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    The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities

    The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities

    1 Best Free Web Browser Updated 13th March, 2007
    Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) is a competent browser with enough features to meet the needs of most users but is difficult to recommend due to on-going security concerns. In the past IE has been a focus for security attacks and there is little to suggest this will change with the release of IE7. Additionally, Microsoft have a poor track record for speedily fixing IE defects and this has left users open to drive-by attacks and other forms of zero-day exploits.

    There are several excellent alternatives with the new Mozilla Firefox V2 [1] a solid first choice. It's safer than IE, so safe in fact that many users have reported no spyware infections since they started using the product. It's also browses a tad faster than IE, is very stable and is more standards compliant. The program loads slower than IE but once running, it positively zips along. With tabbed browsing and over 2000 free extensions (add-ons) that allow you to customize your experience, it provides most users with a major surfing upgrade. Firefox is now my everyday browser though I still leave IE on my PC for the occasional web site that's designed around IE's non-standard features. If you need any further convincing then check out my IE to Firefox migration guide [2].

    An equal first choice is Opera [3]. It's a speed demon; probably the fastest of all the common browsers. But it's much more than that; it's full featured, standards compliant and safe. Just as Firefox is extensible through add-ins, Opera can be enhanced using Widgets, though there are not nearly as many of these available as Firefox extensions. Then again, it doesn't need as many extensions as a lot of the features added by Firefox add-ins are already available built into the standard Opera browser. There's just so much to like about Opera V9 that you could easily create a case that it's better than Firefox. Indeed, if I could get an Opera replacement for some of my key Firefox add-ins, I'd probably switch.

    Users who don't want to drift too far from the Microsoft stable can get some of the feature advantages of Firefox and Opera by using one of the many customized shells for Internet Explorer such as Maxthon [4] and Avant [5]. Their main selling feature for these products used to be tabbed browsing but now that this is available in IE7 it's hard to create a case for their general recommendation. Still if you need a specialized feature they are worth considering. On the downside these shells share most of the same security problems as IE as they utilize the IE engine.

    Last but not least is the K-Meleon browser [6], a slimmed down cousin of Firefox that's optimized for Windows. Of the four browsers I use regularly on my different PCs, K-Meleon is the quickest loading and along with Opera, the fastest for surfing. On the downside there are only a limited number of add-ons and plug-ins available so you are pretty well limited to the features available in the standard product. If you are the type of person who prefers performance to bells and whistles you should definitely try K-Meleon.


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    2 Best Free Anti-Virus Software Updated 13th March, 2007
    There are three equal recommendations in this category. First there is AVG Antivirus 7 Free Edition. This product [1] has been continuously refined since it was first released in 1991 and the recently released V7.5 makes further improvements to an already solid product. 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.

    Equally effective is the free Avast! scanner [2] though its funky media player style interface is not to everyone's taste. Avast! also required periodic re-registration while AVG does not. However Avast! does not seem to suffer the signature file update problems that plague some AVG users.

    My third choice is the AOL Anti Virus Shield [3]. This is a cut down version of the top rated Kaspersky AV and is being made available for free to all uses not just AOL members.

    On first sight it seems like an unbeatable deal but it's not quite what it seems. This really is a "lite" version. It lacks the important html and heuristics modules present in the full Kaspersky product so the protection afforded against hostile web sites is actually inferior to AVG and Avast!. Gone, too, is the ability to create rescue disks and to fully manage the quarantine area. The configuration options are also more limited.

    That said, AOL Anti Virus Shield still offers more powerful malware detection than AVG and Avast! . It does however need to be augmented by other products to improve protection again hostile sites and zero-day threats. Possible candidates would be a sandbox for surfing (see section 4) and an anti-spyware product with strong real time protection (see section 3).

    Both AVG and Avast! are excellent free products that will meet the needs of most users. However neither offers the best malware detection available. That title belongs to commercial products like NOD32, F-Secure, the full version of Kaspersky AV and others. They are however capable packages and offers the financially challenged a real alternative to the major anti-virus suites.

    However if you use these free products in conjunction with a free on-demand scanner, you can achieve a level of detection approaching that of the best commercial products. Further improvement is possible by creating a layered defense using additional free security products such as AVG Anti-Spyware (formerly Ewido).

    On-demand scans should be run regularly, at least weekly, to check for viruses and other malware that may have been missed by your main scanner.

    If you don't use AOL AVS as your main AV product then this should be your the top choice as an on-demand scanner as its detection is outstanding. You should though, disable the AOL AVS real time monitor otherwise you may run into conflicts with the monitor on your primary AV product.

    Another top recommendation for an on-demand scanner is AntiVir Personal Edition Classic [4]. It offers significantly better detection rates than either AVG or Avast! but the lack of email scanning precludes recommendation as a primary scanner. However as an on-demand scanner, it's first rate. If you use it in this role, make sure you disable its resident virus guard during installation to prevent it interfering with your main AV scanner. Even so , it's quite an intrusive product -you will certainly be well aware of its presence. Note that the recently released V7 unfortunately introduces a time limited license though apparently this will be renewable.

    Yet another good option for on-demand scanning is the free version of the commercial AV product BitDefender [5]. It's a first class product with outstanding detection rates but as the free version lacks an email scanner and a resident virus guard, it's only really suited for use as an on-demand scanner rather than your main AV product. There are some other limitations as well. First it has an annoying habit of detecting malware products that have been quarantined by other security products and you can't exclude these areas from subsequent scans. Secondly, it is only available on a one year non-renewable license.


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    3 Best Free Adware/Spyware/Scumware Remover

    A couple of years ago most folks relied on SpyBot Search and Destroy and Ad-Aware for spyware protection. Alas spyware has evolved so quickly that these once outstanding products are no longer up to the task of providing primary protection though they remain useful as secondary, on-demand scanners.

    The new generation of malware requires a new generation of defensive products. Such products need to provide stronger active protection and broader spectrum detection. The best anti-spyware programs, WebRoot SpySweeper and Spyware Doctor are both commercial products but there are two capable free products that I can recommend.

    The first is Microsoft's Windows Defender program [1] which is currently available as a free beta. Defender is the latest re-incarnation of the excellent Giant Antispyware product that Microsoft purchased late in 2004. Based on my tests, Windows Defender is not as effective as its immediate predecessor but still has solid protective capability. I tested it on several drive-by download sites and its multiple real time monitors provided reasonable (though by no means watertight) defense. It appears to be a little vulnerable to polymorphic malware in particular and for this reason I suggest it should be used in combination with regular on-demand scans from the free AVG Anti-Spyware. My other reservation about Windows Defender is that it consumes quite a lot of your processing power. If you have a modern PC this should not be a problem but older machines will definitely suffer a performance hit.

    Note that you need a legal version of Windows XP SP2 to run this program. I've been told cracked versions of Defender that will run on any XP SP2 PC are currently circulating on the P2P networks but I'd approach those with caution. The idea of a cracked security program strikes me as an oxymoron.

    My second choice is Spyware Terminator. Unlike Windows Defender it works with all versions of Windows so it's the stand-out choice for Windows 9x users. It's no slouch either. Like Windows Defender it has strong active protection. Indeed with its built in HIPS system that warns you of any unrecognized intruders, it has stronger protection against unknown threats than the Microsoft product. This was confirmed on some tests I ran on drive-by download sites where Spyware Terminator proved to be impregnable.

    Spyware Terminator has it's own spyware detection engine but gives you the option of using a second engine based on the Open Source ClamWin anti-virus program. ClamAV is not the most effective AV scanner on the market but it's certainly competent and the additional protection can only be a plus.

    On the downside Spyware Terminator is slow to scan and can slow down your PC a tad though not as much as Windows Defender. I've also heard reports that support via the free forum is poor.

    Choosing between Windows Defender and Spyware Terminator is not easy. As of today I thing Spyware Terminator has the edge but it's difficult to see how free product like this can remain viable, particularly in a high support product class such as anti-spyware.


    [1] ( 6.4MB)
    [2] (2.3MB)

    4 Best Free Browser Protection Utility
    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.

    If you use Windows 2000 or later my top recommendation for safe browsing is a free program called Sandboxie [1] that creates a special contained "sandbox" environment on your PC. While browsing within the virtual sandbox provided by Sandboxie you are totally corralled off from other parts of your PC. So any files you download are isolated to the sandbox. Similarly, any programs that are executed only do so within the sandbox and have no access to your normal files, the Windows operating system or any other part of your PC.

    Usage is remarkably simple. To start a sandboxed browsing session you just click the Sandboxie icon from the Quick Launch tray and this will launch your default browser in the sandbox. You can then use it in the normal way to browse to sites or download files.

    If you downloaded a file it will install normally but again will be corralled off from your real PC. Anything it writes to your hard drive, any changes to the Windows Registry or changes to the Windows startup will be held in a separate area within the sandbox. Similarly, any new processes running in your computer memory will be sandboxed.

    After you have finished browsing you can right click the Sandboxie icon and delete all sandboxed files and processes and your PC will be returned to the same state it was in before the browsing session. If you want retain particular downloaded files you can save them permanently before clearing the contents of the Sandbox.

    The advantage is clear: any spyware, trojans, keyloggers or other malware products that infected your PC while browsing will be eliminated.

    Sandboxie works fine with all browsers but requires Windows 2000 and later. It can cause problems on some PCs so backup before installing.

    Users of earlier Windows versions may want to check out SpywareBlaster [2]. It's is not a sandbox but rather is a program that changes some settings in your computer to help prevent an initial infection. It provides protection against thousands of malevolent products that use ActiveX based exploits, block hostile sites and discards unwanted cookies as well. SpywareBlaster is most effective with Internet Explorer but can be used with Firefox as well. though this may be overkill as Firefox doesn't need to be protected against ActiveX exploits. Once it has changed your setting SpywareBlaster doesn't really need to continuously run on your PC other than to provide automatic updates. These can however be initiated manually. SpywareBlaster is free but the update service costs $9.95 annually.

    A companion program to SpywareBlaster is SpywareGuard [3] that provides active protection. It is a monitor that checks programs before they are run for malware behavior and also does some signature checking as well. However of late SpywareGuard seems to have been rather neglected with no new updates for more than a year so I can only give it a qualified recommendation.

    An alternative to SpywareGuard is to use one of the free intrusion prevention and detection utilities listed here. These provide active protection against infection and work very effectively in concert with the passive protection provided by SpywareBlaster.


    [1] Free for personal use, Win2K and later, 310KB
    [2] Freeware, all Windows version, 2.5MB
    [3] Freeware, All Windows versions, 913KB

    5 Best Free Firewall
    No other single product class seems to cause as much angst to average users in their installation and day-to-day use as Firewalls. For such users, Kerio Personal Firewall is my top recommendation as it seems to cause the fewest problems yet manages reasonable protection as well.

    Kerio dropped the product in late 2005 but thankfully Sunbelt Software, the makers of the excellent CounterSpy anti-spyware scanner, picked it up and will continue making it available under the name of Sunbelt Kerio Personal Firewall [1] . Note that the free and paid versions of Sunbelt Kerio are the same. If you don't buy the product some advanced features are automatically turned off after 30 days. The product will also nag you every time you start it. For some this is a small price to pay for a great free firewall. For others it's a real turn-off.

    If performance rather than ease-of-use is your criterion then the Comodo firewall [2] is the top contender. The firewall itself is very robust and it comes with a well designed intrusion detection system as well. Comodo also supports internet connection sharing, while the free versions of Kerio and ZoneAlarm do not. On the minus side the IDS is initially rather talkative and this can unnecessarily alarm inexperienced users. Additionally Comodo has been known to conflict with some other security products though more recent versions seem to be better in this respect. For the technically initiated this is an outstanding free product and an easy first choice. Note that Comodo requires Windows 2000 or XP SP2.

    Also technically impressive is the Jetico Firewall [3]. It rates highest on the leak tests of all firewalls but personally I find it awkward to use. It may however, be just your cup of tea.

    Another tricky product is NetVeda Safety.Net firewall [4] however its performance is quite outstanding and it offers application control and content filtering as well. This highly capable product deserves to be better known and experienced users should definitely put it on their short list.

    I no longer recommend the free version of the ZoneAlarm firewall [5]. First it is a very basic product compared to the commercial ZoneAlarm Pro version. The leak-test performance of the latest free version is extremely poor while the Pro version is excellent. Second, it can be a troublesome program on some PCs.


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    6 Best Free Trojan Scanner/Trojan Remover Updated 13th March, 2007
    My top recommendation here is AVG Anti-Spyware [1], a product formerly formerly known as Ewido until it was acquired recently by GriSoft.

    Ewido started life as an anti-trojan scanner but has been repositioned as an anti-spyware scanner by the new owners and the new name reflects that re-positioning. Whatever ever it is called it is an excellent anti-trojan and a fine anti-spyware program as well.

    On my tests over at Ewido/AVG Anti-Spyware emerged as was one of the few products that could detect polymorphic and process injecting trojans that were totally missed by many anti-virus products. Unfortunately the free version of AVG Anti-Spyware doesn’t have a memory monitor and this omission significantly reduces the level of active protection provided. However the on-demand scanner is excellent.

    I recommend that all average PC users who don't have an anti-trojan scanner download AVG Anti-Spyware and scan their PCs weekly. I suspect you may be surprised at what you will find. AVG Anti-Spyware is also pretty good at removing some spyware infections so bear that in mind next time you encounter a spyware product you can't remove with normal anti-spyware products like Ad-Aware.

    Note that AVG Anti-Spyware 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 AVG Anti-Spyware but is still an excellent product.

    High risk PC users such as P2P file sharers and frequenters of hack sites, should however consider Trojan Hunter or the full version of AVG Anti-Spyware both of which offer the active protection they need.

    Note: The free version of AVG Anti-Spyware is actually the same as the paid version but after 30 days the active protection (i.e. memory monitor) becomes non-functional, automatic updates are disabled and kernel level self protection is turned off.


    [1] (6.17MB)
    [2] http://www.anti-trojan-software-revi...view-ewido.htm <= review of Ewido

    7 Best Free Rootkit Scanner/Remover Updated 30th March, 2007
    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, they 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 is also amongst the most effective. It's called BlackLight [1] and is currently available as a free beta from F-Secure. The beta will expire on the 1st of October, 2007 but you can use it freely up to then. 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.

    BlackLight will detect most rootkits missed by AV scanners but is can't provide perfect detection; no rootkit detector can. That's why its' advisable to use more than product.

    If you are an experienced user you should check out SysInternals RootkitRevealer [2]. It uses a totally different different technique to BlackLight so by using both products together you'll be getting excellent overall detection. RootkitRevealer is however, harder to use than BlackLight and is a bit prone to false positives so take care before deleting detected items. If in doubt, consult the SysInternals RootkitRevealer forum. [3]

    Another useful rootkit detector for experienced users is GMER [4] though please read the documentation carefully before using this one. I like this product a lot but it's not for everyone. So if you are the type that simply likes to press the "scan" button then stick with BlackLight ;>)

    Currently the biggest guns in the rootkit detection war are two free Chinese products called IceSword [5] and DarkSpy [6]. They are not really detectors like the other products rather they offer a set of tools that can help reveal the presence of a rootkit. These tools include a special process viewer, startup manager and port enumerator that are not fooled by rootkits. It's left to the user though, to interpret the results. In the hands of an skilled user, these are amazing tools but not much use to beginners. The Chinese download sites are slow so I've given local download links [5], [6].

    The reality is that at the present time, full protection against rootkits may require the use of multiple products. For details see my article on rootkits [7].


    [1] Free beta, Windows 2K/ XP/Vista, 879KB
    [2] Freeware, All Windows versions, 231KB
    [4] Freeware, Windows NT/ 2K/XP, 480KB
    [5] Freeware, Windows NT/2K/XP, 2.1MB
    [6] Windows 2K/XP/2003, 626KB
    [7] <= How to deal with the threat of rootkits

    8 Best Free Intrusion Prevention and Detection Utility for Home Use Updated 13th March, 2007
    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 are not perfect. In particular they are prone to miss new malware products not yet included in their signature databases. They can also fail to detect malware programs that are cleverly disguised to avoid detection.

    To prevent these malevolent programs from slipping by your AV and anti-spyware programs you need additional defenses such as a Host based Intrusion Prevention program (HIPS). These programs pick up intruders by their behavior rather than by their characteristic fingerprint. They are not limited to detecting specific malware products but can target a wide range of interlopers. For the most part HIPS programs all work in a similar manner; they stop any suspicious behavior and then ask the user whether they want to allow it. This, as we shall see, can be a mixed blessing.

    Unfortunately most HIPS programs, including the popular free programs WinPatrol and Prevx, generate a lot of warning messages many of which are quite cryptic. These messages tend to alarm many less experienced users who feel there is something wrong and simply don't know how to respond. That's why these products are only suitable for the very experienced (and very patient).

    Thankfully a new generation of HIPS programs has emerged that use white lists, black lists, policies and behavior analysis rules along with other techniques to reduce the number of messages and the load on the user.

    A prime example of this class of product is the free Cyberhawk program from Novatix. I use it on one of my PC's and it only occasionally issues warnings and even then the warnings are usually real and need to be taken seriously. In essence it provides a vital additional layer of protection to my AV and anti-spyware scanners at little cost in terms of annoyance and no cost in terms of my wallet. It is the stand-out free product in the HIPS category. Note: A number of readers have reported browsing performance problems after installing Cyberhawk. I've not found that myself but be aware that this may be a problem on some PCs.

    There are some solid other contenders. Blink Personal from eEye [2] is a HIPS with a firewall as opposed to products like Comodo and ZoneAlarm Pro that are firewalls with HIPS. It's a useful tool for advanced users though I found Cyberhawk to be more effective and yet simpler to configure and use. Blink is also only free for non-commercial use.


    [1] Freeware, Windows 2000 and later, 4.7MB[2]
    [2] Free for personal use,Win2K and later 26.7MB

    9 Best Free Anonymous Surfing Service Updated 13th March, 2007
    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 [1], 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 a system called Tor [2]. It not only allows anonymous browsing but anonymous P2P, email, IM, and IRC chat as well. Given the US Navy origin of Tor, the suspicion arises that this system may indeed have a permanent backdoor. However the source code is now publicly available so that suspicion can perhaps be set aside. More worrying was a raid by German police in September 2006 involving the seizing of some Tor servers in that country. Again, pedophiles were the supposed target but who really knows.

    Whatever, both JAP and Tor offer a level of secrecy that is better than many commercial systems though not watertight. However expect your surfing to slow down as you'll be relayed through a chain of servers particularly with Tor which has been ground to a near standstill by BitTorrent users seeking to hide from the RIAA. Note: the latest V5 release of JAP now allows Tor users to use JAP as a software access point.

    A recent development is the release of TorPark [3], a special version of the Firefox browser that has been configured to work with the free Tor anonymizing service and run directly from a USB flash drive. It's a neat idea; just plug in your USB stick to any PC with a USB port and Firefox V2.0.0.2 is automatically launched, set up for secure and private surfing.

    The most obvious application is internet cafes, public terminals or indeed any PC including your own where you don't want to leave any trace of your private surfing activities. However, what attracts me is not so much the privacy side as the security potential. That's because TorPark creates a secure encrypted connection between the PC you are using and the Tor servers. This allows you to safely transmit information without fear of interception. This makes it ideal for surfing on open Wi-Fi networks. Previously, secure surfing on such networks required the use of private VPN networks, an option only available to corporates, the well heeled and the technically savvy. Now, using TorPark, any surfer can reap the same security benefits for their browsing.

    [1] Freeware, Any Windows system with Java, 107KB
    [2] Free BSD License, All Windows, 4.6MB
    [3] Freeware, Windows NT and later, 11MB

    10 Best Free Software Suite
    The Open CD site [1] 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 and 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 as little as $1.99. In addition to the Windows versions, the CD also contains the same collection of programs implemented under a version of Linux called Ubuntu that can be booted and run directly from the CD. That way you not only get to try all these great programs you can try Linux as well, without interfering in any way with your current Windows installation.

    Update: the folks at Ubuntu [2] are now giving away free CDs containing the latest version of Ubuntu Linux together with most of the programs on the Open CD. They will send you the full Ubuntu installation CDs plus a live CD where you can run Ubuntu directly from the CD. You can order as many CDs as you want and you don't even have to pay the mailing costs! When you get your CDs read this this simple introduction to Linux [3] before starting.



    (Sponsored Links)

    The Best Windows Backup Software
    We are in the process of updating all the backup reviews at our site but I can tell you right now that the top product has blitzed the field for a second year in row. In fact, it's improved so much that it's now a one horse race for our "editor's choice." The updated review of the top product is now online. If you have been looking for a backup program, this is the one.

    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 Spyware, Trojans, keyloggers and other malicious products. That's why it won the prized "Editor's Choice" award from PC Magazine and is rated "outstanding" by Gizmo Richards, editor of the highly regarded Support Alert newsletter. Spyware has become so serious you can't afford less than the best protection. Install it now before it's too late.

    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.

    The Best Drive Imaging Program
    In this race there are really only two runners worth considering. This review provides an in-depth comparison of the top contenders but in the end, one product is the clear winner.

    The Best Free Kids Craft Projects
    Keep your children engaged and amused with healthy, creative arts and craft activities that won't cost you a cent. Free weekly newsletter packed with easy kids craft projects.

    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 IMHO, the best product in this class but costs $59. A good free alternative is xplorer² [1]. 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.

    XYplorer is another strong contender. It uses a tabbed view rather than a two pane view which is better when working with multiple folders though not quite as efficient as the two pane approach when working with only two. XYplorer is packed with features included one of the best file-finders I've seen. It's one of those products that impresses more with use. In fact I suspect that if you use it for a month, you'll end up using it permanently. Until the 21st March 2006 it was freeware but has now morphed to shareware but the last free version is still available from the vendor's site [3] and various freeware sites [4].

    Some folks just love Free Commander [5], a classic two pane Norton Commander style manager. It's certainly powerful but I find the interface a little dated. However it's free for both private and commercial use and that's a big plus.


    [1] Free for private use, Win 95 and later, 899KB
    [2] Free for private use, Win 98 and later, 623KB.
    [3] All Windows versions, Free for private use, 633KB
    [5] Freeware, Windows 95 and later, 1.61MB

    12 Best Free Email Client Updated 20th, March 2007
    Thunderbird [1] is a free open source POP and IMAP email client 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, message color coding, fast email search, anti-phishing measures, spell check as you type, inbox filters, Kerberos authentication, automatic updates 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.

    Further features can be added through free extensions. Notable among these is Webmail [2], an extension that allows POP3 access to webmail services operated by Yahoo, Hotmail, Lycos, MailDotCom, Gmail and Libero.

    Thunderbird email files can be indexed by the Google, Yahoo! and Copernic desktop search programs.

    Switching from Outlook Express 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. If you need assistance check out this excellent guide [3] from Mozilla.

    If you want an alternative to Thunderbird then try Foxmail [4]. Despite the name it's not related to Firefox but comes out of China. It's an impressive product with features matching or exceeding Thunderbird and it's also really easy to use. My only real beef is the quality of the help files. Yes, they have been translated to English but rather poorly. So poorly that they are actually quite amusing. Don't let that deflect you though, Foxmail is a top product with eight million users world-wide and is a real alternative to Thunderbird. If you need help there's a good FAQ here [5]. Note: If after installing, the program comes up in Chinese, all you have to do is delete the file chinese.lgb in the installation folder.


    [1] Free Open Source software, Win 98 and later, 6.0MB
    [4] Freeware, Win 95 and later, 5.5MB.

    13 Best Free Web Mail Accessory
    It's a real plus to be able to collect your Hotmail, Yahoo! or other Webmail using your POP3 email client. It used to be simple but these days most Webmail services only provide POP3 access for premium paid accounts. However it's still possible to do it though by using a special utility designed for the job.

    If you use Yahoo! mail then head straight for YPOPs! [1] that allows you to download your Yahoo webmail from within your POP3 email client such as Outlook, Thunderbird or Eudora. It's free, easy top set up using the instructions on the web site and is simple to use. I use it on multiple Yahoo accounts and it works wonderfully.

    The second suggestion is a free utility called FreePOPs [2]. It's a much more flexible product than YPOPs! and will download mail from HotMail, AOL, Yahoo!, Juno, Libero and a myriad of other webmail services as well. It's power and flexibility can confuse new users but thankfully there is a clearly written tutorial for beginners [3] . FreePOPS is for receiving email only and has no sending capabilities.

    A third possibility is the Open Source program MrPostman [4] which offers similar functionality to FreePOPs and allows access to email accounts on MS Exchange 5.5 as well. It needs a bit of fiddling to work correctly but you'll find a couple of links below [5], [6} that will help you. Note that MrPostman requires the Java Runtime Environment to be installed on your PC.

    Another webmail accessory you might useful is POP Peeper, a free utility that lets you know when new mail arrived in your Webmail account. It installs a little tray icon that alerts you to new mail in your Hotmail, MSN, Yahoo,, MyWay, Excite,, or RediffMail accounts. It's particularly useful for users who have multiple webmail webmail services. It won't though, download your mail to your POP3 email client. To do that you need one of the products above. It does however, allow you to read and even respond to your mail within the product without opening your email program. This makes it very attractive to Webmail users who don't use a regular email client such as Outlook or Thunderbird.


    [1] Free GPL license, Win95 and later, 1.48MB
    [2] Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 813KB
    [4] Free Open Source, 1.5MB
    [5] <= Installing Mr Postman
    [6] <= MrPostman forum
    [7] Freeware, Windows 95 and later, 818KB

    14 Best Free Clipboard Replacement Utility
    The regular clipboard in Windows has limitations – one item at a time and no retention after logging off. Clipboard replacement utilities provide the ability to hold multiple items and store them for future use, even after logging off. There are many free clipboard replacement utilities available, including CLCL, Clipboard Magic, Clipboard Recorder, Clippy 2001, Ditto, DzSoft Paste & Save, and Yankee Clipper III. While none of these have the very extensive set of features of the class-leading shareware product ClipMate 6 ($29.95), they all offer the basic clipboard replacement features that 95% of us really want and need.

    If you just need a basic clipboard replacement utility, look no further than Clipboard Recorder [1]. It will store up to 99 items that can be easily selected and pasted from the popup history list by pressing the shortcut key (Ctrl-Alt-V by default). It supports a variety of formats (text, RTF, HTML, CSV, Bitmap, etc.) and has the ability to transfer copied items between computers. In addition, it is a very small program and uses very little resources. Clipboard Recorder is what the regular clipboard in Windows should have been!

    However, if you need advanced features such as the ability to support additional item types, create groups of items, search previous items, and synchronize clipboards across multiple computers, then I would recommend trying Ditto [2]. In addition to its extended feature set, its user interface is very clean, easy to use, and has many configurable options that you can configure to meet your needs. Note that Ditto requires DAO to be installed [3].


    [1] Windows 98 and later, 382 KB
    [2] Windows 95 and later, 422KB
    [3] .3MB

    15 Best Free HTML Editor Updated April 06, 2007
    This is one of my most requested items but I've not been able to give any product my full endorsement. There have been any number of contenders: Amaya for example, impressed with its standards compliance but was incomplete while Selida looked slick but had just too many bugs. Finally a reasonably competent contender has arrived on the scene in the form of the Open Source Nvu [1]. It's not perfect by any means but it's the best out there.

    In reality Nvu is nothing new but rather a reworking of the old Netscape Composer. Composer was always a solid product and the revamp has lifted the product into another class. Here is an HTML editor and site manager that's easy enough for beginners to use but powerful enough to build large sites. It's closer in concept to Microsoft's FrontPage more than any other product but unlike FrontPage it, thankfully, produces standards compliant code. Its easy-to-use WYSIWYG editor will delight HTML newbies while HTML honchos can simply click a tab to switch to code view. Multiple tabs can be kept open to allow simultaneous editing and there is excellent support for forms, tables and templates. An internal spell-checker is included. CSS is handled through the CaScadeS editor from Mozilla Composer. Nvu also has the handy ability to call W3C's HTML validator from within the product. It's also extensible via XUL.

    Nvu can upload files to your site via FTP and has some basic site management features but this is not its strength. Indeed the FTP side of the program has proved so problematic for some users that they have switched to using an external FTP client for uploading their sites. Some users have also reported problems with their HTML getting scrambled.

    Because of these bugs I don't recommend the official version of Nvu but rather the unofficial release called KompoZer [2]. This version is still not bug free but it's a lot better than the official release.

    Overall Nvu is an impressive product that has yet to achieve its full potential. No, it's not a replacement for commercial products like DreamWeaver but for those looking for a free, easy to use, WYSIWYG HTML it's an easy first choice.

    If you want an editor that puts you closer to the code then you might consider 1st Page 2000. It's a free, earlier version of Evrsoft's [3] excellent 1st Page 2006 editor and while lacking many of the features of the latter, is still a sound product. It's not the best choice though for HTML newbies. Note: The download seems to have been removed from the vendor's site. It is available elsewhere though [3].

    HTML coders should also check out PSPad [5]. It's a general purpose programming editor but it supports HTML syntax highlighting and allows on-the-fly editing of your server code that relieves you of the need to separately upload code changes using FTP. As a bonus it can be run directly from the .exe file without installation.


    [1] Free Open Source, Windows 98 and later plus Linux, 6.57MB
    [4] Free, Windows 98 and later, 5.2MB
    [5] Freeware, All Windows versions, 3.4MB

    16 Best Free Spam Filter for the Average User Updated March 13, 2007
    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 class are in fact, shareware not free. That said, MailWasher [1] 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.

    At the Mailwasher site you can download a free or "Pro" commercial version. The former lacks quite a few of the features of its commercial cousin. the most limiting of which is the ability to a access multiple accounts. However the last free version of MailWasher before it went commercial is still floating around the web [2] and it will handle multiple accounts. It too lacks many of the advanced spam detection features of the current commercial version but is still very 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.

    If you use Outlook or Outlook Express for your email you have another choice, an excellent one actually, if you are prepared to have a small advertisement appended to the end of your outbound email.

    SPAMfighter [5] is a network based spam filtering system that uses the opinions of over two million users worldwide to help classify spam and what's not.

    Like all network based spam filters it requires no training: it's ready to go the minute you install it.

    Each email is checked after it is received. If the email has been classified as spam by a lot of other users on the network then it deleted from your in-box and placed in a spam mail folder.

    It works like a charm and is a commanding choice or Outlook users. If you can't tolerate the ads in your email you can have them removed for $19.95 a year.


    [1] ( 3.05MB)
    [2] (1.57MB)
    [3] (1.87MB)
    [4] <=brief review of the best spam blockers
    [5] Windows ME and later, Outlook Express 5.5 and later or Outlook 2000 and later, 842KB,

    17 Best Free Spam Filter for Experienced Users
    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.

    =>index (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 product's author Scott R. Lemmon unfortunately has passed away but support for The Proxomitron continues through its large enthusiast following. This is evident from the main download site [1] which offers several versions of the product including the last version Scott released before his death. The site also has setup instructions, resource links and lists of sites where you can test whether the product is working. There are a number of other enthusiast sites [2], [3] that offer additional information.

    If you are a novice PC user I suggest you try the Google toolbar [4] 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.


    [1] Freeware, All Windows versions, 1.38MB

    19 Best Free Desktop Search Utility
    A couple of years back there were no contenders for this title. Today we have a wealth of choices. In a close race I would have to say X1 Enterprise Client [1] comes out in front because of the clear way it presents search results. It used to be a $99 product but as from mid 2006 is now free for non-commercial use. It's fast, reliable and can index the contents of 370 different file types including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, Outlook, Outlook Express, HTML, text, ZIP and Adobe PhotoShop It also indexes files for most of the popular e-mail clients such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Netscape, Eudora and Lotus Notes. Note: If you want to use X1 commercially then you can download Yahoo Desktop Search Program which is actually powered by X1. Unfortunately the Yahoo product includes quite of other stuff as well including the Yahoo browser search bar though some of these "extras" can be disenabled during the install.

    X1 can index html files but can't index your web browsing history. If the later is important to you, you may want to look at Google desktop search [3]. It not only will search your web history but offers an Outlook toolbar, integrated Gmail search and a novel desktop sidebar that allows personalized search, news, weather, photos and more. The Sidebar also includes a quite effective application launcher. Some folks love the Sidebar but others, me included, find it intrusive.

    Exalead is a little known but highly impressive desktop search program from France. It's great strength is the highly customizable nature of its search, probably the best of any product. It can also do fuzzy searches as well. If you need to make highly specified searches then do try Exalead, you wont be disappointed. Versions are available for English and French speakers.

    All the products I've mentioned require Windows 2000 or later. If you are stuck with an earlier version of Windows then try the free Copernic Desktop Search. Just because I'm mentioning it last don't think it's inferior to the others - it's a very competent and balanced product and one of the few freebies that supports network shares. Indeed many experienced users think that overall, it's the best available. If the email search results were as effectively presented as X1 I'd be inclined to agree.


    [1] X1 Enterprise Client, Free for personal use, Windows XP, 12.9MB.
    [2] Freeware, Windows 2000 SP3 or later, 5.3MB
    [3] Freeware, Windows 2000 SP3 or later, 2MB
    [4] Freeware, Windows 2000 or later, 8.7MB
    [5] Freeware, Windows 98 and later. 3MB

    20 Best Free Digital Image Viewer
    Three good choices here. First there's the classic IrfanView. Irfan [1] is a first class product but one for which I have mixed feelings. That's why it's been in and out of my "46 Best Freeware" list several times. It's an amazingly capable product but it just doesn't work the way I want it to. Other users though, just love it.

    A product I feel more comfortable with is XNView [2]. Like Irfan it is very versatile; it can read and display nearly 400 types of graphic files and convert any of these to over 50 formats. It displays pictures very quickly and these may be viewed full screen, as slideshows or thumbnails. It's quite capable at processing images, too; you can adjust brightness, color, apply filters or effects, crop photos, re-size, convert format and more. These operations can also be carried out from a batch file, which makes it ideal for converting large digital photos to smaller sizes for the web or emailing. It supports drop and drag, has many plug-ins, is available in 44 languages and has full cross-platform support including Mac. XNView has a lot of similarities with IrfanView, so many in fact, that it comes perilously close to plagiarism. Put positively, one may say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery however the developer of IrfanView must feel more than a little miffed. XNView is free for non-commercial use, all Windows versions plus many other platforms. The standard version for Windows is 3.3MB but I suggest you download the complete version with all plug-ins which weighs in at 6.8MB.

    My third choice and personal favorite is FastStone Image Viewer [3]. This is a speed demon with a zippiness in displaying images that's reminiscent of the old ACDSee before it suffered feature bloat. It supports all major graphic formats and popular digital camera RAW formats as well. It's also got good basic image editing facilities, a great slide show and a very cute interface. Much to like here. Free for personal use, Windows 98 and later.


    [1] (874KB)
    [2] (3.3MB)
    [3] (3.0MB)

    21 Best Free Digital Editor Updated March 13, 2007
    I use to recommend The Gimp [1] but after dozens of letters from newbies who couldn't manage to install it or work out the idiosyncratic user interface, I've decided to confine that recommendation to more experienced users. If that's you and you patient enough to learn the product's sometimes quaint ways then you may not need to consider anything else. If you are used to Photoshop you might like to look at GIMPShop [2] , which changes the user interface of GIMP to something more familiar though frankly, I prefer the original.

    For other less experienced users there is, an amazingly sophisticated piece of work from computer science students at Washington State University. It's not quite as powerful as The Gimp but a lot easier to use and install. It's also getting better; the new V3 beta continues this product's impressive development record. However V2.x is only for Windows 2000 while V3 requires XP SP2. You will also need Microsoft's bulky .NET framework installed on your PC.

    Another possibility is PhotoPlus 6.0 from a company called Serif [4] . 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" and slightly clunky version of Adobe PhotoShop. Note: You need to register with your email address to get PhotoPlus and you may receive promotional material as a result.

    Recently I've had a lot of positive reader feedback about a French product called PhotoFiltre [5]. It's available in a number of languages including English and ( for a digital editor) is a tiny 1.6MB download. Like PhotoPlus it looks and works like an old version of PhotoShop. It can read and save files to JPEG, GIF, BMP, TIFF, PNG, RLE, comes with an impressive range of tools, brushes and filters. However it can't handle layers. That said, it offers a lot of functionality for a small program.

    All of the above products are for editing rasterized images. If you want a vector based editor the top choice is the Open Source Inkscape program. To quote the website "Inkscape uses W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Supported SVG features include shapes, paths, text, markers, clones, alpha blending, transforms, gradients, patterns, and grouping. Inkscape also supports Creative Commons meta-data, node editing, layers, complex path operations, bitmap tracing, text-on-path, flowed text, direct XML editing, and more. It imports formats such as JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and others and exports PNG as well as multiple vector-based formats."

    Equally attractive is its small size compared to most other vector based editors, a mere 24MB versus several hundred for Illustrator. It's a product in its early stages; the current release is only at V0.45 and doesn't, for example, yet support SVG filter effects, animation, and SVG fonts. It is, however, totally usable. That usability is enhanced by an excellent user interface and the impressive set of tutorials that come with the product that help wean the user away from the world of digital images to the nodes, lines, curves and shapes that form the basis of vector editing. Overall a top product that will only get better.


    [1] (7.7MB)
    [2] (7.4MB)
    [3] Freeware, Win2K and later, 3.6MB
    [4] Freeware, all Windows, 19.4MB
    [5] Free for personal use, Windows 98 and later, 1.6MB

    [6] Free Open Source, Available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, 20.7MB.

    22 Best Free Digital Photo Organizer Updated March 13, 2007

    It’s rare for me to be utterly wowed by a product but this one certainly did it. When you first run Picasa 2 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 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 2000 or later, 300MHz Pentium with 128MB memory or better, 4.6MB.


    23 Best Free Text Editor

    There are lots of text editors. Some of these aspire to be Notepad replacements while other are full-on programming editors.

    My top choice in the first category is EditPad Lite [1]. It has a Notepad-like interface combined with tabbed document windows, the ability to open as many documents as you like, no file size limitations and unlimited un-do capability. It's main downside is that it's for personal use only.

    If you need a free Notepad replacement that you can use commercially I suggest NotePad2 [2]. It's small, fast but unfortunately lacks the tabbed Windows that are so handy in EditPad. NoteTab Lite [3] is another possibility but personally I find it a tad slow and the single level undo a severe limitation.

    If however you are looking for a text editor that can serve both as a Notepad replacement and a source editor you might like to check out Notepad++ [4]. It performs impressively in both roles. Its loaded with features to make your programming more productive including syntax and brace highlighting for many languages, search and replace using regular expressions, macro recording and more. It is also highly configurable through plug-ins, has a wide range of themes and offers multi-language support.

    More specifically geared to programming is PSPad [5]. It supports syntax high-lighting for most popular languages, has an inbuilt spell checker, hex editor, macro recorder, FTP client and more.

    Other source code editors worthy of evaluation are ConTEXT [6] and my personal favorite, Crimson [7].

    Choosing the best programming editor is too controversial a topic even for me so I suggest you try all these and see what works best for you.

    [1] Free for non-commercial use, Windows NT and later, 2.9MB
    [2] Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 241KB
    [3] Freeware, All Windows versions, 1.4MB
    [4] Open Source Freeware, All Windows versions, 1.03MB
    [5] Freeware, all Windows versions, 3.4MB
    [6] Freeware, All Windows versions, 1.6MB
    [7] Freeware, All Windows versions, 1.2MB

    24 The Best File Archiver/Zip Utility

    I checked out six utilities: QuickZip, ICEOWS, IZArc, TUGZip, ZipGenius and 7-Zip. The product that impressed me the most was the Open Source program 7-Zip. It was the only product in the 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. My only reservation is that it handles fewer archive types than some of the other products; it only supports 7z, ZIP, CAB, RAR, ARJ, GZIP, BZIP2, Z, TAR, CPIO, RPM and DEB . If that's really important to you than I'd recommend IZArc. It can read nearly 50 archive types including media formats like ISO, BIN and IMG and can write (and convert) to 12. You couldn't go wrong with either product. 7-Zip is a little more robust while IZArc is a little more flexible. If you already use WinZip you'll find either 7-Zip or IZArc make excellent companion products. They can can read just about all the major archive formats WinZip can't, including the widely used RAR.

    =>index Windows 9x and later, 3.1MB Windows 9x and later, 1.05MB

    25 Best Free Hotkey Utility

    For sheer power you can't beat AutoHotkey [1]. It can automate just about anything by capturing keystr

  2. #2
    nice ...............
    thanks for providing all this information................

  3. #3
    nice info...thanks

  4. #4
    nice info

  5. #5
    cool info
    very useful

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