Tools and Tips

These are some of my favorite software tools or helpful sites. Check the descriptions to decide if any of the tools might be good for you.

Must-have, free programs
CCleaner Great tool to help clean out all the temporary files that clutter your PC. Was able to get back lots of disk space using this free tool. The default settings are okay but it assumes you want to delete browser cookie files. Sometimes these files contain preferences to sites you frequently visit. Uncheck the box if you are not sure about removing cookies. You can also tell CCleaner which cookies to keep using the options settings. CCleaner has a start-up edit tool and quick links to uninstall programs. Gizmo's rated best free browser scrubber. Remember to uncheck the option to include the Yahoo toolbar when installing.
Everything The Everything Search Engine uses Windows NTFS information to locate any file name instantly. It does not search in files but if you are looking for a misplaced file it can be extremely helpful. Gizmo article about best fast file search.
KeePass The Keep Password Safe tool works well on PCs or USB thumb drives. If you can't remember all your passwords this is a very useful program. I prefer version 1.x but click here to compare both versions. There is a free app for the iPhone called MiniKeePass. Check Gizmo's site for recommendations on other free password managers.
Lookout Locate your phone using the Lookout mobile security app.
PDF Reader If you are looking for a faster way to view PDF files then Foxit PDF reader is the tool for you. It loads much quicker than Adobe's bloated product and adds the ability to create PDF files. Read about other free PDF readers on the Gizmo's freeware site.
Screen capture Started using the Jing screen capture tool from TechSmith which allows you to capture images or little movies. You can annotate images before saving them to include text or highlights. Create a free account at to upload saved content to share. For years I used the Gadwin PrintScreen tool. Installed version 5.0 but didn't like the interface changes. Click here to download version 4.7 which was the last one I liked.

Advanced tools
Beyond Compare File and directory comparison tool. I use this tool every day to compare files before uploading them to sites. Fantastic tool for programmers or web designers. You can download a 30 day trial copy; well worth the $30 price.
Defraggler This simple defragmenting tool is from the same people who made CCleaner. One of Gizmo's recommendations for best free disk de-fragmenter. Remember to uncheck the option to include the Yahoo toolbar when installing.
Duplicate Cleaner The Duplicate Cleaner program will scan your computer for copies of similar files. It is very useful to reviewing and deleting duplicate images. Gizmo's rated as one of the best free duplicate file detector.
GIMP GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a free program for photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc. Gizmo's ranks this as the best free advanced digital editor. If you want the power of Photoshop but don't want to pay the big bucks then give this program a try.
LiveBoot 2012 Wondershare LiveBoot 2012 is an ALL-IN-ONE boot disk providing 40+ tools to meet all emergency repair and maintenance needs for your computer. You can boot your computer from LiveBoot CD or USB Drive no matter your computer crashed or works normally. (I got a free copy but it is worth $59.95 if you have PC problems.)
Notepad++ Most developers have a favorite programming editor. I still use TSE Pro, an old editor created back in the 90s. If you are looking for a new editor try Notepad++. Gizmo's recommended best free programming editor, is my new favorite editor.
Starter Startup Managers allow you to control which programs start when Windows loads. You will be amazed to see how many things run when the computer starts. Gizmo's recommendation for free Startup Manager says Codestuff Starter is the best choice for the average user. Also available for download at SnapFiles. The CCleaner program has an option to disable some startup programs but Starter shows more. The Autoruns program shows even more details but can be a little overwhelming.
Swiss File Knife This is the "Swiss Army knife" of utilities with numerous tools rolled into a single program. Originally found this while searching for a tool to convert files between Unix (lf) and Windows (crlf) line endings. Needed something that could run via a batch file, not interactively. Also use the SFK tool to download a file from the web via a batch file. You can get a copy of the program at
Todo Backup EaseUS Todo Backup saved the day after a hard drive crashed. Had a complete system backup which was about a month old. Tried the default Linux recovery boot disk but it can only see hard drives installed in the computer. If you need to recover from an external hard drive create a Windows 7 boot disk. Right click on WinPE link and save target ISO file. Gizmo's rated best free hard drive backup program. Definitely a useful tool if you need to backup/restore your computer. (Purchased licensed copies in December 2013 using special promotion.)
Zoom Indexer Zoom is a software package that creates a search engine for your website, intranet, CD, or DVD. It provides fast and powerful full-text searching by indexing your website in advance with an user friendly desktop application that allows you to configure and index your site, from the convenience of your Windows computer. (Used Zoom to index The-Wright-Site and Wrightbuzz.)

Helpful sites
Browser Spy Interesting tool to check information about your browser. This is useful for web developers. Free online network tools for checking domains and email addresses.
Gibson Research Check the security of your home network using the Shields Up tool. Steve Gibson wrote the fantastic SpinRite tool for checking hard drives. I used SpinRite quite frequently when I was a consultant.
Gizmo's Tech
Support Alert
The Tech Support Alert site has a great list of freeware utilities. The author, Gizmo, does a nice job explaining the pros and cons of the recommendations. The author of this site merged his newsletter with Windows Secrets in 2008. Still one of the best sites to find good, free utilities.
SnapFiles This was one of my favorite sites to use when looking for freeware or shareware tools. Use this link to test your internet connection. They also have an app for mobile phones.
Tech Support Guy The Tech Support Guy site provides good, free support.
What is my browser? If you're trying to help someone track down a web-related issue this page might help.
Windows Secrets The Windows Secrets site also has good recommendations and a free newsletter.

Specialized needs (worthwhile but not free)
Autorun Max Nice tool to create self-contained menus for CDs. We used it to put multiple Photoshows on a single CD.
Collectorz I used their Movie Collector and Music Collector programs to catalog my discs.
PhantomPDF If you need to create PDF documents then Foxit provides an inexpensive and fast alternative. I've tried numerous free PDF creation tools but they were often cumbersome to use. I finally decided it was worth paying for an easy, fast tool instead.
Photoshow Very easy tool to create photo slideshows. Software was originally offered by Simple Star. Roxio purchased the company and it looks like the product is subscription-based now. Haven't tried the online service.