BOOT CAMP 344 (21/09/04)


Shareware and Freeware, part 2


In the second part of our annual roundup of some of the best shareware and freeware we continue with last week’s theme of security and privacy. The virus scanner, firewalls and spyware and adware cleaners mentioned last week provide good basic protection, however, if you use Internet Explorer and Outlook Express your PC will never be one hundred percent secure and it is wise to take some additional precautions.


Before we begin a brief reminder of the warnings and advice given last week. Prior to installing any new software on your PC ensure that your essential backups are up to date and as usual you install these programs entirely at your own risk. If you like what you find and you continue to use a freeware program then please help the author or publisher to continue to develop their product by taking out a licence or making a small donation.



CCLEANER, freeware, 296kb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,

As you may know Windows keeps track of every web site you have ever visited in a hidden and protected file called index.dat, which is extremely difficult to get at, let alone delete by any normal means. Crap Cleaner (to give it it’s full name) erases those secret and intrusive log files, along with a lot of other information that you may not wish to be stored on your PC. Unlike previous freeware cleaner utilities CCleaner also works under Windows XP and it is very fast so if you want to keep your web surfing private use it at least once a week.



COOKIE MONSTER, freeware, 400kb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,


Cookies are small text files stored on your PC by many of the web sites that you visit, ostensibly to speed up the loading of web pages and store preferences but the information can be used for more devious purposes so it is worth keeping them under control. Cookie Monster lets you retain the ones that you want, for legitimate and frequently visited sites, and zaps the rest with just a few mouse clicks



HIJACK THIS, freeware, 157kb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,


Your browser, especially if it happens to be Internet Explorer, is under constant attack from malicious web sites and programs installed on your PC, allowing it to used to send data from your PC, via your Internet connection, without your knowledge or permission. Hijack This scans your browser and the Windows Registry for all of the add-on, plug-ins and undesirables like ‘homepage hijackers’ and lists them in a log file. Simply highlight any suspicious entries then click the Info button and it will tell you what it does and whether you need it or not. Any unwanted items can then be marked for deletion. A Hijack This log can also help experts to track down browser problems and identify any other nasties that might be lurking on your PC.



NETSTUMBLER, freeware/beggarware, 1.3Mb, Windows 9x/XP,

Netstumbler is a handy little utility for those using Wi-Fi in their home networks or for logging on to wireless ‘hotspots’ with a laptop or pocket PC. The program searches out and displays details of any wireless LANs (local area networks) in the vicinity, which could be causing interference or allowing others to log on to your PC or network. It can also help you to set up your own network, identify areas of poor coverage, align directional antennas, or locate Wi-Fi hotspots when you are out and about. Note that the latest version of Netstumbler is designed to work with Windows XP though it may also work with some Windows 98 set-ups; it also has problems with some makes of Wi-Fi adaptor so you should read the Release Notes before downloading the program.



PEST PATROL, shareware, $39.95, 4.2Mb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,




SPY SWEEPER, shareware, $29.95, 3.8Mb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,



Although the freeware adware and spyware cleaners AdAware and Spybot (see last week’s Boot Camp) both do an excellent job the updates and revisions needed to keep them on top of the job can sometimes be a little erratic. Some users feel safer with paid-for commercial or shareware programs that offer on-line support and upgrades. Pest Patrol and Spy Sweeper are amongst the best of the bunch but just because you’ve paid for a program that doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe! See Tip of the week



Next week – Shareware and freeware -- part 3





Malicious program that changes the home page setting of your browser without your permission, directing it to a pornographic web site or search engine



Public Wi-Fi access points in hotels, airports, cafes etc. some are free though many now require the user to pay a fee or subscription before they can log on



A data file that extends the capability or adds extra features (sometimes unwanted) to a program or application




There are now a staggeringly large number of free and paid-for adware and spyware clean-up tools and websites. Some of them are promoted through pop-up windows on web pages that suggest your PC may be at risk by displaying ‘hidden’ information about your computer that the web site has apparently managed to extract. In most cases these are scams, intended to scare you and the details shown are quite routinely made available by your browser (type of browser, PC operating system etc.) and do not represent any threat to your PC’s security. Some commercial programs do work well, and we’ve included a couple of them this week, but most should be avoided. At best they don’t work as well as Spybot or AdAware (see last week’s Boot Camp) but a significant number of them generate false reports and some of them deliberately infect your PC with spyware and adware, or worse, so beware! If you are concerned that you might have visited a dodgy site or downloaded a suspicious program then check them against a list of rogue products and suspect antispyware sites at:

Search PCTopTips 



Boot Camp Index















Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME






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