Technology

12 Classic But Essential (and Free!) Gadgets For Windows 10 and 11

Modify your system with these easy-to-install utilities for Windows 10 and 11 to make your machine faster and easier to use.

Many of the programs that I have compiled here date back to generations of Windows. They remain popular – amid all the Windows changes – because they provide features not found in the OS, do something better than built-in tools, or optimize performance.

None of these tools are anti-malware tools. They don’t tweak the Windows interface. They are not general applications (such as image editors, office tools, or web browsers). Is not. These are all appropriate tools with the sole purpose of making Windows better and more convenient to use. All are free to use or offer a free version.

Ccleaner

Ccleaner can quickly clear browser history, cache, cookies, logs, temporary user passwords and other background files that Windows and web browsers installed on your system have accumulated over time time, but that is not necessary for its operation. This can recover a lot of storage space.

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CCleaner (click the image to enlarge it)

I also like CCleaner because it allows you to uninstall most Microsoft programs that come with Windows 10 and 11 that no operating system – out of the box – allows you to remove, such as Cortana and OneDrive.

DiskGenius and MiniTool Partition Wizard

Both DiskGenius and MiniTool Partition Wizard allows you to create, copy, delete, merge, resize or split partitions in your PC’s hard drive or SSD. For example, you may want to partition a large drive on your network to keep shared files separate from your Windows operating system. Other tools included in these packages can copy the entire contents of a drive to another drive – including migrating your Windows installation – or attempt to recover damaged or deleted partitions .

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DiskGenius (click the image to enlarge it)

These two widgets are so similar that the choice between them comes down to choosing the one whose interface you find more appealing. I lean towards DiskGenius because it can help you move your PC’s main drive – which has Windows installed on it – to a smaller drive, automatically resizing it accordingly. This nifty feature is usually not free in other drive management tools.

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MiniTool Partition Wizard (click the image to enlarge it)

Everything

After installing this tool, you can find files on your Windows PC in no time. Start typing the characters of the filename into the Everything search box and watch as it narrows down the results. The more letters you enter, the shorter the list of results becomes until Everything found only the file you were looking for. Search results can be viewed as file thumbnails, and Everything does the job of creating a preview of your file equally quickly in this view.

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Everything (click image to enlarge it)

IObit Unlocker and LockHunter

Sometimes you will come across a file or folder in Windows File Explorer that appears to be “locked”. Disappointingly, you can’t delete, move or rename it, seemingly for no reason. This can happen with document, image, or video files because they are still “associated” with the program you used to view them. For whatever reason, Windows was unable to “unfreeze” it.

IObit Unlocker and LockHunter are equally good at fixing this. And each will unlock that file or folder so you can delete or work with it as usual.

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IObit Unlocker

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LockHunter

Search

Let’s say you want to uninstall a licensed program from your current Windows PC and install it on another computer instead. Or maybe you need to format your computer’s main drive, which will require you to reinstall the licensed program afterwards. If you can’t find the program’s license key, run Magical Jelly Bean’s Search before you uninstall a program or format your drive.

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Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder

It scans your Windows PC for all licensed programs installed on it and creates a useful list with each program’s license key. You can then save all your license keys as a text file for your reference at any time. This handy utility can find the keys to more than 300 licensed programs.

recuva

If you accidentally delete a file and it’s no longer in the Windows recycling bin, this tool can be your best bet to get the file back. recuva can scan the drive where the deleted file was originally stored and display the list of deleted files it found there. Each file name in this list will be graded with a color that illustrates your ability to restore the file to its original state. (Green means a deleted file is most likely to be recovered.)

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recuva

Recuva’s search engine will also sort the deleted files it finds. For example, if you are searching for a document, you can search deleted files to find specific words contained in them.

Sandboxie

Windows 10 and 11 have built-in functions to prevent malware or programs from performing harmful actions on your PC to some extent. But Sandboxie can provide a more direct method if you need to be extra vigilant, especially if you are installing or running a program with which you are not comfortable.

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Sandboxie (click image to enlarge it)

Sandboxie sets up a “sandbox” – separate from the rest of your data and programs – for that suspicious program to run inside. If the program tries to run malware, or if your web browser downloads something bad, Sandboxie limits all these harmful actions to the sandbox. That way, the malicious program won’t mess with your PC’s normal operations, by deleting, locking, or rewriting files.

Sandboxie also places a handy shortcut on your desktop, which you can click at any time to launch the default browser inside the sandbox.

Seer

Seer copy a feature that Mac users love on macOS – Quick Look – to Windows. When you click on the filename and press the spacebar at the same time, Seer will load a preview of the file.

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Seer preview (click image to enlarge it)

If it’s an image, you’ll see the image float on the Windows desktop. If it’s a PDF, RTF, or text file, Seer loads it inside a simple viewing application. You can also preview compressed files (such as ZIP) by going through its file list. Seer can also play audio and video files – although the playback isn’t great compared to a media player. You can even install plug-ins so the tool can preview more file types, such as Microsoft Office documents.

Speccy

When you download Speccy, it thoroughly tests your PC and summarizes its hardware by categories for CPU, RAM, motherboard, memory and others. Click on a category to see technical details about this component. For example, under “Motherboard”, Speccy will tell you your motherboard’s chipset, the BIOS version number, and the number of expansion slots it has. It will print all these nitty-gritty specs or save them to a text file.

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Speccy (click the image to enlarge it)

WiFi Password Revealer

Finding Wi-Fi network passwords stored on your Windows 10 or 11 PC is a complicated process that involves learning the operating system’s network settings. Magical Jelly Bean’s WiFi Password Revealer is the best kind of utility because its name describes exactly what it does. Just run it and it will list – all at once – the Wi-Fi networks you’ve signed into with your PC and their passwords, if any. It also shows secure encryption and authentication methods for each Wi-Fi network.

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WiFi Password Revealer (click the image to enlarge it)

This article was originally published in August 2018 and updated in February 2022.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

https://www.computerworld.com/article/3650754/classic-essential-free-utilities-windows-10-windows-11.html#tk.rss_all 12 Classic But Essential (and Free!) Gadgets For Windows 10 and 11

Fry Electronics Team

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