Launch a program, collect an email, visit a website -- just about everything you do on a PC results in some kind of change to the files on your PC. And normally the low-level details of this won’t interest you in the slightest, but there will be occasional exceptions.
Maybe you think you’ve been infected by malware, for instance. Perhaps you’re wondering what an installation program is adding to your system. Or you might just want to know why your hard drive activity light is flashing, all the time. But whatever the reason,Check5 can help, by monitoring any folders of interest and showing you, in real time, exactly how their contents are changing.
Your PC is packed with applications, and you need to be able to launch them at speed. So of course you might start by creating a few shortcuts, and either dropping them on your desktop, and pinning them to the taskbar. It’s simple, and straightforward – but of course it can also quickly become very messy.
If you’d prefer a clean desktop, then, you might be interested in DeskIntegrator’s approach. This compact free tool adds applications to the desktop context menu, and launching them becomes as easy as right-clicking the desktop, and choosing whatever you need from the list.
USB keys are compact, highly portable and a very convenient way to store and transfer information.
Unfortunately, they also make it extremely easy for others to copy files from a PC without your knowledge. And they can act as carriers for some very nasty viruses. So if you’d like to restrict their use on your system, you might be interested in the new Ratool.
When testing your PC, you might sometimes want to see what happens over a period of time. Will your backup start when it should, for instance? Is your antivirus launcher working correctly? Will your alarm pop up? When will that trial version expire, and what happens when it does?
If you’re only looking to test just one of these actions, then manually resetting your system’s clock will probably be enough. But when your testing becomes more involved -- you want to check out a program which adjusts screen brightness depending on the time of day, for instance -- then you’ll benefit from a more automated approach. And there’s no simpler way to get this than with Accelerify.
VirusTotal.com is a great resource, a powerful tool which can quickly check just about any file for malware with around 50 of the world’s leading antivirus engines. But if you need to submit more than one or two files then its limited browser-based interface will quickly become a problem, and so you may want to try the new PhrozenSoft VirusTotal Uploader, instead.
Once installed, the program makes it much easier to check the files you need. At its simplest, you can just select one or more files in Explorer, drag and drop then onto VirusTotal Uploader, and they’ll be uploaded for you. A straightforward interface keeps you informed on the upload process, and results are displayed as they arrive.
It’s not difficult to create PDFs these days. If your application doesn’t already have a “Save as PDF option”, then a virtual printer like Bullzip will generally get the job done.
These converted documents won’t always be formatted properly, though, and large or oddly-sized margins can be a real problem -- but that’s where the open-source Briss comes in. If you need to crop PDFs, perhaps to remove page numbers, maybe just to make the document easier to read on a small screen, then this small free program could an excellent solution.
Anti-rootkit tools used to be bulky, complex, packed with so much low-level jargon that even most Windows experts might struggle to figure out what was going on. And they were risky to use, too, with the authors often employing unauthorised low-level coding tricks which could easily blue-screen your PC just by running a regular scan.
If you know what you’re doing then there’s still scope for a little low-level Windows exploration, of course, but most people just want something which will check their PC for threats, finding and removing them with the maximum speed, and minimum hassle. And that’s just what you get withTrend Micro Rootkit Buster.
While the ability to capture and share an image of your screen is extremely useful, it’s not exactly an area where Windows has excelled. Under DOS pressing PrtSc sent an image of your screen to the printer; under Windows 3.x the grab was copied to the clipboard; after more than 20 years, Windows 8 added the ability to save an image by pressing Win+PrtSc; and that’s about it.
If you’d like something a little more capable, then, it’s probably best to forget Microsoft and look for a third-party solution. And if you’re particularly interested in sharing screengrabs then PostImage could make an excellent choice.
Most digital cameras will by default save photos as JPEG files, and it’s easy to see why: they’re small, can be saved and reloaded quickly, and are supported by just about every graphics package available.
Switching to your camera’s RAW format (if it has one) can be worthwhile, though: you’ll get minimally processed images containing all the data from your camera sensor, giving you much more precise control over how the final photo will look. RAW images are also huge, and can’t be opened by nearly as many tools, but there are still some great free options available -- and even though it’s only in alpha, the open sourceGTKRawGallery is already a promising contender.
Your PC is behaving strangely. You think it might have been infected by something, but your regular antivirus tool hasn’t raised an alert. And so you decide to try and investigate the problem yourself.
Figuring out where to begin can be difficult, though. Which drivers should you investigate, which startup programs or processes? If you want to manually search for malware but aren’t sure where to start, then the free Malware Scene Investigator could prove very useful.
Panda Security has announced the availability of the first public beta for its do-everything home user suite, Panda Global Protection 2014. The package includes an antivirus engine, firewall, identity protection, spam filter, parental controls, virtual keyboard, local and online backup modules, file encryption and shredding, and remote PC access.
New features this time include boot analysis of your system for better detection of even the stealthiest of malware. There will also now be protection for Mac, iOS and Android devices (the latter component isn’t available yet, but clicking "Multi-device protection" within the program will tell you more).
The first public beta of WinRAR 5.0 is now available. And it’s an interesting release with quite a few new features, although most are based around the addition of a new archiving format -- RAR 5.0.
This first aims to improve compression performance by increasing the maximum and default dictionary sizes. Some older and less efficient compression algorithms have been ditched, while RAR 5.0 decompression can make use of multiple CPU cores.
If you ever need to carry out a quick calculation or unit conversion then there are plenty of online resources which can help. And Google is a great place to start; just enter your calculation in the Search box and see what happens.
There’s still a place for calculator software, though, especially if it supports a wide range of functions. So we were particularly interested to find Calculatormatik, an extremely versatile tool which crams 100 conversion and calculator-type options into a mere 198KB download.
If you’d like to keep an eye on your kids’ PC activities then you could pay big money for a full-strength parental controls package, with comprehensive monitoring tools, detailed reports and a whole lot more.
If your needs are more basic, though, you could just download AutoScreenShot, a tiny free tool which will save regular screenshots which you can review later.
Most photo editors have a few filters which can turn regular photos into instant works of art: an oil painting, say, or a pencil sketch. But if you’d like more -- or you just want the arty effects, without the photo editing overhead -- then XnSketch is a simple free tool which just might be able to help.
The program runs almost everywhere (Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android), and is very easy to use. We tried the Windows build, and it came with no adware or other unwanted extras -- just unzip the download and you’re ready to go immediately.