Selected Free System & Customisation Utilities
CCleaner (crap cleaner!) is a great all round program for helping to keep your system clean, delete unwanted data and temporary files, tidy up your registry and more. It cleans temporary files, internet browsing history, files and cookies (from multiple browsers), zero length files, log files, recycle bin, and recent document history. It can also clean temporary files from many other common applications.
Another feature I like is the ability to clean particular directories, so if you have a specific downloads folder, or any other directory that you wish to be automatically cleaned when ccleaner is run
This program has always behaved and been safe to use, in fact it offers to create a retore file after a registry scan so that you can put the registry back as it was when removing unwanted items (which helps!) It also allows you to amend your add/remove programs and system startup entries too, so it's now possible to remove all those should you need to.
After using your computer for a while, files and data get fragmented - written all over the place on your hard drive. JKDefrag GUI can defragment this data, and organise it in a fashion that makes it easier and faster for your computer to access it.
This version provides an additional simple to use GUI (graphical user interface) to the original JKDefrag, as well as a couple of other utilities and functions, which makes it a very comptent program.
JKDefrag GUI is completely automatic and very easy to use, fast, low overhead, with a choice of optimisation strategies. It can handle external hard drives, floppy disks (does anyone still use them!) and USB disks/sticks. You can also schedule a defrag, set it to clean your recycle bin and temp files prior to defragmentation, compress your page file and registry, or even have it run in the background everytime your screensaver kicks in so it doesn't disturb you while you are working.
JkDefrag has won a few accolades, and recommendations, so this GUI version which adds additional (and useful) features, as well as makeing it easier to use is definitely a plus.
On the JkDefrag GUI download page, you need to click on the top download link. The U3 version can be put straight onto a U3 compatible USB stick, and the BartPE version is for running from a BartPE CD/DVD.
If you've ever wanted the specifications of your PC to post on a forum, for technical support or just out of curiosity, then this program will do it.
It can tell you your: Computer Name, Username, IP Address, MAC Address, Windows version and service pack, Windows Serial Number, Internet Explorer Version, Memory, CPU Type & Speed, Calculated CPU Speed, Sound card type, Video and virtual video adapters, Screen Resolution, Network Adapters, AC Power Status (for laptops), Battery Charge Status (for laptops), Time Zone, CD/DVD Make and model, COM Ports, LPT Ports, Mouse capabilities, Hard Disks, Hard Disks Serial Number, BIOS Date, PC Serial number, Manufacturer, PC Product,P CMCIA (Laptops), USB ports, Firewire ports, Motherboard,Modem, plus more besides, which should be enough to get you started!
A simple to use program that can benchmark (test the performance) of your hard drive, and also check the health all organised under different tabs. Tab features: Benchmark (measure performance), Info (show detailed drive information), Health (checks the health status by using SMART), Error Scan (scans the surface for errors), Temperature (display drive temperatures).
If you are the type who regularly re-installs windows, maintains several computers or a network then AutoPatcher is a life saver! After a disc format and a fresh Windows install comes the updates, and these can take what seems like an eternity to download and install. AutoPatcher has all essential updates, direct x, and a lot more. Download the image (via Bit Torrent) burn to CD or DVD, and you have everything you need at hand for a 'complete' re-install, without going through Windows Update. There are updated components, critical updates, administrative updates plus additional addons and registry tweaks (where applicable).
If you know how to format a hard drive and install Windows from scratch, then you should be fine with AutoPatcher. Just select the version of AutoPatcher you need (Win2000, XP, 2003, or Vista). This is a great program to keep in case Microsoft make your OS redundant and no longer support it in the future (I keep a Windows 2000 setup for just such an occasion!)
Ever wondered how well your computer system performs compared to other similar computers? Have you 'overclocked' or built a new computer and want to 'burn it in' or test for stability? These two utilities can benchmark your system (performance test it), you can then compare your result online with other peoples results.
3D Mark is specifically designed to test your graphics card setup with older versions of the software also available for older hardware - this one is a large download, but also quite entertaing to watch as your graphics card is put through its paces!
PC Mark 05 has everything you need to reliably and easily measure the performance of your PC and determine its strengths and weaknesses. For a general test of your overall system, PC Mark is the way to go. Both these utilities are also available in commercial versions aimed more at the 'enthusiast', but are not at all neccesary for general PC testing, 'burning in' or for general hardware comparisons.
RocketDock is a smoothly animated, alpha blended application launcher. It provides a nice clean interface to drop shortcuts on for easy access and organization. With each item completely customizable there is no end to what you can add and launch from the dock. It is also compatible with MobyDock, ObjectDock, RK Launcher, and Y'z Dock skins too.
I have this installed on my own computers and find it very useful for quickly launching my most used applications. Comes with a range of skins (different looks/colours) ready installed, plus you can easily download more from the internet. Great to use with Iconoid (program below) for a really clean looking desktop.
Desktop Sidebar is similar to the sidebar that you get with Windows Vista. It provides you with instant access to information by grabbing data from your PC and the internet. The result is a dynamic visual display you configure and control.
You can choose from among a wide selection of information panels including; MS Outlook, time/date (calendar), newsfeeds, to-do lists, weather etc. It's fully customisable, allowing you to dock these panels together at the edge of the screen, or arrange them anywhere on your desktop. All panels are configurable with a number of specific options. With hundreds of skins available on the Ewebsite extras page, so you can freely change the appearance of Desktop Sidebar to suit your tastes.
XNeat enables you to minimize any window to an icon in the system tray (instead of the taskbar), keep any window on top, set a custom transparency level, and also hide any window or tray icon. It also enables you to re-arange your taskbar buttons into an order that suits you
Some of the many featues of XNeat:
- Taskbar sorter that arranges taskbar buttons
- Keep windows always on top of other windows
- Send any window to the system tray
- Make any window transparent
- Tweak the taskbar appearance
- Hide any window
- Switch active window faster
- Improves productivity by making frequently-used applications faster to locate
I'd like to thank Ian Butchman for bringing this worthwhile program to my attention .. thanks Ian!
Automatically retrieve the current conditions, hourly forecast, daily forecast, detailed forecast, and weather maps for over 77,000 cities world-wide. The current conditions can be quickly viewed by holding your mouse pointer over the Weather Watcher system tray icon.
"A personal Windows desktop weather station" as they call it!
Another program that deserves a mention which I also like and have used is WeatherMate. They are both very similar, but Weather Watcher just clicnched it on its better looking interface and the fact that it can be skinned, so you can easily make it integrate better with your desktop theme.
Chaos Wallpaper can shuffle your wallpaper images (your desktop background) and also display your RSS or Atom newsfeeds, without installation. It supports multiple feed types and versions including: RSS 0.9x, 1.0, 2.0, and Atom 0.x feeds. All options are available from the program icon when runnning in the taskbar, and you can customise the way newsfeeds are displayed by editing the CSS file (you can use the CSS editor in the web design section for this!).
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