There are a lot of great
freeware products out there. Many are as good or even better than
their commercial alternatives. This list features my personal pick
of the "best of the best."
All the utilities in
this list have featured in past issues of my free monthly
newsletter "Support Alert" More
freebies are published in each new issue. If you are interested in
great utilities and freeware you really should consider subscribing.
Listed below are 46
different freeware categories with my selection of the best products in
each category. The list is ordered by program function rather than
merit so you’ll get the most out of it by browsing down this page at leisure. The pathologically
impatient can consult the index below.
This page is updated regularly — most recent: 19 Dec, 06
Best Free Web BrowserUpdated
8th November 2006
The just released 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  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 1000 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. If you need any further convincing
then check out my IE to Firefox migration guide .
equal first choice is Opera . 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  and Avant .
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 , a slimmed down cousin of Firefox that’s
optimized for Windows. Of the four browsers I use regularly on my
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.
Updated 8th November 2006 There are two equal recommendations in this category. First there is
AVG Antivirus 7 Free Edition. This product  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  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
A possible third choice
is the AOL Anti Virus Shield . 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. First 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.
Secondly the End User
License Agreement is worrying. AOL basically reserves the right to
spam you. I’m not aware of this actually happening but you need to
be aware they have the right to do so.
By default AOL AVS
installs the AOL search bar in Internet Explorer as part of the AVS
install. If you don’t want it, make sure you opt out during
So on balance I’m
cautious about recommending AOL AVS. If you can however, live with
the limitations then you’ll be rewarded with a first class scanner.
Both AVG and
Avast! are excellent free products that will meet the needs of most
users. However neither can be
considered to be the best 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
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
Another top recommendation
for an on-demand scanner
is AntiVir Personal Edition Classic . 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 . 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.
Best Free Adware/Spyware/Scumware Remover Updated 2nd
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  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
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
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.
4 Best Free Browser Protection
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  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
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.
earlier Windows versions may want to check out SpywareBlaster . 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  that provides active protection. It is a monitor
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.
5 Best Free Firewall Updated 2nd November 2006
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
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  . 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
If performance rather than ease-of-use
is your criterion then the Comodo firewall  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 . 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  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 . First it is a
very basic product compared to the commercial ZoneAlarm Pro version.
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.
Free Trojan Scanner/Trojan Remover Updated
13th November 2006
My top recommendation here is AVG Anti-Spyware ,
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.
On my tests over at www.anti-trojan-software-reviews.com
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.
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.
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.
risk PC users such as P2P file sharers and frequenters of hack
sites, should however consider the industrial strength protection of Trojan Hunter
full version of AVG Anti-Spyware both of which offer the active protection they
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.
Free Rootkit Scanner/Remover Updated 2nd November 2006 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
effective. It’s called BlackLight  and is currently
available as a free beta from F-Secure. The beta will expire on the 1st of
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
experienced user you should check out SysInternals RootkitRevealer .
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. 
Another useful rootkit
detector for experienced users is GMER  though please read the
documentation carefully before using. 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  and DarkSpy . 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 , .
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 .
8 Best Free Intrusion
Prevention and Detection Utility for Home Use Updated 21st
December, 2006 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
To prevent these
malevolent programs from slipping by your AV and anti-spyware
programs you need additional defenses such as a Host based Intrusion
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
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  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.
Among the commercial
software HIPS I like Prevx1 . Prevx1 is actually free to
use for detection but you’ll need to pay if you want to have remove
malware. It offers a similar level of protection to Cyberhawk.
The most impressive HIPS I’ve tested is the $29 DefenseWall . It’s performance
is outstanding though it’s lack of documentation will be a
minus for many users.
9 Best Free Anonymous
Surfing Service Updated 2nd November 2006
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 , 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 . 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.
recent development is the release of TorPark , 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 V184.108.40.206 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. =>index
10 Best Free Software Suite The Open CD site  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  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  before starting.
Windows Backup Software
We are in the process of updating all the backup reviews at our
site but I can tell you right now that the top product has
blitzed the field for a second year in row. In fact, it’s
improved so much that it’s now a one horse race for our
"editor’s choice." The updated review of the top product is now
online. If you have been looking for a backup program, this is
the one. http://www.backup-software-reviews.com/
The Best Spyware Detector
If you use Ad-Aware or SpyBot you will be surprised just how
more effectively SpySweeper detects and protects your PC from
Adware, Spyware, Trojans and other malicious products. That’s
why it yet again won the prized "Editor’s Choice" award from PC
Magazine. Try the free
evaluation copy and see for yourself, you may be surprised what
it finds on your PC. http://www.webroot.com/wb/products/spysweeper/index.php?rc=1132
Remote Access Software
Our reviewer had given this product category away as "too slow,
tool clumsy and too unreliable" but after reviewing this product
he’s changed his mind; "… at long last a remote access solution
that actually works! Quite frankly we agree with him, it’s
an impressive product. Read the full review here: http://www.pcsupportadvisor.com/best_remote_access_software.htm
The Best Spam
Blocker for Dummies
Most spam filters require you to be
a computer expert. Our Editor has found two spam filters for
average users that will remove the spam from your email and yet
are simple to use.
Most users are not aware that their anti-virus scanner can only
provide a moderate level of protection against trojan programs
that try and take control of your PC. To really protect your
computer, you need a dedicated anti-trojan program. Our editor’s
have reviewed every major product on the market and have
concluded that two scanners stand head and shoulders above the
other contenders. http://www.anti-trojan-software-reviews.com
The Best Drive Imaging Program
In this race there are really only two runners worth
considering. This review provides an in-depth comparison of the
top contenders but in the end, one product is the clear winner.
Keep your children engaged and amused with healthy, creative
arts and craft activities that won’t cost you a cent. Free
weekly newsletter packed with easy kids craft projects.
Free File Manager Updated
8th November 2006
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 xplorer? .
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
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 vendors site
 and various freeware sites .
Some folks just love
Free Commander , 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.
21st December 2006
Thunderbird  is a free open source
POP and IMAP email client developed by Mozilla.org, 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
Further features can be
added through free extensions. Notable among these is Webmail , 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  from Mozilla.
If you want an alternative to
Thunderbird then try Foxmail . 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. 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.
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!
 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
The second suggestion is a
free utility called FreePOPs . 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 
. FreePOPS is for receiving email only and has no sending
possibility is the Open Source program MrPostman  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 , [6} that will help you.
Note that MrPostman requires the Java Runtime Environment to
be installed on your PC.
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, Mail.com, MyWay, Excite, Lycos.com, or RediffMail accounts.
It’s particularly useful for users who have multiple webmail webmail
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.
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
If you just need a basic clipboard replacement utility, look
no further than Clipboard Recorder . 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 . 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 .
15 Best Free HTML Editor Updated December 21, 2006 This
is one of my most requested items but up until now I’ve not been able to give any product
my 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 too many bugs. Finally a worthy contender has arrived on the scene in the form of the
Open Source Nvu.
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.
Overall Nvu is an impressive product with a few annoying bugs. No,
it’s not a replacement for commercial products like DreamWeaver but
those looking for a competent, free,
easy to use, WYSIWYG HTML editor need look no further.
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  excellent 1st
Page 2006 editor and while lacking many of the features of the
latter, is still an excellent 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 .
coders should also check out PSPad . It’s a general purpose
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.
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
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  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  which works much the same way as MailWasher and is
totally free. I must say though, I prefer MailWasher’s user
17 Best Free Spam Filter for Experienced
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
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  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 ,  that offer additional
If you are a novice PC user I suggest you try the Google toolbar
 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.
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  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 . 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
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.
Best Free Digital Image Viewer
Three good choices here. First there’s the classic IrfanView. Irfan
 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 . 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
. 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
21 Best Free Digital Image Editor
Updated December 21, 2006
I use to recommend The Gimp  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  , which changes the user
interface of GIMP to something more familiar though frankly, I
prefer the original.
For other less experienced users there is Paint.net, 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
need Microsoft’s bulky .NET framework installed on your PC.
Another possibility is PhotoPlus 6.0 from a
company called Serif  . 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
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 . 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.
It’s rare for me to be utterly wowed by a product but this one
certainly did it. When you first run Picasa 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
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,
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 . 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 . It’s small, fast but unfortunately lacks the
tabbed Windows that are so handy in EditPad. NoteTab Lite 
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++ . 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
More specifically geared to programming is PSPad . 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  and my personal favorite,
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
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. 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.
25 Best Free Hotkey Utility Updated
December 21, 2006
For sheer power you
can’t beat AutoHotkey . 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  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
A second alternative is qliner’s free Open Source
"hotkeys" utility . 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 
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.
overlap with another class of programs: program launchers. For
details of this category see item 90 in the "extended
list" of free utilities.
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  .
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.
reasonable alternative is Eusing Free Registry Cleaner . 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.
folks like RegSeeker  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  on the web.
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 . 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.
good alternative is uTorrent  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 . uTorrent is being
enhanced so quickly that I suspect it will soon match or surpass
Azureus on features.
December, 2006 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 . 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
If you find FileZilla’s user
interface a little minimal you may want to try SmartFTP . It’s a
commercial product but is free for personal, educational or
If you want a SCP (secure copy) client for Windows that uses
SSH and offers a rich feature set there’s WinSCP . 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.
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,
30 Best Free Folder Synchronization
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  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.
highly recommended is 2brightspark’s SyncBack . 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.
Three recommendations here: The first is PrintScreen . 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
. 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’s also small, a tiny 381KB.
Also highly recommended is FastStone’s Screen
Capture  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.
All three products work with Win 98 and later versions.
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.
33 Best Free Download Manager Updated 2nd November 2006
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 . 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"
 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  who also rate it as "spyware
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
If you are looking for
another option the commercial FlashGet  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  program which is free for personal use.
Again it’s got pretty well everything that you want in a download
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 . 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.
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.
 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  . It’s a little
more feature rich than NetMeter but uses a tad more of your PCs
resources to deliver those features.
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
SpeedGuide.net 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)
My first choice here is CCleaner , 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
However if simply
freeing up disk space is your objective the CCleaner is hard to
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
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!  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
Best Free Resource Meter
This is cute. TinyResMeter  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 . 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
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
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  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.
40 Best Free Secure Erase Utility
Eraser  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 .
Be aware that the
current version of Eraser has a bug that is evident if you select
the option to erase unused disk space. Stay well clear of that
option as you may end up corrupting your drive.
If Eraser is overkill for your needs try Simple File Shredder. 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
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.
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 ,
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 .
PrcView has long been my
personal choice but Process Explorer  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  , 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.
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 . You can however still find the old
AIDA32 at the second link below  and the non-discontinued free
version of Everest called Everest Home here . The old AIDA32
works better across networks while Everest Home covers more modern
hardware than AIDA32.
Another inventory utility for
networks is Spiceworks , 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
. It’s free for non commercial use and while not quite as
thorough as AIDA32, it has the advantage of being actively
My current favorite for home use is the SIW
utility  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.
44 Best Free Search and Replace Utility
There are several contenders for this title but HandyFile’s
excellent Find and Replace program is my favorite because of tiny
size and no nonsense simplicity. It’s also fast, has a
simple but effective user interface and some nice features including
support for regular expressions. It started life as a free product
before going commercial however the free version 1.2 is still floating
around and can be downloaded from a number of sites including this
If you are looking for
something a bit more comprehensive then check out A.F.9 from Fauland
. 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 . 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
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  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.
46 Best Free Rename Utility Updated 21st December, 2006
If you want industrial strength file renaming there are several great
choices: First there’s Lupas Rename 2000 . 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.
and equally attractive option is Flexible Renamer . 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 . 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,
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  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.
There’s more: Click here for the next page
— best freeware utilities numbers
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