What would the PC be without good, often free, and well-designed utilities? To paraphrase the Windows Secrets tagline, utilities are the tools Microsoft forgot to add.
Here’s our end-of-the-year update of important apps that make Windows safer, easier, and more efficient.
Changes to the ultimate utilites list
We’ve shaved down our list of must-have utilities this year. At least one of the dropped apps can blame Windows 10; Start Menu 8 (and other Windows start-menu replacements) are still valuable. But with the effective end of Windows 8, they no longer rise to the “indispensible” level.
We also downgraded Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector. It’s still a worthy security tool, but we received a few complaints about false update warnings, and many critical applications such as browsers now automatically update themselves.
For those who have upgraded to Windows 10, a PDF reader is no longer needed. Support for the common document format is built into the OS. (By default, PDF files are opened in the new Edge browser.) On the other hand, while Skype is more integrated into Windows 10, it’s still an important standalone communications app for Windows 7.
Also of note, one of the more popular password managers, LastPass (site), was purchased by remote-access company LogMeIn in early October. Based on a few letters we received, that worried some Windows Secrets readers. They wondered whether their favorite password manager would change significantly or become more expensive. It appears that neither has happened. Feel free to continue using it.
We’ve kept KeePass on the top-utilities list because it remains completely free and open source. But as noted, there are many good password managers. There’s still a debate as to whether the password managers built into browsers are secure. But there’s nearly universal agreement that a good, dedicated password manager is always safer.