This article covers a number of favorite free Windows utilities geared toward health and maintenance of your Windows PC/laptop.
Two types of backups should be essential.
One type is keeping backups of your critical files such as documents, photos, videos etc. There are a number of free/low cost backup/sync services to handle this. See the discussion on cloud storage here.
The other type is a full backup of your hard drive(s) in case of catastrophic failure such as a drive failure or corrupted operating system. My favorite tool for this is Macrium Reflect. A second choice would be Easus TodoBackup. I chose Macrium as it had better support for Windows 8. You’ll need an external drive large enough to house the number of backups you’ll want to take and a bootable device with Macrium Reflect or TodoBackup on it (they both provide a tool to create one). Both packages are free for the basic backup and restore. If you need to restore to dissimilar hardware you’ll have to purchase. Macrium Reflect also provides the option to add a boot menu option for booting into Macrium rather than Windows. Handy if your hard drive is OK but you just need to restore to a previous state.
Newer Windows machines use UEFI rather than the older BIOS and use GPT disk partition schemes. Macrium Reflect was able to work with GPT disks, whereas Easus was not.
One should always have some sort of malware protection and ideally firewall protection as well. My favorite free firewall is the one from Comodo. They also have a free Internet Suite which includes virus/malware protection. There are a number of free antivirus tools out there. Some are full featured, some disable some features in the free version. Bitdefender, AVG, Avira.
IObit has a free malware scanner they say is compatible with anti-virus products.
You’ll also want to have a bootable media with an antivirus product on it in. Its always a good idea to do an “offline” scan to supplement your live protection. Also handy to have in case a virus causes boot issues. Comodo has an function which will do this for you.
Newer Windows machines use UEFI rather than the older BIOS and use GPT disk partition schemes. Comodo rescue disk was able to work with GPT disks, whereas many other rescue CDs where not. Another boot CD that can handle GPT disks is Kaspersky.
Law enforcement and IT Security companies have joined forces to disrupt cybercriminal businesses with ransomware connections.
The “No More Ransom” website is an initiative by the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Netherlands’ police, Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre and two cyber security companies – Kaspersky Lab and Intel Security – with the goal to help victims of ransomware retrieve their encrypted data without having to pay the criminals.
Since it is much easier to avoid the threat than to fight against it once the system is affected, the project also aims to educate users about how ransomware works and what countermeasures can be taken to effectively prevent infection. The more parties supporting this project the better the results can be. This initiative is open to other public and private parties.
In time files get scattered across your hard drive with some pieces of the file in one place and others in different physical locations. Cleaning this up requires fragmentation. My favorite free tool for this is SmartDefrag from IObit.
Windows and many applications leave temporary files and registry entries around even after uninstalling them. IObit has a number of free tools, among them Advanced System Care. My second favorite cleanup tool is GlaryUtilites.
Modern hard drives can report on any issues they have such as bad sectors etc. Keeping an eye on these can alert you to a possible failure and take action before its too late. My favorite free tool is Active Hard Disk Monitor.