Windows Secrets Ultimate Utilities List

 

Simple, cheap/free utilities are arguably the most important software we install on our PCs. In fact, when Windows users set up a new system, they often start by installing their favorite collection of helper apps.

Windows Secrets contributors regularly recommend useful utilities in their columns. Here’s our occasionally updated list of essential and interesting apps.

There are a few words of caution we usually note when installing new utilities. First, because there are endless varieties of Windows systems, any installed software might have unexpected effects. As we’ve said many times, make sure you have a current system backup before setting up any new application. That’s especially the case for system cleaners. (We’ve recommended only one such product, Piriform’s CCleaner [site].)

Next, free utilities are often supported by ads or unrelated software offers. For tips on safely downloading free utilities and other apps, see our June 13, 2013, Top Story, “Avoiding those unwanted free applications.”

(Note: In the following lists, we’ve linked each product to its information/download page online. All products have been recommended by Windows Secrets contributors.)

The Windows Secrets Top 10 utilities

When we set up a new PC, here are the first 10 utilities we install.

Editors’ favorites

Diagnostics and repair

Total system

Hard drive

Mobility

For advanced users

Entertainment

Imaging applications

General Utilities

Security

Browser addons

  • NoScript (free; Script blocker for Firefox)
  • Codefocus Donotlink (free; search-site privacy service)

Encryption

Firewall checkers

  • HackerWatch Probe (free)
  • ShieldsUP (Gibson Research Corporation; free)

Networking

On demand antivirus scanners

Online password checkers

Password recovery

Password vaults

Windows security

  • Microsoft EMET (free)