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The top 15 free tools for every Windows PC

Utilities for a fast, productive desktop environment

There is almost no end to the number of tools offered for Windows desktops, so we've sifted through hundreds of websites to find 15 utilities that belong in every Windows user's bag of tricks. They're all free for personal use; many are free for corporate use as well. I bet at least one program here will make your life easier.

Wiseval Photophant

Purpose: Image resizer/converter
Platforms: Windows 7, Vista, XP; Windows Server 2008, 2003
Cost: Free

While there are many photo re-sizers floating around, there's one I come back to again and again. Wiseval Photophant handles batch resizing, format conversions, watermarking, and renaming with just a couple of clicks.

If you want to resize or rename one photo at a time, you have many options; for example, the free version of VSO Image Resizer works well. But if you want to change a bunch of picture files, Photophant's the way to go.

You can choose from one of the predefined sizes (800x600, 1,024x768, and many more) or set up your own custom size; convert between JPG, PNG, BMP, GIF, and TIFF formats with compression techniques that you specify; rename as a group ('Four Generations_' turns into 'Four Generations_1', 'Four Generations_2', and so on); and add a watermark in the location and with the opacity that suits you.

The altered pictures go into a different folder from the original, so nothing gets overwritten. It's fast, high quality, and amazingly easy to use.

Auslogics Duplicate File Finder

Purpose: Find and eliminate duplicated files
Platforms: Windows 7, Vista, XP; Windows Server 2008, 2003
Cost: Free

If you're a card-carrying member of the Ready, Shoot, Aim school of hard disk maintenance, pass this one by. But if you're willing to look and carefully consider the information presented, Auslogics' free Duplicate File Finder can help you reclaim enormous amounts of disk space.

The trick with any duplicate file cleaner lies in judicious use of the gray matter between your ears. That said, Auslogics' easy-to-use interface makes it relatively simple to find and select the files you want to delete, then stick the selected files in the Recycle Bin, where you can bring them back if need be.

As a general rule, you're safest restricting the duplicate search to locations with data files: documents, music, pictures, and the like. If you venture into locations with system files, be especially cautious before hitting the Delete button.

Revo Uninstaller Freeware

Purpose: Uninstalls programs
Platforms: Windows 7, Vista, XP
Cost: Free; additional features in Pro version, $39.25 (£25), or $19.62 (£12.42) each for four or more computers

Revo Uninstaller well and truly uninstalls programs, and it does so in an unexpected way. When you use Revo, it runs the program's uninstaller and watches while the uninstaller works, looking for the location of program files and for Registry keys that the uninstaller zaps. It then goes in and removes leftover pieces, based on the locations and keys that the program's uninstaller took out. Revo also consults its own internal database for commonly-left-behind bits and roots those out as well.

Revo gives you a great deal of flexibility in deciding just how much you want to clean and what you want to save. For most programs, the recommended Moderate setting strikes a good balance between defenestrating problematic pieces and deleting items that really shouldn't be deleted.

The not-free Pro version monitors your system when you install a program, making removal easier and more complete. Pro will also uninstall remnants of programs that have already been uninstalled.

NEXT PAGE: Paint.Net

  1. Create a fast productive desktop environment
  2. System Information for Windows
  3. Wiseval Photophant
  4. Paint.Net
  5. VLC Media Player
  6. PicPick


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