While I do miss using my floppy drive, the bootable USB key has proved to be a fantastic addition to my arsenal when building a new PC. I was wondering what you all would suggest, in addition to (or in place of) my list, are good utilities to have on-hand when working on, building, diagnosing, and fixing a PC.Specifically, I like to have as much on hand as I can before I actually connect the PC to the Internet.
So at least then I can have it as protected as possible before signing on.
So here's the list, in no particular order:
Other "Nice-to-Have" Utilities
- GDisk - Intro to GDisk - I love this utility and have used it extensively for booting between various OSs. Performs partitioning, hides partitions, duplicates FDisk functions, I've used it a lot in Batch mode to boot and hide/unhide/activate partitions. It came with Ghost 2003; don't know if you can still get it or not.
- Image Software - Once you get that computer all nice and set up, you should make an image of the hard drive. Why? Well, if you screw something up, or something dies, it's nice to be able to go back to the "stock install" quickly and easily. And it's nice to not have to deal with activation again, YMMV. I prefer to run these programs from DOS so I don't have to have them running under the OS. I'm backed up nightly from a Windows Home Server anyway.
- Norton Ghost - I don't have a recent version of Ghost (bought mine in 2003 as a part of Norton Systemworks), so my copy won't work with USB drives, but I can image to and from a RAID set from DOS, so I need this one. They call them "dynamic disks". The latest version (reportedly) works with USB drives and will back up across a network as well. My old version can back up across the network also, but both PCs need to be running Ghost, and you have to manually configure the autoexec.bat and config.sys files to use your NIC. Still, I love Ghost. I should probably get the latest version.
- Acronis I don't believe you can put this on a USB key but instead you have to create a boot CD. It works with USB drives out of the box, but I haven't seen a version yet that will work with RAID sets from DOS. Acronis also lets you back up over the network. So if you don't have RAID, Acronis is a safe bet. With RAID sets, I'd recommend Ghost. BUT, on this next build I'm going to get away from these programs and just use my Windows Home Server.
- OS Patches - Windows XP SP3, or Vista patches or Win7 patches if you need
- Drivers - Of course, you'll want to have a folder to have drivers for your various pieces of hardware. Even better if you can slipstream the drivers into the install CD. nLite is the perfect program for doing such things.
- Crystal Disk Info - Gives you information on the status of your hard drives
- KillDisk - For when you need to RMA that bad hard drive, or two... GDisk does this as well.
- ATTO Disk Benchmark - To double check how your hard drive is performing - I think the folks over at the OCZ forum use this one when testing their SSDs
- WinDirStat - I just really like this utility, not really necessary when setting up a new PC, but it's a great thing to have if you're trying to find out what's hogging up your hard drive
- ClearType Tuner - ClearType is great, and this will help make it as good as it can get. I think this might already be included in Win7 or Vista?
- WinRAR or 7Zip - Both great archving programs, good for unzipping stuff that you download to your new PC and you might not yet have them installed on said PC.
- Memtest86 - Always necessary!
- Guru3D Driver Sweeper - To remove the last bits and pieces of your video card drivers
- CrapCleaner - If you don't already know about this proggie then you should!
- AntiVirus - I've settled on Microsoft's Antivirus program for my Windows-based PCs. It doesn't have a lot of options, but I have two kids and a wife that really don't care about tweaking the thing. It performs well, has a small footprint, and doesn't slow down the boot times much (all based on reviews I've read). And best of all it's free. I saved the install file on my USB key; you may want another program so your mileage may vary.
- UBCD - I love this utility. It's an ISO that allows you to incorporate various utilities into its menu. So if you don't have a bootable USB key to use, or you can't use a USB key on the computer with which you're working, this will work for you. I used this in combination with a floppy imaging program to boot to Ghost and also to GDisk to perform automated partition manipulations.
- BartPE - I don't use this, but I can see the benefit of being able to boot to the Windows XP GUI without a hard drive. Acronis supposedly has a BartPE plugin that allows you to use their program from within the OS, but I still couldn't restore the RAID image from DOS.
I had, at one point, installed Linux on a USB drive and it had in it a fantastic hard drive analysis utility. I think the best of both worlds would be able to boot to DOS or boot to Linux from the same key, but I don't know how to do that.
So, what other utilities should I include on my USB key?