15 useful tools for your Windows desktop - most free

Create a faster, more productive Windows environment

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Page 2
Page 2 of 7

SyncToy
Download: SyncToy
Purpose: File synchronization
Platforms: Windows 7, Vista, XP; Windows Server 2008, 2003; 64-bit version available
Cost: Free

Microsoft's free SyncToy originally appeared as part of the Windows XP PowerToy package. While most of the old XP PowerToys passed on to the big bit bucket in the sky, SyncToy has been improved regularly. The latest version takes advantage of Ray Ozzie's Sync Framework. SyncToy 2.1 has been around for almost a year, and it works amazingly well.

To use SyncToy, pick two folders. Let's call one "Left" (for reasons manifest in the screenshot below) and the other "Right." Here's what you can do:

  • Synchronize: New files, along with files that have changed since the last Synchronize, are copied between the Left and Right folders. If a file has been renamed or deleted in one, it's renamed or deleted in the other.
  • Echo: New and changed files are copied left to right, with renamed and deleted files on the left renamed or deleted on the right.
  • Contribute: Same as Echo, but deletions on the left are not deleted on the right.
Top free tools for Windows: SyncToy
SyncToy synchronizes files between two folders. Many Windows users find it provides all the backup they need.

System Information for Windows
Download: System Information for Windows
Purpose: Hardware and software inventory
Platforms: Windows 7, Vista, XP; Windows Server 2008, 2003
Cost: Free for personal use; corporate 10-license pack, $99.95

Over the years I've used many programs to retrieve software license keys, identify hardware, measure temperatures, and fan speeds; run down memory chip details; and monitor CPU and network loads. Now, finally, I've found one program that does it all -- and cleans my glasses.

System Information for Windows (SIW) reports three separate data categories:

  • Software, including file associations, ActiveX controls, and file name associations
  • Hardware, such as BIOS version, video and sound adapters, CPU details
  • Network, including neighborhood devices, shares, and open ports

There are hundreds of individual entries, all neatly arranged with a tree on the left of the screen.

Caveat: The SIW setup routine recommends that you install a Registry cleaning program called Registry Reviver. I've long felt that the benefits of Registry cleaners are greatly overshadowed by the problems they sometimes cause. (That's also why you won't see any registry cleaners in this list.) Next: Recuva, 7Zip, Wiseval Photophant

Top free tools for Windows: System Information for Windows
SIW shows you an amazing amount of detail about your PC and its software. Just don't let the installer put other stuff on your machine.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Page 2
Page 2 of 7
  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon