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30 quick fixes for Windows XP & Vista

Fast fixes for Windows users

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Sometimes, to get the job done, you need specialised tools. Whether their purpose is to filter spam, to recover lost data, or to perform other housekeeping tasks, these utilities make Windows a better OS, and they won't cost you a dime.

Keep spam at bay: As PC problems go, few are more annoying or more widespread than spam. And as free fixes go, few are as handy and helpful as SpamBayes, a program that comes with plug-ins for Outlook, Outlook Express, and other POP3 email clients. It uses a statistical algorithm that helps it learn what you consider spam, improving its filtering the more you use it. You can train it by sorting mail into 'spam' and 'not spam' folders, or just let it watch as you correct or confirm its guesses.

Start stuff on shutdown: Windows conveniently provides a Startup group so that you can run applications automatically each time you log in. But why not add something that runs programs whenever you log out? For example, you could set it to make backups of the day's work files, or to scan for viruses. LastChance lets you do just that. The program intercepts shutdown commands and runs your chosen apps before your computer calls it quits. You can also set the utility to run programs when a resource (such as a network drive) becomes available, and to schedule shutdowns to occur automatically.

Recover deleted files: If you tend to empty your Recycle Bin or to permanently delete files using Shift-Delete a little too quickly, Restoration (with a bit of luck) can save your bacon - or at least your deletions. Specify a folder location, or instruct the program to search the whole drive, and Restoration will do its best to recover the lost data. The program needs no installer, and it's so small that you can run it from a floppy disk, flash drive, or other portable medium.

Rename files in a flash: Nearly everyone has a massive collection of digital photos and music files on their hard drive. Renaming all those files for sensible organisation and quick recognition can be onerous. But Lupas Rename 2000 handles the chore with ease and sophistication. It can replace text; crop at the beginning, end, or any other position; and auto-number files, with a host of options. The program's preview pane lets you confirm that you have the settings you want before committing to the changes.

Manage proliferating passwords: Tracking the passwords to the websites you visit doesn't get any easier as their number increases and you get older. The open-source database KeePass Password Safe stores your passwords in an encrypted database. All you have to do is remember the master password that unlocks them all. It's not as convenient as using your dog's name for every password, but it's a lot more secure. The Auto-Type command helps you enter your account names and passwords.

Keep an eye on system changes: WinPatrol 2007 can protect your system from unauthorised changes, including new startup programs, altered browser home pages, changes to file-type associations, new hidden files, and much more.

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