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21 free tools to customise Windows

Improve your OS with these free downloads

Get Windows 7 features in Windows Vista or XP, give your desktop 3D capability or tweak your OS with these 21 free tools and services.

Your PC, just the way you want it

Find a missing Recycle Bin, make your mouse more useful, and eliminate other annoyances with these eight utilities.

Using Windows Update keeps your OS current, but what about third-party apps? Ketarin scans your installed programs and then checks for and downloads any updates to ensure you're running the latest versions.

Ever copy-and-paste text from one document to another only to discover that unwanted text formatting came along for the ride? It can be downright maddening.

Keep your sanity with Better Paste, a tiny utility written for Lifehacker (employer of Adam Pash, co-author of this story) that automatically strips formatting from text when you press Ctrl-V to paste. Pressing Ctrl-Shift-V lets you retain the formatting.

Recycle Bin inexplicably missing from your desktop? Thumbnails not working? The easy-to-use utility FixWin, with point-and-click ease, common annoyances related to Windows Explorer, the internet, Media Player, and other system tools.

You don't have to install an entirely new OS if you ever feel the urge to experiment with Linux, specifically Ubuntu.

Just install Portable Ubuntu Remix, and you can run Linux apps seamlessly on your Windows machine.

If you get impatient while waiting for Windows to copy large files from one folder to another, try Teracopy, which can copy files significantly faster than Explorer can.

The utility has advanced features that allow you to pause and resume transfers, too.

In the golden days of XP, a small utility called TweakUI was every system tweaker's dream - unfortunately, it doesn't exist for newer Windows releases.

But Ultimate Windows Tweaker lets you optimise every little corner of your Windows 7 or Vista installation.

Windows 7 aggregates files and folders from all over your PC into a few special groups, called Libraries.

Make your libraries even better with Zorn Software's Win7 Library Tool, an easy-to-use download that can add the contents of networked folders to libraries, back up library configurations, and even change your library icons.

Say that you're working in another window when a picture in your web browser catches your eye.

You move your mouse to the image and spin the scroll wheel to enlarge it - but nothing happens, because the browser isn't your active window.

Wizmouse is a small, single-purpose app that makes your mouse's scroll wheel work with whatever window your mouse is hovering over, active or not.

NEXT PAGE: Organise and update the Windows desktop

  1. Improve your OS with these free downloads
  2. Your PC, just the way you want it
  3. Organise and update the Windows desktop


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