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Quick PC Tips and Toolkit Recommendations

I know this is off topic, but the use of these programs has eliminated quite a few programs that made their way onto my comp from who-knows-where, so as a thank-you to the software developers, I share a recommendation for their software with all of you, my awesome readers (who use Windows; if you don’t, well, find your own software :P).

My list:”(Inclusion in this list does not represent an endorsement of the authors of the software or the websites on which they appear; inclusion only implies that I find the software useful and would recommend them to others for the purposes mentioned. And no, I’m not being paid to advertise them.)”: isn’t anything fancy of spectacular, but I hope that it helps others. However, let me just say that I cannot stress enough the importance of staying up-to-date!

If you use Windows, visit and make use of the following sites at least monthly, if not more often:

  • Windows Update: Keep your copies of Windows, Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, and Outlook Express (amongst other things) up-to-date by downloading the patches available here. Also available are add-ons (such as the Microsoft Journal Viewer or the .NET Framework) and occasionally even driver updates.
  • Office Update: Chances are you use at least one of the products that Office Update supports; be sure to keep up-to-date with the latest fixes and security patches.

I doubt those two sites work well in browsers other than Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer; however, it is worth using it once and a while in order to stay up to date.

Also, if you are using Windows XP Service Pack 2, be sure to enable Automatic Updates via the Security Center. Automatic Updates are likely available in past versions of Windows as well, though offhand I can’t recall where the settings are located.

Above and beyond those Microsoft sites, I also use these programs:

  • Spybot Search & Destroy — My favorite program for not only finding and removing possibly malicious software but also for tracking down and disabling certain programs from running at startup. Spybot is also capable of immunizing against the installation of certain software and can even lock Internet Explorer settings from being changed by software.
  • Spyware Blaster — Blocks advertising (or other spyware) cookies and ActiveX programs from downloading in various browsers, including Internet Explorer and Firefox.
  • CCleaner — Deletes a wide variety of “junk” files from your system, including program logs, temporary files, Internet histories and cookies, etc., with complete control over what is deleted. CCleaner can also scan and display all invalid entries in your computer’s registry and allows the quick deletion of them. A registry laden with useless bloat has a tendency to slow your computer down.
  • Ad-Aware — My backup spyware/adware/malware scanner. I trust it to catch what Spybot leaves behind (or vice versa).
  • System Mechanic — This is the only commercial program I use (outside of my virus scanner). System Mechanic contains a number of helpful tools to improve the performance of your PC. My favorite features–particularly when I notice my computer running slowly–are the memory recovery and defragmenting tools. I’ve had it free upwards of 100 megabytes of RAM before, causing a noticeable performance boost!

As for virus scanners or firewalls, I use avast! and it works great for me. However, there are many other solutions out there to check out as well.

Also, occasionally you may consider running the scans at PCPitstop.com; they may not be perfect, but it will help you keep track of how well your computer is running, especially if you compare current scans to past scans. They can also alert you to possible problems (both software and hardware) before they even occur. Pretty handy tool!

Whatever software you use, keep it up-to-date. It may take a bit out of your already busy schedule, but keeping things running at their latest versions is a lot less trouble and stress than trying to fix a problem later on.

If you have or know of any other helpful software, I would love to hear of it, so please drop a comment with it!

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