Articles about Know Your PC

Expand GIMP's possibilities with GIMP Extensions for Windows

Gimp extensions

GIMP is the most powerful free graphics editor around but you can extend it even further with the right extensions. You’ll need to find them first, of course, because GIMP doesn’t have any built-in mechanism to show you what’s available. But if that’s too much trouble then you could always install GIMP Extensions for Windows, which gives you more than 50 in a single package.

You’ll get GIMP Paint Studio, for instance, which equips the program with additional brushes, patterns, palettes and more.

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Listary makes file searching less of a chore

Magnifying Glass PC

Bopsoft has released Listary 4.0 and Listary Portable 4.0, the latest builds of its lightweight, ultra-compact search add-on for Windows users. The new release has been rewritten from scratch, and simplifies browsing and searching for files from a number of locations, including Windows Explorer, Open/Save dialog boxes and various third-party tools.

Version 4.0 includes a number of major new features, including disk and sub-folder search, fuzzy navigation, History, Actions and Projects. It also comes with a number of notable improvements, including enhanced search performance and ranking.

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Run Windows 8 apps in a desktop window with ModernMix

Modernmix

Windows 8 has several annoyances, but perhaps one of the most notable is its requirement to run apps full screen, or in an ugly 2/3, 1/3 mode. When you’re used to being able to position and arrange application windows just as you like, this seems like a significant backward step: we have far less choice then we did before.

But ModernMix, the latest release from Stardock, changes all that. Because this simple $4.99 program allows you to run Windows 8 apps in a resizable window on your desktop, just like anything else.

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Hideman lets you watch foreign TV and bypass censorship restrictions

woman mask cloak hide anonymous

There are many reasons why you’d want to hide your internet IP address. The most common one is that you’re trying to access services or web sites restricted to a specific country or territory -- this might be to catch up with UK BBC TV’s shows via iPlayer or for more fundamental reasons, such as bypassing a country’s censorship restrictions.

Spoofing your IP address so you appear to come from another country than the one you’re residing in isn’t by itself a difficult task -- all you need is a decent VPN service. But when it comes to simplicity and decent performance, you can’t beat a service called Hideman, available on Windows and Mac via the free Hideman 2.0 tool, and Hideman VPN 1.9.7 for Android.

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Quickly defrag the Windows Registry with Tweaking.com’s Registry Compressor

Hard Disk Defrag

Launch Windows, open a folder or file, install, remove or run a program -- just about everything you do on a PC results in Windows writing to the Registry. And over time that means the Registry files will grow, as they contain more and more "slack space", gaps where old entries used to be.

This isn’t particularly harmful, but it does waste a little memory and hard drive space. And so you might like to try Tweaking.com’s Registry Compressor, a small and simple tool which can defragment your Registry, removing this slack space (nothing else -- this isn’t a Registry cleaner) and cutting the files down to size.

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Stardock ModernMix makes apps as usable as desktop programs on Windows 8 [Preview]

stardock-modernmix

Windows apps that you run on Windows 8 are limited to the Start screen environment by default. Here you can run them in full screen, or attached to a side of the screen so that they use 1/3 or 2/3 of the screen. What you cannot do is run them in windowed mode on the desktop.

Attempts have been made in the past to bring that extra functionality to Windows 8 in the form of third-party applications. One of them, RetroUI Pro does so, but the implementation is fairly limited.

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Clean, optimize and protect your PC with WinOptimizer 10

Berlin software developer Ashampoo GmbH has released Ashampoo WinOptimizer 10.1.0, the latest version of its Windows system optimization tool. WinOptimizer 10, which provides one-click tools for privacy, cleaning and optimizing PCs, debuts four new modules, plus a brand new user interface.

The tool, which is available as a 10-day trial by default (users can extend this by a further 30 days by registering for a free key), also comes with four updates for existing modules, enhanced Windows 8 support and user-definable favorites.

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Check your network details with NirSoft’s NetworkInterfacesView

network LAN PC

When you’re troubleshooting a network problem then it often makes sense to take a look at your network adapters, and all their associated details. But Windows doesn’t make this nearly as easy as it should. The information is available, but very fragmented, so you’ll probably have to browse various Control Panel applets and run a few command line tools to get the details you need.

Fortunately there now an easier way, though, in the shape of a new tool from NirSoft, NetworkInterfacesView.

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UltraDefrag promises faster performance, FAT optimisation support

hard drive

Open-source Windows defrag tool UltraDefrag 6.0 FINAL has been released along with a 64-bit build and portable editions. The new build promises optimized disk processing algorithms for speed and efficiency, support for optimizing FAT disks and the ability to minimize the main window to the Taskbar Notification area.

Ultra Defrag comes with a graphical interface for less experienced users as well as options for defragging individual files, folders and drives from the Explorer context menu, but power users can also control it via a console, with options for batch processing and setting up scheduled tasks available. It also comes with boot-time options for defragging system files and Registry hives.

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VirtualBox update fixes problems, makes the virtualization tool more stable

VirtualBox

Oracle has released VirtualBox 4.2.8, a maintenance update for its open-source, cross-platform virtualisation tool that should improve stability and fix various regressions. Notable changes include a fix that caused guests to crash when using a huge amount of guest RAM on machines with Intel Virtualisation (VT-x) technology.

Aside from bug fixes, there is one minor performance tweak of note, which sees the time for merging snapshots reduced under certain conditions. Users can now also change VRDE settings for saved VMs under Settings.

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VirtualDVD lets you mount any disc image as a virtual drive

DVD stack

Download an ISO disc image onto a brand new PC and you probably won’t need any third-party software to handle it. Windows 8 makes it easy to mount the image as a virtual drive, so you can access the contents without needing to burn them to a physical disc.

This option isn’t exactly configurable, though. It offers no support for the many other disc image formats out there. And it’s not much help if you don’t have Windows 8, either -- which is why you might prefer to install VirtualDVD.

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Stardock DeskScapes 8 now supports Windows 8

DeskScapes 8

Plymouth, MI-based Stardock Software has released Stardock DeskScapes 8.0, a brand new version of its Windows desktop and screensaver animation tool. Version 8.0, which costs $9.99 after the intial 30-day trial expires, adds full Windows 8 compatibility to the tool’s roster, plus debuts a brand new user interface that’s designed to be easier to use.

DeskScapes 8.0 allows users to customize existing desktop wallpapers with animations and over 40 special effects. Users can also apply, and create, specially animated desktops created using Stardock’s own proprietary Dream format. A number of examples are provided with the program, but dozens more are available to download via wincustomize.com. Stardock, which specialises in desktop customisation tools, is celebrating its 20th year.

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Is your hard drive in shape? BenchMe

park bench runner

If your PC has multiple drives – or even just several USB keys -- then you’ve probably already decided exactly how each drive is going to be used. But are you sure that decision is correct? Do you know which drive is the fastest, for instance? If that might make a difference, then BenchMe is a simple and free device benchmarking tool which may be able to help.

The program comes in a very small download (703KB), which unfortunately then requires installation. We’re not quite sure why -- it looks like the kind of tool which could very easily be portable -- but at least there’s no adware or other dangers to worry about.

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EssentialPIM 5.5 adds support for Dropbox and iCloud

PIM contact calendar

Astonsoft Ltd has released EssentialPIM Free 5.5 and EssentialPIM Pro 5.5, major new versions of its Windows personal information manager. Highlights in this new release include support for iCloud synchronization, native Dropbox support and improved CardDAV tools.

Also updated are EssentialPIM for iOS 2.6 and EssentialPIM for Android 1.8.2, mobile apps designed to give users access to their EssentialPIM data while on the move. While iOS users only see minor bug fixes in this update, Android users will enjoy major improvements to the Calendar and Contacts modules.

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Piriform pushes out minor update for CCleaner, version 4 coming soon

Clean hard disk

Piriform Software has released CCleaner 3.28 and CCleaner Portable 3.28, updated versions of its popular freeware Windows cleaning tool. Version 3.28 is a minor release, promising better performance and compatibility, plus support for cleaning up behind two new programs.

Piriform has also announced that the release of CCleaner 3.28 will be the last of the 3.x branch, with CCleaner 4.0 the next release slated. It also hints that this is the first of a number of major updates to its product line planned over the coming months.

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