/* Menu creation problem '1958-475', Bok=0, Snm=0, Omen=) */ /* Menu creation problem '1958-475', Bok=0, Snm=0, Omen=) */ /* Menu creation problem '1958-475', Bok=0, Snm=0, Omen=) */ /* Menu creation problem '1958-475', Bok=0, Snm=0, Omen=) */ /* Menu creation problem '1958-475', Bok=0, Snm=0, Omen=) */ /* Menu creation problem '1958-475', Bok=0, Snm=0, Omen=) */
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Software that is almost all free for personal use and I have used personally

The table below is not recommending products and if you choose to use one or more of them you are doing so at your own risk and I strongly recommend that you seek professional advice about the applicability to your own circumstances - technical, legal and commercial prior to downloading.

As almost all of this software will interact with Windows® at an intimate level I would also recommend that you take a full system backup with a product such as Norton Ghost 2003 (DOS!) prior to installing any one of them.

BEFORE you INSTALL any of these programs you should BE AWARE that they will OFTEN WANT to install ADD-ONs such as Toolbars or other features which MAY conflict with software you already have installed. See **Opt-Out** below.
ALWAYS TAKE the CUSTOM INSTALL option as all that usually does is to show you their (will become YOUR!) defaults before you install!

This page © Business before Technology 2006-2020 - see the respective sites of the owners
for their copyright statements as well as terms and conditions
Name of tool and brief description

When and how to run and VERY IMPORTANT

comments regarding INSTALLATION

Common name, link to download and 'likely' conditions of use*¹

Belarc Advisor - creates a report showing the hardware and software installed on your PC.

Also produces a summary of Windows Updates.

Very useful first step in problem diagnosis.

Run manually before and after any software or hardware change. Always e-mail to a friend or to me (at send Belarc Report to Brian R. ) if appropriate - there is no charge for filing and/or retrieval by e-mail Running this BEFORE you have a problem is HIGHLY recommended!

PC Inventory

Free for personal use (Belarc)

Comodo Free Firewall - inhibits interactions between your PC and millions of other PCs / servers trying to attack it. Necessary even if you enable the XP firewall because the latter lacks (Dec'10) outbound monitoring / protection.

After reviewing on many PCs over 2-3 years this company is also recommended as a provider of Anti-Virus too! However - they refer that combination as CIS or Comodo Internet Security

Must! be (auto-)run at PC startup*² on any PC which is connected to any network.

** Take Custom Install option + Opt-Out if/as required **

Zonealarm is now (2010) only recommended if you run a free, old (2005ish) version which doesn't bundle (Kaspersky?) AntiVirus with it.

Firewall plus now (Jan'13) AV (below) + HIPS
a.k.a Comodo Internet Security

Free for personal (& commercial!)
use (choose Comodo Firewall
OR CIS Free to inc. AntiVirus)

NOTE - Jan'13 - please ignore/skip the next item referring to AVG as it is no longer recommended.
See the **Comodo** AntiVirus section ABOVE as a possible substitute.
AVAST is also a good option but personally I only use the AV option of it (2 ticks out of 20+ they offer!) See Full installation files - useful if updating more than 1 PC.

If the target PC is running XP or any other reason to keep it offline then you can request a registration key here.
The only reason for keeping the AVG entry below in this list during 2013 is so that people can see/read the history of how it got to be "relegated".

AVG Anti-virus 8.5 - scans e-mails and files for malware such as Viruses, Trojans etc. This now includes the first of:

AVG (aka Ewido) Anti-Spyware - scans for more malware - not just Viruses, Trojans etc., also cookies etc.

AVG Anti-Rootkit - scans disks for hidden files that can run as Viruses, Trojans etc.

Note: AVG9/10 have had mixed reviews and we are trialling AntiVir, Comodo AV and Microsoft Essentials with a view to changing our recommendations.

Update Oct'11 - Although we are still trialling potential replacements - AVG WILL be replaced on this list because they are trying to supplant all other security software on customer's PCs. The recommendation is LIKELY to be dependant upon how you and "where" you use your PC, e-mail etc...

NB If you use WEB-MAIL (Yahoo, AoL, MSN etc.) rather than Outlook/T'Bird - you MIGHT be best using the AV in Comodo above! - ask us if you want a brief conversation to help you decide

Must be (auto-)run at PC startup*² on any PC which accesses e-mails or files from other PCs. Updates itself automatically (& fast) when online.

** Take Custom Install option + Opt-Out if/as required **

If you want to opt-out of the (2) ToolBars, the Link Scanner and the SafeSearch features then you will need to choose 'Customised' installation and uncheck each feature.

** Take Custom Install option + Opt-Out if/as required **

AntiVirus or AV/HIPS

Free for personal use, all from AVG*³, Rootkit detector (not tested by us!) If link above fails (out of date?) start here.

Be aware you will be "offered" (led towards!) the paid version on each (every?!) page you visit.

Comodo Anti-virus - scans e-mails and files for malware such as Viruses, Trojans etc. See Comodo above regarding FW or AV or both - CIS!

Must be (auto-)run at PC startup*² on any PC which accesses e-mails or files from other PCs. See row above AVG section for more details.

AntiVirus as well as Firewall and HIPS
See row above AVG section for links...

Secunia software version checker - checks NON-MS software versions for currency and security.

This version of the tool has options to 'fix' the problem(s) but they not designed for use by a novice as they are typically generic links to the site from which you can update the software - see text to right.

As non-MS software becomes an increasing target for malware writers this tool addresses that problem. Note that recently Adobe was deemed MORE OF AN EXPOSURE THAN MICROSOFT!

However it still needs to be used with caution as it often directs users to the very latest version of software instead of an earlier version, see Not using 'latest' software below.

(Software) Version checker

Free for personal use.

I prefer to take this small piece of software rather than use their on-line version which requires Java's 120MB + regular updates that are constantly being offered.

Image viewer - Irfanview - rapidly displays images and allows some editing and lots of manipulation.

NB this is NOT a PHOTO editor.

Very fast and capable but offers to download Google Chrome which would then become your default browser

** Take Custom Install option + Opt-Out if/as required **

Image viewer - Irfanview

Free for personal use.

Multimedia Player - VLCPlayer - fast and supporting many, many formats.

Very fast and capable, can't remember if it tries to affect your PC so - just a warning

** Take Custom Install option + Opt-Out if/as required **

Multimedia Player - VLCPlayer

Free for personal use.

The MS Sysinternals tool: psexec (replaces Drop My Rights) - launches applications as a limited user rather than the Administrator... See the example at the very bottom of the (linked) page: For technical people ONLY! To run Internet Explorer with limited-user privileges use:

psexec -l -d "c:\program files\internet explorer\iexplore.exe"

This is NOT AS GOOD as using a non-Admin account

This tool runs programs such as Internet Explorer and Outlook Express (and crucially programs launched by them!) in a much safer manner by restricting their ability to make changes to your (XP only!) system. Bear in mind that they CAN STILL DO HARM to YOUr data AND INFECT YOUR ACCOUNT! Also be aware that Hackers will be 'fighting' this approach to running programs.

Sandbox(er) - one approach other than Sandboxie, Virtual PC etc.

Free for all? users - only 20-30 lines of code! *³

MS Defender - scans (and protects) SOME parts of Windows that Microsoft left open to attack when 'rushing' XP, IE, Media Player etc. etc. to market.

Do not use if you already have an equivalent HIPS e.g. Comodo Defence+. N.B. This is for XP only!

Updated as part of Windows update. Schedule a weekly or even daily scan. Also runs 'in realtime' to monitor potential attacks to Windows XP®

Intrusion Protection System (HIPS)

Free for Genuine Windows Users (MS Defender) *³

MS Malware remover - scans for known threats in a similar way to other Anti-Spyware / Anti-Virus but has the advantage that the actions it takes are in code written by MS and MAY (should!) do any 'removals' better than non-MS.

Updated and run as part of Windows update. Run other manual scans after this one even if only once per month (2nd Tuesday?). Full MS name is Malicious Software Removal Tool.

Microsoft cleaner for its own bugs/holes

Free for Windows Users (MS Malware remover) *³

Tools that CAN! BE MADE TO supplement the above without conflicting with them and/or Windows®.

NB. Each of these tools tries to add a little "extra" which can potentially conflict with AV, FW, HIPS etc... see "Opt Out"...

AdAware - detects and attempts to remove Spyware. Used to be paranoid about (tracking) cookies but otherwise useful.

Free version needs to be updated and run manually. Do so weekly or at least monthly.

** Take Custom Install option + Opt-Out if/as required **

Anti-Spyware - typically scheduled weekly

Free for personal use (AdAware)

SpyBot - detects and attempts to remove Spyware. Paranoic about (tracking) cookies but otherwise useful.

Free version needs to be updated and run manually. Do so weekly or at least monthly.

** Take Custom Install option + Opt-Out if/as required **

The Tea-Timer option is not one we would take
Anti-Spyware - typically scheduled weekly

Free for personal use (Spy Bot)

MalwareBytes - detects and attempts to remove Spyware.

Anti-Virus without Real-Time Scanning (From 2010-ish the latter is available but optional and not a market leader) - SO...

** Take Custom Install option + Opt-Out if/as required **

Typically schedule monthly OR when suspicious

Free for personal use (Malware Bytes)

MailWasher - allows you to PRE-PROCESS your InBox. Even on Broadband this is useful on any 'Spammy' account. NB. We offer a better (server-based) service.

Run prior to each opening of your InBox with your e-mail client (e.g. Outlook / Express). Often you won't need to do the latter at all!

(Personal) Spam filtering executed at the server but under YOUR control

Free for personal use (MailWasher)

Google Mail - allows you to have an on-line (WebMail) InBox which is relatively free of xxxxx Spam. Our observations of the Spam filtering is that it traps over 95% and has very low false positives which are a fundamental weakness of any content or blacklist-oriented filtering system.

Although primarily offered as a WebMail tool it IS POSSIBLE to retrieve NON-SPAM e-mails from your GoogleMail account with Outlook Express.

This is very useful because it keeps Spam e-mails in your (on-line!) Spam folder for 30 days (over 5GB of storage!) and thus a clean Inbox in Outlook.

Free for personal use (Google Mail)

Applications that replace those bundled with Windows®.

Thunderbird (T'Bird) - Modern e-mail client with extensions. Doesn't support Active-X (that's GOOD!) - also see Firefox.

As of May'16 the release to choose (see **FTP to right)
is 38.7.2 as there are no zeros or ones in that number.
Do not use lower e.g. 5.3.2 or 6.5.4 are V.V.OLD

Can totally replace MS Outlook Express (MS Outlook non-Express has more function and has now (2012) proven itself

Note: Mozilla *used to provide* a STABLE VERSION (they still do for Firefox below) but now all you can do is manually choose a version to download.

Free for all? users. To choose a release, browse this **FTP folder for download. IF stability is more important to you than latest gadgets then Change updates to manual in Tools-> Options-> Advanced.

FireFox - Modern browser with extensions. Doesn't support Active-X at all (that's GOOD!) so inherently safer than MS IE.

Note: It is very important for anyone who needs STABLE software to use THIS VERSION and not the very latest as that changes far too frequently

Use for all your browsing and should be your default browser. MS IE needs to be retained for Windows Updates AND a small number of sites that you need to protect - e.g. Financial, see Safe browsing in 2010

Free for personal use (Firefox)

Technical download option for Firefox (FTP) Do not use any release less than 38.*.* of 2016.

The following tools are free, useful and I have several customers that use them.

Foxit Reader provides a lightweight PDF reader without the constant updates and bloated functionality which tries to take over your PC provided by other vendors.

Can replace Adobe Reader for at least 95% of users as of April'09

If you want to opt-out of the (2) ToolBars and other features then you will need to choose 'Customised' installation and uncheck each feature.

** Take Custom Install option + Opt-Out if/as required **

Free for personal use (Foxit PDF Reader)

Hamachi - a facility to link PCs securely over the Web. Microsoft's Netmeeting and Remote Assistance are both able to securely interact between PCs using this tool. Also see Setting up a network of experts.

NOTE WELL - Hamachi management (and any senior developers) have made a monumental PR disaster by forcing certain changes upon their users - EVEN THOSE WHO HAVE PAID THEM MONEY! Don't bother to read ALL of this (link to right) unless you are a software developer or manage it's development and deployment should skim through it all to realise how bad it can get!

Although this facility can be used for a lot of other purposes (e.g. sharing files between remote users) it's use to support remote assistance between 'friends and relatives' is pretty good.

Note - there are now several alternatives (to right) to securely and remotely assist
other Windows users. Including in Windows: Remote Assistance (XP to Win7).
N.B. LogMeIn want you to register before telling you their prices, terms and conditions!

Virtual private network (VPN) tunnelled over the Internet

Free for personal use (Hamachi)

The blog of their disaster! is here

Remote assistance products - not
sure if the 2nd IS free/not:
1. Teamviewer - Free for personal use
2. LogMeIn - MIGHT be free but
you won't know 'til you register!
The following tools are not free but are important in order to retain a resilient PC.

Norton Ghost 2003 backs up ALL of WINDOWS - (i.e. C drive) so an untainted restore/recovery can be done.
These backups save you installing and customising programs inc. XP! "from scratch" in the event of serious Virus, Hard Drive crash or similar catastrophes.
Restoring to a new drive is possible with guidance.
Restoring to a new PC is usually possible but not trivial.
Your PC supplier MAY have included this when building it.

This product is NOT FREE and may require a 1-off coaching session - probably possible via remote assistance (XP) or MAY be possible over the telephone.

It should be FIRST run soon after PC purchase but after your initial customisation. After 3-6 months a 2nd backup will be needed. After that - backup prior to all significant hardware or software changes. This could be biannually through to biennially - the latter for an old, unchanging PC.

Mostly the name includes image (or clone) - e.g. TrueImage, DriveImage, Ghost image, Partition image

If not included with your PC it is CHARGEABLE (Ghost prices on Amazon)

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for their copyright statements as well as terms and conditions


Some of the products above have options at installation which I normally alter from the default for a variety of reasons including technical, privacy, Spam avoidance etc.. I may be able to provide Remote Assistance either PC to PC or telephone if appropriate.

*¹ please read the conditions of use on the actual download site of the software provider as the definitive terms, my words are a gross and by definition an out-of-date summary. Also note that although I often recommend these tools, I cannot validate their suitability to your technical, personal or commercial needs without a review which would be a chargeable exercise.

*² All of these must be (auto-)run at PC startup Worry if the appropriate icon is not in bottom right hand corner of your monitor!

*³ Doesn't work with Windows 95, 98, Millenium Edition (ME) et. al.

Links and other information last validated on 7th December 2009. Please use the Contact us page to suggest any additions or revisions.

The following is an addendum - only of interest to ZoneAlarm users perhaps

Firewalls - ZoneAlarm Free - no longer recommended UNLESS you can get an old version but beware that oldversion.com has mainly trial versions of the Pro product - i.e. chargeable and you can bet they want to get you to use their latest product which will bundle Kaspersky AV which MAY cause problems with your PC - especially in the performance arena!

I would have recommended Kerio or Sygate at this stage but the former decided they no longer were in that market and gave their code to Sunbelt software who now charge for it - not a lot but it is yet another relationship to manage. Sygate got taken over by Symantec and promptly ceased the free (Sygate) product so their (Symantec / Norton) paid-for product could have less competition! should that be so blatantly allowed?

The old ZA entry is listed below just in case you wanted to explore that option. Be aware that the AV component may conflict with any existing AV that you have on your PC.

ZoneAlarm Free - inhibits interactions between your PC and potential threats from Internet-based miscreants.

Must! be (auto-)run at PC startup*² on any PC which is connected to any network

Free for personal use (ZoneAlarm Free)

Why you should avoid vendor's 'latest' software if your needs are met by a prior, stable version


'Latest' software will almost certainly have by far the most flaws (bugs) as well as more security exposures than prior versions which have been 'stabilised'. Users should choose to use the oldest supported, stable and secure versions of software that meet their needs but also avoid the trap that when they DO upgrade they have lost the option to take the next (for them!) stable version because the vendor only offers their very latest!

Downloading each new major version of a product but not installing it will normally keep the option open to move to that version when your current one is no longer supported.

Background to why this is important

Security on web-attached PCs is a constant battle against those miscreants who want to gain control over aspects of our lives (e.g. money!) as well as our PCs.

As users, we are reliant on the developers of the software we use to keep us safe but those developers fall into two types and will have very different motivations depending upon which stage of the development cycle they are working.

Those that are working on the very latest functionality (the Bleeding edge) will have targets and deadlines which relate to delivering "exciting" new features and function! They are unlikely to also have significant targets for minimising security loopholes because that would constrain their ability to deliver their targets of timescale and function!

On the other hand there will be developers (of the same product but earlier version(s)!) who maintain and secure code, they will have targets but maybe not deadlines for reducing the security exposures introduced by the developers of the prior new or changed functionality.

Microsoft may have been pressured into good software engineering principles in this respect but at least they separate out (a) those updates which are critically needed to improve security from (b) new versions which contain their latest functionality which at least initially have had many flaws (bugs) and the security exposures they reveal.

Any software company which asks (or far worse forces!) users to take their very latest software has poor software engineering principles (and ethics?!), possibly as a result of an over-aggressive marketing culture. Adobe (PDF reader and Flash Movies) is an example which takes this approach - forcing millions of users onto a technology treadmill which has little reward for their users in comparison to the huge risks they are exposing them to.

Index of direct links to the above for you to copy if needed
PC Inventory Firewall Anti-Virus Limit User authority
MS Windows Defender MS Malware remover Anti-Spyware #1 Anti-Spyware #2
Complementary tools MS Malware remover Anti-Spyware #1 Malware Bytes
Anti-Spam #1 Anti-Spam #2 non-MS Browser non-MS PC e-mail
non-Adobe PDF Reader PC Disk image creator Comments about software
previously recommended
Comments about ZoneAlarm
Software version checker Top of page Not using 'latest' software Top of page

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