FREE Portable Software To Help Solve PC Problems

December 3, 2011

TTC Shelbyville recently served up a post titled Fix your computer with IOBit’s Toolbox Portable that caught my attention and caused me to explore further.

Being a geekster I am always looking for that ultimate tool that I can slap on my flash drive;  that will serve as my personal assistant for solving PC problems or maintaining my own PC. Oftentimes, I end up with so many utilities on my flash drive, that when I do need them it actually becomes a counterproductive situation. I keep telling myself, go back to my roots and use the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple Stupid).  Trust me, it works.

If you are looking to reduce the payload of troubleshooting utilities on your flash drive and want to get back to the K.I.S.S. principle, then take a look at the IOBit Toolbox.

IObit Toolbox

Obit Toolbox is FREE portable software that system administrators and computer geeks will take along to solve PC problems anytime and anywhere. With more than 20 dedicated tools,IObit Toolbox allows you to display/diagnose PC information, enhance PC security, optimize PC performance and repair PC problems.

Folks, I was quite impressed with, not only the attractiveness of the interface (especially for a portable app), but was impressed with the actual selection and performance of the tools. There are more than 20 dedicated tools in this package and is a good application to have on any PC (or Flash Drive). The only negative I could come up with is that one of the tool selections is a prompt that takes you the IObit website to look at one of their Security apps called IObit Security 360. If you make that selection you will be directed to a site where you will be informed that IObit no longer is developing that application; otherwise the IOBit Toolbox is a great portable suite of troubleshooting, maintenance and optimization tools.

List of Tools Available in IOBit’s Toolbox:

Disk Cleaner: Analyzes unnecessary files in hard disk and cleans them up to enlarge available disk space.

Registry Cleaner: Registry Cleaner will clean up your registry database and free your system of unneeded ballast.

Privacy Sweeper: Erase your activity history and surfing traces.

Uninstaller: Helps you to uninstall programs in your computer.

File Shredder: File Shredder makes sure that no data thief can get his hands on your sensitive data.

Smart RAM: Monitors and Optimizes memory usage to increase available physical memory.

Registry Defrag: Registry Defrag determines how heavily fragmented the registry is and whether an optimization is necessary.

Internet Booster: Analyzes your internet and optimizes it.

Startup Manager: Optimize startups to accelerate your PC startup and improve your system performance.

WinFix: Analyzes your windows operation system and helps you to fix problems.

Disk Check: Disk Check performs analysis of your disks and their file systems.

Shortcut Fixer: Searches your system for non-effective shortcuts and references and fixes them.

Undelete: Undelete will restore deleted files after you have emptied the Recycle Bin.

IE Helper: Manages Internet Explorer add-ons, system context menu, and restores hijacked settings.

Process Manager: Manages running processes and displays the performance of your system.

Security Holes Scanner: Scans and fixes security holes automatically.

Cloned Files Scanner: Searches for cloned files in your system which may waste your disk space.

Empty Folder Scanner: Helps you to find empty folders in your computer and deletes them.

Disk Explorer: Analyzes your drives to show disk usage of your files and folders.

System Information: Collects and displays detail information of your system.

System Control: Helps you to change operation system settings.

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FREE Time Tracking Tool Shows Times Your PC Has Been Active (for the past 3 weeks)

November 15, 2011

Did you know that the Windows OS tracks logon and logoff/standby times (working hours) by default?  But how do you tap into this information and what could you use this information for?

An easy way to tap into this information is to use the small portable application called PC On/Off Time. No installation is required and no running in the background is required.  Simply download and run.

PC On/Off Time graphically displays the usage time for your computer for the last 3 weeks without having to start any logging (uses Win 7/Vista/XP/2000/2008 built-in feature). It displays the hours of operation, in a simple overview, so you can see at what times the computer was on or off. You can also connect to a network PC and create the report.

PC On/Off

What this graphic display will tell you is this:

image

A grey fade-out indicates that the computer switches into standby mode. (Windows 7/Vista or higher)

image

A red bar indicates that the computer was shut down unexpectedly (Windows event ID: 6008) with a following reboot.

In answer to the second part of the question; “What could you use this information for?

PC On/Off  Time could be used as a troubleshooting tool.  For example, I recently experienced an issue where my PC would abruptly shut down. This tool would have been helpful to determine the number of times this occurred and the date/time.

PC On/Off Time could be used to monitor the usage time that your children are on the the computer.

PC On/Off Time could be used to monitor computers on a network you are managing.  For example, you may have a rogue user who is showing up at work after hours to use a PC for personal gain.

PC On/Off Time could be used a a timesheet tool to document time spent on a special project.

PC On/Off Time could be used as a forensics tool to generate a graphical report, as supporting documentation in a criminal case.

Can you think of any other uses for this tool?  I would love to hear your comments.

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Add Up To 10 Configurable Caption Buttons to Your Windows

October 1, 2011

At the top right corner of any window in MS-Windows are three standard buttons that allow you to minimize, maximize (or restore down) and close the window. These three buttons are called caption buttons.

Min, Max, Close

I often thought that there is a lot of space in that top right corner where additional caption buttons could be added that could serve some purpose.  Today, I found that this thought is no longer a thought.

If you want to add some additional functionality to your windows, then check out eXtraButtons .

eXtraButtons

eXtraButtons provides up to 10 additional buttons that can be placed in the captions of all windows that will extend the functionality of the Windows operating system and look the same as the standard system buttons. Altogether, there are 10 fully configurable buttons that can be added (or removed) that will perform the following:

Always on top — places window on the top of the other windows, so that be always visible whether or not it has the focus.

Send to back — places window under others, so it will not bother you.

Copy window — starts a copy of the application in the new window.

Roll-up/Unroll — minimizes window to its caption, so you can see only caption line with the title of the window.

Minimize to Box — minimizes window and places its icon on the Desktop in adjusted arrangement.

Transparency — makes the window transparent according to adjusted level. You may adjust any default transparency level.

Percentage transparency — makes the window transparent according to percents from pop-upTransparency Menu.

Minimize to Tray — minimizes window and places its icon to System Tray.

Minimize to Tray Menu — minimizes window and places its icon to System Tray Menu.

Move to Another Monitor — places the window on another monitor.

On my system I configured eXtraButtons to show buttons for Roll/Unroll, Transparency, and Minimize to Tray.  eXtraButtons is a nice concept that will definitely help you optimize your workspace and will work on any Windows OS from Windows 98 and up.

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[GEEK SQUEAKS'] – FREE All-In-One Utility, Windows 7 Defrag, Directory Monitor and All About Files

May 31, 2011

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An Enhanced Windows Explorer Replacement

October 7, 2010

We currently have available on Windows based computers a built in file management utility called Windows Explorer. This utility, which is a major component of the operating system, provides you with a graphical user interface to browse (and view) the file system on your computer. For the life of me I never could understand why Microsoft never implemented tabbed browsing in Windows Explorer. Maybe Microsoft felt that a great majority of computer users are intimidated by Windows Explorer and it was best to keep it simple.

Anyhow, if you are into file management and you want a Windows Explorer that offers a tabbed browser experience, then I recommend taking a look at Explorerplusplus (Explorer++) .

Explorer++

The beauty of tabbed browsing is that you can manage multiple instances of files and folders in one window. I actually have come to prefer the tabbed browsing interface over multiple pane interfaces. As a matter of fact, here of late, I have been testing numerous types of these file management utilities (even wrote about a few here on the blog) and Explorer++ is in the running as my “go to” file manager.

Explorer++

What I like?

It has a clean appearance (not cluttered or bloated) and is very similar to the Windows Explorer, as we know it.

It is fast and smooth running…  I currently have Explorer++ pinned to my Windows 7 taskbar. It definitely loads faster than Windows Explorer and performs file management operations faster. For example, I can right mouse click on a file or folder and the standard Explorer context menu loads quickly with minimal lag time.

I like the idea of my drives being available on a toolbar where I can quickly access their contents.  Lay your mouse pointer on a drive letter and immediately see the size of the drive and the free space available.

There is an option on the menu of Explorer++ called “Actions” that provides you the ability to merge, split and destroy files. When destroying a file you can do a one or three pass overwrite to make the file nearly impossible to undelete.

You can double click on the tab bar to open/close tabs.

You can lock tabs to the bar.

You can open to the Command Prompt from any folder you are working from.

You have option of bookmarking your favorite folders.

You can save a directory (or folder) listing to a text file.

Explorer ++ can be  run from your flash drive (as a portable app).

In the end, I am finding that the developer has went to great strides to make Explorer++ an user friendly experience; and,  it is my hope that the development cycle continues with this program.

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An Easy Way to Backup the Windows Registry

September 2, 2010

Ah yes, the Windows Registry… In comparison to the human body where our brain is the data storage component that controls our thoughts and bodily processes; the Windows registry is similar in this fashion. Just like the brain, if injury or damage occurs to the registry, the impact can be great and ultimately result in a crash of your computer.

The Windows Registry is a hierarchical database that stores configuration settings and options on Microsoft Windows operating systems. It contains settings for low-level operating system components as well as the applications running on the platform: the kernel, device drivers, services, SAM, user interface and third party applications all make use of the Registry. The registry also provides a means to access counters for profiling system performance. – [Source: Wikipedia]

Now the good to this is that the Windows registry can be backed up (even sections of it) and the backups can be used to restore or heal the registry. I am a big advocate of backing up my registry on my computer; especially when installing or testing software. These backups are also especially helpful in the event of a malware infection where malware will hook into the registry unbeknownst to the user and will ultimately cause havoc.

Backing up and/or restoring the Windows registry is a process that is not an easy process. I know of many techs that even get the jitters when you even talk about the registry.  The Windows Restore function, does try to perform backups of registry changes so that the user can try to recover from a mishap; however, in my opinion this is not the most reliable option.

If you want an easy way to backup your Windows’ Registry, I suggest using ERUNTgui .

ERUNTgui is a graphic user interface for the popular registry backup and restore program “ERUNT” created by Lars Hederer.

ERUNT – current versions 1.1j are still compatible with Windows 7, but as in Vista, they will only work correctly if you turn off User Account Control in Windows’ Control Panel (move the slider to the lowest position).

This utility is pretty easy to use. Simply select, “Backup The Registry” and you will be prompted for a location to save your backup. Once the backup is saved, you can also use ERUNTgui to perform a restore in the event your registry becomes corrupted. There is also an “Optimize the Registry” button; however, if you do try this, make a backup of the registry first.  See, I even get the jitters when I know I am messing with the registry.

ERUNT.gui can also be used as a portable app on your flash drive. I currently have this utility in my tech toolbox and will often use it to make a registry backup on other computers that I know I will be getting down and dirty with.

ERUNTgui

ERUNTgui

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The Ultimate FREE System Protection Tool

August 23, 2010

If you are someone that tests software; OR manages computers where there are numerous users (such as at a kisosk, classroom, library or at home with the kids); OR, you are simply are looking for the ultimate in computer protection, then look no further. The solution is a virtualization application called  Wondershare Time Freeze.

Recently Bill Mullins’ at Tech Thoughts brought Wondershare Time Freeze to our attention (see “For Added Internet Protection – Virtualize Your System with Free Wondershare Time Freeze” ). Since I have been following various virtualization apps, for quite sometime; I decided, following Bill’s review, to give Time Freeze a try.

Wondershare Time Freeze

Before I go any further there are a couple of important points to make here.

One, with any system altering utility, it is important that you have a backup image of your computer. A good FREE solution for that is Macrium Reflect.

Two, Wondershare Time Freeze comes in a FREE version and a PAID version that has additional features.

Click Here for Comparison

Time Freeze Comparison

After testing and using Wondershare Time Freeze, I would not hesitate in buying this software.

What is Wondershare Time Freeze?

Wondershare Time Freeze is what is known as a virtualization application. To the everyday computer user, do not let these big words give the illusion this is difficult software to use. It is not… The reason virtualization apps are not commonly used is because most people do not understand them and are afraid to try something that is completely out of the norm. To me, virtualization apps, if used properly, are the answer to ultimately protecting our PC’s from viruses, malware, dumb mistakes, etc…

How does Wondershare Time Freeze work?

In a nutshell, you install Wondershare Time Freeze on your PC, start it up, move the slider, with your mouse, from “OFF” to “ON”.  At this point you will be asked “Do you want to enable system protection?”. Click on “Yes”,  and be patient (a slight 10 – 15 second delay will occur while the PC is being switched from “real” mode to “virtual” mode.).

Time Freeze Slider

Once your PC is in virtual mode, you are protected. Your PC at this point is basically impenetrable. If you mess up anywhere on your PC (get a virus, malware, accidentally delete a file), simply reboot your computer. After reboot, your computer will return to the state it was in prior to going into virtual mode.  To see how this works, click on the video demo below.

Time Freeze Video Demo

I currently use Wondershare Time Freeze to test software that I review for What’s On My PC. I will put the PC into a virtual mode with Time Freeze and then install the software I intend to test. When I am finished, I simply reboot the computer to return to the state that it was in prior to my testing. I also use Time Freeze on my netbook, all of the time, to keep it in a time frozen state. The only time I do not run the netbook in virtual mode is when I perform routine software maintenance updates (such as antivirus definition updates, windows updates, etc.).

Now keep in mind and this is very important. While you are in virtual mode, any files you save or download to your main drive volume (usually the “C” Drive) will be lost when you reboot. A workaround that I use is that I save files I download (or work on) to one of my external drives.

To me, virtualization apps, such as Time Freeze are ideal in settings where multiple people use a PC (such as in a library, student lab, children at home, etc…). Simply run the PC in virtual mode and when the student or child finishes with the PC, reboot back into real mode and to the state it was in prior to going into virtual mode. Wondershare Time Freeze is great way to keep the configuration changes on a PC from being changed or altered.

Key Features of Wondershare Time Freeze

Wondershare Time Freeze is system protection software. It works easy and effective to create a free virtual system environment to keep your computer safe from all types of viruses and other malicious attacks. It provides the following advantages:

Virtual system as the shadow of the actual system: prevent threats of any viruses, malware, spyware and Trojans.

Simply reboot computer to return to the original state. Eliminates cost for system maintenance.

Surf internet safely, and play around with computer with NO trace left.

Prevent access to protected files and folders. Protect your privacy effectively

Manage the program with a custom password setting and keep inexperienced users from making change to your settings and configures

Compatible with Windows 7/XP/Vista/2000.

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