- CCleaner: An excellent free utility that will help you clean your hard disk of unnecessary files; resolve issues in your Windows registry; help you uninstall unnecessary programs; and let you choose which programs and services should be allowed to start up automatically when your computer boots.
Sometimes a virus gets through your normal defenses. At this point, you need something new and different to remove the virus that your main line of defense failed to catch. Virus removal software comes in two flavors: software installed on a CD or USB flash drive that you use to boot your computer (so called “rescue disks”); and Windows-based software that is installed normally. It is important to understand that detecting viruses is a rapidly moving target. New viruses come out all the time, and the virus removal software that was great yesterday may no longer work against the new badness. If you are infected it is usually worth using at least two of these tools.
- Avira Rescue CD. Relatively easy to use, but definitely does not catch everything.
- F-Secure Rescue CD. Quite a bit more difficult to use, and slow. But may catch more than Avira does.
- AVG Rescue CD. Haven’t used this one in a while, but has a good reputation.
- Windows Defender Offline. Easy to use, and made by Microsoft. But if you use Microsoft Security Essentials as your main line of defense, and a virus has gotten through anyway, this is probably not the right tool.
- Malwarebytes. Has been our favorite, and is still very good. But Malwarebytes has become so popular that some newer viruses are written specifically to thwart it.
- Hitman Pro. The authors make you give them your email to use the software, and even then it’s only a 31 day free trial. Nonetheless, it’s quick, and finds and removes stuff that Malwarebytes misses.
Both of these utilities will provide a detailed report report about your computer, including hardware details (how big is that hard drive again?) as well as software — sometimes even including the installation key (in case you lost that CD case with the sticker…)
- Belarc Advisor
- Speccy. Nice, quick, but only gives information about the hardware and the operating system, not the software you have installed.
- SIW [System Information for Windows] – great, but no longer free.
Online backup services:
- Mozy (2 Gb free, pay for more)
- CrashPlan (No free online storage, but also does local backup, which is free)
- BackBlaze (Particularly good for Macs, but no free online storage)
- DriveImageXML (for older Windows PCs)
- Windows Backup and Restore (built in to Vista, Windows 7 and later)