5 Free Utilities that Should be Included in Windows


C'mon, Microsoft, save us some time and just fold these must-haves into the OS

Windows 7 is out, and many of you have gone through the process of upgrading to the new OS with a clean install. And while you'll enjoy the new features like Aero Snap and an ISO burner (finally!), Windows 7 still lacks some basic functionality that we've come to expect from using PCs on a daily basis. For example, cloud storage file syncing and wide compression format compatibility are things we've taken for granted from essential freeware and open-source applications . Here's our list of five utilities that we really wish Microsoft bundled with Windows 7. And if you agree with us, use one of our recommended user-friendly auto-installers to get these apps.

1. WinDirStat

WinDirStat ( http://windirstat.info ) creates a graphical representation of the files on your hard drive. Bigger blocks represent larger files, and the different colors equate to different file types. What does this mean? WinDirStat is essential for figuring out why your hard drive is full. Clicking a block takes you to its location in the file tree, allowing for easy cleanup. Intuitive navigation and easy “open in Explorer” options make this a must-have.

2. Dropbox

What if you could drag any file to a folder on your computer, and a magical app immediately syncs that file to every machine you own? What if that magical app also made up to five older versions of those files available via a web interface? Dropbox ( www.getdropbox.com ) does both of those things, and it has the added bonus of being cross-platform and free for up to 2GB of storage, with more storage available for fees between $8/month and $20/month.

3. TrueCrypt

Windows Ultimate and Enterprise editions have BitLocker for encrypting volumes, but what about other editions of the OS? TrueCrypt ( www.truecrypt.org ) can hide a virtual partition inside a file, encrypt entire disks (even boot disks), and even create a hidden volume within another TrueCrypt volume. Real-time encryption works entirely in RAM without slowing down your system. Plus, it’s portable and uses AES-256 (and stronger) encryption. Why pay for something that does less when you can get TrueCrypt for free?

4. 7-Zip

Windows’ Compressed Folders Extraction Wizard is so last century. Instead, we wish Microsoft would package something as useful as 7-Zip ( www.7-zip.org ), which can unpack practically any compression format, from TGZ to RAR. It even opens image files, including ISO and UDF. It also creates encrypted and self-extracting ZIP archives, and includes a command-line version for scripting wizards.

5. Secunia PSI

Hackers and malware writers routinely discover new security flaws in software. Most companies are quick to update their programs to close the loop, but users aren’t always quick to install these updates. The Conficker worm spread through a Java exploit that had been patched long before, but millions of users with out-of-date software were affected. Secunia ( http://secunia.com ) shows your unpatched and exploitable programs so you can get them up to date. If Microsoft cares about security, it should include the same functionality in Windows.

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