Downloads and links to some of the most useful utilities!

After working with computers for some time now, I've tried to share the best tools and tips I've found. As time permits I'll post more and try to convert some of my older tips too. If you know of a utility that we can not live without, let me know and I will check it out to post it here or link to you. Disclaimer is listed at the bottom of the page

 

How To

After you have installed Windows, the following link will give instructions and links for almost everything you will need for a completely up to date computer. Fully tweaked for performance and functionality. Most of the rest of the downloads can be found below.

START HERE!!! - How To: For new computers or computers with a fresh Windows installation.

Downloads - This first section is mostly for downloads and the next is going to be for tips. I'll be working on this to get this better organized for a little while so if you have suggestions please email me at vic@viclovan.com.
Tips - This section is for tips and "how to" information.Some of the downloads also have tips listed with them so there may be double listings just to cover them all. The biggest "how to" is listed above with the green background. Start there first if you've just purchased a new computer or just formatted because of viruses, spyware, or Windows became corrupted. There are downloads on that page to get you up and running with a fully functional computer with a safer browser (Firefox) and several choices for security. Security is always going to be my first priority for a computer. Identity theft is the number one fastest growing crime now, so protecting your computer should be your priority too. If you start with that page you'll have a very well protected computer. Many of the tips will be just help tips but some like the "WinAmp Tricks" will be mostly for fun.

Take remote control of your computer. Two different ways here.

Google

Google has been adding more and more tools to its already sizable collection. Check out all the goodness!

Gmail has a very good help and support section of their own. My explanations are very detailed. Use which ever ones you like.

How to create a filter in Gmail!

Changing label colors in Gmail!

CCleaner settings I use and download Save specific cookies
AVG Antivirus AVG settings AVG notification ads OFF - For ADVANCED Users only please

Windows help

Fix missing sound. If the sound isn't working.

Firefox Firefox download Video about Firefox3

Firefox3.5 features

Add-ons Advanced Firefox Add-ons
Images Image Organization and resizing

Linux

Kubuntu Linux

Shopping

Security - I'll try to add any security tips and links in the section below.

Email Phishing Scam info and examples

Phishing is where a nefarious person or persons try to extract your personal information by sending you something that will tempt you to give them information that would allow them to steal your identity.

Web security especially for parents. I will probably just link to the best articles I find. Parents, you don't know as much as you think you do about your kids' online lives. What you don't know CAN hurt you. 7 Rules for MySpace ParentsThis article also would apply to the other social networking sites like Facebook and the rest.

Updates - Microsoft and Non-Microsoft

Just a quick note about old versions of Windows.  If you have anything that Microsoft is no longer supporting with automatic updates, unless you are an expert, you really do need to upgrade to a newer operating system(OS).  Either by getting a new computer, or the operating system software on the one you have.  If your system is that old, then the upgrade should probably include getting a new drive to put it on.  I've said this many, many times, "all drives fail, it's not an if, it's a when".  Just look up hard drive failure rates.  Okay, now that you've done that are are worried, it is also time to think about off site back up as well.  Also if you have no plan to get a new OS, then you really need to lock that computer down, and think about never using it on the Internet.

Microsoft

Network Install (will download the full service pack - you can even unzip it with 7zip to save time during install)

These downloads are large but you can install them off-line and they should include all the files needed. The possible exception is Vista which may be checking in with Microsoft for "Activation".

Windows 98 and Windows Me

Check Here

Windows 2000

Microsoft has put together a nice Service Pack download page where you get links to the stand alone service packs for Windows XP, Vista(Server 2008), and Windows 7(server 2008R2).  There are minimum requirements for the service packs and how up to date your system is before you can install the service pack that is the latest.

Windows 7 is up to Service Pack 1 - This one you can install right away no mater how many updates you have done. Windows Vista is up to Service Pack 2 - To install Windows Vista SP2, you must first have SP1 installed. Windows XP is up to Service Pack 3 - To install Windows XP SP3, you must first have SP1a or SP2 installed.

Service Pack Center

AutoPatcher - After you have installed Windows, Microsoft Office,  any other Microsoft products, and the service packs, use AutoPatcher to install as many of the updates that came after the service pack that was out most recently.  That way you do not have to install all of the updates using the Microsoft Update site and possibly have to reboot multiple times before you get all of them done.  AutoPatcher will download all of the updates at once and then install them at once.  They will be up to the current month and then you will want to go to the Microsoft Update utility in Windows and see if there are any more since the latest updates from AutoPatcher.  AutoPatcher downloads and uses the updates from Microsoft so you do not have to worry that the updates are genuine.  By downloading the AutoPatcher updates once and then copying them to a folder of your choice, and then saving the configuration file, you can use the files again.  I save mine to an external hard drive and then all I have to do is plug it in one the next computer.  Then I download the latest APUP (AutoPatcher updater) and the latest updates to the same place where I have the files saved.  All of the preparation will pay off the more updates you have to do.  After you have done one computer with AutoPatcher and then you already have many of the updates downloaded, then next one saves all that time for downloading, plus the installing of the updates at once will save a lot of time over installing them with the Microsoft updater utility.

2007  Microsoft Office Suite Service Pack 1 (SP1)

Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 service pack 1 is a cumulative update that contains many new features building incrementally upon .NET Framework 2.0, 3.0, 3.5, and includes .NET Framework 2.0 service pack 2 and .NET Framework 3.0 service pack 2 cumulative updates.

This one is HUGE! I've set this one up so that it downloads directly from Microsoft since their servers should be able to handle a bigger load and should also be pretty fast. Also that way you should get the latest version. If you use a download manager like "Down Them All" (a Firefox Plugin), then you will really want to use it with this download. If you are on dial-up at this point, and you shouldn't be so switch to a high speed ISP, or get some one to download this and put it on a CD for you, because you are not going to get this one on dial-up without some errors in the download.

Full Redistributable Package

To download the full redistributable package, rather than the bootstrapper, click on the link below to start the download:

.NETFramework 3.5 service pack 1 full package To go the the page that has info about it go here.

Top

Non-Microsoft Updates

The rest of your programs need updating too, right? There are many programs now that will, at the very least check for updates. And quite a few of those will automatically download the update and then notify you that the update is ready and ask if you would like to apply the update at that time, such as Firefox or Adobe Reader. Some programs just check to see if an update is available and notify you that there is one to download, such as CCleaner or Paint.Net. In the case of CCleaner my preference is to let it check for you, but not use the internal link to download since it points you to the "Full" version that comes bundled with the "Yahoo! Toolbar". It is sponsored by Yahoo but you don't have to use that one. On this site, I point you to the "Slim" version. I have listed programs here that will try to help you pinpoint the programs on your computer that may need updating, and then point you to a download site. The first is one from "FileHippo" and they host MANY programs for download. The "Full" version of CCleaner listed above is one, and they are all safe to download without worry that you are going to download some spyware. The one after that is from Secunia.com who are a computer security company. There is one security note here, and that is these programs are scanning your computer and may send back some data to their servers in order to find out what you need.

FileHippo.com Update Checker Update Checker The Update Checker will scan your computer for installed software, check the versions and then send this information to FileHippo.com to see if there are any newer releases. These are then neatly displayed in your browser for you to download."Privacy PolicyThe Update Checker will not send any personal information back to FileHippo.com. The only information collected is a list of programs and their versions, along with the operating system details to help with processing.  Additionally none of this is linked to your IP address and the logs are deleted after processing."
Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) This program is the more detailed and will need some tweaking for it not to scan your whole computer.  I set mine to scan only the "Program Files" folder, and not the downloads or "My Documents" folders.  Otherwise it will find all of your old downloads and notify you that they are out of date. I could not figure out the first time it ran why it was taking so long.  Lesson learned. When I can I will post screen shots or at least point to them. PSI - Privacy Info on their "how it works" page -Privacy Statement (Scroll to the bottom of the page.)About Secunia - http://secunia.com/corporate/information/

Top

Productivity

Need an excellent Office suite? It's FREE and Open Source!

OpenOffice.org - from MajorGeeks - from FileHippo is now at version 3.1 and has a new check for updates!

OpenOffice.org

Software Update Notification - Under the options you have to manually check the box to have it automatically check for updates.  I can do this daily, weekly, or monthly.

As many other open source projects, OpenOffice.org is evolving over time and frequent releases add functionality or resolve existing issues. The Software Update Notification helps users to keep their OpenOffice.org up to date without having to monitor certain web sites.

Notepad++

Think of this like the notepad program built into Windows, but on steroids. And it allows multiple files open at once and shows them in tabs.

Notepad++ is a free (as in "free speech" and also as in "free beer") source code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages.  Running in the MS Windows environment, its use is governed by GPL Licence.

AbiWord AbiWord is a free word processing program similar to Microsoft® Word. It is suitable for a wide variety of word processing tasks. It can open Word, WordPerfect, and OpenOffice.org files. And it has Mail Merge!

Downloads Page

Also from the downlodas page get - Import/Export Plugins, Tools Plugins, fonts for equation editing, Dictionaries

Excel Viewer 2003 I would rather just install OpenOffice but this is faster to view files.

_

_

PDFCreator easily create PDF files from anything you can print by just selecting the PDF Creator as the printer!

Foxit Reader - This one is free but the plugins that allow you to edit a pdf file will cost you. It's less expensive than the Adobe program with the same or similar features. Also I doubt that you would need to buy this since you may be able to open a pdf and then "print" it with PDF Creator listed above and get results that way for free.

Free Compression / De-Compression utility.

7-zip is an excellent free zip utility that is a file archiver with high compression ratio. There is more on the "how to" page. It is interesting to see just how good this program is and the "7z" format compared to some of the other compression schemes. Look on their page down toward the bottom to check it out. Another fun fact, and not that you could do it, but this format supports files as large as 16 billion GB.

Scroll down the page and find the ".exe" with the highest version number and most downloads.

Top

IT

This area will most likely become a "catch all" for all sorts of security information and downloads. I've already put up a How To page that has almost everything I put on a newly formatted computer. That page will have downloads that apply to a computer that has already been up and running and the programs listed will help keep it running in top shape. There are links to pages and programs that are hosted on this site and on their own servers. Some of the bigger files are hosted here, such as the AutoPatcher files so that I can contribute to cut down on their bandwidth, for convenience, and faster downloads. I have quite a bit of bandwidth now so I do not mind sharing, and if the load gets to be too much I'll throttle it back. Basically that means that you should be able to download from here anytime. As I get time I'll be adding files for download directly from this site. The AutoPatcher files come out monthly so you'll just have to come back to get the updates.

The folder in this download is to be unpacked and then put in the documents and settings / All Users / Desktop folder. It will have all the security links in it and explanations for how to use several of them. Downloadhere.

Ultimate Boot CD

SpeedFan can access S.M.A.R.T. info for your hdd and other hardware info.

http://www.almico.com/speedfan.phpDownload

Recuva - free data recovery utility from the same people that bring you CCleaner.

Recuva v1.12.291

Defragler - free utility from the same people that bring you CCleaner - it's early in it's development (Last updated on 17th March 2008 - v1.01.064 BETA). Just think, a defragger that works within Windows without having to run in safe mode. Defragler Last updated on 17th March 2008 - v1.01.064 BETA http://www.piriform.com/products

After you have reloaded a factory built PC, such as one by HP, Dell, or Gateway, or it is a new one, you will no doubt have plenty of programs known as trialware, hoping that you will try them and like them to the point that once the trial period is over in 60 or 90 days, you will opt to just click on their "buy now" link. This is often the most expensive way to buy a program. At this point, 2009.01.18, Microsoft Office Home and Student is one of the most common, but if you just uninstall it and go to your favorite box store, Amazon, or NewEgg.com and buy it you will get the benefit of having the installation CD and a licence to install it on up to 3 computers. PC DeCrapifier will find all of these programs and offer to remove all of them. You will want to use some restraint, but the program is pretty fool-proof.  After the initial removal you will be presented with a list of all of the programs and you can check off the ones you don't want from there. After you have checked those programs, PC Decrapifier will automatically remove the checked programs in one automated process.

The PC Decrapifier will uninstall many of the common trialware and annoyances found on many of the PCs from big name OEMs. Here is the current list of software and items that the PC Decrapifier can detect and remove. You get to see the list of items it detects and then choose what will be removed automatically.

Nero General Clean Tool

AOL 9 Removal Tool* - This version I edited so that it won't remove Real or Quick Time *Geeks only please! This is a series of batch files.

After you run this and then reboot, delete the "install" directory in the root of your Windows partition ie; "C:/Install"

Convert your AOL favorites to favorites that can be imported into 'regular' browsers with the info on this page!

Security

Also see the How To section above.

Are you REALLY paranoid or sick of spyware or do you just happen to find it a lot? Then you might be the type of person that needs to run Sandboxie.

Get your system set up with just the basics, such as the list on the "how to" page on my site listed above, such as, AVG, Firefox, Threatfire, and Cobian Backup. Do your Microsoft Updates. Maybe even defrag your hard drive, I do a defrag every two years whether the drive needs it or not and then you install Sandboxie.  If you don't want to use that program there are other "sandbox" programs out there.

Spell Checker for Outlook Express OE doesn't come with one and is only added if you install MS Office - I would rather that you just install Thunderbird and have it built in and BETTER SECURITY!  As of 2009-10-11 I will no longer help you with Outlook Express except to get rid of it.

Once this is installed you'll have the option to spell check your email before you send it out. You will probably have to turn it on in the options or settings in Outlook Express.

Thunderbird

Get Thunderbird!

Latest stable version - Latest version (could include Beta versions) From FileHippo - From MajorGeeks

"Nightly Builds" (all Mozilla projects) Thunderbird Nightly - These versions are usually very good and like most Mozilla projects by the time it makes it to "Beta" version is almost ready for prime time.  For instance if you wanted a Firefox or Thunderbird 3.xxx version this would be the place to look. Use at your own risk and with caution.  If the version is an "Alpha", you probably won't be happy with it.

Network scanner

Nifty little freeware network scanner. Lots of info and it's very small to download. More info about it here.

For remote control management of computers you can use the paid services like "GoToMyPC" at www.gotomypc.com which I think is the best of the paid services. If you want to go the free route, then UltraVNC is the way to go. I use a combination of the free NoIP service which will monitor what your Internet IP address is, and the UltraVNC software.

To set up the No-Ip you go to their site and create an account and a host and then download the client application that runs on the computer that you want to keep track of.  Just go with the defaults at no-ip.com for the host name, all you have to do is put in a name and leave the domain whatever it's already set. After you install the client software you just fill in your log in info and set the amount of time between checks of your current IP address. Once you start using the software it will seem much easier to understand.  When you are trying to find out what that computer's IP address is from then on you just log in to the no-ip site and click on the hosts you've added and copy the IP address listed. Then you'll be able to use the VNC viewer to log in to the remote computer you've set up VNC on. You can go with the options shown in the pictures shown on this page.

UltraVNC - http://www.uvnc.com/

NoIP - http://www.no-ip.com/

VNC remote computer control software This is the older version.UltraVNC v1.02 This is the latest version as of (2008-02-24 11:01) and you can go to their siteto get the latest version or download it right from my site with the link belowUltraVNC v1.04RC14BETA

VNC helper software

VNC Address Book - based on UltraVNC

Registrar Lite is a powerful and flexible freeware registry editor.

Registrar Lite from Major Geeks site

Backup Utilities

Cobian Backup Fantastic FREE backup program capable of more than just backups.

This is one of my favorite programs.

This program is a very good backup utility.  It has a very good scheduler and it can be used for other tasks than doing backups.  I create a "dummy" task and schedule a WinAmp playlist to run at a certain time and use that for an alarm clock.  The program can close certain programs before a backup runs and then open it up after the backup has finished.

*UPDATE* 2010.02.28 Version 10 is out and I have have had some issues with using the task scheduler that is built in, to run "Dummy tasks" to use it as an alarm clock or do other things like running a music playlist to open with WinAmp.  Version 9 and earlier work fine for this, and you can actually use both versions side by side in most cases.

The link to the left will take you to the Cobian Backup site.  The version to get is the one on top. The link to the right should always be up to date and will not use any of Cobian's bandwidth.

This utility is one that you run on a computer that is already up and running BEFORE you wipe it out to restore it, or you have misplaced your serial numbers for the OS or other various software. It does find the key for your Windows installation and Microsoft Office programs you have installed, so you will want to make sure that once you do run the program and either save or print the web page results, you keep that information safe and not shared. You will find the information very detailed and in some cases, like for HP or Dell motherboards, a bit cryptic. Often with the information you will have to do a web search to find the driver information

The Belarc Advisor builds a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware, missing Microsoft hotfixes, anti-virus status, CIS(Center for Internet Security) benchmarks, and displays the results in your Web browser. All of your PC profile information is kept private on your PC and is not sent to any web server.

Double Driver Driver Backup Utility - Use this to backup ALL drivers that are currently installed. The default is for the Non-Microsoft drivers, but I would get all of them just for good measure. This is no guarantee that all of these will work but it should give you a very good start. This is a great utility if you are reloading a computer and you don't have the drivers for it. Version 3.0

Outlook Express Backup Wizard As of 2009-10-11 I will no longer help you with Outlook Express except to get rid of it.

Gives you 30days free As of 2009-10-11 I will no longer help you with Outlook Express except to get rid of it.  In this case if you are trying to retrieve email and settings so you can move to Thunderbird, then I will help with that move.

Most people only need this once. Before and after a Format and Recovery.

Exact Audio Copy

Backup your CD collection to your computer.  There are some instructions included in the download.

_

Image Organization and Manipulation

For any image manipulation, I always recommend to back up you files first. That just means that you should "save a copy" before you make your changes.

If you are using Picasa you can make your changes and then save a copy and you will end up with two pictures, one that is the original and one that has the changes made to it. Picasa won't actually change a picture unless you go from the "file" menu and tell it to save the changes. It does this by saving a copy of the original in a hidden file. Not being a trusting type, I always make my changes to the picture I'm working on, make the changes and save a copy, and then undo the changes I just made. Picasa is a product from Google, which also has Gmail. Gmail is free and if you sign up for a Google account (Gmail), you will find sending all of your digital images much easier. By signing up for an account you might not even send pictures again and just upload your pictures to a picasaweb page of your own. You can see examples of this by clicking on the "My Photography" button at the top of the site. Using the PicasaWeb albums is very easy. Also if you do want to send those pictures via email, Picasa will automatically resize the pictures down to a size that will be much easier to download for those still on a dial up connection. I have taken many photos with my camera and Picasa is my first stop once I have the photos on my computer. Picasa has an import wizard built in and it's pretty good, but I like the one built into Windows just a bit better. You should try both to see which you like. Once you insert your memory card or plug in your camera, Windows should pop up a box asking what you want to do. In that box there will be options to import using the Windows import wizard and import with Picasa along with several other choices. Don't check the "always take this action" box. Another way to do it, is to open Picasa and then choose the "Import" button and then plug in your card or camera. It will spring into action once you choose your import source. Tell me what you think of both by email at vic@viclovan.com, I'll really be interested to hear what you think. Just remember to include a subject in the subject line , so my spam filters don't kick your email out, and that you read about it here.

The next one is IrfanView and it can do image resizing pretty quick and can also do it for a whole batch of files at once. If you are using this to change your files you should back them up FIRST. For resizing you will have a very good set of options to use. probably the easiest way to resize is to use one of the preset sizes on the right. To the lower left you'll see an option to preserve aspect ratio. You DO want this checked or you can end up with a very funny looking image. Options for resizing with IrfanView.

The one after that is Paint.NET. This program is a cross between the "Paint" program that comes with Windows and The Gimp or PhotoShop. It's very easy to use, has a nice layout, and is more sophisticated than its small download size would let on. It's able to work with layers and has some nice plugins built in. You may not ever feel the need to use anything more full featured than this little program. If you do, then try The Gimp before you shell out a lot of money for PhotoShop.

The last one is The Gimp. It's a very full featured, Open Source program that comes close to duplicating the functions and features of PhotoShop. This one will be the hardest to use and will be able to do the most with any image. If you find using Picasa hard, forget about this one for a while and try Paint.NET first, until you get the hang of that one.

Very easy to use. And they have a much better over-view of Picasa than I could give.

One of the easiest ways to resize a picture is to email it with Picasa.

If you would like an invitation to Gmail just send me an email. unclebic@gmail.com

Quickly resize multiple images and other batch processing. From Irfan Skiljan: http://www.irfanview.com IrfanView is a fast and compact image viewer/converter. It is trying to be simple for beginners and powerful for professionals. Many supported file formats and features. Features include: multi-language support, Thumbnail option, Painting, slideshow, toolbar skins, fast directory browsing, batch conversion/editing, multipage editing, file search, change color depth, scanning, cut/crop, IPTC edit, capturing, lossless JPG operations, effects, ICC support, EXE/SCR creating, many hotkeys, command line options and plugins. When you get to the downloads page for the plugins, don't get suckered into the other downloads like "SpeedUpMyPC" that you don't need or want.

Paint.Net Paint.NET is free image and photo editing software for computers that run Windows. It features an intuitive and innovative user interface with support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools. An active and growing online community provides friendly help, tutorials, and plugins. System Requirements and download mirrors page This program also requires that you have the ".NET Framework" installed. If you don't have it you can get it from the MSDN, with AutoPatcher, or the service packs listed above.
Paint.NET Tips Lighten a photo the "right" way using Paint.NET!
The Gimp GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It works on many operating systems, in many languages. (more...) The Gimp downloads page.

Top

Drivers

If you need something, or know of a driver that is hard to find let me know by email and I'll try to find it.

A good place to look for drivers.

www.driverguide.com

Also check in the Backup Utilities section.

If you have a name brand computer you should be able to find your drivers by going to the sites listed below. You will need to know the model number and or serial number of your device. The easiest sites to navigate are from Gateway and HP. If you put in your serial number you'll be taken directly to a page with your exact downloads.

Epson R200