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Some highly recommended PC maintenance and clean-up tools:

Firewalls & Anti-Virus

Avast (v7.0 - www.avast.com)

Excellent freeware anti-virus software. Includes anti-virus monitoring for: Web, Network, Standard, Documents, Mail, Outlook/Exchange, Instant Messaging, Peer to Peer.

(Commercial Anti virus software: Avast! Home Ed, Kaspersky, Norton, AVG/AVG Free, Avira, BitDefender, Comodo, McAfee, Sophos, NOD32, Trend Micro, Panda)

Comodo (v3.14 - www.comodo.com)

Excellent highly configurable freeware firewall. Also includes Defense+ for screening any applications or processes about to start or accessing the registry (when enabled can generate a lot of registry access request banners when first installed or when installing new software! - Set to Training mode). Can also opt to install the anti-virus module when first installing.

Maintenance & Clean-up

Spybot - Search & Destroy (v1.6.2 - www.safer-networking.org)

Search & Destroy: Check for problems: Searches entire hard drive for spy and malware. When scan finished, check listed problems and select fix.

Immunize: Anti-spyware. Stops installation of executables from registered bad pages and bad cookies (loads as Internet Explorer add-on then loads the spy-ware/cookie ids to IE restricted zone).

System Startup: Lists applications started at system startup. Can click on item to open panel describing what the process does, or disable items by un-ticking (and checking everything still works) before deleting. Also lists newly added otems in bold, and colour codes items (Green: legitimate, Yellow: unknown, unneeded, ambiguous (could be cloned), Red: malicious.

System Internals: Searches registry for unused/non-existent entries (limited to places not covered by other registry cleaners).

Resident: If enabled, permanently runs from start-up, stops malware downloads through IE, can turn off SD Helper and Tea Timer from this panel.

Recovery: Restore any changes made to your PC.

CCleaner (v3.19 - www.piriform.com)

Cleaner: Optimises system by removing unwanted, unused, and temporary files. Removes cookies, traces, and opened files. Click analyse to see what will be removed before running cleaner.

Registry: Analyses registry (where windows system settings are stored) fixes problems and inconsistencies. Run a few times to completely clear.

Tools: Manages installed programs and startup list.

Defraggler (v2.10 - www.piriform.com)

A good freeware disk defragmenter, although can be a bit slow. Has full and quick defrag. Can also defragment your free disk space if you've had your hard disk for a long time to remove old disk partitions for files that have now been deleted or moved. Not as quick as Auslogics, but good and solid.

Windows Tools

Windows  - Programs

"Start Control Panel Programs":

Programs & Features: Lists all of the applications installed on your PC, right-click to uninstall.

Default Programs: Set the default programs to use for certain actions (browsing the internet or playing music) or file types.

Gadgets: Add gadgets and widgets to your desktop.

Windows  - System & Security

"Start Control Panel System & Security":

System: Lists information about your computer, Operating System version, installed hardware, and access to the device manager (hardware drivers and profiles).

Firewall: Configure the in-built Windows firewall settings.

Power Options: Set screen saver, sleep, hibernation times etc.

Windows  - Backup & Restore

"Start Control Panel System & Security Backup & Restore":

A tool to back up your entire hard disk drive to an external disk and create an image of your system configuration and settings (e.g. registry). To change the backup settings, go to "Change Settings". To reload a backup image go to "Restore", you can then either automatically restore your last backup, or choose an earlier one. To perform a system restore (recover previous system settings), go to "Recover system settings or your computer".

Windows  - Administrative Tools

"Start Control Panel Performance and Maintenance Administrative Tools":

Disk Management: Free up disk space (scan for and remove old and temporary files, unused Windows modules, and old restore points), also has a disk defragmenter, and hard disk formatting/partitioning tool).

Services: Lists all installed Windows Services (background applications) and gives their descriptions, properties, and dependencies. Can use to start, stop, and configure your Windows Services.

Task Scheduler: Schedule applications to run at given times.

Computer Management: Includes the device manager, disk management (disk/volume mgmt), task scheduler, and services.

Performance Monitor: Provides a large selection of in depth performance graphs (right-click on graph add counters) including processor, cache, and memory usage, cache and branch hits, and other processor performance details.

The Windows registry

Is a directory that stores settings and options for the operating system for Microsoft Windows and Windows Mobile. It contains information and settings for all hardware, operating system software, most non-operating system software, users, PC preferences, etc. Whenever a user makes changes to Control Panel settings, file associations, system policies, or most installed software, the changes are reflected and stored in the registry. The registry also provides a window into the operation of the kernel, exposing runtime information such as performance counters and currently active hardware. This use of a registry mechanism is conceptually similar to Linux Sysfs and Procfs runtime information, though the information made available by each is different.

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