Utilities & Tools for Fixing Computers
And, The Price is Still Right!
Windows includes many of the utilities to maintain & tweak itself
That being said, as Windows moved to the more recent versions, the tune-up tools are not only included but also set up to run automatically, e.g., Disk Defragmenter.
Still, I recommend some utilities.
Caveat Emptor: There is nothing that your tech guy or gal loves more than someone preferring to tweak til it breaks and then wonders what went wrong. Just sayin'.
My first recommendation is BACKUP YOUR DATA
Most Windows users (Macs, too) have lots of personal files - finances, photos, music, even video - that are not backed up at all. If you're using a computer, you probably want some stuff safely backed up in case of ... some minor to major catastrophe.
Online backups are marvelous in that your files are immediately off-site. So if your house burns down, your files are safe. And most of the cloud storage providers will set up a directory that will back up as soon as a new file is saved there.
For lesser disasters - say a computer or the hard drive crashes - an automatic backup to a different storage device is well worth having. Many external drives come with their own backup software.
More on backup to come.
My second recommendation is real-time malware protection
Norton Security has been my anti-malware of choice since Symantec bought the IBM anti-virus division. In 2009, the program was substantially rewritten and most of the complaints about NAV and its more bundled versions were resolved.
Comcast Internet customers (business customers, too) can download Norton Security Suite (a slightly modified Norton 360) for free.
The free version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is highly regarded, but it is not actually real-time protection.
My third recommendation is more of an anti-recommendation
Toolbars - there are none I recommend. I take that back. The Norton Safe Web toolbar, when enabled, will give a green-yellow-red light on web search results.
Free tools I have used
CCleaner - Affectionately known as Crap Cleaner. If you rely on "Recent Documents" and other MRU's (Most Recently Used), then be sure to uncheck certain choices for the Cleaner tool. Best features are the Registry Cleaner, Startup & Uninstall managers.
Since version 5.0's debut, new features have been added. I have not had much success running the Duplicate File Finder, but if it worked it would be an excellent tool. The Disk Analyzer is good, too, but I still prefer TreeSizeFree for this task.
I recommend turning off the Monitoring function (called Smart Cleaning as of ver 5.46) as I like to limit the things that constantly run in the background to only the most essential tasks.
TreeSizeFree - shows a top-down view of drives, folders & files sorted based on largest-to-smallest use of disk space. Drive almost full? This quickly shows what's taking up the most space.
PrimoPDF - Converts just about anything you could print, or shows in a window on your screen, to a PDF file. Also CutePDF does much the same.
Windows 10 now comes with a print to PDF option.
Chrome also allows page prints to be saved as PDFs without any additional software; newer versions of Office and other programs, too, will allow saving in the PDF format.
Gadwin PrintScreen - Every keyboard has a PrintScreen [PrntScr] button, but they don't seem to do anything.
Actually, pressing the PrScrn button does capture the entire screen (or the active window, by holding Alt while pressing PrtScr) and stores that image in memory (called the Clipboard). That image can be pasted into Paint, WordPad and other apps.
But Gadwin's tool can, at your choosing & setup, capture the whole screen, the active window, or bring up a rectangular capture option and then send it directly to a printer (does not have to be the Windows default printer), to a file, or both.
I prefer the older version 4.7 to 5.42 as it is a bit simpler and to me, more reliable.
Defraggler - defragments drives with some options, e.g., defrag only saves time as it doesn't reorganize the hard drive to maximize free space.
SSDs do not require defragmenting.
Speccy - provides fairly detailed information about a computer's hardware and Windows.
Windows Versions of Utilities and Tools
As the versions of Windows change, the locations for these tools and how they run change, too.
Sticky Notes - Post-Its for Windows, available since Vista. Great addition, Notes will remain on the Desktop until deleted; will return to the Desktop following reboots. Text only. More functionality coming with the October 2018 Update [version 1809].
Snipping Tool - Similar to Gadwin and the basic PrintScreen functions, it captures any rectangular area of the screen as drawn by the user. A "pen" and "highlighter" are available for emphasis; can move the image directly to an email if the computer has an email client set up as the default. Since Vista, also.
Disk Defragmenter - It's OK, but I prefer the free Defraggler as it provides more information and seems to run faster.
Disk Clean - It's OK, also. But the free CCleaner can clean browser history and other areas, as well.
Scan for Errors - I will usually jump into a DOS window and run CHKDSK /r to look for disk problems and SFC /scannow for Windows problems. But when looking at a drive's Properties, the Tools section offers to scan for errors.
Windows Update found under the Settings app in Windows 10, under Update & Security. WU is a standalone app in Vista and newer. Less noticeable when running in Windows 10 than in prior versions of Windows; also tries not to run during prime-time (which can be adjusted).
Microsoft Update (XP and older)- *must* be run through Internet Explorer. Earlier version in XP was called Windows Update. User action is required to get this version installed.
It can check and update all your Microsoft-based installed software, not just Windows & Internet Explorer, but Office and other Microsoft apps, too. Run Update in Custom mode to check for hardware updates. Again, if Windows Update only runs automatically, it will never upgrade to Microsoft Update. Ev-er!
Settings - Replaces, mostly, Control Panel. Now, Control Panel still exists and some settings can only be changed or set in an older Control Panel app. To get to Control Panel, either search for it using Cortana (Search) or right-click the Windows/Start button in the very left-hand part of the Taskbar (unless you've moved the Taskbar).
System Information - details about hardware and software.
System Configuration - The most critical element here, Startup, is where a user can disable apps that try to start every time Windows reboots; has been moved to Task Manager as of Windows 8. I prefer CCleaner's Startup manager.