Okay, so you don't have to be a cheapskate to appreciate a useful free admin tool—you might just be working with a tight budget and cannot drop the coin for the IT tools the big boys use. If that is the case, these 11 tools are necessities. Some of these tools even work better and are more efficient than their costlier alternatives.
ComboFix is my go-to tool when the standard antivirus/malware software can't seem to find the problem—ComboFix almost always does. ComboFix also looks for and removes most rootkits and trojans. In order to use this tool, you must completely disable all antivirus solutions (you should completely remove AVG). Caution: If ComboFix is not used properly, it can could wreak havoc on the machine you're trying to fix.
ProduKey will help you get product keys from installed applications so that when you need to migrate to a new machine, you can continue using those costly licenses. ProduKey will recover keys from more than 1,000 software titles, including Microsoft Office, Adobe, and Symantec. When you use this tool, you will have both the product ID and the product key; the ID is important because it will tell you which version of the software is installed.
ProduKey (Click the image to enlarge.)
Hiren's BootCD is a one-stop-shop Linux boot disk that can help you pull off a number of small miracles. Some of the tools included are: Antivir, ClamWin, ComboFix, Clonedisk, Image for Windows, BIOS Cracker, 7-Zip, Bulk Rename, Mini Windows XP, CCleaner, Notepad++, and much more. This single, bootable disk could easily be the only tool you need.
Microsoft Security Essentials
Microsoft Security Essentials is one of the better free antivirus tools available. Its tagline—"The anti-annoying, anti-expensive, anti-virus program"—is true. When the firm I work with was looking for a new free solution, we tested Microsoft Security Essentials against AVG Free and Avast Free and found Microsoft Security Essentials to be superior, less intrusive, and less resource intensive.
WinDirStat is the program you need to have when you must know what is taking up the space on a hard drive. When C drives begin to fill up, performance degrades rapidly. It's a must to have a tool to help you discern what is gobbling up the precious space on a machine, and WinDirStat is the foremost app for getting this information quickly.
WinDirStat (Click the image to enlarge.)
CCleaner gets rid of temporary files and Windows Registry problems faster than any other tool. When a machine is having problems, this is almost always the tool I use first. CCleaner also helps to ensure privacy by getting rid of traces left behind (such as cookies) by web browsers.Note: It is legal to use CCleaner Free for business use. CCleaner Business Edition comes with a few more features (including one-click cleaning) than the free version.
CCleaner (Click the image to enlarge.)
Defraggler blows away the built-in defragmenting application in all Windows operating systems; it's faster, more reliable, and more flexible than the built-in tools. With Defraggler, you can defrag a single file or an entire drive. Defraggler supports NTFS and FAT32 systems.
Defraggler (Click the image to enlarge.)
7-Zip is the best file archiver/compression tool (outside of Linux command line tools). It's open source and works on multiple platforms. Once installed, you will find 7-Zip has Explorer support and a simple to use GUI tool that any level of user can manage.
7-Zip (Click the image to enlarge.)
SyncBack is a simple to use and reliable backup utility. No, you won't be recovering from bare metal, but you can save your precious data. SyncBack can synchronize data to the same drive, a different drive or medium (CDRW, CompactFlash, etc.), an FTP server, a network, or a zip archive.
FileZilla reminds you that the cloud has not made FTP useless. There are plenty of times and reasons why you would need FTP, so why not use one of the best and most cost effective FTP clients? Also, if you need an easy to use FTP server to slap up on your Windows machines, FileZilla has a handy FTP server.
Foxit PDF Reader
Once you use Foxit PDF Reader, it will remind you how bulky and bloated Adobe Reader has become. Adobe is the industry standard, but that shouldn't prevent anyone from switching to Foxit. Unless you need to create PDF documents, you don't need all the heft of Adobe. So, uninstall Reader and give Foxit a try.Note: Foxit Free can be used in businesses, although if you need Group Policy support and other more powerful features, you might want to purchase the Foxit Enterprise edition.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.