BOOT CAMP 343 (14/09/04)


Shareware and Freeware, part 1, Essentials


Against the gloomy backdrop of the scams, spam emails, viruses and worms sloshing around the Internet it is easy to overlook the fact that there are still plenty of genuinely nice people out there developing free or very low cost software that can make your PC safer, improve reliability, easier and more enjoyable to use.


Freeware and shareware is software that you download from the Internet for free, or try before you buy, usually at a fraction of a cost of comparable commercial products. This week we begin our annual roundup of the very best freeware and shareware titles with some programs and utilities that you simply cannot afford to be without; in the following weeks we’ll be looking at software for taming the Internet and email, security and maintenance.


But how can anyone afford to give away software or sell it so cheaply? Obviously a developer’s advertising, packaging and distribution costs are greatly reduced by distributing their software over the Internet. Quite a few programs are provided on a trial basis or are ‘lite’ versions of more sophisticated applications with some features disabled that will be activated upon payment of a modest licence fee.


A lot of the programs we’ll be featuring are add-ons or utilities created by fellow PC users who simply want to share their skills for the benefit of others. In some cases the author isn’t averse to a donation to help them to improve their product and if you find these programs useful and continue to use them you should do the decent thing and make a small contribution.


There are also a lot of programs laced with adware, spyware and worse; needless to say we won’t be featuring any of those, nevertheless, it behoves us to remind you that you download and install these programs entirely at your own risk.  


A couple of points before we get started, it’s a good idea to create a new folder on your PC specifically for downloads as it will make them much easier to manage and transfer to another PC. Before you install any new program ensure that your backups are up to date and if you are using Windows ME or XP set a new Restore Point (see Boot Camp 334)



AVG ANTIVIRUS FREE EDITION, freeware, 6.8Mb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,

If your PC is connected to the Internet you would be barmy not to have decent anti virus software checking all incoming emails and file downloads and regularly scan your drives. Whilst there are many fine commercial products on the market AVG Free Edition provides the same and in some cases even better protection, using regularly updated signature files to detect and counter the latest threats.



AGNITUM OUTPOST FREE, freeware, 2.6Mb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,




ZONEALARM FREE FIREWALL, freeware, 5.7Mb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,

A firewall is absolutely essential if you have a broadband or indeed any sort of Internet connection, to protect your PC against hackers and the many nasties lurking inside web pages, emails and programs. The free versions of Outpost and ZoneAlarm are amongst the most powerful firewalls available and will stop anyone remotely accessing your files and unlike the built-in firewall in Windows XP they will also prevent malicious programs on your PC from making unauthorised use of your Internet connection, to send out personal or private information. N.B. Only install one of them as they may disagree with each other. 



ADAWARE SE PERSONAL EDITION, freeware, 2.5Mb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,




SPYBOT SEARCH & DESTROY, 4.3Mb, freeware, 2.5Mb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,

A great many of the problems PC users suffer are caused by malicious code and programs innocently downloaded whilst surfing the web. AdAware and Spybot are the leading cleaner utilities, capable of seeking out and eliminating the huge number of spyware, adware, worms and trojans that can infect your computer. Both do an excellent job but for a really thorough clean up download and run both programs. Be very careful when entering the web addresses shown, a number of Internet sites with very similar sounding names will intercept a mis-typed request and try to sell you cleaner utilities that may not be as good, or are spiked with adware. Both AdAware and Spybot are free so accept no substitutes!



TUGZIP, freeware, 3.7Mb, Windows 95, 9x/NT/2000/XP,

Although Windows XP comes with a handy file decompression utility, its functionality is limited and a third-party program like Tugzip can handle most commonly used compression schemes. If you are using an older version of Windows you just can’t manage without it, and in addition to the decompression feature TugZip can also be used to compress and encrypt files. This will help you to free up space on your hard drive, send large files or images over the Internet by email or export large files to another PC by ‘spanning’ data across multiple floppy discs or CD-ROMs. The download can be quite slow from the author’s home page -- it is proving very popular and his resources are limited -- but be patient or use Google to find an alternative download site.


Next week –  Shareware and Freeware, part 2





A technique that reduces the size of files by replacing large repetitive blocks of data with much shorter segments of code  



Essentially a virus’s fingerprint, a unique section of computer code that a virus scanner uses to identify infected files



Copying a large file to multiple discs (floppy, CD-ROM, Zip etc.), with embedded instructions to change discs when the data from one disc has been read




Tweak UI (UI stands for ‘User Interface’) is part of the Microsoft PowerToys suite and is one of the most useful utilities you can have on any Windows PC. There are two versions, for Windows 95, 98, SE & ME and Windows XP with somewhat different features but both programs allow you customise the way your PC works and looks, without going anywhere near the dreaded Registry. Tweak UI is completely free but unsupported by Microsoft; don’t worry, it is completely safe, however do read the instructions for the Windows 9x version as installation is a little quirky.


For Windows XP go to:


Tweak UI for Windows 9x can be found at:


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