Articles about Know Your PC

Microsoft’s new Office Configuration Analyzer helps troubleshoot Office problems

stress worker PC clock

Microsoft Office has released the Office Configuration Analyzer Tool (OffCAT), a portable utility which can check all your installed Office applications, report on any problems, and provide links to possible solutions.

If you’ve ever tried to diagnose an Office problem yourself then you’ll know it can be difficult, just because there are so many factors to consider (Registry settings, add-ons, Office policies, installed updates and more). But OffCAT aims to help by quickly locating and highlighting any issues for you.

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Folder SimpBurn is a fast, free and portable disc burner

Burning folder

Are you tired of bloated disc burning suites? You’re not alone. Modern burning programs are mostly very overweight, packed with unnecessary functions which you’ll probably never use.

If your needs are very simple, though, there are some effective freeware burning apps around, and Folder SimpBurn is a particularly straightforward example.

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Chocolatey uses PowerShell command line to keep software up-to-date

keyboard programming

Windows software management is a tedious business. If you want to download a particular program, you have to find the relevant website, then the download link, save the file locally, grab any other components the program might need, and install everything in the right order. You’ll need to start again for every new program. And they’ll all have their own procedures for updating, or uninstalling.

What if you could automate all of this, though? Manage downloads, updates and everything else, just with a few keypresses? That’s the aim of Chocolatey, a tool which brings Linux-like package management to the PC.

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Make the most of your keyboard with MadAppLauncher

laptop keyboard fingers

There are plenty of ways to launch programs using hotkeys, and even Windows has one of its own (right-click a shortcut, select Properties > Shortcut and click the “Shortcut key” box), but remembering enough of these to cope with all your applications is extremely difficult.

The open source MadAppLauncher takes a different approach, though, which is very much simpler. It uses a simple QWERTY-type layout, and allows you to assign one program to each key. The relevant application icon and name is displayed alongside the key letter, so if you press H, say, whatever is in the H box will be launched.

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Monitor your graphics card load, temperature, fan speed and more with GPU-Z

graphics card

TechPowerUp has released GPU-Z 0.6.9, the latest version of its lightweight graphics card information tool.

This build adds direct support for even more graphics cards, including AMD Radeon HD 8870M, and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost, GT 415 and GT 750M.

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Better manage your files with DropIt 5.0

keyboard

Open-source Windows file management tool DropIt 5.0 has been released. Also available as a 64-bit build and in portable form, DropIt allows users to process folders and files quickly via drag-and-drop, with up to 15 different actions (including move, copy, send by mail and upload) supported.

Version 5.0 improves the way DropIt handles relative paths, tweaks the main context menu and Options windows and promises better performance, minor feature additions and a number of bug fixes.

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Paragon Backup & Recovery 2013 Free is now Windows 8 compatible

Hard Drive

Paragon Software has revealed the latest edition of its excellent imaging tool, Backup & Recovery 2013 Free.

The most important addition this time around is the program’s new “Windows 8 Compatible” stamp. If you’re upgrading soon, or have done so already, then Paragon Backup & Recovery 2013 Free should work just as it always has.

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JPEGView is a surprisingly powerful image viewer

Image photo folder

At first glance, JPEGview doesn’t appear as though it’s going to be a particularly interesting image viewer. A 798KB download suggests there can’t be too much power here. And on launch the program asks you to choose an image, and then just displays it, with no menus, toolbars or other obvious signs of any interface.

First impressions aren’t always reliable, though -- and you’ll quickly realize that as you begin to explore.

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Uh-oh, that spreadsheet was important after all? Pandora Recovery restores deleted files fast

Uninstall trash

It doesn’t take much to accidentally delete a file. A brief lapse of concentration, a click in the wrong place, selecting “Yes” instead of “No”, and that’s it: your data has gone.

As long as you’ve a good undelete tool to hand, though, this doesn’t have to be a disaster. And this doesn’t have to be expensive.Pandora Recovery comes with plenty of useful features and functionality, and it’s entirely free (for personal use, at least), with no adware or annoying restrictions.

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Keep software current with OUTDATEfighter

mouse

There are plenty of tools around to check your PC for missing updates, but most have significant issues. Soft4Boost Update Checker is good at detecting updates, for instance, but it won’t download or install them – that’s left up to you.

OUTDATEfighter (from the makers of SPAMfighter) is a little more ambitious. Not only will it find updates, but it can also download and install them for you. There’s a Windows update checker as well. And the program is free, so there are no annoying omissions and you’re not forever being nagged to “upgrade”.

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Apple BootCamp 5.0 only supports 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and 8

shine on

With release of OS X 10.8.3, the latest update for Mountain Lion, Apple upgraded the Boot Camp utility, which allows users to dual-boot Windows and OS X on a supported Mac, to version 5. Boot Camp 5 allows users to install either 64-bit editions of Windows 7 or 8 alongside their copy of OS X -- by downloading Boot Camp Support Software 5, you’ll have all the drivers you need to run Windows on your Mac.

One consequence of upgrading to Boot Camp 5 is that support for 32-bit versions of Windows – including XP and Vista as well as 32-bit iterations of Windows 7 and 8 – is no longer supported.

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Turn off Windows 8’s most annoying features with Skip Metro Suite 3.0

Skip Metro Suite

What are you doing, standing there tentatively at the edge of the pool? Come on in, the water’s lovely and warm. What, it’s not as lovely and warm as the last pool you were in? Someone says it’s as bad as the pool you were in before that? Poppycock. It’s nowhere near as rubbish as that. What’s that hulking great thing in the corner, you say? Ignore it, you don’t need it.

All of this is a rather convoluted way of saying Windows 8 is not as bad as everyone is making out. But there is that one rather large elephant in the room in the form of the Modern UI, or whatever Microsoft’s calling it these days. But here’s the trick: you can ignore it all with the help of a free -- and now portable -- tool called Skip Metro Suite 3.0.

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Identify resource-hogging Firefox add-ons with about:addons-memory

firefox

If Firefox seems to be using a lot of memory on your system then a resource-hogging add-on could be responsible, but finding out for sure can be a challenge. Entering about:memory in the address bar will provide lots of figures on RAM allocations, for instance, but they’re extremely technical, more about "heaps" and "compartments" than providing information which most people can actually use.

About:addons-memory is a simple Firefox extension which takes a different approach. There’s no jargon, no unnecessary technical details, just install it (no restart required) and enter about:addons-memory in a new tab for an instant report on your extensions and their memory usage.

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JAlbum 11 adds support for video clips alongside photos

jalbum

Web gallery creation tool JAlbum 11.0 has been released for Windows, Mac and Linux. Version 11.0 allows users to combine video with photos for the first time using the program. Features include support for over 160 video formats, tools for rotating and trimming clips, and preview image generation.

Version 11.0 also improves existing photo-editing tools, updates existing skins and includes a number of developer-friendly improvements, bug fixes and general tweaks.

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Use YouTube Ratings Preview to find the best videos on YouTube

Youtube television

While YouTube’s vast choice of clips means there’s always something good to watch, tracking down the best videos can take a while. Especially if you’re clicking each clip in turn, checking the ratings, then returning to your search results to try something else.

Install YouTube Ratings Preview, though, and you don’t have to worry about that any more. This smart Firefox extension (also available for Chrome) highlights the best-rated videos immediately so you can spot them at a glance.

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