6 Windows Utilities And Programs I Can’t Live Without


When I install a new Windows operating system on a computer there are several steps I take in a particular order. One of the things I do, after paying attention to all the necessary drivers and such, is install all those utilities and applications that I can’t seem to live without. These aren’t needs so much as wants. Yes, contrary to popular belief, even geeks have desires.

Here’s a short list of my top choices to make Windows life easier… in no particular order:

Firefox Web Browser

firefox-logo

People seem to like Internet Explorer 8 of late. That’s fine. People also seem to really stick with their browser choice through thick and thin. That is, they won’t turn an eye towards an alternative even if the statistics show otherwise. That’s fine, too.

I might be one of those people since there is nothing at the moment that could sway me from using Firefox as my main browser. There are certain add-ons that I can’t seem to do without, either– and I can’t find them for other browsers that work in the way I like, so there ya go… Firefox it is.


Here’s the Firefox Homepage Link

7Zip

7zip-logo

All of the computer users in the world will at some point find themselves in the position of having to open an archived file. 7Zip is my archiver of choice mainly because of its flexibility, speed and the diversity of archives it can manage. Hands down, in my opinion, it is the most robust archiving program extant.

Here’s the link to the Official 7Zip Site.

MalwareBytes AntiMalware (MBAM)

malwarebytes-logo

All of us need an extra layer of protection in this security-minded environment we call the Internet. MBAM fits the bill as an option to run manual scans for security issues your Anti-Virus (AV) program may have missed. MBAM also has the reputation of being able to remove many types of malware when other applications fail– even commercial AV programs aren’t always so successful.


MBAM is available as both a free and a paid-for version. The “Pro” version can run in the background at the same time as your installed AV program which is an unusual case.

Here’s the link to the Official MalwareBytes Site.

LastPass

lastpass-logo

All of us these days need all the security we can lay our hands on. A viable password manager is one of those tools. LastPass is my password manager of choice. I won’t go into it all here but there are many reasons I believe in LastPass’s security measures. I like the LastPass plugin for the Firefox browser and that is how I use it. Slicker than snail slime on a downhill slope.

Here is the link to the Official LastPass Site.


PDF-XChange Viewer

pdf-xchange- viewer-logo

PDF files are ubiquitous on the Internet realm. Many things you’d like to read online use the PDF format.

Of course, the scientist and ultimate Adobe Co-Chairman, Dr. John E. Warnock, inventor of the PDF format represents the same persona that would like you to use their PDF reader. The Adobe Acrobat Reader is what I’m referring to and am also admonishing you not to use.

The reason I dislike Acrobat Reader so much is that once it is installed it is the absolute dickens to get rid of. That is, if you can truly get rid of it at all short a complete, clean re-install of your Windows system. We all know what a pain that is.

PDF-XChange Viewer is a free, portable PDF reader that surpasses the Adobe version by leaps and bounds. The real beauty is that, if you decide you don’t like it for any reason, you can simply delete the directory where you installed it and it’s gone. Really!


Here’s the link to PDF-XChange Viewer at MajorGeeks.

CCleaner

ccleaner-logo

I don’t normally recommend system “cleaners”. Most “cleaners” on the Internet will muck up your system, especially when used by the uninitiated. Another very real downside is that many sites that offer these so-called miracle workers are doing nothing short of pushing malware upon the ignorant, inattentive and gullible masses. CCleaner is an exception.

CCleaner is generally safe to use and does a great job of eliminating unnecessary cruft from your system’s hard drives and registry.

Note: Always make backups before running one of these types of programs. They are powerful and can really mess things up if you don’t pay attention.


If you must use a system cleaner, then CCleaner is the one I recommend.

Here is the link to the Official CCleaner Piriform Site.

Final Words

None of the above-mentioned utilities/programs are needed to run a Windows system.

They are simply nice to have around,

Richard

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About the Author

Richard Pedersen

Richard received his first computer, a C-64, in 1982 as a gift and began dabbling in BASIC. He was hooked! His love for computing has led him from the old “XT” boxes to the more modern fare and from clunky 10MB hard drives to smooth and fast modern day SSD drives. He has run BBS services, Fido mail, and even operated his own computer repair business.

17 Comments

  1. CC cleaner and Malwarebytes ….. rather old players on the field, Privazer and Emsisoft are goal-kickers, but, for some users, old habits need to be refreshed and the mouse moved in a different direction.

  2. Hi Jon,

    They may be old-school but as long as they both stay on fast-paced update systems, I figure somebody is doing their job.

    Notably, MBAM has saved my bacon on more than one occasion.

    I am totally unfamiliar with Emsisoft so I’ll check it out.

    Thanks for the tips,
    Richard

  3. I use LASTPASS all the time and have used it for many years. The free version is all most people will need. I pay the 12 bucks a year for the paid service I have an Android device as well. I really like this software really works well. I want to support the folks at Lastpass. If you need a password manager that works get Lastpass. An no I don’t work for Lastpass.

    • Hi mindblower,

      I tried TeraCopy a few years ago. The big plus with this program is that it will pause, stop and recover during the copy process without having to start over. Very nice.

      Regardless of what the publishers say, it is not any faster. It appears to be faster, but in reality one is being fooled. By shoving as much as it can into RAM, it seems to be finished sooner. If you take a look at your HDD LEDs you’ll see them still churning away until the copy process is complete.

      Your drives have an upper limit of how fast they can read/write and nothing is going to make them faster.

      Don’t get me wrong– TeraCopy is a good program and has many positives in its favor.

      Richard

  4. Hi Richard,
    I’d be interested in your assessment of Emsisoft when you have a chance to try it. I’ve been using it for about a year and it seems to be working well, but I’m no expert in that field.

    • Hi Steve,

      Jim Hillier has already posted an article on DCT about Emsisoft. Here’s the link:
      Emsisoft Anti-Malware Free – the ‘forgotten’ alternative?

      The article is a little dated, November 2011, and some of the links may no longer be correct, but the article is informative and should give anyone a great idea of what to expect.

      Something that would really interest me is for somebody to run a comparison against MBAM:

        Is it faster?
        Does it “catch” the same nasties? More? Less?
        How effectively does it eliminate said nasties?

      What I do is run a manual scan with MBAM when the mood strikes me– usually about once a week. It never finds anything and that indicates my AV and other lines of defense are doing their jobs.

      If a scan should consistently find malware, then it might be time to take a closer look at your other protection solutions.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Richard

  5. Richard, thanks for the recommendations. Malawarebites Pro is now Malawarebites Premium. I use both CCleaner and PriVizer. Both are excellent. CCleaner is quicker, but PriVizer is more thorough. I also like to keep my non-Windows programs updated. Secunia PSI is a good freeware program for this, but Ninite is quicker and easier. And I use WinPatrol to control which programs run at startup, which are delayed, and which run only when I want them to. Are these necessary? No, but nice to have around as you said.

  6. Boy, that was an impressively enlightening and compelling list…I guess I can add this to the billion or so others that recommend the same thing…well, except for that laughably desperate plug for Firefox that has yet to see their bottom defined in terms of the droves of thousands of previous supporters abandon them for good month-after-month-after-month-after-month going on over 12-consecutive months now…

  7. I agree with you about the overall superiority of FIREFOX, but because it often does not download properly from several websites I regularly use (those accessed thorough my university’s library in particular) and often opens a blank new tab when I click a link — difficulties that no one has been able to correct — I use CHROME as a my default browser. Sometimes, however, I want to use FIREFOX but do not want to keep changing my default browser. Is there an essay way to open a CHROME tab or window in FIREFOX without copying and pasting the address. (There is an “Open in Chrome” add-on for FIREFOX.)

    Thanks.

    • Hi Gordon,

      First, why aren’t you getting Firefox from the Mozilla site instead of “websites I regularly use…”? That would probably solve that particular problem.

      Second, if I understand you correctly, you’re looking for a Chrome plug-in that will open links in Firefox? I’m sorry, but I don’t use Chrome and don’t know a thing about it. To further the conversation, I will say that I have no intention of installing Chrome on any computer that I have– not even for testing purposes. I don’t like the way it infiltrates the system and given that I am a computer control freak, that is not acceptable.

      The only suggestion I can make is to scout the Net for this information– unless, of course, one of our savvy DCT readers knows the answer, Waiting…

      Thanks for the comment and I hope this helps,
      Richard

  8. Windows XP pro has a built in zip file program ..but for some reason it has to be enabled first which is not obvious.
    If it is not enabled first, Windows suggests you go elsewhere to obtain a zip file program when attempting to open a zip file.

    I downloaded Winzip which is Trial- ware and got a load of junk-ware included in the bundle which took a long time to remove.
    Winzip also hounds you to upgrade.
    I managed to enable Windows zip manager..uninstall Winzip and now all is well using the Windows built in zip file manager.
    Point ? Why does Windows not enable their own zip program by default or give info on enabling it’s own zip manager?

    • Hi John,

      As of Windows 7 it will natively understand ZIP files. Why it took Microsoft 20-odd years to incorporate this is beyond me.

      For the reasons you mentioned, WinZip left a bad taste in my mouth many moons ago and I’ve never bothered with it since.

      The popular ZIP format has been around for decades. Phil Katz, of PKZip fame, was the inventor of the original (I think). It was the go-to archiver in the 80’s. He originates from my home state of Wisconsin. He may have been a brilliant programmer but his marketing skills were lacking. Hence, his attempts to commercialize PKZip fell flat.

      It would appear WinZip has had its own set of mishaps, too.

      Since those by-gone days there have been many different versions and variations added along the way. There are also many other types of compression algorithms being used today that Windows knows nothing about– LHA, ARC, GZIP, TAR and RAR to name but a few.

      That brings me to 7Zip. This third-party archiver not only “knows” the ZIP format but a slew of others as well. Many compression methods provide better compression rates than ZIP.
      Of course, their success rates largely depend on the type of file you’re trying to shrink. For example, database files are highly compressible whereas videos and many image files might not be so agreeable.

      I like 7Zip because it is free, portable, fast and versatile, and its native 7Zip format is more efficient than the stock ZIP versions.

      It is one of the first things I set up on my computers,
      Richard