For an updated version of this page go here. - PJG
INTRODUCTION: This page lists some of the programs that will help you get the most out of your computer. I have personally tried out everyone of them. Keep in mind what programs are available here for downloading and when you need them (after a re-install or upon acquisition of a new computer) just come back here to look for them. To make it easier I've put all the links for direct downloading separately. Click here. In fact when I had to reformat my hard disk recently I had to reinstall the following programs, all of which can be found here: Skype, Anti-Virus Grisoft, OpenOffice, Firefox, ZoneAlarm, jZip, Faststone Image Viewer, Ad-Aware, Spybot - Search & Destroy, HijackThis, Limewire, Adobe Reader, Real Player, Belarc Advisor, MWSnap, Notepad++ and WS_FTP95. Yes, indeed, it took me one whole day just to put in all these indispensable programs. Other software, such as Flash Player or Java can be installed as and when they are needed. - PJG
Free and useful software to download and install
NOTE: I have no dealings at all with the marketing of any of the products mentioned below (other than as an end-user) and the recommendations are provided as a public service. In short, I've nothing to sell. Only those programs that are free (or at least have a free version) are included. Many of the sites will ask for your email. If you do not wish to be overwhelmed by spam mail may I suggest that you create an email account with either Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail just for this purpose.
(Added on August 16, 2009): While preparing my audio files for my Chinese language course I found out to my horror that the .wav files under which they were saved were too big and would take a long time to load. Luckily there is RealProducer to convert them to easily manageable files although these, since they carry the .rm or .ra extension, can only be played if RealPlayer is installed in the computer. But as almost all computers have the free RealPlayer installed this should not be a problem. If you need it you can download the Basic RealProducer, which is free, here.
(Added on July 22, 2009): The Gmail Notifier has been around for a long time now but I see that I have still made no mention of this useful, little program here. So if you are one of more than 100 million people in the world who use Gmail and still check your mail manually you might want to install the Gmail Notifier. It will make a regular check on your behalf and alert you either by a woman's voice saying "Incoming message" (so you don't even have to watch your PC screen) or by the blinking of the tray icon when a new email message arrives in your mailbox. Download it here.
(Added on July 12, 2009): Those of you who need to partition your computer's hard disk will be glad to know of the free Easeus Partition Master (free for 32 bit only - if yours is 64 bit you will have to use the professional version). It could optimize the performance of your computer by making it possible for you to extend the system partition. You can download the free home edition here.
(Added on March 09, 2009): ZSoft Uninstaller, as its name implies, is to facilitate the uninstalling of programs on your computer.
Sometimes it is able to do what the Programs and Features section in Vista's Control Panel (Add/Remove under XP) is not able to do. For instance, I was not able to remove the
"Nokia mobile internet toolkit" program from the programs list in my PC as each time I tried to uninstall it, up came the message This Application has Unexpectedly Quit followed by an explanation that will make anyone of us look like an idiot (see image on right). Finally ZSoft Uninstaller came to my rescue and the undesired program has finally disappeared from the list.
(Added on March 05, 2009): Spyware Terminator is another program that removes spyware from your computer (basically spyware and malware mean much the same thing). In the fight to keep your PC clean and healthy one cannot just depend on one single program so this program can be used in conjunction with Malwarebytes that I mentioned earlier. In fact in its first scanning of my computer it found a spyware called memman.vxd. This is a keylogger i.e. it invisibly monitors and records all of your computer activities without you being aware of it. You can download Spyware Terminator here.
(Added on February 28, 2009): One recent program dedicated to fighting malware that managed to find their way into your computer is called Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware. It is really very easy to install and use. If after scanning you see a malware in the report all you have to do is to ask it to remove it. You can download the free version here. The first time I ran the Malwarebytes scan it spotted the Rogue.WinAntivirus in a registry key. It removed it without any problem and the malware did not reappear after that.
(Added on January 14, 2009): Most people have heard of Adobe's Photoshop which offers sophisticated photo editing possibilities. However there is a price to pay for this as it costs about $600 (unless you go for a pirated copy in which case you still have to pay $80 or less). No wonder more and more people are now going for Gimp which offers much the same functions as Photoshop but is completely free.
(Added on January 01, 2009): TrueCrypt allows you to have a hidden virtual drive where you can keep your sensitive files. To make it appear you have to click on the TrueCrypt logo, highlight the name of the drive that you have chosen (anything from F to Z) and browse for the file name then click on MOUNT upon which you will be asked the password in order to have your sensitive files displayed. To make the drive invisible again after you have opened or put in a sensitive file all you have to do is to click on DISMOUNT. The setup might appear complicating but it is not really so as the step-by-step instructions given here are quite explicit.
When dismounted, the virtual drive (given the letter M: here) is not visible.
(Added on November 26, 2008): Have you heard of WikiTaxi? It's supposed to enable you to read and search Wikipedia articles offline. In other words it's like having an encyclopedia in your hard disk as no Internet connection will be needed to access the Wikipedia articles. Go here to learn all about it. But be warned - it's quite a difficult and long process (takes something like six hours?) but if you are hardy enough I'm not going to stop you!
(Added on November 21, 2008): Is your 45-day evaluation period with Winzip over and you cannot afford to pay at least 30 euros for it? Well, it's time then to install an equivalent program called jZip and use it for free without any limitation of time. You can download jZip from its official site here.
(Added on September 4, 2008): As you know the 3 principal browsers today are Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera. Since September 2, 2008 Google has joined in the fray with the launching of its browser called Google Chrome. There is no doubt that Chrome is able to load the pages much faster than the other three established browsers. It also claims to be more stable and secure and assures us that if one application crashes the other applications will not be affected. Well, time will tell if it is really the best browser around though for a start we'll have to give it a try for it to prove its worth.
Note: Unlike Firefox, it does not give a warning but closes all the tabs (all the sites opened) when you click on the x at the top right corner to close a page. Because of this defect, I've stopped using it.
(Added on July 29, 2008): Have you heard of Framakey? It is a "package" of useful programs that you can put inside your USB memory key so you can continue to use your programs wherever you are - in a cybercafe in some distant land, in the public library or in a friend's place if such programs are not installed on the distant computer. The basic FramaKey programs include: Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, VLC (VideoLAN Media Player), FileZilla (a file transfer protocol) and InfraRecorder (a CD/DVD burning software). But installing the whole package into your USB key could take up to two hours so try to install it only when you don't need to use your PC during that period of time (during your lunch hour, for instance). As so much work and time is involved in installing Framakey may I suggest that you invest on a USB key of at least 4Gb. But if you can afford it a USB key of 8Gb would be a better investment for this purpose (since you will want to add lots of your own material to it).
(Added on May 15, 2008): How to send a file from your computer to your Gmail account with just one click. Nothing can be simpler. First download this free program called Send to Gmail. Then double-click on the downloaded .exe file to install it. Once it is installed all you need to do is to right-click on any file in your folder and then choose "Send to Gmail". That's all there is to it! If you do not have a Gmail account there's no harm opening one even if you don't need another email account. You can use it just for this purpose i.e. as a really safe and convenient storage place to backup all your personal or office files easily. Go here to open a Gmail account.
(Added on April 10, 2008): Ad-Aware is now not as good as it used to be as it doesn't allow regular updating in its free version anymore. And with the appearance of new malware every day its effectiveness has thereby diminished. I have replaced it on my computer with the SUPERAntiSpyware. You can download SUPERAntiSpyware's free version for home users here.
(Added on February 13, 2008): If you want to know everything about the makeup of your computer the best way to do so is to run the Belarc Advisor. Among the numerous details it will give you are: your computer name, your Windows logon name, the OS you are using (it will also come up with the activation key number!), the type of processor and BIOS you have, the capacity of your hard drive/s, the graphic card you have, the model details of the monitor you are using, etc. It will also give you the serial number of the various types of hardware and the version number of each of the programmes installed in your computer. With this you will be able to answer any questions about your PC like a computer geek!
(Added on February 8, 2008): To me Express Burn, that I talked about on August 19, 2007, is still the best CD/DVD burner around. However, if you like to try other similar programs you have DeepBurner and CDBurnerXP.
(Added on February 1, 2008): If you have not enough space in your hard disk to keep all your files you can find your solution here. In fact it's as good as having an external hard drive of 50 gigabytes on the net for free! I'm talking about ADrive - Online Storage & Backup. Once you have opened an account with them (the Basic Storage Plan is free) you can start uploading files from your computer to store them there. At the moment, the largest single file size that can be uploaded is 2 gigabytes. Your files can now be accessed at anytime of the day or night and from anywhere in the world. Also you don't have to worry about losing them due to a virus or a computer crash.
(Added on January 18, 2008): For some inexplicable reason both Real Player and Windows Media Player on my new PC (with Vista as OS) were not able to reproduce the sound on my .avi files (video clips taken with a digital camera) although the clips came out all right but soundless as in those Charlie Chaplin films. After much searching I was able to make the sound appear thanks to a great multimedia player called JetAudio from COWON America. You can download the Basic version of JetAudio for free here. So if there is no sound forthcoming from your multimedia files there's still hope!
(Added on November 17, 2007): If you are organizing a meeting or function and want to find a date when the maximum number of people can attend, you will find this site very useful. It's called Meet-O-Matic. This is how it works: Let's say you have 10 possible dates for a meeting. You mark them in the calendar on their site. Following this they will email you a link for that meeting to send to all the participants. By visiting the link, each participant will be able to tick the dates when he/she will be free to attend. All the feedback is put in a table which will come up with the recommended date.
(Added on November 9, 2007): Recuva (as in "recover") is a free program that can come to your aid if you need to get back a file that has just been deleted from your Recycle Bin. It doesn't matter if it is a Word file, photo or song. In fact it can even restore photos or songs that have recently been deleted from your digital camera memory card or MP3 player. Note that the key word here is "recently". So long as the cluster in which the deleted file is sent to (yes, consider it as a kind of purgatory) has not been rewritten by some new file, the chances of recovering them are very good. You can download it for free here. Once installed, give it a test. Just try to delete an unneeded file, then empty your Recycle Bin and see if you can recover it with Recuva (I could).
(Added on October 12, 2007): The most famous site for anonymous surfing is Anonymizer but there is no free version for it and the prices range from $29.95 to $119.99 a year. A site that offers anonymous surfing for free is Web-Consulting. There's nothing to download or to install. Just type the url on their page and you'll be surfing incognito (or rather you'll be surfing under their banner). But it is still under development so don't expect too much from it yet.
(Added on October 12, 2007): With digital cameras giving you photo sizes of 2560x1920 you will need a photo editor to size them down to 640x480 in order to email them to friends. You might also want to crop certain parts of the photo (you want just the face, for example) or rotate the Eiffel Tower so that it's in a vertical position. If there are red eyes you will want to remove them and adjustments will have to be made for photos that are over-exposed or under-exposed. This is where Faststone Image Viewer becomes really indispensable.
(Added on October 11, 2007): Similar to Spybot and Ad-Aware in its functions Spyware Terminator goes a step further by scanning in the background and thus providing real-time protection to your computer even while you are using it.
(Added on October 9, 2007): You know that when you delete files from your computer they go to the Recycle Bin folder. And that when you empty the Recycle Bin folder you cannot find the files anymore in your computer. On the surface that is true. But not quite so because those deleted files still remain somewhere on the hard disk waiting to be rewritten by some new files. So long as no new files are created to take over the space they are occupying they can still be retrieved with some data recovery programme or undelete utility such as FreeUndelete. So what can you do to ensure that they are well and truly deleted? This is where Eraser comes in. This free software is able to erase deleted files permanently by overwriting the segments that contain them over and over again with some insignificant data. You can thus be sure that all private and confidential data such as passwords, bank account numbers, etc. that have been deleted are really erased from your computer for good. It's a sort of shredder, if you like.
(Added on August 19, 2007): When my Nero program expired I started looking for a free programme to burn an audio CD as well as a data CD for files and photos. After some searching I came across Express Burn and found it to do its job simply and well. Good to have around if you do not want to pay for such software. When you install it you will be given six products to choose from. If you need just a programme to create a CD you only need to tick the box "Express Rip CD Ripper". They didn't say anywhere that it's a trial version but after using it for over a month I suddenly got the message that it had expired. So if you have to look for another free CD/DVD burner here it is. It's called Burn4Free. I've just burnt a DVD with it successfully. However I found that it also installs its toolbar without your asking for it. This toolbar created some conflicts in my computer. So regretfully I had to uninstall the software.
If certain videos or animations don't open in your PC it could be due to the absence of one or the other of these two programs:
(a) Flash Player which allows you to watch Flash animations on your PC; and
(b) Java which is necessary for certain online games and to view the applets (images in 3D) in some fanciful pages.
Click on the name to download. They're both entirely free.
CYBER SCAM. DON'T BE CONNED BY INSTANT LOCK!
(Added on August 1, 2007): I-Lock (Instant Lock) is a program that allows you to password-protect a folder (directory) and making it invisible to other users of your computer at the same time. It is ideal for use in the office computer if you have a personal folder in it. Though it also has a paying version, you can download the free version from here. (a month later) Yo, yo, hold on, it's not really free as it falsely claims (and as I was made to believe). Read what follows. (Updated on September 1, 2007) WARNING: DO NOT download this program. It says it is free but it is not really free. It is free to try for 30 days only and at the end of that period it just doesn't work anymore. But there is more to it than this. You will now not have access to the folders or files that you have put inside I-Lock for protection anymore (they cannot be seen by anyone, not even by you!) UNLESS you pay them to register the program. To me this appears to be cyber blackmail - either you pay up or you won't be able to get your files and folders back (as they are hidden from your hard disk)! - PJG (Actually you'll get your files back when you uninstall (NOT delete) the program, but then how many people will think of this?)
(Added on July 27, 2007): I have just installed a programme from TVU networks that enables you to watch certain TV channels live on your PC. Like other programmes mentioned here it is free. Once installed you will immediately be able to watch the following channels: CBS, Fox News, ABC News, Bloomberg, Blue Highways TV, Danish Delight, Expo Channel (Australia), TF (Spanish), France24 (in French), Telecapri (Italy), TV Kuliah (Malaysia), NMT (Singapore), IBN (India), MBC (Korea), VTC (Vietnam), World TV News (John Mills - anchor 7/24) and, would you believe it, some 40 Chinese TV stations! I tested each of the above and found that both the image and the sound were impeccable. Now I understand why some people need 19" monitors! Go here to download TVU Player.
(Added on July 18, 2007): A London School of Economics report in 2002 said that 9 out of 10 children aged between 8 and 16 years have viewed pornography on the internet, quite often unintentionally when an innocent sounding word is googled. Naomi is a free programme that is meant to filter out pornography and other obscene sites. It does this by closing such a site immediately when it is clicked on. Though not always 100% accurate (legitimate and innocent sites have sometimes been closed) it has a feature that allows you to stop filtering for the current session in such a case.
(Added on June 30, 2007): Are there files or folders in your PC that you simply could not delete? For quite some time now I've been cracking my head trying to remove a file with a strange name CAH8BYBZ that appeared just as mysteriously on my Desktop and stubbornly refuses to go. I had the same problem with a huge folder (containing two entire websites for offline browsing and taking up over 20 megabytes of valuable space) that just refused to be deleted although I had uninstalled HTTrack, the programme that created them. In the first case the following message appeared: "Cannot delete file: Access is denied" and in the second "Cannot delete Folder. It is being used by another program." The software that came to my rescue was Unlocker which just removed both the file and the folder in a second and without much ado.
(Added on June 29, 2007): You don't have Photoshop or any other photo editor and you need to touch up your photos taken with a digital camera? No sweat, no hassle! Nothing can be easier. You don't even have to download or install anything, as you can do it online from Picnik. Just upload your photo to their site after registration (which is immediate and cannot be simpler - you're only asked for your email address). So whether you need to give more light to an underexposed photo or to remove a red eye or to crop, rotate, and resize a photo it is done instantly in real time. When you've done what you wanted to do just save the touched-up photo to your hard disk!
(Added on June 18, 2007): If you want to record yourself singing you can do so with the Recorder that comes with Windows XP (go to Start - Programs - Accessories - Entertainment and click on Recorder). Put your microphone or headset on, and when you are ready to sing, click on the small, red, round button. When you have finished recording save the file with the .wav extension. However the file size in its present state is really too big to be of much use. In order to reduce its size considerably you will need to use a program like WAV Converter which you can download for free.
(Added on April 17, 2007) After having recorded a TV programme with Freebox's digital video recorder I then transferred it to my computer's hard disk with FTP. However, as it had the extension .ts (Transport Stream) neither my Windows Media Player nor RealPlayer could open it. I finally managed to open it by installing VideoLAN (VLC Media Player) which can handle this type of streams. You can download VideoLAN for free here. Good to have it around. In fact when neither WMP nor RP can open a multimedia file the chances are that VLC will be able to do it for you. For instance if you copy a video clip from YouTube to your hard disk (go here to find out how you can do this) you will not be able to open it with either WMP or RP as the YouTube file carries the .flv extension but you will be able to do so with VLC Media Player.
If you have Real Player it will be even easier for you to download videos from YouTube to your hard disk. Just go to:
Tools - Preferences - Download and Recording then put a tick on "Enable Web Downloading and Recording". In future whenever a video clip plays there will be a "Download this video" for you to click on. And remember there is not only YouTube. There is also Dailymotion. If your .avi file is bigger than 100,000Mb you will not be able to upload to YouTube but you can with Dailymotion (they allow files up to 150,000Mb).
This site allows you free uploads of files up to 1.5 gigabytes in size in order to be able to share them with your friends. The files will be kept there for up to 90 days. If you are willing to pay there is another version that allows your files to be stored forever. It's called http://www.gigasize.com. A little warning though. I had to click on Download two times before I could finally save a file that I had put in there earlier. In fact after typing the 3-letter code and clicking on Download you have to wait a minute or so while the processing takes place. Once this is ended you have to click on Download again a second time for the real download to take place.
In the course of your surfing you are bound to come across .pdf (portable document format) files. These files are created with Adobe Reader (formerly called Acrobat Reader) and will display exactly the same on any computer system (whether Windows, Macintosh or Unix). In fact such files look exactly like original documents as they have a fixed layout similar to a paper publication and preserve the text, drawings, photos, etc. faithfully. However in order to open them you will need to have Adobe Reader installed on your computer. If you don't have it go here to download Adobe Reader for free.
Are you looking for a free and complete anti-virus program with updating facilities? Although it's free it's also one of the best AV programs out there. In fact it warned me of the bugbear virus contained in an attachment file just 3 days after it first made its appearance. I am talking about the Grisoft Anti-Virus. Don't pay attention to all the talk about it no longer being free. It IS still free and will continue to be free. But you have to install Version 7.5 which you can download from here. For those who already have the Grisoft AV running you still have to install this Version 7.5 file. The only difference is that during the installation process you should not choose "Install" but rather "Repair installation". If you do this your present version will be updated to the new version and it will continue to be free after January 2007.
If you are behind your computer much of the time it might be a good idea to have an e-calendar (or Web calendar) where you can enter the time and date of your dentist's appointment, train, friend's birthday party, etc. even if it is in a few months' time. You can open one at 30 Boxes unless you prefer the Rainlendar.
Need a place in internet to keep your files so you can have access to them from your office or home or anywhere in the world? Then go to www.box.net and sign up for 1 Gb (gigabyte) free storage space. If you need more than that you'll have to pay but 1 Gb is more than you will ever need for ordinary purposes.
An innovative idea for your child's 18th birthday is to offer him or her an e-photo album tracing his or her growing up from babyhood to the age of maturity (of course you will first have to scan all those old photographs taken before the time of the digital camera). This e-album is made possible thanks to the facilities offered by Flickr. In today's age this is a better storage ground than the unwieldy and bulky family album that has been a classic for centuries. Thanks to their system of Tags you will be able to group all the photos of each year together (when your album runs over a timespan of 18 or more years you'll see how important this feature is). There's a free version as well as a pro account.
There are at least two other similar sites where you can store your photos to share them with friends. One is Pikeo and the other is Fotolog. There's no lack of choice! (Please note that Fotolog allows you to upload only one photo a day if you don't have a paying account with them. Hardly my cup of tea.)
Have you heard of TinyURL? It could make your surfing life much easier. Let's say you come across an interesting site which has a very long url (address) such as http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?ovi=1&mqmap.x=300&mqmap (it could go on for another few lines). It's going to be impossible for you to remember it. But if you should just copy the whole url and paste it into their box you will be given something like http://tinyurl.com/abcde. In future you only need to type this new url to access the site you wanted. Like to give it a try? Just copy this whole url (it is actually what you'll get when you type "focus malaysia" in Google's search box):
into the box here, then click on Make TinyURL! and see what it gives. It will come out with the much shorter "http://tinyurl.com/hqqvp" (24 letters instead of the 71 letters originally).
If your Outlook Express is not working as it should you might want to give another similar email program a try. It's called Thunderbird and works in much the same way as the more established Outlook Express.
Let's say your PC breaks down and you need to create a Word document. Don't panic! You can still do it. Just go to a cybercafe and enter this URL: http://zohowriter.com. You either sign up for free or if you don't want to you can still make use of its online word processor by clicking on "Login as demo user". But if you are using it for real I'd suggest you sign up so you can then email the created file to yourself or whoever or have it saved there for easy access from anywhere in the world later on (once you sign in you will have your own My Docs folder there). In fact after creating it you can save it as a Word file (ie. with the extension .doc) or even have it saved as a PDF file. If you are surfing from your own PC you can also save it to your hard disk from there.
If you cannot afford to buy Microsoft Office (which contains Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc) you can still have its equivalent for free. I'm referring to OpenOffice (its official name is OpenOffice.org) which is being used by more and more people today. Click on its name to install this open source program. By the way the equivalent for Word there is called Writer.
You don't have Excel on your computer at home and you need to create a spreadsheet? No problem at all, just go to Google Spreadsheets and work online from there. Save it with the .xls extension and your colleague will be able to open it under Excel. No one else can have access to it as you are saving it inside your own personal account.
If the photos from your digital camera are too dark, have "red eyes" or need cropping there's no need to look for the expensive and sophisticated (read "complicating") Photoshop (costs US$649 by the way). There is a photo editor called Picasa, very easy to use and what's more, completely free for the taking. Mr. Keith Paterson, webmaster of Silverhairs has written an interesting article about it here.
With this program (it's free) you'll be able to type all your passwords, your bank account numbers and any other information of a confidential nature in a single text file using Notepad or Wordpad (but not Word) and be sure no one else can read it. To use the technical term it's automatically encrypted. Only you can read it because in order to open the file you have to type in the same password that you saved it with. The program is called LockNote. Go there for more.
From time to time you might need to take a screenshot or "screen capture" of what appeared on your screen eg. a "funny" message that popped up from a website that you are visiting or even part of a photo. There is a program to help you do this easily. It's called MWSnap. Thanks to Keith Paterson, webmaster of Silverhairs (http://www.silverhairs.co.uk/) for the tip. It is also very easy to use. Once you click on the programme you choose either "Fixed rectangle" or "Any rect. area". If you choose
the former then you go down a bit to "Select the rectangle size" and
specify the size of the rectangle you want. Whatever it is click on
your selection and the screen will open and there you are - ready to
copy whichever part of the screen you want.
If you like to have an idea of how safe a site is before visiting it then you should install SiteAdvisor's free software. Through its safety ratings it will help protect you from all kinds of Web-based security threats such as spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser-based attacks, phishing, online fraud and identity theft. Each time you make a Google Search and the results page appears, the sites that have been tested and found to be safe from all the above dangers will have a green tick after their site titles as follows:
On the other hand a site that is potentially dangerous to enter would have a red X after its title as below:
Talking about phishing these crooks who use their intelligence to prey on the naivety of some internet users are able to make you think that you are on a genuine site by using a fake URL address such as "http://firstname.lastname@example.org/", the whole idea being to give you the impression that you are on an ebay site when you are not. There is a little program called SpoofStick that will show you if a site is authentic eg. if you are on a real ebay site it will signal it with the words "You're on www.ebay.com" or "You're on signin.ebay.com". When you see this you can be sure of the site's authenticity. This is what you'll see, for example, if you have SpoofStick installed and you are on my site:
Want to gahooyoogle? Yes, I repeat, Want to gahooyoogle? The two leading search engines today are undoubtedly Google and Yahoo. How would you like to have the best of both worlds i.e. have the results of both Yahoo and Google for your search? It's possible. Click here to try it.
Recently I had the shock of my life when each time I clicked on a link given in the results of a Google search the same unrequested page came up (one was MorwillSearch.com and the other AdultFriendFinder.com - an adult site). This is called "browser hijacking" and is the work of a type of malware program that hijacks your browser from the site you're trying to visit and redirects it to a totally unsolicited website. They are able to do this by altering your HOSTS file (go here to read more about it). Fortunately, there are a few programs that can come to your aid, among them Ad-Aware, Spybot and HijackThis, all of which have already been mentioned (see below). Joining their ranks in the fight against browser hijacking is CWShredder. Making use of these programs without any help, however, is always a hazardous thing so try to read this brilliant article before attempting to remedy it.
To get full hardware information about your computer (type of monitor, operating system, motherboard, CPU and BIOS, etc.) all you have to do is to install Lavalys' Everest Home Edition (it's free).
For many years the two principal browsers (or navigators) for internet used to be Internet Explorer and Netscape. This is no longer the case as Netscape has been superseded by Firefox. I have both IE and Firefox installed because sometimes when a page doesn't come out well in IE it will appear correctly in Firefox. Click on the rectangle to the right to download Firefox. By the way the latest version of Internet Explorer (IE 7) is integrated into Windows Vista but if you are using Windows XP you can download IE 7 for free here.
Both IE and Firefox, however, are considerably "heavy" browsers. If you have an old computer better surf the Internet with a "lighter" browser such as Opera or Safari.
Have you ever wondered how you could send a really big file (up to one gigabyte i.e. 1,000 megabytes) to someone? It is unlikely that you can send a file that big by email. The solution is to send it to some place from where he/she will be able to retrieve it. There is no software to download and no personal details to fill up. Just go to YouSendIt and you'll see how really simple it is.
A similar program is Dropload but here you have to signup first. To avoid being spammed (I'm speaking from personal experience) please don't give the email address that you give to your friends. Always have a second or third email address that you never make use of except for such registration purposes. Ok, save yourself all the above trouble (signingup, spams) by sending your big file (up to 100 megabytes) through mailbigfile.com. Believe me, sending a file can never be easier than doing it from here.
How would you like to have a drive (ok, it's just a virtual drive called F: or G: or Z: and is nothing like the C: or D: drives that you might already have) where you can keep all your personal or confidential files or pictures from other people's prying eyes? What a boon this will be to many. Besides it's free and so easy to use. It is called Cryptainer LE. Go to the site to learn more about it.
For a mysterious reason (as so often happens with Microsoft's OS) you just can't open your Word file anymore. One thing you can do in such a case (apart from tearing your hair out) is to install Word Viewer and try to read it from there.
Incidentally if someone sent you an .swf file (such files are created with Macromedia's Flash player) and you don't have the Flash 4 plug-in to play it what you can do is to download this little program called SWF Opener. Once installed you will be able to open the .swf file and see the animations.
But if it is a photo file that you cannot open then you'll need Irfanview
You know that when you delete a file it is not lost forever because it goes to the Recycle Bin. If ever you change your mind you can always go there to recover it. But what happens when your Recycle Bin has been emptied. Is it lost forever or can it still be recovered? Well thanks to this little program it can still be recovered (the chances are better when you have not been using your computer after that, so keep your fingers crossed). To download it go here for File Recovery.
A similar program is called Restoration. Incidentally you can also recover deleted files from your USB memory stick with this program. In fact it also works the other way round i.e. it makes sure it will be impossible to restore any of your deleted files that you consider confidential or embarrassing if anyone should get their hands on. How does it do this? It simply overwrites deleted files that are still on the hard disk with random, meaningless data making them unreadable to the police. I've known of a few such "full-time" shredders but to my knowledge none of them is free so I will not mention them here.
The following program is of particular interest to webmasters as it helps to elucidate your HTML script. As its name implies it's quite similar to Notepad but it has many more functions (such as putting the tags in color) so you'll be able to see what went wrong if your HTML file doesn't open. It's called Notepad++ .
Google has just made available to the cyber public a program that will enable you to search a file in your computer (whether it's created with Notepad, Word, Excel or Powerpoint) the same way as you do in internet. But it can only work if your computer runs on Windows XP or Windows 2000 Service Pack 3. Besides files it can also search all your e-mails in Outlook Express or the sites you have viewed under Internet Explorer. I have just installed it and am completely overwhelmed by the thoroughness of its search! This software is called Google Desktop Search and is free at the moment. (Warning: Before you install this make sure there is no sensitive file in your computer that you don't want a third party to look into or you could be in deep trouble!).
(March 20, 2006) But if you should have misgivings about giving Google full access to your hard disk you might want to use Windows Desktop Search which will become part of Windows Vista (the successor to Windows XP) in 2007.
You might, like me, not want to use it as it smacks of spying but it's good to know that such a thing exists. I'm talking about this DidTheyReadIt site. When you install their program (free trial period for 10 messages), every e-mail that you send is invisibly tracked without alerting the recipient. But when the recipient reads your message, you will immediately receive information on when, exactly, your email was opened and for how long it remained opened. Well, you have been warned, better not lie about not having read the emails you received!
If you are on the broadband (ADSL or cable connection) and you do telephone friends around the world you must simply install Skype (it rhymes with "type" or "pipe"). I have tried it and it works perfectly. The only problem (if you can call it one) is that your friend should also install the same software for it to work. After that each of you will need a PC headset (preferably one that has a built-in microphone). You will plug this to the microphone jack at the back of your PC and the other one to the speaker jack (if it doesn't work try reversing the two places). Your friend will have to do the same. That's all there is to it. But make sure your friend knows what time you will be calling so he or she will be in front of the PC with the headset and with Skype active. Just imagine you can now talk the whole day to your friend at the other end of the world without having to pay a single cent (nor will he)! Yes, this program is completely free though you have to register first in order to be able to make use of it (you don't have to give all your personal details though for the profile). Oh, by the way even if your friend has not got Skype installed you can still use your Skype to phone him (not free this time) but at a much cheaper rate than the usual telecom services.
If for whatever reason you do not wish to use Skype there is another site which offers the same type of service. It is VoipStunt, the other free calls company.
If you are a webmaster you'll be interested in the following program. It checks for broken links in your site saving you the trouble of checking them one by one. It's called Xenu Link Sleuth and when you have nearly 4,000 links (as in my site) you will appreciate it even more.
If you are going to be able to listen to audio files with the .ram or .rm extension you will need to have RealOne Player installed on your system. You can download it for free here.
For easy uploading of files from your hard disk to your server: WS_FTP. I don't know about you but I personally prefer the old version WS_FTP95 which you can download from this site.
For the easy conversion of .wav files to .mp3 files or from .mp3 files to .wav or .wma files (in order to be able to burn your own CD song albums) download this free program Free Mp3 Wma Converter. Make sure you click on "Free Mp3 Wma Converter" as it has a number of other software that is not free. It also works the other way round i.e. if you need to convert .wma files to .mp3 in order to be able to listen to them in your .mp3 player.
A similar program that is also free is dBpowerAMP . Click to download.
If you are looking for an alternative to Napster and Audiogalaxy Satellite (both have been forced to close down) try iMesh , Morpheus or KaZaA (Be ready to be "attacked" by all kinds of trojan horse viruses if you install this!). But if you are desperate to download a particular song and you are not able to find it in either of the above you might want to try your luck with LimeWire (the Basic version is free).
You can not only retrieve .mp3 files but also just about any other file or program that you need. For movies and other bigger files the place to go is BitTorrent. Forget about this if you don't have a broadband connection.
WARNING: With so much talk about court prosecutions going on, use all the above peer-to-peer programs at your own risk!
If you need to rename a file you know that all you have to do is to right-click on the file's name then click on Rename. But what happens if you need to rename 50 or more files or change all the extensions from .htm to .html? It's going to be a real hassle! This is where the Ant Renamer comes in very handy.
If you are looking for a software that enables your hard disk to return to the state it was in at any time in the recent past (i.e. before your computer got into trouble), this is it: GoBack. It can also recover deleted or overwritten files, even those emptied from the Recycle Bin. But if your OS is Windows XP you don't have to go to all that trouble. You can restore your PC to its previous state when everything was working perfectly by going to Start - All Programs - Accessories - System Tools - System Restore - Restore my computer to an earlier time - Next then choose your restore point.
To prevent getting viruses through e-mail or when downloading .mp3 and other files : VCatch
As I mentioned above my own preference for a good anti-virus (that is also free) is from Grisoft. However, if you would like to try another anti-virus there is AVAST which can be downloaded free for personal use only.
But even if you have no anti-virus program right now or if the one you have is out of date you can have an on-the-spot scanning of your hard disk by going to Secuser.
If you are looking for a software to get rid of all the adverts that "pop up" or "pop under" (i.e. you see them only when you close your browser window) this is it: Pop-up Killer. (Note: You will even hear it at work when it "slams" a pop-up window. However, if it is active and if a page you are trying to open doesn't open or disappears as soon as it opens consider disabling it temporarily as it could be behind this.)
A similar program is the Pop-up Stopper. Ever since I had it installed on my computer I didn't have to waste time closing the pop-up windows anymore! There is a free edition and a professional version.
Unlike the above two programs SpyBot Search and Destroy does not prevent the pop-ups from appearing but will remove all the uninvited guests in the form of adware (or spyware) that have already found their way to your computer (what you see on the right is my own share of spyware today!). Go here to learn more about how to make use of SpyBot Search and Destroy.
A similar type of product which is equally good (and equally free) is Ad-Aware. It has now an Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition which is even better as you will not only be protected from known content, but will also have advanced protection against many of their unknown variants. In my own case I use not one but both the above programmes (Spybot and Ad-Aware) because quite often one of the two programs misses out what the other finds and vice-versa so it's necessary to run one after the other.
TrendMicro's HijackThis is a tool that lists all startup items and default start pages. It will allow you to inspect and remove (by checking) selected items.
For faster downloading (it splits big files into parts then downloads them simultaneously), try Star Downloader or FlashGet. Both can also resume broken downloads which is a relief if the connection is lost when the file is 99% completed!
To break a big file (more than 1.4 Mb) into smaller ones in order to copy them to your floppy disks: Filesplit
Are you receiving lots of spam or junk mail? Are you receiving lots of e-mail with files attached from people you don't know? Then you must absolutely install this wonderful little program. It's called
MailWasher and it's free. It can bounce back unwanted e-mails so it looks as if your email address is not valid. It can also delete unwanted e-mails from your server before you download them. The man behind it is Nick Bolton, a New Zealander. COOL!!!
Do you use the yellow Post-It notes regularly? If so this little free program (it's only 523 kb) is for you. It's called Stickies and it's by Tom Revell.
Have you saved all your e-mails from Outlook Express in a CD Rom only to find that you are not able to re-read them as they carried the extension .dbx? Download this little program WOE5Extract.zip created by a French programmer by the name of Macallan and you will be able to recuperate all your old e-mails. AWESOME!!!
Many crackers or hackers (click here to see the difference) will install a "backdoor" which allows the cracker to "remote control" your computer over the internet. To prevent this from happening, especially if you are connected to Internet on the broadband (ADSL, cable modem, etc.) for hours on end, it is indispensable to install a firewall. One of the best is called ZoneAlarm by Zone Labs. You can download the Basic Version for free here.
If you have unlimited access to your Internet connection why not turn your PC into an international radio station to provide you with continuous music or up-to-the-minute news while you surf? You won't realize how simple and effective it is till you download Viddi Radio Player and see (or rather hear) it for yourself!
If you often need to know what the temperature and weather is outside without taking your eyes off your PC WeatherCast is just what you need. It's really very easy to install and use.
Where your antivirus is helpless in the face of an attack by a "trojan horse" (a program that appears desirable eg. when you download a free game but which actually contains something harmful such as a little program that erases every file in that directory) you have to resort to a program such as Trojan Remover. You can download a free evaluation copy here but it's only good for 30 days - enough to let you get rid of the trojan worm? If you can't afford to pay after the trial period is over but are still bugged by a trojan horse you could try a similar program with much the same functions. It's called Tauscan and is also good for a 30-day trial period.
1. REPORT SCAM AND SWINDLERS: If you have been a victim of an internet fraud by a non-U.S. company you can fill up a complaint form at this econsumer site. If it concerns a U.S.-based company then submit your complaint to FTC Consumer.
2. HOW TO CHECK FOR CORRUPT FILES: After downloading a file (esp. a program file) it is good practice to see if the file you have downloaded is the genuine article or a corrupted one. One way to do this is to see that the checksum of the file downloaded corresponds with the checksum given by the developer. To do this you need to install a small program called MD5 that you can download from here: MD5 checksum. (The file itself is called "winMd5Sum").
The three sites that follow allow you to send colourful ecards to your friends but I have been hesitant about using them lately because they have a tendency to follow up by sending publicity stuff to you and your friends:
This is a fantastic place to go to for sending virtual greeting cards for Special Occasions (Birthdays, Get Well, New Babies, Sympathy, Thank You), Romantic or Holidays (Christmas, New Year, Mother's Day, Valentines, etc): Stationery Heaven A similar site just as good is: Yahoo! Greetings There is another site specializing in providing free e-cards but I do NOT recommend it as it is a sure source of malware (especially to the one receiving it). But if you still want to take the risk it is called 123greetings. And if you do not wish to receive any publicity stuff from them make sure you UNTICK the part that says "I'd like to receive newsletters, special offers, etc" (yes, it has been ticked by default so make sure you look around a bit before clicking on the SEND button).
Oh I didn't include this earlier as I thought you have to pay for it but I see that they have a free version too. I'm talking about the famous Hallmark. For those who are after class!
To get a text (maximum 150 words) or even a web page translated into another language online for free click here (Babel Fish Translation). The languages are: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Dutch, Greek, Russian and Spanish. Its principal rival is Systran. Here, it gives the two texts side by side so you can check for any wrong translations (inevitable in the case of idiomatic expressions).
Do you want to know the full name, address and telephone number of anyone in the world? You'll probably be able to find it here: White Pages International Sites. You only have to type the name of the person, the city where he is in and the name of the country. But if you can't find it here do not despair, try this other site: Infobel . If you are staying in France (it's true for some other countries but not all) you can even go one better. By typing in just the telephone number you will be able to know who that number belongs to and the address of the person. To do this click on "France" then "White Pages" then "Reverse Search".