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Somewhere under the layers of software detritus, your PC is vigorous and eager to work. CCleaner searches through a number of programs and removes useless files. It's highly configurable, allowing you to select which problems to look for and which items to ignore.
Many cleaners scrub out just your browser cache or your temporary files folder, but CCleaner goes further. It cleans temporary files from common third-party applications as well. The vendor's list of cleaned programs includes Adobe products (Flash Player, Photoshop, and Reader to name a few), Ad-Aware SE, eMule, Firefox, Google Toolbar, Kazaa, Microsoft Office, Nero, Norton Antivirus, OpenOffice, Real Player, WinAce, Windows Media Player, WinRAR, WinZip, and Google, Windows Live, and Yahoo Toolbars.
CCleaner goes beyond the basic wash and polish with extra mini-tools. A registry scanner removes old and unused entries, including ActiveX Controls, fonts, installers, shared DLLs, fonts, help files, application paths, icons, unused file extensions, and invalid shortcuts. CCleaner also includes an uninstaller and a list of deletable startup entry keys (the latter is something you'll want to evaluate carefully before removing a mystery key that turns out to be helpful.)
Note: CCleaner includes an optional Yahoo toolbar that you may choose to install along with the program. Installing this toolbar may trigger alerts from some antispyware programs. CCleaner's makers assert that CCleaner is spyware-free. This file is donationware. If you donate a certain amount (ten pounds sterling or 20 USD at the time I write this) through the vendor's site, the vendor pledges to send you links to all new releases before they're publicly available for download.

Version: 2.27
Downloads Count: 587,504
License Type: Free
Price: Free
Date Added: Dec 31, 2009
Operating Systems: Windows XP, Windows NT, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows Me, Windows Vista, Windows 7
Requirements: 32-bit or 64-bit OS
File Size: 3279 KB
Author: Piriform

ThreatFire Free

Unlike most of the other pieces of free antivirus software that we tested recently, PC Tools Threatfire is not a stand-alone antivirus program. Instead, Threatfire supplements your existing security app with highly effective behavioral analysis that can stop malware based solely on what the file tries to do on your PC.

Behavioral detection attempts to thwart the successful hacker tactic of churning out ever greater numbers of malware variants to stay one step ahead of traditional antivirus signature databases (which the majority of security programs use). Other programs employ behavioral or heuristic techniques, too (the latter looks for partial matches with known malware). But behavioral detection like the approach that PC Tools has implemented here can be particularly tricky, as it's prone to accidentally flagging harmless software.

In's behavioral-detection tests, most apps have only about a 30 percent to 60 percent detection rate. Not so for Threatfire: It warned about every single one of the 15 malware samples used, and it blocked all but one of them. What's more, this nimble malware nabber didn't put up any false-positive warnings. It's hard not to be impressed with such stellar performance.

While running more than one regular antivirus app at the same time can cause major problems, Threatfire should run smoothly alongside existing security tools, including any of the free antivirus software we ranked for our recent story. Since it detects only programs that attempt to run, you'll still want a standard antivirus program to perform regular scans and to check files that write to your hard drive, before they get a chance to execute.

Threatfire is simple to use and defaults to an appropriate medium level of sensitivity, but we suggest turning on the option in Settings, Quarantine to create a system restore point automatically before quarantining anything. As for extras, a nice system-activity monitor provides extensive technical details about all currently running programs, and a mostly just-for-show threat monitor maps global malware outbreaks.

Though Threatfire is designed to run with other apps, and we had no problems in our tests, it has conflicted with AVG in the past. That aside, we recommend Threatfire as a strong extra layer of defense.

Version: 4.5.024
Downloads Count: 50,674
License Type: Free
Price: Free
Date Added: Aug 24, 2009
Operating Systems: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003
File Size: 7621 KB
Author: PC Tools

Acronis True Image Home 2010

Acronis True Image Home 2010 is as effective and easy to use as any imaging/backup program you're likely to find. That's right: I just called True Image "easy to use."

Acronis has stepped up its interface game not only with an improved, Vista-like look, but with more-logical placement of options, a much better workflow, and much clearer language. Even the help file is friendlier. Combine the program's nascent sociability with new features--such as One-Click backup, nonstop backup, and online backup--that are actually of use to the average customer, and 2010 is easily the best update to the program in years.

One-click backup is designed to allow less-experienced users to back up as quickly as possible. After you double-click the One-Click icon (the installation places it on your desktop), the program searches for the best location for an initial full backup and performs it. Its location choices were intelligent. With a nonpartitioned drive attached to the system, True Image created a Recovery Zone partition (Acronis's hidden partition for disaster recovery without a boot disc). When I prepartitioned the same drive as E:, the program saved the image to E:\MyBackup. When no hard drive had enough room attached, the program detected that and started a backup using my DVD burner.

Nonstop backup is a background process that creates a baseline image backup, then checks every five minutes to see if your data has changed; if it has, the process creates an incremental backup. Nonstop backups are stored in a hidden folder called Time Explorer Storage, and the restore feature is called Time Explorer, which rather obviously brings Apple's Time Machine to mind. Both the procedures for restoring and the timeline control at the bottom of the window are very reminiscent of the Mac app. The feature requires quite a bit of disk space, but that's to be expected. Though you're not forced to do so, you should probably dedicate a large external drive to the feature.

To use Acronis's online backup service (optional, but integrated with True Image 2010), you must sign up at the company's Web site; it's an easy process that doesn't require a great deal of personal information. A free 2GB account is available for three months, but after that you must pay. Plans start at 25GB for $5 per month, which is competitive with other services. The online backup is file-based, not imaging-based, and is intended to back up your data, not whole partitions, which would generally require far too much space.

Other new features of interest to the techier users among us are the ability to consolidate backups (reducing incremental/differential clutter), as well as support for the VHD format used by Vista, Windows 7, and Virtual PC 2007.

This is the first upgrade to True Image I've seen in a while that didn't have "must maintain revenue stream" tattooed all over it. There may still be a few bugs I haven't spotted yet in this new version, but so far it has proved stable, as well as a most satisfying improvement. A 30-day trial on the company's Web site lets you take a pain-free look-see.

Version: 10
Downloads Count: 23,573
License Type: Trial
Price: $50
Date Added: Oct 23, 2009
Operating Systems: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7
Requirements: Pentium Processor 1 GHz or faster, 256MB RAM
File Size: 113083 KB


It's this simple: Picasa is the best free piece of photo managing and editing software you can find. This shouldn't surprise you, given that it's owned by Google. What does it do? The better question to ask is what it doesn't. At its most basic, it's a photo manager and viewer. Fire up Picasa, and you can browse through all of your photos, organized by folder, as well as by the year they were stored on your hard disk.
When you first install the software, it scans your hard disk for photos. Normally, this can take a very long time, but Picasa goes about its business with remarkable speed, so you don't need to worry that you'll have to wait forever while it finishes. Even better: It displays the photos as it finds them so that you can immediately begin working on your photos even while Picasa adds new one. It's also a great file viewer, and you can use it instead of the one built into Windows.
But all that is just a start. It also has a full complement of editing tools, and lets you create CDs full of photos, as well as photo collages, screensavers, and posters. It will upload your files Google's Web albums photo site, publish your photos to your Blogger blog, and plenty more as well. Even if this were a for-pay program you'd want it. Given that it's free, any digital photographer will want to download it.
That's not to say that Picasa is perfect. There are countless features, and they're not all organized particularly well, so it can be confusing to use. But once you get the hang of it, you'll be amazed at its power.
Note that when you install Picasa, it makes Google your default search engine. If you don't want it to do that, make sure to uncheck the box next to that option when installing it.

Version: 3.5
Downloads Count: 25,383
License Type: Free
Price: Free
Date Added: Oct 23, 2009
Operating Systems: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7
Requirements: 256MB RAM, 100MB free hard drive space
File Size: 9194 KB