We're back! In our last feature, we showed you the best open-source/freeware graphics applications. But we realize that not everyone shares our crude artistic skills. Thus, we're aiming for a general market this time around. Enclosed within this article are the top freeware system optimization tools we've discovered in our mighty search of the Web. Clean your PC of spyware! Keep it virus-free! Run new, scary program in a virtualized environment! And much more--our full list of awesome, must-install applicaitons awaits. Check 'em out! Your PC isn't complete without them!
If you aren't running an antivirus application on your computer, shame on you. There's no reason you should open up your technological insides to invasion. Clamwin is a fully functional antivirus application that's as free as it is updated. While the program doesn't feature real-time scanning, it's still updated with all the latest virus definitions. Establishing a schedule for a scan is as easy as clicking the mouse a few times and typing in a number. The application doesn't abuse a ton of system resources, which in itself is a boon. Nor have we detected the egregious number of false positives that a free scanner like A-Squared spits out. Clamwin keeps you safe sans hassle--the epitome of a free virus-scanning application.
PC running slow? Seeing a ton of strange pop-ups and application launches that shouldn't be happening. CCleaner -- short for "Crap Cleaner" -- is your ticket to a healthy PC. The program runs through a bevy of files on your machine and deletes those which are no longer necessary. It's not a spyware-fighting application. You'll want to look to Spybot for that. However, we typically run CCleaner once a week on our machines just to keep them (and their storage capabilities) in tip-top shape. The application nukes the temporary files of your operating system and Internet browsers, then sifts through your registry for improper shortcuts and unused entries. Freeing up storage is always fun, and CCleaner doesn't disappoint in that regard!
Feel like testing out an application, but don't want to leave its footprint on your primary operating system? Want to cover your tracks for all the less-than-reputable Web browsing you're undertaking? Feel like screwing around with Linux, but don't want to set up a new partition to do so? Accomplish these tasks, and more, by creating a virtualized operating system environment inside of VirtualBox. You can run operating systems of all kinds inside this application, including the very latest Linux and Windows installations. The program lets you share files between your "fake" OS and your real OS, and you can even interact with your virtual operating system using standard USB devices. Hardcore users take note: you can also access your virtual environment remotely. VirtualBox is a tinkerer's dream.
Don't let expensive commercial software steal all the fun of backing up files! DriveImage XML is the free, one-stop shop for making backup images of your disk partitions. Once complete, you can then go back and browse or restore the contents of these images as much as you'd like. You can also set up a direct clone of you drive and use Windows' built-in Task Scheduler to run this, and DriveImage XML's other operations, any time you want. DriveImage XML comes with no nag screens or registration prompts. It's simple, easy-to-use backup that you can even slap onto a preinstalled Windows envrionment like a BartPE disk.
Whether you're an application fanacit or just have a cursory few programs installed on your desktop, one of the biggest frustrations of being a PC users is keeping your programs up-to-date. This used to involve checking vendor websites and file depositories on a regular basis to see when new versions pop up. But those days are no longer, thanks to Sumo. This lightweight application generates a list of all the installed applications on your PC. It then hops onto the Internet and scans for the latest version of the programs. If you could use an upgrade, the program tells you which application is lagging behind the technology curve and gives you the opportunity to update to the latest version at the click of a mouse. Use Windows Update for your system; use Sumo for your applications!