Computers are like cars in that there is certain maintenance that is needed on a regular basis.
With cars, you know that you need to change the oil and rotate the tires. With computers, some people don’t have a clue what to do to maintain them.
So what I offer here is a list of my 10 favorite free downloadable programs to help you keep your computer in optimum shape. They are not time or feature-limited teaser versions, but the full-blown real thing.
Let’s begin with Firefox, which is the only one on the list that’s not a utility, but a Web browser. It’s better than Internet Explorer; it is highly customizable and extremely secure. There is a Google bar built in and the tabs can be made to suit you. When you open it, it asks if you want to resume your last session, which can come in handy. Find it at mozilla.com.
You can keep Internet Explorer on your system, but you’ll be asked which you want to be your default browser.
Next is AVG Anti-Virus, the free version. For a free tool, it does plenty. You can set a scheduled scan and get updates regularly. Should you decide you want more, they offer a paid version with more bells and whistles. But the free one will protect you. Go to free.avg.com to download it. Follow the prompts to install it and you’ll have protection in a few minutes.
Advanced System Care, which used to be Advanced Windows Care, has been greatly upgraded with the new version. It does a little bit of everything, from keeping your registry in shape to deleting junk files. Go to iobit.com and click the products link.
While you’re on the Iobit site, download Smart Defrag, No. 4 on my list. It’s a good alternative to the slow and inefficient Windows defragmentation tool. Again, it’s at iobit.com. A defragmented drive will speed up your system and should be run at least monthly.
Glary Utilities, No. 5, is a great all-around utility with many tools incorporated into it. It will fix broken shortcuts, encrypt files, optimize memory and manage your startup programs, among other things. They also offer a paid version, so be sure you download the correct one. Find it at glaryutilities.com.
Revo Uninstaller, No. 6, does a better job at deleting unwanted programs than the anemic tool Windows offers. Unlike Windows, it will get rid of all fragments of a program that gets left behind upon deletion, including in the registry. It includes a handful of other built-in utilities. There is a startup manager, a file cleaner, and an evidence remover that will erase your tracks from online usage. Download it from revouninstaller.com.
Another cleaner is CCleaner, which is available at ccleaner.com. It’s my No. 7. It attaches itself to your recycle bin upon installation. With a right-click, you can cleanse your system of temporary files, browser history, remove cookies (and keep the one you want), while it empties the trash.
RoboForm, No. 8, is a password tool. It also fills out Web forms for you. Once you generate a password list and give it your vital information (which can itself be password-protected), it will automatically fill in a login screen for you and gain entrance to a Web site. All you need to do is go to a site; it does the rest. The free version will allow up to 10 sites, but after that you’ll need to purchase it. Find it at roboform.com.
Ashampoo will give you a CD/DVD burner for free, with registration, which is not a bad deal. If you have no way to burn a disc, download No. 9 at download.com and do a search for it. Since XP doesn’t include a burner, this is a great download. If you go to the Ashampoo site, you’ll only find the paid versions.
This brings us to No. 10 on my list, which, by the way, is not in any particular order. A great way to keep malware off of your computer is by installing Comodo’s BO Clean, available along with many other free tools at comodo.com. I use it in conjunction with Malwarebytes Rogue Remover, which will delete any malware, should it find a way into your system. It’s a free download at malwarebytes.com. (Make those 10a and 10b.)
Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly. Arthur welcomes your computer questions and ideas for future columns.