BOOT CAMP 537 (12/08/08)

Freeware Top Tens part 1, Handy Tools and Utilities


In this troubled and cynical old world it is comforting to know that there are still people out there willing to share their ingenuity and expertise by giving away genuinely useful computer software. It’s called Freeware and Shareware, so what’s the catch?


Much of the time there isn’t one. A lot of freeware is simply given away because the author hopes others will find it useful, though they’re usually not adverse to a accepting donations from satisfied users and if you continue to use a piece of software it is only polite to pay the usually modest licence fee. A lot of freeware programs are add-ons, tools and utilities for improving the functionality of other programs and therefore have little or no commercial value. Sometimes it’s an enticement to upgrade to a better-specified version of the program, others use the freeware model as a testing ground for software that they hope will become a marketable product one day.


Needless to say there is a dark side and freeware can be spiked with all sorts of nasties, including viruses, malware and spyware. Watch out too for ‘demoware’ and trialware that turns out to be artfully packaged commercial programs. Some of it can be a swine to get rid of too, and you run the risk of being plagued by pop-ups and demands for payment.


The programs we’ll be featuring over the next few weeks have, as far as practically possible, been thoroughly vetted, but here’s the usual disclaimer, and you install and use them on your PC entirely at your own risk. See alto this week’s Top Tip.


Sorry, we cannot answer any technical questions regarding these programs; there’s usually a FAQ or support section on the website and most freeware authors are keen to know about any bugs and glitches affecting their programs, though you may find that direct help and support is only available if you pay the licence fee.


All of the programs we’ll be featuring have been road-tested on 32-bit XP and Vista PCs (unless otherwise indicated). As is customary we’ll start off with ten top tools and utilities and over the coming weeks we’ll be covering such diverse topics as pictures and imaging, privacy and security, multimedia, Internet and email plus the ever-popular Microsoft Alternatives. So without more ado let’s get started…


Baku, XP & Vista, 550kb

Powerful Registry and Driver cleaner and backup and restore utility, designed for more advanced users, highly configurable, very effective but use with care!


CD Recovery Toolbox, XP & Vista

Optical discs are easily damaged but with this tool there’s a fair chance of recovering data from scratched or faulty discs. Works with CDs, DVDs as well as HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs


Decrapifier, XP & Vista, 670kb

Anyone who has recently bought a PC or laptop form one of the big name makers will know how much time you can waste removing all of the trial, demo and supposedly ‘free’ software that comes with it. Decrapifier will do the job for you, deleting the many, many annoyances in one simple operation


DoubleKiller, XP & Vista, 499kb

You would probably be surprised by how many duplicate files there are on your computer. How they get there and where they come from no-one knows, but here’s a quick and safe way to get rid of them, and free up valuable hard disc space. DoubleKiller scans for duplicates and gives you the opportunity to decide which ones you want to delete.


FileHamster, XP & Vista, 4.8Mb

Sophisticated yet easy to use backup program; operates in real-time, automatically backing up files and folders as they are changed or saved. Plenty of add-ons and plug-ins available to expand capabilities


FreeUndelete, XP (possibly Vista), 1Mb,

If you have accidentally deleted a file, and emptied the Recycle Bin there’s still a very fair chance your lost data can be recovered with this useful and potentially life-saving tool


HD Clone Free Edition, XP & Vista, 9.0Mb,

The ultimate backup tool; creates a complete mirror copy of your hard drive; perfect for quick and easy upgrades with the facility to copy the contents of a small hard drive to a larger one. Compatible with IDE, SATA and USB media and simple to use.


IconExtract, XP & Vista, 35kb

How many icons do you have on your PC? Now you can find out with this little utility, and you may be surprised by the results. IconExtract scans your computer, locating icons, and you can save selected ones that you probably didn’t even know you had, to a separate file for later use.


Revo Uninstaller, XP & Vista, 1.52Mb,

Advanced program uninstaller, takes over where Windows Add/Remove Programs (Programs and Features in Vista) leaves off, ferreting out fragments of programs that can be left behind and it’s particularly good at removing stubborn programs that won’t go away.


Windows Font Explorer, XP & Vista,

You’ve probably got hundreds of fonts on your PC, this easy to use font manager lets you see exactly what you have, checks for damaged fonts, and helps you install new ones, and uninstall the ones you no longer need.


Next Week – Freeware Top Tens part 2





Dominant high-definition optical video disc format, developed by Sony and now adopted as an industry-wide standard



A program or data file that tells Windows how to communicate with a particular piece of hardware, like a video adaptor, modem, printer, web cam, USB Memory Stick etc.



Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, fast, higher performance interface used to connect hard disc drives to PC motherboards



Before installing any new software, and this applies to mainstream and paid-for applications, as well as freeware, it is a good idea to set a new System Restore Point. This means that in the event of something nasty going wrong there is a very fair chance that you will be able to ‘roll back’ your system to a time before the software was installed and undo any damage. In both XP and Vista you will find System Restore by going to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Restore and click ‘Create a Restore Point’ (XP) or ‘Open System Protection’ > Create (Vista) and follow the prompts.



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© R. Maybury 2008, 2207

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