Windows versions, 680KB
[3] Free Open Source, any system with Java, 3MB.

46 Best Free Rename Utility

If you want industrial strength file renaming there are several great choices: First there's Lupas Rename 2000 [1]. This is a small utility for Win 98 and later that globally renames all the files in a directory and its subdirectories. It can convert names to upper/lower case, change the case of the first letter, add text, left crop, right crop and just about anything else you can think of. And unlike DOS based utilities, it will work on hidden files as well. Add in a nice GUI interface, an undo feature, full preview of changes, MP3 tag renaming, support for regular expressions and the fact that it's free and you have an outstanding product.

The second and equally attractive option is Flexible Renamer [2]. It's quite similar to Lupas and choosing between them is not easy. Lupas seems to me to be easier to use for simply renaming files while Flexible Renamer has the edge with MP3 tags. Flexible Renamer can also can bulk change file attributes while Lupas can't. It also runs without installation, a definite plus.

A third choice is Bulk Rename [3]. It's a bit like Lupas Rename and Flexible Renamer rolled into one product. That means more power but at the cost of greater complexity and a steeper learning curve. Indeed the option-laden opening screen would scare the pants off average users. However it is the bulk re-namer product I like most and many power users would I suspect, agree.

However if you only need a re-namer for re-labeling digital photos and MP3 files you might like instead to looked at a program [4] called "THE Rename" (sic). that's better suited to these tasks. It's freeware and works on all versions of Windows though usage is not very intuitive.

[1] Freeware, all Windows versions, 734KB
[2] Freeware, all Windows versions, 648KB
[3] Freeware, Windows 98SE and later, 622KB
[4] Freeware, all Win versions, 2.9MB

47 Best Free Digital Image Stitcher

I use an impressive $59 commercial product called PhotoVista Panorama to stitch together my digital images into panoramas. I'm very happy with it but must admit to feeling a little despondent when I discovered this utility that works just as well and is free. It's called AutoStitch and is the product Matthew Brown, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia. No, it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of PhotoVista but the stitching to my eye, is actually better. The way it automatically aligns haphazard mosaics of photos without any human intervention borders on the miraculous. The author is currently looking for a commercial backer but in the interim, the product is free for personal use.

Code: (1mb)

48 Best Free PDF Writer

The top choice here is PDFCreator, an open source program from SourceForge that works by setting up a pseudo printer in your system. To create a PDF you just select the PDF "printer" and write to it. This means you can create PDFs from Word, Excel or indeed any program that allows you to print. A good second choice is CutePDF Writer a which is cut-down version of the commercial CutePDF product. It works in a similar way to PDFCreator and it's free for both personal and commercial use.

Code: (2.6MB) (1.04MB)

49 Best Free File Comparison Utility

WinMerge is a free Windows utility that compares two files and identifies the differences. The differences can then be merged from one file into the other. This is the sort of product that is ideal when you have several different versions of a file and are not sure of how they differ. The product is geared to text files so it won't be much use to you with Word Processing or other complex formatted documents But for text reports or computer programs, WinMerge is ideal.

Code: (514kb)

50 Best Free Paint Program

Although they overlap in function, paint programs are really a different class of product from digital editors such as Photoshop and The Gimp. Paint programs are specifically designed to facilitate freehand drawing. They are ideal for sketching, painting, creating animations and special effects. Most folks have dabbled with Microsoft Paint (aka Paintbrush for Windows), which comes free with most versions of the operating system. In fact MS Paint is probably responsible for the generally bad reputation of paint programs. Early versions could only produce crude two dimensional drawings with jagged edges and no color gradients. Its free availability also encouraged untalented amateurs to produce works that could only be described as abysmal. Past reputation aside, the latest XP version of Microsoft Paint is actually a very capable and resource efficient product and deserves to be more widely used. In the hands of a good pixel artist it can give excellent results.

My favorite free paint program is however, not Microsoft Paint but Project DogWaffle. This is a commercial product but the developer offers an older version (V1.2) as freeware. The free version is surprisingly full featured. It has a comprehensive set of tools including fully customizable brushes, lots of filters and effects, multiple color selection options, a good set of color gradients, animation aids and more. On the downside the program runs slowly on older PCs, has limited layer support, has a clunky cut and paste mechanism and only handles .BMP and Targa files. Like all graphics editors, you'll need to invest a bit of time to learn how best to use DogWaffle but those with artistic skills will find the effort well rewarded.

Code: Freeware, all Windows versions, 4.5MB.

51 Best Free Time Correction Utility

A lot of folks have difficulty getting time correction software to work on their PC. If that's you then you should try Dimension 4, a free utility that gives you the choice of connecting to a time server either by standard TCP protocol or by the more common (and more problem-prone) SNTP protocol. If you haven't yet
got a time correction utility, this is the one. It's free, it’s easy to use, and it has every function that you could conceivably want. Because it works from both the
command line and Windows, it's ideal for batch files, too.

Code: (294kb)

52 Best Free Startup Manager

Everyone needs a startup program utility so they can exercise control over what third party programs start automatically with Windows. There are several fine choices: The first is Mike Lin's Startup Control Panel [1]. It’s small, and easy to use yet has powerful features including the ability to edit or add entries. A second and equally good choice is Nir Sofer's StartupRun [2]. Unlike Startup Control Panel it lists all startup programs in a single list rather than in tabs according to location. It also has a lot more information on each program and has extensive editing features as well which means that it's definitely not for Newbies. Then there's Starter [3]. It combines many of the strengths of the other products and additionally includes a first rate process viewer. As a bonus, it can be run directly from the executable without installation which makes it a handy item to have on your toolkit CD or flash drive. Folks you are truly spoiled by choice here, each one of these products is a winner. NOTE: It appears Starter has become so popular that the author's website has exceeded its download limit so I've given an alternative [4] download link.

[1] (59KB)
[2] (68KB)
[3] (466KB)
[4] (468KB) <= Alternate Starter download site

53 Best Free Wi-Fi Network Finder Utility

NetStumbler is a free packet sniffer utility used to locate Wi-Fi networks. It's one of the first tools of its kind and arguably still the best. So much so that it is the standard product used by war-drivers in their perpetual search for free bandwidth via unsecured Wi-Fi networks as well as road- warriors looking to connect their laptops back to the office. Basically it's a wireless packet sniffer that lists all networks available at a given geographical location. For each network it displays over 20 different parameters including the signal strength, noise level, encryption method used, GPS coordinates and more. It's a great product with a couple of caveats: first, it only works with specific wireless card chipsets and if yours is not one these then you are out of luck. However, most Centrino-based laptops work fine including many Dells and IBMs. Second, the program won't connect you to a network; you have to do that by other means. That said, NetStumbler is a valuable product for any laptop user who accesses Wi-Fi systems while on the road. It's also a standard tool in trade for IT security workers who need to audit Wi-Fi security.

Code: Freeware, all Windows versions, 1.3MB

54 Best Free NFO Viewer

Many freeware files are distributed with descriptive NFO and DIZ files as part of the distribution package. These are just plain text files so you can view them with Notepad or other text editor but often the formatting is lost. Try this tiny little viewer that's built for the job. It's free and once associated with the NFO and DIZ file types, works seamlessly, a true "install and forget" product.


55 Best Free Data Recovery Utility

PC Inspector File Recovery 4 is a free utility that does an impressive job recovering accidentally deleted files or files lost through corruption of the file system. It works with the FAT16, FAT32 and NTFS file systems which pretty well covers all Windows installations.

It has some nice features, like the ability to recover files with lost headers, and to recover partitions even when the boot sector has been lost or damaged. It even supports the saving of recovered files on network drives.

Experienced users will find the product relatively easy to use but novices may be challenged. Data recovery by its very nature is a demanding task and cannot be reduced to simply pushing a button.

This is no home written utility - it is a serious product from a reputable German company with a long history in commercial data recovery. PC Inspector is the ideal product for those who want the security of a data recovery program but are not prepared to fork our big bucks for the extra features of high end products.

Code: Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 5.8MB

56 Best Free Remote Access Software

There are several good choices here all of which are variants of the classic AT&T VNC program. A short list would include RealVNC, TightVNC, EsVNC and Ultr@VNC. Each has its merits but my top pick goes to Ultr@VNC as because of its active development, good forum support and an excellent encryption plug-in. Ultr@VNC [1] is a client/server package that allows remote control of another PC using any TCP/IP connection. It works with Windows W9x/NT/2K/XP and offers all the features you need including auto-configuration, easy user interface, extensive hotkeys and embedded file transfer. Add to that the fact that it's free, secure, reliable and reasonably speedy and you have a winner. Just the thing for accessing your home PC while traveling, off-site troubleshooting or general network administration.

An alternative to VNC based products is the free version of the commercial remote access product LogMeIn [2]. This is a web based service that's extremely easy to set up and use and can be accessed from any PC with a browser. The free version won't allow file transfer and remote printing but is a great solution for accessing your remote data as well as file sharing. Registration is required.


57 Best Free PIM

If you needs are basic there's Sunbird [1]. It's a small, resource efficient calendaring application and has a really neat feature that displays your to-do list for the day on your desktop . However it really is a bit minimal. Users of the Thunderbird email client would be better off with the Lightning extension [2] rather than Sunbird as it integrates calendaring features directly into the Thunderbird interface.

If you want more features, check out EssentialPIM [3]. It does many of the same things as Outlook and will import your Outlook data as well.

Abassis Work Desktop [4] is a $59 commercial PIM and project manager that's available to individuals for non-commercial use. It's a pretty impressive product that offers contact management, calendaring, to-lists, reminders, document filing and simple project management. Backup is built into the product. The only thing I could see that was missing was an integrated email client.

Yet another alternative is the PalmOne Desktop program [5]. The program is designed specifically for use with Palm devices but it works perfectly well all by itself. It's an excellent full function PIM; if you think Microsoft Outlook without the email client you'll get the general idea. I only did a quick check-out rather than a full review but what I saw seemed pretty solid. Naturally a few things such as "Synchronize" don't work without an attached Palm device but most functions work just fine. I also checked the licensing agreement and while it's a little ambiguous I suspect its OK for personal use. Indeed, I can't see Palm objecting as it may well encourage you to buy one of their hand-helds. ;>)

[1] Free Open Source, Windows 2000 and later, 5.8MB
[3] (1.2MB)
[4] Free for non commercial use, All Windows versions, 1.7MB
[5] Free for personal use, Windows NT SP6 or later plus Mac OS X, 42MB.

58 Best Free Windows Driver Backup

DoubleDriver allows you to view, backup and restore you Windows drivers. It also allows you to print out a driver list. It doesn't seem to have been updated recently but works fine on my XP SP2 PC. Before backing up it's a good idea to use Windows Device Manager to check that all your drivers are working properly.

Code: Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 1.4MB

59 Best Free Program Un-installer

This group of programs has two sub classes: Windows uninstaller replacements and application uninstallers.

The Windows Add/Remove Programs applet in the control panel constantly annoys users with its limitations. MyUninstaller [1] is a free program that works just like the Windows Add or Remove Programs applet but is a more capable product than the Windows version. It gives you much more information about each installed program including product name, company, version, uninstall string, installation folder and Windows Registry details. It also allows you to delete orphaned and obsolete entries from the list as well as the ability to save a list of all installed applications into a text file or HTML. My favorite feature though is the ability to sort programs by the date installed which is great for quickly uninstalling programs you are just trying out. As no installation is required, it can be run from a CD or USB drive which makes it an excellent addition to your diagnostic toolkit.

An alternative to MyUninstaller that offers similar functionality is Safarp [2], a free Open Source program. It's great strength is its speed - it loads in a flash. Safarp can be be run as a stand alone program or installed and integrated into the Control Panel.

MyUninstaller [3] is a free utility from Microsoft that supplements rather than replaces the Windows Add/Remove Programs applet It cleans up dead entries in the Windows Add/Remove programs panel and tidies up the corresponding Windows uninstaller registry entries.

None of these programs can of course, remove leftover registry entries, DLLs and files that belong to defunct programs. To do this you need an application uninstaller i.e. a program that monitors the original install so that it can work out exactly what changes are made during installation.

The only free program I'm aware of that does monitored installs and uninstalls is the last free version of the commercial product Total Uninstall 2 which is still available from some download sites [4]. It doesn't offer the impressive features of the latest commercial version but is quite capable.

Somewhat less less capable is InstallWatch [5], a former commercial utility that is now offered for free. It logs the registry and file changes made when you install software and hardware but unlike Total Uninstall, it cannot automatically uninstall products. None-the-less it is a handy utility to have in your toolkit.

[1] Free for personal use, Windows 98 and later, 40KB
[2] Free Open Source, Windows 2000 and later, 133KB.
[3] All Windows versions, 1.23MB.
[4] All Windows Versions, 684KB
[5] Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 3.7MB

60 Best Free Internet Accelerator

In a surprise move Google released in early May 2005 a beta version of a new product called the Google Web Accelerator (GWA). Unlike most other accelerators which provide caching on your own PC, the GWA utilizes caching on Google's own dedicated web servers to accelerate browsing. On top of that it uses a number of other techniques to speed thing up including compressing html pages and pre-fetching links. The WGA program automatically installs itself into the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers and can be manually configured to work with other browsers. To protect user privacy the accelerator does not function during connections to secure sites such as internet banking. Does it work? You bet with most users myself included, reporting improvements of 10-40% in browsing speeds. There are however some caveats: First the product is only available for Windows XP or Windows 2000 SP3+. Second the product is optimized for broadband use and modem users may experience little or no gain. Third the system is currently working best within the USA and Europe and users located in other areas will only receive a partial benefit. Fourth there are some potential privacy issues involved so all users should closely read what Google has documented on the subject. Personally I don't have a problem but others mileage may vary. Finally some webmasters have been scare mongering with reports that the GWA pre-fetching function can cause all buttons on a web page to be automatically pressed including things like "delete my subscription." I've looked it this and frankly, every case I've seen has been due to very sloppy web coding. However if you want to be super cautious then I suggest you simply disable the GWA for any page that uses forms and buttons. Personally I think it's a storm in a tea cup. These reservations aside this is a terrific product. It provides for nix almost all of the benefits of expensive commercial web acceleration services like Propel.

Code: <= FAQ

61 Best Free Windows Toolbar Backup

Inexperienced PC users just always seem to be losing their Windows and Internet Explorer toolbars. I've never quite worked out exactly how they do it but they sure manage it somehow. Luckily, this free utility makes recovery a snap.


62 Best Free Encryption Utility for Personal Use at Work

Camouflage is a free utility that will hide your personal or confidential files within another file. The neat thing is that the container file looks and works like a normal file of that format. So, by way of example, you could embed a secret message in a Word file which could be opened by anyone and appear to be just a normal Word file. The intended recipient could use their copy of Camouflage to open the file, enter the password and extract the embedded information. This free program is not intended to provide military strength protection but rather a convenient way to sneak information past unnecessarily prying eyes. Note: It looks like the author's web site is down, however you can download Camouflage from the other links below.
Code: (2.65mb)

63 Best Free CD Catalogue Organizer

I don't really have a need for this kind of product but if you do then you'll be interested in this excellent suggestion from subscriber David Killian Woods. "Disclib is a terrific utility. I archive all of my projects to CD/DVD and keep them in a fireproof box for storage. But there are over 30 full discs now (half are DVDs), and many of them have multiple versions of the same project. Disclib keeps an index of the file/directory structure of every disc, so I can search through them all without having to swap 30 discs in my drive! Invaluable! Thanks for that David, nice find.

Code: (1.75mb)

64 Best Free File Encryption Utility

This is what the web site says: "dsCrypt is AES/Rijndael file encryption software with simple, multi-file, drag-and-drop operations. It features optimal implementation, performance and safety measures. dsCrypt uses an advanced encryption algorithm and offers unique options for enhanced security." To that I'll add the fact that it's tiny, easy to use, has open code, employs proven techniques that are essentially unbreakable and comes from a highly reputable source. In summary, dsCrypt offers the average user everything they want in a simple file encryption program and it's free. That's why I use it myself. Equally impressive is an Open Source program called AxCrypt. It t provides secure AES-128 encryption using passwords or key-files, which AxCrypt can generate. Usage is wonderfully simple; to encrypt files or folders just right-click them and select "encrypt." while double clicking on encrypted files lets you edit or view them with the program of your choice. Closing any open files automatically re-encrypts.

Code: <=dsCrypt (25KB) <=AxCrypt (1.02MB).

65 Best Free Drive Encryption Utility

TrueCrypt is an open-source utility which enables you to create encrypted "virtual drives" of almost unlimited size, where you can securely store files and keep them away from prying
eyes. TrueCrypt offers a wide range of encryption algorithms, including the option to encrypt with multiple algorithms, as well as "plausible deniability" for the benefit of the truly paranoid. The program is very stable (although backups are obviously recommended). Newbies might find the program a bit daunting at first; however, more experienced users who want serious virtual drive encryption would be hard-put to find a better program. Great for protecting your data on USB flash drives too.

Code: Freeware, Windows XP, 641KB.
66 Best Free Non-Adobe PDF Reader

Sick to death of Adobe's slow, bloated PDF Reader? If so then check out the Foxit Reader. It's small, loads in flash, supports bookmarks, has search capability, offers many views and runs on any version of Windows. On top of that it can print PDFs as well. It runs without installation too, so it's ideal for your toolkit CD or USB flash drive.

Code: Freeware, all Windows versions, 915KB.

67 Best Free Disk De-fragmenter

My top recommendation here is Diskeeper Lite [1], an older free version of Executive Software's current commercial Diskeeper product. It works very well indeed given that it is V7 while the current commercial product is at V10 but I've had a few complaints from subscribers about the annoying nag screen. I have no magic fix for this but there are other free defraggers worth considering.

Auslogics Desk Defrag [2] is fast, has a nice disk map, lots of stats and is really easy to use. It's pretty basic but its simplicity and speed make it a good choice for many users.

Even simpler is IObit SmartDefrag [3]. It works away in the background to keep your PC constantly defragged. It's only a beta at the moment but the feedback I've received has been excellent. A true "set and forget solution."

Another possibility is "Contig" [4] from SysInternals, a robust, free, command line utility which defrags one file at a time. It's fast, and safe but is a pain to use however eXcessive software has built an excellent user interface for Contig called "Power Defragmenter" [5] that turns Contig into a really usable product.

Update: Thanks to Vashek Weis for letting me know about how you can get version 9 of Diskeeper Lite. It forms part of Intel's large (89MB) Desktop Utilities package which is available from the Intel site [6]. If you unzip the file you'll find Diskeeper V9 Lite in the folder ../3rdparty/Diskeeper/. Neither the read-me file or the License Agreement prohibit downloading and using this program on a single computer so it appears to be a perfectly legitimate way to obtain the program.

[1] Freeware, all Windows versions,12.1MB
[2] Freeware, all Windows versions, 1.4MB
[3] Freeware, all Windows versions, 4.3MB
[4] Freeware, NT and later, 55KB
[5]" Freeware, NT and later, 397KB

68 Best Free Dictionary/Thesaurus Utility

I've been using WordWeb [1] for a while now and have seen enough to say this will be one of the rare utilities I review that ends up staying on my PC. So what does it do? Well, it's not a spellchecker so let's get that out of the way. If that's what you want, check the next item below. Rather, WordWeb is an enhanced dictionary and thesaurus. I say "enhanced" because it does some tricky extra things like showing only the relevant synonyms and related words according to whether they are noun, verb, adjective or adverb. It can also find words by pattern match or dictionary adjacency. Usage is simple; just select a word in any document and click the WordWeb tray icon. Immediately you'll get a popup with the word's meaning and synonyms. Overall, it works efficiently and elegantly to help you find the just right word to use in your written reports. WordWeb is free for personal use and a Pro version with an enhanced dictionary costs a mere $19 and is well worth buying. An equally attractive alternative to WordWeb is TheSage [2] from Sequence Publishing. Like WordWeb, it's a comprehensive dictionary with over 140,000 references together with a powerful thesaurus. It differs in that it is free even for commercial use and offers a couple of features missing from the free version of WordPro such as anagram solving and wildcard word matches. On the minus side, WordPro allows you to find meanings and synonyms in any application just by double clicking the word; with TheSage you have to cut and paste it into the application after you've launched it from its task bar icon. Picking a winner here is too hard. Try both and decide for yourself. Both products work with Windows 95 and later.

[1] (6.96MB)
[2] (8.3MB)

69 Best Free Spell-Checker

This is an impressive little utility that checks individual words on a correct-as-you-type basis, from clipboard contents or from a query box. The provided dictionary is not enormous but more than adequate for normal usage and you can also add words to the dictionary as needed. Resource usage seems modest and the product can be easily enabled/disenabled from the taskbar icon. It has one odd feature; the dictionary has both American and English spelling so words like "color" and "colour" both show as correct. Overall, it's quite a solid product and an excellent companion to WordWeb.

Code: Freeware, Win98 and later, 547KB.

70 Best Free Audio Editing Software

Thanks to subscriber Jay Eitelman for this suggestion: "Gizmo, I've switched from using $349 Adobe Audition to using Audacity [1]. It does all the recording and editing I need, and is much simpler/faster to use. Check out the noise reduction - it even allows you to select a noise profile - then remove the profile - just like Audition. " Thanks Jay. I note that, according to the web site, Audacity will also "record live audio, convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs, edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, and WAV sound files, cut, copy, splice, and mix sounds together and change the speed or pitch of a recording."

Subscriber Brandon Tanner however differs: "Audacity is good but you should check out Kristal; I think it might have Audacity's number! To start with, Kristal has an ASIO driver while Audacity doesn't. That means that you can monitor your pre-recorded tracks in real-time while you're overdubbing new ones, mandatory when multi-track recording. You can't do that in Audacity as the latency is too high. Second, Kristal supports VST plug-ins. There are tons of quality VST effects and instruments floating around the net, a lot of them free. Audacity's effects are not quite up to par with some of the better VST ones. Not to bash Audacity but I have to give credit where credit's due. Third, Kristal has a 'proper' multi-track mixer, with a lot more options for routing individual tracks, effects, etc. Don't get me wrong, I like Audacity and I think it's a good program as long as your needs are basic. But Kristal definitely has more 'pro' features."

Rinchen Tsepal takes a different view: "Audacity can support VST plugins but this support is not "built-in" because the code is not 100% open source and must be kept separate for licensing reasons. The "VST Enabler" is available for download from the Audacity website, and is available for Windows, Mac OS-X and for Linux (as a LADSPA bridge apparently). They do claim that support is limited for the time being - but also that full support is coming. Additionally real-time monitoring can be enabled through preferences - although it's not selected by default."

Kristal is based on a 32-bit floating point audio engine that can handle sample rates of 44 to 192 kHz with word sizes of 16, 24 or 32 bit. It comes with a three band parametric EQ and supports WAVE, AIFF, FLAC, OGG Vorbis file formats. It can only handle a maximum of 16 audio tracks, though the web site mentions an upcoming version 2 that will handle more tracks as well as support for MIDI, virtual instruments, and a wider range of VST plugins. Like all media editing programs, Kristal requires a modern fast PC. Don't even think about using it with a sub 1Ghz machine.

[1] Free Open Source, Windows 98 and later (plus MAC and Linux), 2.4 MB
[2] Free for personal use, Win 98/ME with IE6, Win2K, XP, 3.51MB.

71 Best Free Web Form Filler/Password Manager

Products in this class are among the most useful of all PC utilities because they allow you to complete the common task of filling in web forms and logins by simply clicking a button. They work by saving user IDs, passwords and other information needed for individual sites in encrypted form for later retrieval. To login to a site you only have to type in a single master password to allow retrieval of the specific password information for that site. This information is then used by the program to automatically login. This greatly improves security by allowing different passwords to be assigned to individual sites without the need to be remembered while at the same time making logging in easier and quicker. There's no doubt that RoboForm [1] is the stand-out product in the category; it's full featured, easy to use, seamlessly integrated into both Internet Explorer and FireFox browsers and is constantly being enhanced by the developer. It also allows your saved passwords to be moved between PCs which is very convenient when using multiple machines or upgrading. I do have a major reservation though: The free version allows only 10 forms or passwords to be stored. This used to be 30 in earlier versions which was adequate but 10 is way too few for most users and they will be eventually forced to shell out $29.99 to buy the full product. This reservation aside, it is a fabulous product that saves me time every day. Try it. You'll be amazed how much time it will save you, too.

Note: If you use Internet Explorer, there's some good news: the last free version of RoboForm (V5.7.6) that allowed 30 passwords is still available [2] from the RoboForm web site though well hidden in the FAQ. FireFox users are out of luck as you can't use this version with the current FireFox.

Some alternatives: First there is the open source program KeePass [3]. It's not nearly as well integrated into your browser as RoboForm but it's a very good product that works without any limitations at all. There's also an excellent KeePass plug-in for Internet Explorer that automates web form filling. Yet another possibility is KeyWallet [4] which is superior to KeePass in the way you can drag and drop saved information directly into web forms. Not quite as neat as RoboForm’s click and fill system but still highly effective. KeyWallet can also automatically save form data, handle difficult Java based forms and is skinable.

[2] (1.8MB) (Direct download link)
[3] (857KB)
[4] (1.4MB)

72 Best Free File Un-delete Utility

I'm recommending two utilities here, each covering a different situation. The best freeware program I've found for recovering already deleted files is Brian Kato's Restoration. It works with FAT and NTFS file structures and runs on any version of Windows from 95 onwards. As a bonus, it requires no installation which means you can run it from a USB drive, CD or floppy. In fact, that's exactly where you should run it from as installing it on your hard drive will reduce your chance of successfully recovering your deleted files. Brian's web site in Japan is not currently working so I've also give a direct download link [1] to the SnapFiles download site.

[1] (162KB)

73 Best Free Outlook Express Backup

This free utility allows you to do a full or selective backup of OE's critical files including mail folders, newsgroups, address book and identity settings. Simple, effective ... neat.

Code: (2.1mb)

74 Best Free Outlook Add-in

I hate opening HTML email. Despite multiple layers of protection I just know that one day some cunning new exploit is going to get me. That's why I'm so enthusiastic about PocketKnife Peek, a small free Outlook 2002 add-in that allows you to preview your HTML email as text. RealAccount is another freeware add-in for MS Outlook 2002 and later that allows you to designate a default email account and signature for any Outlook Folder. The program is a late beta but has proved totally stable on my Windows XP Pro PC. Yet another free utility that provides functionality that should have been included in the original product.

Code: (520KB) (338K)

75 Best Free Timesheet Program

This is a very lucrative class of programs and consequently the very best programs are unfortunately, commercial products. The best of the free programs is "Timesheets Lite" [1] from Moving Target Software. It's actually an older "lite" version of that company's full featured $29 shareware product. Its main limitation is that only one person can be connected to the
program's database at any one time. That aside, Timesheets Lite has all the features needed for anyone who bills on a time or project basis. It can also export timesheet data to Excel for
easy invoicing. I found much to like in this product and can give it my hearty recommendation. If you want an alternative consider Timesheets Express Free. The free version is limited to a single account but if you can live with this it's worth checking out. The vendors web site [2] doesn't currently offer the free version but it's readily available from a number of download sites [3].

[1] 4.68MB
[3] (5.1MB)

76 Best Free CD Recovery Utility

It's pretty common to encounter unreadable CDs. The causes are many, ranging from simple scratches through to partially written sessions. ISOBuster is free utility that will allow you extract any usable information on the CD (or DVD) to your hard drive. It works by bypassing Windows and talking directly to the hardware. As an added bonus it can read old sessions, decode multiple image file formats, recover data from quick formatted DVDs and a host of other useful data recovery features. You can use most of the functions in ISOBuster for free but it will cost you $25.96 to enable some of the advanced functions such as recovering data from MAC UDF or HFS(+) file systems. Windows 95 and later.

Code: (2.5mb)

77 Best Free Application Minimizer

TrayIt! impressed me with its combination of simplicity and effectiveness. First, it requires no installation; just double click the program file and it's up and running. Second, it can minimize open windows to the tray either temporarily or permanently with just one click. Third, it handles "difficult" windows such as skins, with ease. Fourth, it works with all versions of Windows. Fifth, it's a tiny 45KB! Finally, it's free. A little gem.


78 Best Free Parental Filter

The stand-out choice in this category is K9 Web Protection [1] by Blue Coat Systems. It's a web based service that uses a special driver installed on your PC to redirect all your browsing through K9's servers where it is filtered for content. This means that the filtering works for any browser installed on your PC. The actual filtering itself is highly customizable from a password protected control panel at K9's web site with over 15 selectable categories plus the ability to restrict or permit individual sites. Full reports on sites visited are also available from the control panel. The filtering seems quite accurate; I only found one site in an hour of browsing which I felt should not have been blocked. I also liked the optional blocking of Spyware and Adware sites. I tried a few obvious ways of crippling the filter such as uninstalling the product or disenabling the driver, with no success, which is comforting to parents. I suspect though, that a determined tech-savvy teenager might eventually find a solution. The only real downside was the slight slowing down of my browsing as a result of it being re-routed through the K9 servers. This will mainly be of concern to dial-up users. If that's you then you might like to try Naomi [2] that has the advantage of filtering locally. In my tests it caught all the offensive sites I tried though occasionally it caught an innocent site as well. Like K9, it's also difficult to disable. As with K9 I tried the obvious tricks of defeating the filter by terminating the Naomi service and deleting the autostart entry without success. Naomi also works with any browser on your system not just Internet Explorer. On the downside, it filters by terminating the browser session without warning whenever a banned site is encountered. I found this a real pain especially when I had several browser tabs open and lost the lot! Naomi is certainly a very capable parental filter but on balance I preferred K9's smarter logic, greater configurability and friendlier behavior. Modem users will however, appreciate Naomi's speed advantage.


79 Best Free Route Tracer

3D Traceroute graphically displays Internet route information. You can use it for technical tasks such as diagnosing slow connections or for general purpose snooping like determining the location and owner of a web site or tracing spammers.

Code: (1.6mb)

80 Best Free Browser Scrubber

There's no doubt that when you browse the web you accumulate huge amount of stored data. The sheer quantity is surprising; often gigabytes. A lot of this is just junk while other parts can be useful. Just what is and what isn't junk is a personal decision. For example, I regard the information stored in my browser's history as a valuable resource but I know a lot folks see it as clutter or even an embarrassment. That's why the flexibility to choose exactly what you want to keep or delete is a key requirement in any browser cleaning utility. It's in this area that CleanCache excels. Yes, there are a few other cleaner programs that also offer this but when you take into account CleanCache's speed, ease of use, automation features, near- forensic thoroughness and the fact that it works with Internet Explorer, IE Clones such as Avant, Firefox and Opera, then you have a clear winner in this category. Note that it requires the 26MB Microsoft .NET Framework to be installed on your PC.

Code: Freeware, Windows 2000 and later, 1.3 MB

81 Best Free Instant Messaging Client

If you're like me, then you probably have friends and family using a variety of IM networks. One way to talk with people on each one of these networks is to open an account for each and then download and install each IM client on your computer. However, running four different IM applications on your computer uses a lot of system resources, is difficult to manage, and broadens your attack surface. Therefore, I would recommend using a multi-protocol IM client. These applications not only allow you to connect to multiple IM networks, but they are also advertisement free, more secure, and have features that allow you to easily manage your various IM accounts. For many Gaim [1] would be the first choice. It supports AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, IRC, Jabber, Gadu-Gadu, and Zephyr IM networks and is available for multiple platform as as well. It's a solid choice but it's not by cup of tea. I've found it resource heavy and the interface confusing though I must admit the customizability though Guifications [2] is an attractive feature. Trillian Basic [3] is easier to use than Gaim, is less resource greedy and easier on the eye as well . It supports the AIM, ICQ, IRC, MSN, and Yahoo networks. Now, if you're a power user and want support for more networks and the ability to add features via plug-ins, then definitely check out Miranda Instant Messenger [4]. In addition to the networks supported by Trillian, it has native support for Gadu-Gadu and Jabber (it also will connect to the Google Talk network with a little plug-in tweaking). Its interface is minimalist, but the application is very extensible through the use of plug-ins. Miranda IM is now my IM client of choice

[1] All Windows, 8MB.
[3 Windows 98 and later, 8.6MB
[4] Windows 95 and later, 943 KB+

82 Best Free Video Editor

Subscriber Jim Nix writes "Gizmo this Christmas season I became in need of a video editor. I discovered my copy of Adobe Premiere 5.1 LE did not allow for gamma, brightness or contrast adjustment. I checked your “Best 46 Freeware” listings and found no video editor. If you have considered adding such a category I suggest you consider VirtualDub [1] which is outstanding. The package is however not complete without the additional filters. A comprehensive collection of third party filters is available from a Frenc site [2] - just click on the “TELECHARGER ICI” button to download the complete set of filters (RAR pack). Once all the filters are installed, delete the “PCVideo Image Processor” filter as the installation instructions are missing a step. Thank you Jim. I'm not a video sort of guy but I've checked out VirtualDub and it's an impressive Open source package that is regularly updated by its author. Note however that it won't handle DVD or MP4 and like all video software, needs a pretty fast PC.

Freeware, Windows 95 or later, 958KB.
[3] <= download link

83 Best Free CD Ripper

I recently started the long task of ripping my 1200 CDs to my hard disk. I knew it was a huge job and one I certainly wanted to do only once. So, before I started, I was determined made sure I did it right. There are lots of rippers available. All media players including Windows Media Player can rip. There are also some great freebies plus a host of commercial rippers. Most will rip to WAV, MP3 and usually several other formats. After a lot of experimentation I ended up with three rippers to evaluate in detail: CDEX [1], Exact Audio Copy [2] and AudioGrabber [3]. All are free. If your CDs are like mine then some will be scratched or have lots of finger-marks. These can cause pops and crackles in the ripped file. Rippers vary greatly in their ability to handle these problems. Some will simply get stuck; others will skip forward over the problem or even create a silent gap. The best programs will try repeatedly to fix the problem with no audible effects. Of the three products I tested, one product was outstanding in its ability to handle CD imperfections. That product was Exact Audio Copy.
I'm now two thirds of the way through my ripping exercise. Of the 800 or so CDs ripped I've only had 7 tracks that EAC couldn't rip perfectly. Given the condition of some of my CDs, that's a mighty impressive performance. EAC can rip to WAV, MP3 (using the excellent LAME encoder), OGG, FLAC, APE and more. CD rippers interact strongly with your CD hardware so it's possible EAC may not work with your particular CD drive. If that's the case, try CDEX and AudioGrabber. While their performance with scratched CDs is not as good as EAC they are both outstanding freeware products.

[1] (1.91MB)
[2] (1.18MB)
[3] (1.6MB)

84 Best Free Video Conversion Program

Wouldn't it be neat to be able to convert any kind of video files to a format you can use on your PSP, iPod or mobile phone? "Super" is a free utility that allows you to do pretty well all of these things and more. It has two great strengths: first it's relatively easy to use and secondly it handles a large number of different file formats. It handles 3gp/3g2 (Nokia, Siemens, Sony, Ericsson), asf, avi (DivX, H263, H263+, H264, Xvid, MPEG4, MSmpeg4 etc), dat, fli, flc, flv (used in Flash), mkv, mpg (Mpeg I, Mpeg II), mov (H263, H263+, H264, MPEG4 etc), mp4 (H263, H263+, H264, MPEG4), ogg, qt, rm, ram, rmvb, str (Play Station), swf (Flash), ts (HDTV), viv, vob, and wmv. It also handles audio file format conversion including ac3, amr, mp2, mp3, mp4, ogg, ra, wav, and wma. Am I impressed? You bet; I've seen commercial software with fewer features selling for over$100. Be aware though, that video conversion by its very nature requires a lot of processing power and can be very slow on older PCs. NOTE: The download link on the author's site [1] seems to have been removed. Super can however be downloaded from here [2].

Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 18MB.

85 Best Free Reminder/To-Do Program

There are literally dozens of free stand-alone reminder programs. Even more if you include sticky notes utilities and calendaring programs that offer reminder features. Many, I can assure you, are not worth installing. Of the nine programs I looked at, two impressed me for their ease of use of their reminder and "to-do" features. "Easy To-Do" [1] has the starkest interface of any of the products I reviewed yet it is among the most effective in use. It has all the features you need but no more, including unlimited task lists, task categories, recurring reminders, audible and visual alarms, adjustable snooze, configurable reports and more. It's been really well thought through with lots of nice touches like the ability to add a new task or reminder by simply right-clicking the tray icon. Rainlender [2] by contrast, is a much slicker product but a tad more difficult to use. Rainlender is not only a reminder program but a very capable iCal "compatible" desktop calendar, though the calendar feature can be turned off. Used as a reminder and "to do" program it's very feature rich with a really snazzy interface employing things like variable windows transparency, impressive mouse-over effects, hotkeys and easy skinning. It also has several features missing from Easy To-Do such as the ability to synchronize events between clients as well as Outlook appointment integration. I liked, too, the way the tray icon shows the current date, a feature that Easy To-Do could well emulate. Either of these programs will meet the reminder needs of most users. Some will prefer Easy To-Do for its simple but effective approach while others will be won over by Rainlender's optional desktop calendar, impressive interface and powerful features. Firefox and Thunderbird users also have the option of using the free ReminderFox and Mozilla Calendar extensions which together provide similar functionality. They offer the advantage of avoiding the need for running a separate reminder application but at the cost of not having reminders available when Firefox or Thunderbird aren't running.

[1] Freeware, all Windows versions, 1.2MB.
[2] Free GPL software, all Windows versions, 948KB
[3] Free Open Source, requires Firefox and/or Thunderbird
[4] Free, Open Source, available as Firefox and/or Thunderbird extension or in stand- alone form as Sunbird.

86 Best Free CD Burning Software

Locating quality freeware burning applications for this review proved challenging, even though there are plenty of contenders. My short list included: AVS Disc Creator, burnatonce, Burn to the Brim, CDBurnerXP Pro, CDR Tools Front End, CommandBurner, DeepBurner Free, Easy Burning, Express Burn, and HT Fireman CD/DVD Burner. I was also attracted to two other programs, Burn4Free and Artisan (a.k.a. Sun), but they were packaged with adware and/or spyware and were discarded. Of all the products, the most impressive was CDBurnerXP Pro [1]. It possesses all of the core features you need including an intuitive interface, the ability to author data discs, create audio CDs playable in a regular CD player, create bootable discs, copy discs, and create and burn image files (e.g. ISO). It passed every test I was able to throw at it including adding to a multi-session disc created on another drive with another burning application and creating a functional slip-streamed Windows XP installation CD! In addition to the core features, CDBurnerXP Pro also has a several additional features including: customizable boot disc options (lacking in DeepBurner), integrated cover printing utility, integrated audio player and audio, and the ability to rip audio CDs to various formats including MP3 (with CDDB lookup). Lastly, those familiar with Nero will be right at home as CDBurnerXP's interface is very much like Nero's. All up, CDBurnerXP is a good choice for both basic and advanced users. DeepBurner Free [2] is a close second to CDBurnerXP Pro. If you don't author bootable CDs or care about the additional multimedia features, then DeepBurner Free might be the one for you. It has all of the core functionality, but is a much smaller download package and has a smaller installation footprint. It also offers a portable version that can be run stand-alone from a USB drive. In addition to these products, there are several free burners that are extremely small and specialize in just one or two features. For example, Burrrn [3] is for authoring audio CDs, CreateCD [4] and CommandBurner [5] offer command line burning capabilities, DVDShrink [6] is meant for creating DVD backups, and ImgBrn [7] and ISO Recorder [8] are for burning images to disc with a couple clicks of the mouse. For general users, though, CDBurnerXP Pro or DeepBurner Free are the clear winners. Editor's note: many thanks to regular contributor Craig Vollmar for taking the time to prepare this excellent review.

[1] Windows 98 and later, 11.02 MB
[2] Windows 98 and later, 2.60 MB
[3] Windows 98 and later, 2.02 MB
[4] Windows XP and 2003, 63 KB
[5] Windows NT and later, 2.71 MB
[6] Windows 9x/2000/XP, 1.06 MB
[7] Windows 98 and later, 860 KB
[8] Windows XP and 2003 (64-bit available), 320 KB

87 Best Free Notes Organizer

Evernote[1] is designed to help you organize all those random bits of information hanging around your PC: bookmarks, articles, bits of text, interesting web links, shopping lists, to-do lists, recipes, tips, etc. It's a common problem but a difficult one to solve as the information is so disparate. Some folks have tried to solve the problem by using free form databases while others use beefed up text editors or multi-media snippet managers. Evernote approaches the problem by allowing you to store your notes on an endless "roll" of virtual paper. You can create notes on the roll, drag and drop them or cut and paste them. Images can be stored as well as text. You can access the stored information several different ways: by searching for keywords, by using a category classification such as "recipes", by the date it was created or any combination of these. Toolbars for Internet Explorer and Firefox allow web site information to be highlighted and moved directly to Evernote together with a hyperlink back to the web site. A similar capability is provided for Outlook email. Sure, all this sounds nice but does it work? I evaluated Evernote for a month by using it to collect information for this newsletter. In this demanding task, I found it effective in doing the job and to work just about as well as anything else I've tried including Microsoft's OneNote.
It's got a few annoying weaknesses though. If you move an email message to another folder after you have posted the information to Evernote, it loses the link. This is a fatal flaw for me as I only have two mail folders - my inbox for unread mail and the deleted folder for everything else - so everything gets moved after I've read it. Additionally, the category system is weak. What is needed is the ability to assign tags not categories and to be able to search using those tags in the same manner as you can at and similar sites. That said, Evernote is an outstanding free product and will provide many folks with an excellent solution to note, snippet and general information management problems. Tablet computer users may want to check out the $34.95 "Plus" version that also handles hand-written notes. Note: a new beta version [2] is now available. It offers a host of improvements and enhancements including the ability to synchronize your notes between your PC and a USB

Freeware, Windows 2000 and later, 8.4MB

88 Best Free Virtual Desktop Manager

This review was prepared by regular contributor A.K. "I looked at a whole batch of free VDMs including VirtuaWin [1], Microdesk [2], Dexpot [3] and Virtual Desktop Toolbox [4].1] VirtuaWin is a competent but basic product that depends on third-party modules for extra features but unfortunately there aren't many around. Microdesk comes with more standard features such as 99 desktops, configurability of each desktop (name, password, wallpaper and icons), an attractive interface and a configurable transparent menu above the tray bar to navigate between desktops. However, there is no detailed FAQ and no forum. Dexpot allows even more configurability for each of its 20 possible desktops with its well-organized interface and enables easy switching between desktops and quick movement of windows. However, the online documentation is very incomplete and the most active section of the online forum is in German. Virtual Desktop Toolbox is loaded with features which the other three lack. The negative is that it takes a little longer to learn. However, the pain is eased by the very thorough user's guide and tips and tricks folder included in the installation and also available online [5], [6]. Note that to unlock some time and feature restrictions to Virtual Desktop Toolbox's evaluation version you need to take out a free registration. The four VDMs I reviewed are all very capable products but I recommend Virtual Desktop Toolbox because of its outstanding features list and excellent support. Once you have learned how to use it you will improve your organization and productivity, perhaps drastically so.


89 Best Free Duplicate File Detector

I must confess that I'm not a great fan of the practice of routinely deleting duplicate files from PCs. Sure it can free up some disk space but it can also get inexperienced users into a great deal of trouble. There are quite a few duplicate file detection utilities around but CloneSpy is the one that impresses me the most. It's certainly not the fastest program in its class but it's definitely the smartest. First, you can specifically select what is to be scanned and this can include multiple drives, multiple folders or just individual folders. Second, it has the ability to detect duplicates by CRC, by file name, by CRC and file name and by file name and size. Third, it will also detect zero length files. Fourth, the program does not need to be installed but can be run from the executable so it's a good candidate for your USB Flash drive toolkit. Finally, it throws up duplicates to the user in a way that at least makes you think about what you are deleting. Click-happy users may find this latter feature an annoyance; to me it's a safety feature. Safety feature or not, please read the help file and use with care. In particular do NOT include your Windows folder in your scan unless you are a knowledgeable technical user.

Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 643KB.

90 Best Free Program Launcher

The are many free application launchers. Commonly these employ a dockable toolbar containing shortcuts to various programs on the PC. The toolbar can usually be hidden so it doesn't take up desktop space. I've never been keen on these things as often they achieve little more than what's available from the Windows Start menu. However, I've found an application launcher that actually really works. Launchy is a free Open Source utility that solves the fundamental weakness shared by many application launchers; intrusiveness. Unlike other products that use launch bars or tray icons, Launchy is invisible until you hit a special hotkey combination. By default this is Alt-Space. Hitting the hot key combination brings up a small window into which you type the name of the application you are looking for. You rarely even have to type the full name; mostly all you need do is just type a couple of letters. Launchy instantly displays on a find-as-you-type basis, any program that matches the letters you typed in. By default Launchy only searches files in your Start Menu folders. You can however, configure it to handle any file types and search any folders. So Launchy could be used to launch web link shortcuts or even your MP3 files. Configuration is easy; just right click on the Launchy Window. A top product.

Code: Free Open Source, Windows 2000 and later, 841KB.

91 Best Free Streaming Media Recorder

Sick of just watching streamed videos and audio tracks but not being able to save them? So are many other folks and this demand has given rise to nearly a dozen utilities that will record them to your PC. The bad news is that the best products in this category are shareware not freeware with Replay Video and RM Recorder the standout choices. There are, however, several solid, if not outstanding, freeware choices. The easiest to use is StreamBox VCR [1]. It
handles many major video and audio formats including MS and RealMedia though support for QuickTime and the latest formats is limited. It also can't handle more than 5 simultaneous streams. The Japanese program GetASFStream [2] handles virtually all MS video and audio streaming protocols with ease. There's a catch though: there's no English translation! Thankfully, usage is dead simple; once you have installed the product just paste the streaming file URL into the products address box and hit enter. You can find a machine translation of the Japanese FAQ here [3]. Another option is SDP, a free video player [4] that allows you to save most streamed MS video protocols except RTSP. The later format will be handled in the next release. Be aware, though, that there are media rights issues with a lot of streamed broadcasts, so be prudent in what you chose to record.

[2] Freeware, 697KB
[3] http://~ Due To The Increase In Phishing We Now Disallow Protected URL's ~/fwvzq
[4] Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 2.77MB

92 Best Free Backup Program

Locating a decent free backup program can be a pretty depressing experience. It's hard to find decent commercial backup program let alone a free one. Most products have glaring deficiencies, the most common being difficulty of use and lack of CD/DVD support.

Difficulty of use is the real deal-breaker for me. If a product doesn't allow an average user to easily set up an effective backup then as far as I'm concerned it's pretty well useless.

Let me explain why by example. Most users want to backup their email but have no idea where on their computer their email is stored. Good backup programs provide check boxes for "back up my Outlook mail" and similar options for other popular email clients. The same comment applies to backing up Favorites or the Windows Registry. Again, most users simply don't know where these files are located. Well designed backup programs understand this and make it easy by providing check boxes.

But most backup programs are not well designed. They require the user to specify the exact location of files to be backed up and most users don't know where they are located. It's just dumb.

Of the 14 free products I looked at I've only found one program that I feel happy to recommend to average users. It's actually an older version of a current commercial product. The vendor is offering the older version for free with the hope users might later upgrade to the newest version. However, the old program is good enough that most users probably won't need to.

The program is WinBackup V1.86 from Uniblue Systems [1] . It's a pretty good backup program by any standards: it's got a Wizard to help users setup their backups and another to initiate a recovery. It has handy check boxes for commonly backed up items and a lot of flexibility for adding specific data sets to those standard items. It can back up to any drive recognized by Windows including network drives. Most importantly it will backup to CD/DVD without the need for third party packet driver software. It supports compression and encryption and provides backup data validation as well. It has a built in scheduler that runs backups automatically. The feature list goes on and on.

"Well," you may ask, "what's wrong with it?"

A few things. First, it backs up in a proprietary format which means you can't read the data without having a copy of WinBackup on hand. This won't worry many users but I find it an annoyance.

Second, it had trouble reading deeply nested directory structures. Worse still, it reacts to the problem by just hanging which necessitates a system reboot. Many users just won't have data nested so deep as to cause a problem but be aware it can happen.

Third, it occasionally missed a scheduled backup and worse still didn't warn me. I'm still not sure why. Indeed, it may be a problem specific to my setup. But again, be aware of the potential.

These reservations aside, WinBackup V1.86 gets my top recommendation as the best free data backup program available. It's not up to the standard of the best commercial products but will still meet the needs of many average users.

If you want an alternative there's Cobian Backup [2]. It's been around for quite a while and while basic is totally reliable. When I say basic I mean it - there's not even a restore feature. However it's used by thousand of organizations and individual users and has a strong following. There's a Unicode version that only works with Windows NT and later and a second version that doesn't support Unicode but works with all Windows versions.

[1] Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 4.2MB
[2] Freeware, Windows NT and later, 7.9MB

93 Best Homebrew (Beer Recipe) Software

One of the key aspects of homebrew is recipe formulation and management. Creating a tasty brew that meets the characteristics of its target style is no easy task since it involves many calculations and variables (color, bitterness, specific gravity, etc.). Not surprisingly, there are several homebrew software programs available to assist with these crucial tasks, including: BeerSmith, CyberBrau, DrewBrew, ProMash, QBrew, Strangebrew, and SUDS.

After reviewing all of these programs, three are recommended. Probably the most feature rich homebrew program available is BeerSmith [1]. It has an integrated recipe database for formulating and tracking recipes. It also has a user friendly interface, an integrated ingredient management system and shopping list, and many other tools including: water profiles, mash profiles, hop bitterness and aging calculator, hydrometer correction, various unit converters, and much more! BeerSmith will create a detailed brewing instruction sheet based on the recipe, equipment profile, mash profile, efficiency rating, and other options selected. To top it all off, it is one of only two homebrew recipe programs that support the BeerXML [*] standard that allows users to easily share recipes and associated information.

For an excellent freeware homebrew recipe program, QBrew [2] is the only, but very deserving, choice. It has an intuitive and simple interface and is excellent for formulating recipes quickly (about half the time as BeerSmith). Recipe entry and ingredient database management is extremely simple in QBrew. Each recipe is stored in a separate file and can be exported in BeerXML [*] format for sharing and/or importing into other BeerXML enabled applications such as BeerSmith. QBrew's recipe calculations seem to be more accurate than BeerSmith's, but don't accept that as a guarantee! After all, home brewing systems vary in efficiencies and the calculation results are meant to serve as guidelines. Both BeerSmith and QBrew can be extracted from the installation archive and run from a USB flash drive.

However, for web-savvy users that are interested in a web-based beer recipe application that can be setup on a personal web site and then accessed from anywhere, CyberBrau [3] is a very capable option. It features recipe formulation and management, batch tracking, a reviewing system, and other useful utilities. It also supports multiple users and is great for sharing recipes, tracking batches through the entire process, and sharing comments on recipes. Note from Gizmo: Many thanks to Craig Vollmar for submitting this review.

[1] Shareware (21 day trial), Windows 98 or newer, 2.6 MB
[2] Freeware, 3.1 MB
[3] Freeware, Web-based (PHP and MySQL),

94 Best Free Boilerplate Text Manager

Boilerplate managers are utilities that allow you to store and insert commonly used phrases into your email, documents and other programs. For example rather than type "We have received your order," you can select the phrase from a list and then it will be automatically inserted without you typing a thing.

These things are immensely useful. I save about 30 minutes a day by using one.

I use a commercial product called PS Tray Factory which is excellent but I've just discovered a free utility called Phrase Express that's just as good.

Phrase Express's feature list is impressive: it has no limit to the number of insertion items, it allows multi-line inserts, it can handle nesting of inserts within inserts, it allows the insertion of names, dates and other variables within inserts, it allows abbreviations to be automatically expanded, and more.

It also allows you launch a program or go to a web page instead of inserting text and that's really handy.

Also handy is the built-in auto-correct feature similar to the one in Microsoft Office. It automatically fixes common typing errors like "adn" instead of "and". Unlike the Microsoft version it works in any program not just Office.

Usage is simple. To create an item just highlight and copy the text, click the Phrase Express tray icon and select "Create phrase from clipboard." To insert text you simply click the tray icon and select the phrase from the list shown. It will then be automatically inserted.

Phrases can also be inserted by assignable hotkey or by automatic expansion, i.e. abbreviations you type like "BTW" can be automatically expanded to "by the way."

So what's wrong with it? Nothing actually, apart from the fact that it can't handle formatted text or image inserts. Apparently that will be remedied in the next version.

Code: Free for personal use, all Windows versions, 1.3MB

95 Best Free Drive Imaging Program

Acronis True Image may be the best drive imaging program on the market [1] but at $49 it's not within everyone's budget. In this review I looked at free alternatives. These included: Drive Image XML, g4u, HDClone Free Edition, SystemRescue CD, and the Ultimate Boot CD.

Unfortunately, not one of the freeware drive imaging programs comes close to matching the extensive feature sets of True Image but there are several competent products to choose from.

Many of the freeware drive imaging programs work by booting from a diskette or CD, loading a lightweight Linux environment, and then executing a command. This limits their use to offline imaging - only meaning that they cannot be used within Windows while it is running. However, these programs are small and fast and while they might not offer the entire suite of features that the commercial programs boast, they do perform the core drive imaging tasks quite well.

If the only functionality that's needed is to clone one disk to another larger disk, then take a look at HDClone Free Edition [3]. It is a relatively small download, can be run from either a diskette or CD, and has a graphical user interface that makes it super easy to use. HDClone requires no command line interaction and is perfect for upgrading from one hard drive to another. However, the Free Edition of HDClone is not capable of cloning from a larger disk to a smaller disk, working with individual disk partitions, or creating or restoring image files (locally or otherwise).

For a more comprehensive set of advanced features such as those mentioned above, g4u [4] is the freeware drive imaging program to use. g4u is an extremely small program that can be downloaded in either boot diskette or CD format and offers a lot of features. Not only can it clone disk to disk (any size) and copy disk partitions, it can also create and restore image files both locally and from a FTP site (if the workstation is connected to a wired network with a DCHP service). This feature is great for backing up a workstation directly to an image file stored on another computer for either safekeeping or for deployment to multiple workstations on the network. The various features of g4u are implemented by executing commands via the console, but a reference of the simple commands is displayed immediately after booting using the g4u boot media.

Users running Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 needing an online disk imaging solution are encouraged to try DriveImage XML [5]. DriveImage XML utilizes the Volume Shadow Copy Service to backup drive and partitions to image files or clone drive to drive while Windows is running. Because of this, a Windows task can also be created and scheduled to automatically create backup images. While this program can perform the tasks it promises, backups do take longer than using one of the offline programs previously mentioned. However, it is the only program reviewed that can create scheduled backup images while Windows is running which is great for making "incremental" backup images between full offline backups. With its attractive GUI interface, it will be an easy first choice for many XP users.

[3] Freeware, OS Independent, 3.5 MB
[4] Freeware, OS Independent, 1.36 MB
[5] Freeware, Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, 1.60 MB

96 Best Free RSS Reader/Aggregator

Defining a best in this category is tough as different users have very different priorities. For some users, display readability and easy subscription is everything while to others, the level of blog integration is the most important attribute.

I fall firmly in the first category. To me RSS is just another information source not a way of life.

Indeed the most important feature in a reader to me is the ability to easily click on a number of interesting items from an integrated display and have a stacked series of Windows relating to the items open in a browser for later reading. That way I can scan quickly for items of interest but read the items at my leisure.

The readers that most conveniently offer this feature are those integrated into browsers rather than stand-alone readers or those that are work with your email client.

My favorite program for doing this is the Firefox extension for Onfolio. It was a commercial product until it was recently acquired by Microsoft who now make it available for free. Naturally Microsoft no longer support the Firefox extension but Onfolio is available for Internet Explorer users as an add-in [1] for the free Windows Live Toolbar [2]. With the IE Onfolio add-in you'll not only get a great RSS reader you'll also get a whole bunch of other features including the ability to save and manage web snippets. On the downside you'll have to have Live Toolbar which many will see as too much of a Faustian bargain.

If you use IE7 you may not need Onfolio as the RSS reader built into IE7 follows the Onfolio model and is excellent though it lacks Onfolio's excellent snippet management features.

Firefox users are not quite so well placed.

Firefox's V2 has inbuilt RSS capabilities though it doesn't work nearly as slickly as IE7. Page feeds are automatically detected and the user is the offered the choice of the online services at Bloglines, My Yahoo! or the Google Reader. All work well enough and for those with a Google account, the Google is option is probably the pick.

Apart from these three inbuilt options Firefox allow you use other third party readers as well. You can find instructions here [6] but be aware that not all readers can be integrated.

There are several RSS reader extensions available for Firefox. My top choice used to be the excellent Pluck extension but it is soon to be discontinued. The free Sage RSS reader extension [3] is another possibility. I've never liked it much but it might just light your fire.

My old Onfolio Firefox extension still works in Firefox 2 (with the help of the compatibility feature of the Nightly Tester Tools extension [4] ) but you need the commercial version of Onfolio to support it so it can hardly be recommended.

If you can't live with these choices you could try a stand-alone reader.

BlogBridge [5] has a highly readable display and any items clicked will load in the background in separate Firefox tabs for later reading. Even better is the ability to setup Firefox to use BlogBridge as your default reader. That way you can subscribe to new feeds from Firefox and have the feeds handled through BlogBridge, which is quite a neat solution. You'll need version 4.2 of BlogBridge or later - it won't work with early versions.

BlogBridge has a whole raft of features including support for almost all feed formats, syncing feeds between PCs, good searching and good integration with and Flickr. Being Java based it available for most platforms however like all Java applications, there is a performance penalty to pay.

Another excellent stand-alone reader is GreatNews. Its newspaper style layout is one of the best I've seen and it's inbuilt IE based browser allows for quick and efficient viewing of items of interest. It will particularly appeal to Blogline users as it utilizes the Bloglines API to read feeds directly from Bloglines. Like BlogBridge it can be integrated into Firefox

Those wanting to integrate RSS with Microsoft Outlook email might like to try RSS Popper [8]. Personally I think your email client is the worst location for a RSS reader but there are many who disagree.


97 Best Free Project Manager

Open Workbench is a free Open Source project manager that is so feature rich and so powerful that it should at least be considered before any decision is made to purchase a commercial project management package. It's a product that takes time to get your head around. If you have been using Microsoft Project or other task based manager you'll have to re-orient your thinking because Open Workbench is resource-driven not task-driven. "An Open Workbench plan is built up from estimates for the tasks of work. Estimates are tied to the resource assigned to the tasks. Duration is then driven by the number of hours each resource will work per week to cover the total number of hours required for the tasks. Open Workbench is best suited for groups that estimate total work effort based on the estimates for all the tasks associated with a project, and then create a staffing plan and schedule for those estimates." Once you come to terms with this, you will still have to grapple with learning how to use this powerful product. Here is a partial feature list:

Define projects and create associated work breakdown structures with activities, phases, tasks and milestones
Create dependencies as finish-start, start-start, finish- finish or start-finish
Create subprojects and link them to master projects
Create and manage inter-project dependencies
Manage advanced task properties such as fixed duration, dependency lag, imposed start/end dates and charge codes
Schedule tasks manually or automatically using Auto Schedule
Automatically schedule tasks forwards or backwards
Schedule across linked master and subprojects
Schedule to general or individualized calendars
Define resources as people, equipment, materials or expense
Assign resources to tasks
Configure resources on tasks with uniform, fixed, contour, front or back loading
Track status, percent complete and estimates to complete
View Gantt charts (both detail and roll-up), PERT charts and the critical path
Conduct earned value analysis
Define, compare and reset project baseline setting
Can read Microsoft Project files

Open Workbench is the real thing, not some amateurish, half baked effort. Like Microsoft Project, it is best suited to large scale projects that can justify the considerable time it takes to learn the product. Those with smaller projects may want to consider some of the simpler (and less powerful) alternatives such as GanttPV [2] or ToDoList [3].

Freeware (registration required), Windows 2000 and later, 9.03MB.

98 Best Free Memory Testing Utility

Memtest86 is a stand-alone GPL utility that provides comprehensive memory testing for all x86 based PCs regardless of the operating system. It can be run from a floppy disk, CD or USB drive. It's a tool geared towards experienced users and, if that's you, download it now for your PC toolkit. (58KB)

An alternative is MemScope, a free program that runs from a self booting floppy disk. It uses eight different testing patterns that can be run once off or continuously. It has good reporting and can be set to reboot at the completion of the tests. MemScope must be run from a floppy which you create when you run the downloaded file so have a floppy handy. Registration is required so expect some email advertising. There is also some harmless advertising in the product itself.

[1] (147kb)

99 Best Free Software Cataloging Utility

If you like testing out different programs on your PC you'll probably find a software cataloging program useful. These products will not only inventory what you have currently installed but also document the different programs you've tried in the past or have moved to CD storage. There are a lot of these inventory programs around but one of the best is SoftCat [1], a shareware program from The last freeware version of SoftCat is still available from this site [2]. This version hasn't got as many features as the latest commercial version but will still meet the need of most users.

Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 2.0MB

100 Best Free Web Site Link Checker

There are a number of free web services that will do this but I prefer to use Xenu's Link Sleuth, a free utility that does the checking from my own PC. Its multi-threaded design makes for incredibly fast scans, so fast you initially may not believe it's working correctly. It handles FTP and gopher, password protected areas, allows for exclusions, detects orphans, can check external links and much more. Reporting is browser based and comprehensive. All in all, a little gem.

Freeware All Windows versions, 531KB

101 Best Free Internet Business Guide

Whenever anyone asks me how to start an internet business I tell them to buy and read Ken Evoy's $30 e-book called Make Your Site Sell. as it's the best single source introduction to the subject available.

It appears you can now download M.Y.S.S. for free. It's part of a strategy to sell you a web building and hosting package, although you don't have to buy the package to get the book for free.

This is a really good deal. M.Y.S.S. may be a bit dated but it's still the best introduction to building a commercial site around. If you have any sort of an interest in how to build a web site and attract traffic then I suggest you download this book and read it thoroughly. Be warned though, these folks practice what they preach so don't be surprised to find yourself tempted to buy their latest product. :>) Free e-book, 11MB.


102 Best Free Program Scheduler

It's possible to use the Windows Task Scheduler to automate the running of just about any program. However, some programs require user input once they are started and will sit waiting forever for a keyboard response. There are several solutions to this problem but subscriber Mark Smith has come up with one that is simple, free and effective.

Mark writes, "Gizmo, I just found a utility that has filled a major gap for me. I use Diskeeper Lite for defragging but the scheduling feature is only available in the paid version. I overcame this by using a free utility called System Scheduler [1]. It's simpler to use than Windows Scheduler and also allows you to enter parameters for a scheduled program or file. In particular, it allows you to enter key-presses in an easily understood manner which is great for non-programmers. So for example, with Diskeeper Lite, I could close the nag screen (Alt F4), activate the correct menu selection, Actions (Alt A) and press the key for defragment (D), all on one line without separators even. Very slick. So now I have the only feature that I really wanted in the paid version of Diskeeper!"

Great find, Mark. I'm sure a lot of subscribers will find this very useful. I note that the developer makes a free and a Pro version. The latter has some useful additional features such as the ability to reboot and run as a service but the free will do for most folks. Furthermore, the free version covers both home and business use.

[1] Freeware, Windows 9X and later, 1.0 mb

103 Best Free Tray Clock Replacement

TClock Lite [1] is a vastly improved replacement for the standard Windows tray clock. It provides all the benefits of the original clock as well as many enhancements and a number of useful additional features. Furthermore it achieves this with a tiny footprint and doesn't even require installation.

Given the tiny size of the program, the power of this program is most impressive. Less impressive is the help file which is brief and not particularly helpful. However the program is so well laid-out and simple to use that it's not really an issue.

Note that you might get a warning from your security software that TClock is potential spyware. It's not. It's just picking up the fact that it modifies explorer.exe to display the clock. Note too that the link below is to the Japanese author's site. You'll see some strange characters displayed but the "donwload" (sic) link is clear enough :>)

If you want an alternative try the classic TClockEx [2] that offers similar functionality to TClock Lite but it hasn't been updated for a while but appears to run OK on Windows XP systems.

Another alternative that is still being actively developed try AlfaClock [3] which offers a little more functionality at the cost of some additional complexity.

[1] Freeware, Windows 95 and later, 373KB
[3] Freeware, all Windows versions, 2MB