Computer-Related Stuff

Computer-Related Stuff

A repository for computer/technology-related articles, etc (more to come).

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Religious Denominations In The United States


HOPEFULLY this will make it easier to go to certain websites that you'd LIKE to see (but can't) due to the fact that the website link is NOT underlined. In that case, here are some REALLY SIMPLE instructions on how to do just that!

1) Using your mouse, move it to the start (or end) of the website you wish to copy.

2) (While holding down the LEFT mouse click button), drag the mouse over the (highlighted) area of the website, making sure that ALL of the website address is highlighted.

3) Once it is highlighted, release your finger from the LEFT mouse click button

4) RIGHT click on the highlighted website.

5) Click on the highlighted word "copy".

6) Move your mouse to the "Address" bar near the top of your computer screen.

7) RIGHT click on the (existing) address in the Address bar (the existing addresses will appear highlighted).

8) Hit the "Delete" button on your keyboard. (This will delete the address.)

9) Using your mouse, RIGHT click and click on the word "Paste".

10) This will insert the website address that you are copying into the Address bar.

11) Hit the "Enter" button on your keyboard. This will take you to the website address you copied!

12) NOTE: This method also works for copying text from a website into the "Compose" form in your email!

~ The Scratch & Sniff Page ~

You are about to take part in one of the newest and most amazing fads to hit the internet since the Smilie...Scratch and Sniff Webpages!

Through the combination of technology and psychology, ACME Webresources, brings you the "Scratch and Sniff Webpage". You maybe thinking that such a think is impossible! Yet it is happening to tens of thousands of people. How it works....

Scratch and Sniff technology is quite simple. It combines visual images, mental focusing, and light stimulation. Of course scratching your screen is not only harmful to your finger and monitor, it plain makes you look silly. A Scratch and Sniff Web Page works as follows....

~ Instructions ~

It is important to follow the instructions carefully, in order that you may have a pleasant experience and that no one gets hurt.

1. You will see a picture of a pizza below.

2. Take your mouse and place the cursor over the pizza.

3. Briskly move the cursor over the image (scratch it) for 20 seconds...NOTE: It is important to do this for 20 seconds, you may want to count ("One Pizza" "Two Pizza" etc.)

4. After the 20 seconds, place the cursor over the pizza and click the left mouse button.

5. The next web page will have a visual image that will trigger a sense that you are smelling pizza....Pretty cool.

Scratch & Sniff Pizza

(Tom's Note: I found the "Scratch & Sniff Pizza" website here).

Here's a great tip:

With Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0+ you can easily download and install a few cool tools, such as "View Partial Source." With that extra small tool installed on your PC, you can highlight a segment of any webpage, right-click, and choose to view the partial source of whatever got highlighted by your mouse. Now you don't have to look through an entire page's source code, just the small part of the page you are interested in viewing.

The picture below is what will appear on your computer screen when you right-click on an image - after downloading the (free) "View Partial Source" tool.

Once you have clicked the above graphic, look at the bottom of the page for "Web Developer Accessories."

Three easy steps in cleaning up your computer

1) Check for errors by running ScanDisk

Through normal use of your computer, your hard disk can become cluttered and a bit messy. Folders become cross-linked, file names contain invalid or unknown characters or become damaged, and file names become disassociated with their files.

ScanDisk can fix these and other problems for you. When you run ScanDisk, it:

- Automatically corrects damaged files and helps you regain unused disk space.
- Checks your hard disk for physical errors. If the error occurs in a data storage area, it will relocate the data and mark off the damaged area so that no further data is stored there.
- Checks files and folders for invalid file names, dates, or times.
- Detects "lost file fragments." You may either have them automatically deleted or converted to files for viewing.

When it has checked your disk, ScanDisk can display a summary that indicates whether it found and repaired any errors.

When to run ScanDisk

Windows Me has been enhanced to run ScanDisk automatically in case the operating system is shut down improperly or your hard disk is faulty. You can run ScanDisk at any time, but it's a good idea to include it as part of your regularly scheduled maintenance - once a week for a Standard test, and once a month for Thorough. You can specify a time of day when your computer is not otherwise in use. For more information, read about the Maintenance Wizard.

Here's how to run ScanDisk:

- Click the Start button.
- Point to Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click ScanDisk.
- Click the drive you want to scan, and then choose either the Standard or the Thorough test.
- Click Start.

The Standard test checks the files and folders on the selected drive for errors.

The Thorough test will give you further options. -- It performs the Standard test plus checks your hard disk for physical damage. You can even specify to scan areas of your disk containing only data files, or just the areas with system files, or both.

Both Standard and Thorough have a set of Advanced options that help you to deal with lost file fragments, invalid files, and cross-linked files. You can also choose to display a summary and to keep a log file of what ScanDisk finds.

2) Defragment your hard disk

Your computer's hard disk is like a file cabinet - and while you are working, it can get pretty disorganized. When you install a program on your computer, the program's files are typically broken up over multiple locations on your hard disk. This is called fragmentation. Fragmentation slows the performance of programs on your computer. Disk Defragmenter reorganizes the files on your hard disk into contiguous blocks. This improves the performance of your programs because the files are arranged closer together.

Disk Defragmenter can also create a log file to determine which programs you run most frequently. All such frequently used files are then placed in a single location on your hard disk, which further reduces the time needed to start those programs.

Keep your hard disk in peak condition

If you use your computer a lot, it's a good idea to run Disk Defragmenter on a regular basis. It also helps to run Disk Defragmenter if you've installed several new applications, so that they will perform at top speed.

Here's how to do it:

- Click Start, point to Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click Disk Defragmenter.
- Click the Settings button, select the options you want (to ensure fastest startup of programs, select the first check box), and then click OK.
- Choose the drive you want to defragment from the drop-down menu, and then click OK.

Note: It is best to shut down all other programs before you run Disk Defragmenter.

3) Clean up your hard disk

Disk Cleanup, which comes with Windows Me, helps you to free up space on your hard disk by removing files you don't need. You can also permanently delete any type of unnecessary file, including:

- Deleted files in the Recycle Bin.
- Temporary files.
- Cached Web pages that you don't use.
- Downloaded program files temporarily stored on your hard disk.

When you run Disk Cleanup as part of the Maintenance Wizard standard maintenance routine, the settings allow you to select exactly which types of files are to be deleted.

When run as a separate tool, Disk Cleanup gives you even more control: it calculates how much space you can save by removing each type of file, and offers descriptions and views of the files. You can even remove optional Windows Me components that you don't use (for example, desktop theme files).

You can also use Disk Cleanup to uninstall programs that you want to remove.

When to run Disk Cleanup

As part of standard maintenance, Disk Cleanup should be scheduled to run at regular intervals, perhaps once a month, at some convenient time when your computer is not otherwise in use.

Here's how to run Disk Cleanup:

- Click Start, point to Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click Disk Cleanup.
- Choose the drive you want to scan from the drop-down menu, and wait while the program calculates how much disk space is available for cleanup.
- To delete obsolete files, click the Disk Cleanup tab, select the check boxes next to the files that you want to remove, click OK, and then click Yes.
- To remove Windows components, click the More Options tab. In the Windows Components area, click Clean Up.

To see what is included in any component, select the component, and then click Details. If you want to remove individual items within any component, clear the check boxes of the items you don't need.

- To remove installed programs, click the More Options tab. In the Installed Programs area, click Clean Up.
- On the Install/Uninstall tab, click the program that you want to remove, and then click Add/Remove.
- Follow the instructions on your screen to remove the program.

(This is ACTUAL SIZE!!!)

This is a neat litte inexpensive -- ($3.95/month) -- program that I picked up several months is how the CallWave website describes itself:

"Thinking about adding a dedicated telephone line for your computer so you won't miss important phone calls? Think again! Now, you can surf the Internet on your single phone line without worrying about missing important calls. That's because CallWave lets you hear who's calling while you are surfing the Web, chatting on America Online, or bidding on eBay!

CallWave works with the 'Call Forward On Busy' feature of your phone line to answer calls while you are online. Once activated, callers no longer get annoying busy signals when you are online. Instead, callers will hear a brief CallWave greeting after which they can leave a short message at the tone--that you will be able to hear instantly! Best of all, it takes less than five minutes to install and set up the CallWave software.

CallWave's Internet Answering Machine software version 3.00.5 (released July 31, 2002) is available now throughout the United States, and works with your existing dial-up ISP or AOL service. If you live outside of the US, please click here."

About a month ago (July, 2004) my Norton AntiVirus Definitions no longer updated (as my virus definitions subscription had expired), so I looked into other methods of protecting my computer while I was online. This time I looked into a FREE anti-virus protection tool -- and came up with AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition. Here are some details regarding this service (straight from the website):

"AVG Anti-Virus FREE Edition is the well-known anti-virus protection tool. AVG Anti-Virus FREE is available free-of-charge to home users for the life of the product! Rapid virus database updates are available for the lifetime of the product, thereby providing the high-level of detection capability that millions of users around the world trust to protect their computers. AVG Anti-Virus FREE is easy-to-use and will not slow your system down (low system resource requirements).

Highlights include:

- Automatic update functionality
- The AVG Resident Shield, which provides real-time protection as files are opened and programs are run
- The AVG E-mail Scanner, which protects your e-mail
- The AVG On-Demand Scanner, which allows the user to perform scheduled and manual tests
- Free Virus Database Updates for the lifetime of the product
- AVG Virus Vault for safe handling of infected files
- Great customer satisfaction!"

Now....of course I had to uninstall my Norton AntiVirus software, but then again the Norton virus definitions had already expired, meaning my virus definitions weren't up-to-date anyways! I did an immediate computer scan (using AVG) and found three viruses that had cropped-up on my computer in the month's time that the old Norton virus definitions had expired! - Tom

Click on the above pictue link to download the FREE Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware (Beta) software -- to help protect your PC from spyware and other potentially unwanted software!!

Here is a brief overview of what the AntiSpyware does (as transcribed from the Microsoft website):

"Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware (Beta): Overview

Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware (Beta) is a security technology that helps protect Windows users from spyware and other potentially unwanted software. Known spyware on your PC can be detected and removed. This helps reduce negative effects caused by spyware, including slow PC performance, annoying pop-up ads, unwanted changes to Internet settings, and unauthorized use of your private information. Continuous protection improves Internet browsing safety by guarding more than 50 ways spyware can enter your PC. Participants in the worldwide SpyNet� community play a key role in determining which suspicious programs are classified as spyware. Microsoft researchers quickly develop methods to counteract these threats, and updates are automatically downloaded to your PC so you stay up to date."
(Click on underlined link to get to website.)

Here's what is all about -- as explained on their website:

"Founded in February of 1996, Computing.Net was built on the idea that no one technical support expert knows as much about solutions to problems as does the entire population of IT professionals. By using a forum based message system, Computing.Net allows its users to ask, in essence, hundreds of technical support experts about their problem.

A forum system allows a much more tight knit community than does a newsgroup. Answers to questions are much clearer and easier to find through Computing.Net's forum when compared to newsgroup technical support discussions. As opposed to having a user e-mail a technical support expert or chat with one directly, Computing.Net's forums allow previously answered questions to be found instantly, saving the user and the support professional time. The forum system that Computing.Net uses has been rated as the best support forum for PC and Windows related issues by PC World magazine.

Computing.Net, however, is not only about forums. While the technical support forums are the backbone of Computing.Net, it also has many other forms of technical support, such as Howtos and instructions for novices. By combining all of these services, Computing.Net contains all the information that a user is likely to need to receive technical support for his or her computer related problem."

As explained on the MyBookmarks website....

"MyBookmarks is a free Internet service that allows you to keep your browser bookmarks and favorites online so you can access them from anywhere.

Your Internet Explorer favorites, Netscape bookmarks, and AOL favorite places can be imported to MyBookmarks to get started quickly. Our full-featured editor makes it easy to organize and search your online bookmarks. You can even export your online bookmarks back to your browser."

The 46 Best-Ever Freeware Utilities

1. Best Free Web Browser

Internet Explorer is a good browser but it has become such a target for malicious exploits that it is now a major security risk. Quite separately, the browser itself is now looking dated with most alternative products offering tabbed browsing and other productivity enhancements. There are several excellent alternatives but Mozilla Firefox is the stand-out pick. It's safer than Internet Explorer, so safe in fact that many users have reported no spyware infections since they started using the product. It's also browses faster than Internet Explorer and since the release of version 1.0, it's stable and reliable as well. It loads a little slower than IE but once running, it zips along at lightning speed. With tabbed browsing and more free extensions than you could ever want, it offers a major upgrade in your browsing experience. Unlike IE, it's also standards compliant. Firefox is now my everyday browser though occasionally I have to fire up IE to browse a site designed around IE's non-standard features. (4.7MB) <= Free Firefox migration guide

2. Best Free Anti-Virus Software
Updated May 18, 2005

There are two equal recommendations in this category. First there is AVG Antivirus 7.0 Free Edition. This product has been continuously refined since it was first released in 1991 and now offers very impressive protection capabilities. Additionally, it's relatively small, light on resources, has regular automatic updates and handles email scanning. There is a free and a pro version, the only difference being that the free version has a few non-critical features disabled and has no direct technical support. Even so, it's an impressive package and offers the financially challenged a real alternative to the major anti-virus suites. Equally impressive is the free Avast! scanner though its funky media player style interface is not to everyone's taste. Avast! also required periodic re-registration while AVG does does not. (5MB) <= a review of the effectiveness of free security software

3, Best Free Adware/Spyware/Scumware Remover

I used to recommend SpyBot Search and Destroy but I'm afraid its detection rate has fallen off recently. I now recommend Microsoft's Antispyware program which is currently available as a free beta to users of Windows 2000 and later. It' s based on the Giant Antispyware product that Microsoft purchased late in 2004 and has impressive detection. It also has excellent real time protection against the current plague of browser hijackers, auto-dialers and other surreptitiously downloaded scumware products. Microsoft have announced that the product will remain free even when out of beta so it's a good long term choice. My second selection in this category is Ad-Aware SE. It's free too and works with all versions of Windows though the free version lacks the active protection offered by Giant. However you can add active protection by using SpywareBlaster (see next item) I use both Giant and Ad-Aware as they tend to find slightly different things. If possible, I suggest you use both as well. (6.4MB) (1.7MB)

4. Best Free Browser Protection Utility
Updated May 29, 2005

There's a scumware plague at the moment. All it takes is a visit to a pushy web site or a loaded shareware install and next minute your Internet Explorer homepage has been changed, your default search setting altered, unwanted ads pop up on your screen and worse. SpywareBlaster is not a system scanner rather it is monitor that's designed to prevent an initial infection. It provides active protection for Internet Explorer users against thousands of malevolent products that use ActiveX based exploits and offers defenses against hostile sites and unwanted cookies as well. SpywareBlaster can be used with Firefox but there's not much point as Firefox doesn't need to be protected against ActiveX exploits. SpywareBlaster is free but the automatic update service costs $9.95 annually. A companion program to SpywareBlaster is SpywareGuard. It is also a protective program that checks programs before they are run for malware signatures and also checks program behavior as well. However of late SpywareGuard seems to have been rather neglected with no new signature updates for more than a year so I can no longer give it my recommendation. SpywareBlaster though, is a terrific product and a must-have for Internet Explorer users who also use the free version of Ad-Aware. If you are using Microsoft Antispyware, Ad-Aware Pro or other anti-spyware utility with a real-time monitor, you don't need it. (2.2MB) (1.96MB)

5. Best Free Firewall

Two things need to be said about firewalls. First, the number and quality of free products is remarkable. Second, no other single product category seems to cause as much angst to average users in their installation and day-day-use. That's why my choice for "best" goes to Kerio Personal Firewall, the product that seems to cause the fewest problems for users. Don't get me wrong, it is also an excellent firewall . More adventurous users and the technically inclined may however wish to consider ZoneAlarm and Sygate. The most technically advanced firewall of all is possibly the latest Tiny version. However it is so fiendishly difficult to install and setup that I can only recommend it to network specialists and masochists. Note: The free and paid versions of Kerio are the same. If you don't buy the product some advanced features are automatically turned off after 30 days. (7.3MB)

6, Best Free Trojan Scanner/Trojan Remover
Updated May 18, 2005

Ewido is the best of a new crop of anti-Trojan programs. On my recent tests over at it emerged as was one of the few products that could reliably detect polymorphic and process injecting Trojans that were totally missed by anti-virus products like Norton and AVG. No, it's not as effective as TDS-3 or Trojan Hunter but these are shareware products. As ever, you get what you pay for. In particular the free version of Ewido doesn�t have a memory monitor but the on-demand scanner is however, excellent. The free version download is actually the same as the paid version but after 14 days the memory monitor becomes non-functional. I recommend that all average PC users who don't have an anti-trojan scanner download the product and scan their PCs weekly. I suspect you may be surprised at what you will find. Ewido only works with Windows 2000 and later so Win 9X users should consider the free version of a2 (a-squared) anti-trojan as an alternative. It's not quite as effective as Ewido but is still an excellent product. High risk PC users such as P2P file sharers and frequenters of hack sites, should however consider the industrial strength protection of TDS-3 or Trojan Hunter both of which offer the enhanced protection they need. (2.2MB)

7. Best Free Rootkit Scanner/Remover
Updated May 25, 2005

Rootkits are a special kind of software tool used to hide trojans, viruses and other malware from your anti-virus scanner and other security products. Unfortunately there are extremely effective which means that some of you reading this will be infected even though you believe your PC to be totally clean. Thankfully there is a new class of security product now available called rootkit detectors that use specialized techniques to detect these dangerous intruders. Most of these detectors require quite a bit of technical skill to interpret the results but one of the simplest to use and most effective is also free. It's called Blacklight and is currently available as a free beta from F-Secure until the 1st of July 2005. I suggest everyone download this product and scan their PC. The chances of you being infected are small but for five minutes work it's not worth taking the risk. Free, 911KB.

8. Best Free Intrusion Prevention and Detection Utility for Home Use

These days all users face a real risk of malicious programs secretly installing themselves on your computer. Anti-virus and anti-spyware products dramatically reduce the chance of infection but you can enhance your protection further by installing an additional layer of defense with an intrusion detection program. For advanced users Prevx is a stand out recommendation. It's so good I made it my Free Product of the Year for 2004. However it's talkative nature and sometimes cryptic messages make it only suitable for experienced users. For other users (but not beginners) I recommend WinPatrol. Like Prevx it provides a vital "last ditch" defense layer by telling you when a product is trying to change any of the critical settings on your PC such as the registry and auto-start areas. WinPatrol simply throws up a dialog asking whether you want to allow the change or not. Of course being warned is useless unless you have some idea how to respond to the warning. That's why neither Prevx nor WinPatrol is suited to inexperienced users. (7.5MB) (880KB) <= Brief survey of IDS software

9. Best Free Anonymous Surfing Service

There are lots of reasons folks have for wanting to surf anonymously, ranging from simple paranoia to possibly being murdered by a malevolent foreign government. Whatever the reasons, commercial services that offer anonymity are doing real well. However one of the best services JAP, is totally free. In fact JAP is perhaps a little too good. That's why the German Police insisted in 2004 that a backdoor be put into the product to allow interception of child pornographers. This was done but subsequently removed as a result of court action by JAP. An alternative to JAP is another system called Tor. However given the US Navy origin of Tor, the suspicion arises that this system may indeed have a permanent backdoor. Whatever, both JAP and Tor offer a level of secrecy that is better than many commercial systems. However expect your surfing to slow down as you'll be relayed through a chain of servers. You'll also need to change your browser settings to work through a proxy.

10. Best Free Software Suite

The Open CD site offers for free a wonderful collection of just about every application software product you need to run a PC including the latest version of OpenOffice. Many of these freebies substitute admirably for expensive commercial products. There is Abi Word as an alternative for MS Word, OpenOffice for MS Office XP, Thunderbird for Outlook, The Gimp for Adobe Photoshop, 7-zip for WinZIP are many more. If you then add to this collection some of the other utilities from my "46 Best-ever Utilities" collection you will have all the software you'll ever need without spending a cent. Note: All of the Open CD utilities can be downloaded for free as a CD ISO image. If you have a slow connection you can purchase the CD for a very modest cost.

The Best Windows Backup Software

At this site sixteen data backup products were reviewed and rated but only one get "Editor's choice."

The Best Spyware Detector

If you use Ad-Aware or SpyBot you will be surprised just how more effectively SpySweeper detects and protects your PC from Adware, Spyware, Trojans and other malicious products. That's why it won the prized "Editor's Choice" award in PC Magazine's massive March 2004 survey of anti-Spyware products. Try the free evaluation copy and see for yourself. Use this link for direct download =>

The Best Remote Access Software

Our reviewer had given this product category away as "too slow, tool clumsy and too unreliable" but after reviewing this product he's changed his mind; "at long last a remote access solution that actually works! Quite frankly we agree with him, it's an impressive product.
Read the full review here:

The Best Spam Blocker for Dummies

Most spam filters require you to be a computer expert. Our Editor has found two spam filters for average users that will remove the spam from your email and yet are simple to use.

The Best Anti-trojan Scanner

Most users are not aware that their anti-virus scanner can only provide a moderate level of protection against trojan programs that try and take control of your PC. To really protect your computer, you need a dedicated anti-trojan program. Our editor's have reviewed every major product on the market and have concluded that two scanners stand head and shoulders above the other contenders.

11. Best Free File Manager

Windows Explorer is fine for simple file management activities but when you have some serious work to do, you need a two pane file manager. I use Directory Opus which is without doubt the best product in this class but costs $59. Recently I discovered xplorer�. It offers a good part of the functionality of Directory Opus and is totally free. As a bonus, its user interface is very similar to Windows Explorer, so most users will find this tool easy to learn and use.(575KB)

12. Best Free Email Client

Thunderbird, the free open source POP and IMAP email client, has been finally released after a long period of gestation. It was developed by, the same folks who brought you Firefox. Feature-wise it sits somewhere between Outlook Express and Outlook which means that it offers an upgrade to Express users and a downgrade to those who use the more advanced PIM features of Outlook. All Outlook Express users should seriously consider switching. You�ll be rewarded with a more advanced product including built- in spam filtering, built-in RSS reader, better security, message color coding, fast email search and the ability to view your mail in conversational threads. On top of that, the product is more secure than OE and, unlike the latter, is still being actively developed. The transition is made easier by the fact that Thunderbird looks and works similar to OE. Tools within Thunderbird also allow you to easily import OE account settings and stored email. Outlook users who aren�t reliant on calendaring, Microsoft Exchange or Outlook plug-ins should also consider switching. If you switch to Thunderbird, you should also consider using the free Copernic Desktop Search program, the latest version of which now indexes Thunderbird email files.

13. Best Free WebMail Accessory

Two suggestions: the first is a nifty free product called YPOPs! (formerly YahooPops!) that allows you to collect your Yahoo webmail from within your POP email client such as Outlook, Thunderbird or Eudora. I use it on multiple Yahoo accounts and it works wonderfully. The second suggestion is an Open Source utility called MrPostman. It's a much more flexible product than YPOPs! and will download HotMail, Lycos, Yahoo and several other webmail services into your POP email client. It can also give you access to email accounts on MS Exchange 5.5. If you only use Yahoo webmail, go with YPOPs! as MrPostman is a more complex program and can need a bit of fiddling to work correctly. You'll find a couple of links below that will help you. Note that MrPostman requires the Java Runtime Environment to be installed on your PC. (1.3MB) (1.5MB) <= Installing Mr Postman <= MrPostman forum

14. Best Free Outlook Express Backup

This free utility allows you to do a full or selective backup of OE's critical files including mail folders, newsgroups, address book and identity settings. Simple, effective...neat. (2.1MB)

15. Best Free Outlook Add-ins

I hate opening HTML email. Despite multiple layers of protection I just know that one day some cunning new exploit is going to get me. That's why I'm so enthusiastic about PocketKnife Peek, a small free Outlook 2002 add-in that allows you to preview your HTML email as text. RealAccount is another freeware add-in for MS Outlook 2002 and later that allows you to designate a default email account and signature for any Outlook Folder. The program is a late beta but has proved totally stable on my Windows XP Pro PC. Yet another free utility that provides functionality that should have been included in the original product. (520KB) (338K)

16. Best Free Spam Filter for the Average User
Updated May 29, 2005

This is a difficult category as ordinary users need products that are easy to use and frankly, most free spam filters are way too complex to set up and use. The best products in this category are in fact, shareware not free. That said, MailWasher is for most folks, the best free option. MailWasher is an email preview utility that allows you to check your email on your mail server before you download it to your PC. The advantage of this approach is that you can kill unwanted messages including spam, viruses and large attachments before they get anywhere near your computer. MailWasher flags for you any messages containing possible spam and viruses for you to quickly check. It's a simple idea but quite effective and one which average users find easy to understand. The last free version of MailWasher [2] before it went commercial is still floating around the web. It lacks many of the advanced spam detection features of the current commercial version but is still quite effective. Alternatively, try XTerminator [3] which works much the same way as MailWasher and is totally free. I must say though, I prefer MailWasher's user interface.
[1] ( 3.05MB)
[2] (1.57MB)
[3] (1.87MB)
[4] <=brief review of the best spam blockers

17. Best Free Spam Filter for Experienced Users
Updated May 18, 2005

There are many different spam filters available employing lots of different techniques. In my experience "learning" spam filters that use the Bayesian statistical approach out-perform most other types of filters I've tried. Not only are they better at detecting spam they are also less liable to classify your real mail as spam. This effectiveness takes a little time to develop as the filter has to be trained to recognize your spam from your normal mail. It takes a week or so before results start becoming accurate and best results may take a month or more. POPFile, a free, open source spam filter, was one of the first Bayesian filters and is still one of the best. It works as a proxy mail server so that means that it can be used with any POP email client. Setup is reasonably straightforward for experienced users but beginners may be better off with Mailwasher. If you use Outlook there are several excellent free Bayesian spam filters available including SpamBayes and K9. Both are simple to install though, like all statistical filters, they need to go through a training phase before they reach full effectiveness. (4.3MB) (3.6MB) (113KB)

18. Best Free Popup Stopper

The need for popup stopper utilities has fallen away in recent months as many browsers such as Firefox now have this function built in. If you need a separate popup stopper and have good PC skills I suggest you try The Proxomitron.. It operates by filtering and transforming all your Web pages on the fly. As a result you can not only stop pop-ups but pop-unders, ads, flash animations, status bar scrollers and just about anything else. Besides, next time you are asked what pop-up stopper you use, you can answer; "why, I use The Proxomitron" and how cool is that. The first link below is to version 4.5, the last and final version of this superb utility. The following two links offer useful setup and usage tips. Note: For Novice PC users I suggest you try the Google toolbar rather than The Proxomitron. It's free as well and has an excellent popup filter built in. It's nowhere near as flexible as as The Proxomitron, but it requires no setup. As a bonus it also makes Google searches easier.

19. Best Free Desktop Search Utility

In early 2004 there were no contenders for this title. Today we have a wealth of choices. In a close race I would have to say the Free Desktop Search from Yahoo comes out in front because of the clear way it presents search results. It's powered by the well established X1 local search engine and can index the contents of 200 different file types including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, Outlook, Outlook Express, HTML, text, ZIP and Adobe PhotoShop. At the moment it will only handle email files from Outlook and Outlook Express and although it will index html files, it can't index your web browsing history. In effect, it offers most of the benefits of the full $75 X1 search product for zip. Unfortunately though, to run it you'll need Windows 2000 or later. If you are stuck with earlier version of Windows then try the free Copernic Desktop Search. It offers many of the same features as the Yahoo product though the presentation of search results is not quite as elegant. On the positive side, the latest version of Copernic will index Thunderbird email files while Yahoo will not. (7.9MB) (2.3MB)

20. Best Free Digital Image Viewer
Updated May 18, 2005

IrfanView is the standout choice here. It's fast, relatively compact, feature rich, supports a huge range of file formats and can be further extended by an excellent assortment of plug-ins. Now some folks complain that the digital editing options are limited but it must be remembered that IrfanView is a primarily a viewer not an editor. That is, it's a replacement for the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer rather than products like Paint or PhotoShop. That said, it still has some useful editing features including a powerful batch conversion function that's good for reducing sets of photos to a smaller size suitable for emailing. IrfanView is not only for displaying still images, it will play a number of video and audio formats as well though, to be frank, I don't think this is its strong suit. Freeware but donations welcome, Windows 98 and later, 875KB.

21. Best Free Digital Image Editor
Updated May 18, 2005

I use to recommend the The Gimp but after dozens of letters from users who couldn't manage to install it, I've decided to set it aside until they clean up the installation process. In its place I have two recommendations: First there is, an amazingly sophisticated piece of work from computer science students at Washington State University. It's just about as powerful as The Gimp but a lot easier to use and install. It is however only for Windows 2000 and you'll need Microsoft's bulky .NET framework installed on your PC. My second choice is PhotoPlus 6.0 from a company called Serif. It's an impressive piece of work; again it installs easily and it's loaded with features including layer support. In fact, it looks and feels like a "lite" version of Adobe PhotoShop except that it is relatively easy to use. I say "relatively" because graphics editing is by its nature, not simple. (7.07MB) (7.7MB) (19.4MB)

22. Best Free Digital Photo Organizer

It�s rare for me to be utterly wowed by a product but this one certainly did it. When you first run Picasa it offers to scan your whole hard drive (or designated locations) for photos and videos. Scanning is surprisingly quick and when finished you�ll have all your shots neatly organized into folders on a time line basis. Now you can view you shots one at a time, in slideshow or traversing the time line. The editing features are limited compared to professional image editors yet they provide you with every function amateur photographers could conceivably need including one click red eye reduction. Similarly adding labels to photos is a cinch while a simple but effective star rating system allows you to flag favorite snaps. Individual folders can also be password protected. Facilities are provided to import your images from your camera in multiple formats including RAW. You can send photos to your choice of web printing service, cut a CD, print to a local printer or share with others via your own blog or instant messaging. Simply sensational. Windows 98 or later, 300MHz Pentium with 128MB memory or better, 3.2MB.

23. Best Free Notepad Replacement

There are lots of text editors and Notepad replacements. Some of these aspire to be programming editors while others try to be word processors. What I love about EditPad is that, unlike the others, it concentrates on simply being a better plain text editor and it succeeds brilliantly. It has a Notepad like interface combined with tabbed document windows and the ability to open as many documents as you like with no file size limitations. I use it every day for tasks as diverse as writing Support Alert Newsletter to examining my web log files. Some of the latter can be up to 100MB, yet EditPad handles these huge files with ease. (849KB).

24. The Best File Archiver/Zip Utility

Users are spoiled with choice in this category with QuickZip, ICEOWS, IZArc, TUGZip, ZipGenius and 7-Zip all worthy contenders for the title. 7-Zip v4.15 is to be commended for it's solid engineering; It was the only product in this group that could unpack a multi-part RAR volume embedded in a ZIP archive and the only product to give a meaningful error message when an attempt was made to unpack a 256bit encrypted WinZip archive. However it's lack of drop and drag from an archive is a real minus as is the fact that it was the only product that required configuring after installation. It also supports only 12 formats - it can't for example read ACE archives. ZipGenius v 5.51 is the easiest to use and has the most professional looking interface but was the slowest to run. ICEOWS v4.2 (the former ArjFolder) opens all archives in an Explorer Window rather than its own control panel, a feature some might find comforting but I found limiting. TUGZip v 3.2 is a terrific product marred by the lack of captions on its control panel icons - I got confused every time I used it. QuickZip 4.5 impressed me greatly with its features. It was also the only product that displayed different icons for different archives which proved to be a surprisingly useful feature. QuickZip was however, just a little slow to run and supports fewer archive types than some of the other products - it's another product that can't read the relatively common ACE format. Given these limitations, my recommendation goes to IZArc v 3.5; It's relatively fast, easy to use, has full drop and drag support, can read nearly 50 archive types including media formats like ISO, BIN and IMG and can write (and convert) to 12 archive types. The only downside is that it uses one icon to represent all archive types and a quite ugly icon too. That aside, it is a terrific product and gets my hearty endorsement. Note: If you already use WinZip you'll find IZArc an excellent companion product. It can read just about all the archive formats WinZip can't, including RAR. Make sure though, that after installing IZArc, you don't let it change your WinZip file type associations. Just let IZArc handle file types not covered by WinZip. Freeware, Windows 9x and later, 3.1MB

25, Best Free Hotkey Utility
Updated May 18, 2005

Hotkeycontrol XP is a free utility that allows you to define your own hotkeys so that a single key press can launch an application, insert commonly used text, change your volume, or just about anything else. Hotkeycontrol works with all versions of Windows from 98 onwards, though some features will only work with Win2K or XP. Some folks with slower PCs have reported that Hotkeycontrol can be a little slow to react. If you experience this, you might like to try PS Hot Launch VVL as an alternative.. It works on all versions of Windows and is an excellent performer even on slow PCs. (0.91KB) (743KB)

26. Best Free Registry Cleaner

To keep the registries on my PCs in top running order I use Fix-It utilities. This is a commercial product but I must admit that Toni Helenius' Easy Cleaner performs almost as well and is totally free. As a bonus, it will also detect duplicate files and help you clean up temp files to make more disk space. Remember though, as with every Registry cleaner, to back up your Windows Registry before use. (2.64MB)

27. Best Free BitTorrent Client
Updated May 25, 2005

It's amazing how quickly BitTorrent has become one of the major download formats. With good reason, too: it's fast, equitable and efficient. If you haven't yet installed a BitTorrent client on your PC, you should as there are some great free clients available. I recommend the Open Source program Azureus. It's beautifully implemented, well supported and, being Java based, is available for multiple platforms. The latest version also features a new technology called DHT (Distributed Hash Table) which distributes indexing responsibility across multiple clients rather than relying on a single web-based tracker. With BitTorrent sites coming and going regularly DHT is definitely a plus. One downside with Azureus is that the Java code will eat up your CPU cycles so you need a reasonably fast PC. Those with older machines should check out BitTornado. It's also cross platform and is fast and highly configurable as well. Both products are adware and spyware free. (6.4MB) (3.3MB)

28. The Best Free FTP Client

I used WS_FTP Pro as my FTP client for years. What started out as simple and effective product gradually with each new version became more feature-bloated and less effective for routine tasks. With the release of Version 9 it was clear to me that the product had totally lost its way so I started looking for an alternative. After trying seven different FTP clients I decided that the best for me was the Open Source utility FileZilla. It uses a simple layout based on a two pane interface that looks a bit like the early versions of WS_FTP. But this simplicity is deceptive, it is actually a quite powerful product There's a full featured site manager, firewall and proxy support, SSL and Kerberos GSS security, restart, drop and drag and a lot more. The only significant feature that's missing is site-to-site transfer but that's of no importance to me. What is of importance is that FileZilla is fast, totally reliable, secure and and very easy to use. There's also a free FileZilla FTP server which I haven't used but I hear that it's just as good as the client. (4.5MB)

29. Best Free Bookmark Cleaner

AM-DeadLink scans your bookmark file for dead links or duplicate links. When I tried it on my huge favorites file I discovered 17% of my links were dead. I've now got a much leaner set of favorites and the comfort of knowing that the links actually work. (546KB)

30. Best Free Route Tracer

3D Traceroute graphically displays Internet route information. You can use it for technical tasks such as diagnosing slow connections or for general purpose snooping like determining the location and owner of a web site or tracing spammers. (996KB)

31. Best Free Screen Capture Utility

I've used over half a dozen screen-capture utilities and none of them has really satisfied. Until now. Gadwin screen capture does exactly what I want in the way I want. Further, it avoids the trap of providing lots of useless and confusing features. It's the little things that count like making the hot key PrtSc so I don't have to remember it, and automatically sequentially naming the output files for multiple screen shots. Yes there are a lot of screen capture utilities with more features but it's Gadwin will stay on my PC permanently. (976KB)

32. Best Free Search Toolbar

Search toolbars allow users to do web searches without having to go first to the home page of a search engine. This really saves a lot of time. In the last year search toolbars have become a hotly competed product class and as result, users now have an excellent choice. The "best" in terms of features is probably Yahoo's Toolbar whose features include anti-spyware capabilities as well as popup blocking. It's for Internet Explorer but they are currently offering a beta version for Firefox. My only beef with the Yahoo product is that I prefer to use Google for my web searches rather than Yahoo and that's why I use the Google Toolbar which also offers popup blocking though no anti-spyware features. Again it's only for IE though there is version for Firefox available from the Mozilla extensions site. Some folks still like Dave�s Quick Search Bar because it gives access to multiple search engines. Another advantage is that it resides in your task bar rather than your browser so it's easily accessible from any application. Other Dave's features include a dictionary, thesaurus, calculator and a lot of customizability. (3MB) (327KB) (447KB)

33. Best Free Download Manager

For some time I've been recommending Star Downloader but the freeware version has been effectively frozen at version 1.44 with future enhancements restricted to the shareware version. It is however, still a fine choice. After trying half a dozen other products, I've settled on "Free Downloader" as my new selection. It's fast, stable and integrates well into both Internet Explorer and Firefox. Furthermore, there is no embedded adware or nag screen. After using it for a couple of weeks, I've decided that it's actually just as good as Star Downloader with the advantage that it's still being actively developed. (1.31MB).

34. Best Free Web Site

Ripper HTTrack is one impressive product: it's easy to use, has an excellent user interface, offers every feature you could want, is blindingly fast and free of any adware as well. If you like to download web sites so that you can "browse them offline", this is the product to get. ( 3.23MB)

35. Best Free DLL Cleaner

Over time most PCs become cluttered up with the unwanted remainders of long deleted programs. DLL Archive is a free utility that will scan your PC for DLLs that are no longer referenced. You can then archive the unwanted programs away or delete them entirely. Archived items can easily be restored to their original location if any problems arise. Cleaning DLLs is a task best left to experienced users. Other users should leave well alone. (227KB)

36. Best Free TCP Settings Tweaker

Whether you use a modem or broadband, you'll get a faster connection if you tweak your connection's TCP parameters. Among the most important of these is MaxMTU which, in simple terms, needs to be set to the largest value possible without your data being broken up into smaller chunks en-route. Most techies determine MaxMTU by trial and error pinging using different packet sizes but it's a tedious procedure and definitely not for beginners. TCPOptimizer from is a free utility that will do the job for you automatically. Furthermore, it will use this value to advise you on your other TCP settings and then apply these values at the press of the button. There are commercial programs that will do much the same thing but TCPOptimizer does it just as well and is totally free. The only minus is the lack of in-program help. However you'll find a useful FAQ at the SpeedGuide site. (225KB)

37. Best Free File Cleaner

I've tried quite a few commercial products designed to clean unused, temporary and unnecessary files off your hard disk but must say that the free utility "Empty Temp Folders" ranks with the best. It takes a few minutes to set up but after that, just press a button to recover many megabytes of disk space. An equally attractive alternative is CCleaner. It's a tad easier to use though not as effective in removing temporary files. Both products may be used together for maximum cleaning. You may be surprise how much disk space you will free up. (667KB) (403KB)

38. Best Free Resource Meter

This is cute. TinyResMeter is an itsy-bitsy system monitor. Unlike many other monitors, it doesn't consume a lot of CPU utilization in order to tell you your CPU utilization. In addition to CPU usage, you can optionally monitor cache, RAM, page file and swap file usage, running processes and threads, disk space utilization and a number of other parameters as well. Also built-in, is a screen grabber that saves the current screen to disk when you press PrintScreen. How they fit all this into 96KB beats me.

39. Best Free Sticky Notes Utility
Updated May 24, 2005

Some people hate these programs others swear they can't work effectively without them. I used to be in the first category but with so many things on my plate these days, I'm slowly being converted. The function that I find really useful is the reminder that pops up at a designated time and date. I use it for simple things like "put up the latest issue on the web site." ATnotes is a neat implementation that features configurable alarms, resizable windows, variable fonts and a host of other useful features. The product is remarkably similar to the commercial sticky notes utility called, TurboNotes. Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Maybe not. NOTE: The author's site appears to be no longer working. You can however, still download ATNotes from the second link below. (723KB),fid,17660,00.asp

40. Best Free Secure Erase Utility

Eraser is a free, GNU license utility that will securely erase files, folders or even whole disks from any Windows or DOS PC. Eraser overwrites data area with selectable random data patterns and also wipes data in the paging file, Internet cache, temporary files, Internet cookies, unused disk space and a number of other places where data can secretly lurk. It handles FAT16, FAT32 and NTFS partitions as well. Erasing files with high security will always be a difficult and time consuming task and can never offer absolute 100% safety. However Eraser makes the task about as easy as it be, with a security level beyond most conceivable requirements. An impressive package. (2.6MB)

41. Best Free Registry Editor

I've used the full version of Resplendent Registry Editor for years and have never had any reason to look for an alternative. Recently a subscriber asked me what was the best free registry editor and that made me realize I've never looked at that particular product category. The first product I checked out was Registrar Lite, the free version of Resplendent Registry Editor and I'd have to say it's an impressive freebie. To start with, it works totally reliably - an essential feature for any registry editor. On top of that, the user interface is simple, the functionality excellent and, perhaps most importantly, it has a really fast search. I did, however, miss a "search and delete" option - that's unfortunately only available on the full product. That said, it leaves Regedit for dead. If you know a better free registry editor, drop me an email. (2.0MB).

42. Best Free Process Viewer

PrcView has long been my personal choice but Process Explorer has pushed it aside. The reason? A better display setup coupled with more features and even more information. Process Explorer uses two vertical panes. The top contains all active processes while the second shows either all the handles opened by a selected process or, optimally, a list of DLLs and memory mapped files. A very handy search feature allows you to work backwards from named DLLs or handles to the owning process. A gem. Freeware, 230KB.

43. Best Free PC Inventory Tool

The freeware utility AIDA32 was the best system inventorying tool ever regardless of price. It documented just about every aspect of your hardware and software configuration as well as checking networks and providing memory benchmarks. However the developer announced in March 2004 that the free product had been frozen. Development work shifted to a commercial organization called Lavalys and AIDA32 was re-launced as Everest. Lavalys now provide a commercial "professional" version of Everest as well as a free home version. The free version is not as full featured as the old AIDA32 but it is still impressive. You can however still find the old AIDA32 at the second link below. (3.0MB) (5MB)

44. Best Free Search and Replace Utility
Updated May 18, 2005

There are several contenders for this title but HandyFile's excellent Find and Replace program is my favorite. It's fast, has a simple but effective user interface and some nice features including support for regular expressions. It started life as a free product before going commercial however the free version is still floating around and can be downloaded from a number of sites including the one below. (361KB)

45. Best Free Outliner

I'm not a great fan of outliners - my brain doesn't work that way. Some folks however, swear by them and if that includes you, then you should check out Keynote, an Open Source freeware program that has a dedicated band of followers. Its major design attribute is its ease of use. Words like "natural" and "seamless" come close to the mark but really don't capture the essence of what is really a great design. What do you do with it? Well to quote the web site �KeyNote is used by screenwriters to draft screenplays, by medical doctors to keep patient databases, by developers to store source code snippets - and to everyone it serves as a place to put all the random pieces of information that have no particular structure of relationship to other data, and do not fit easily in task-specific applications such as word-processors, databases or spreadsheets.� (1.7MB)

46. Best Free Rename Utility
Updated May 18, 2005

Two great choices here: First Lupas Rename 2000. This is a small utility for Win 98 and later that globally renames all the files in a directory and its subdirectories. It can convert names to upper/lower case, change the case of the first letter, add text, left crop, right crop and just about anything else you can think of. And unlike DOS based utilities, it will work on hidden files as well. Add in a nice GUI interface, an undo feature, full preview of changes, MP3 tag renaming, support for regular expressions and the fact that it's free and you have an outstanding product. The second and equally attractive option is Flexible Renamer. It's quite similar to Lupas and choosing between them is not easy. Lupas seems to me to be easier to use for simply renaming files while Flexible Renamer has the edge with tags. Flexible Renamer can also can bulk change file attributes while Lupas can't. It also runs without installation, a definite plus. <= Lupas (742KB) (648KB)<= Flexible Renamer

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