If, like me, you’re a bit of a download junkie it’s easy to get into the habit of replacing every bundled Windows application with a freeware alternative.
With time however I’ve come to the conclusion that in many cases the benefits of doing this are negligible and it’s possibly more beneficial to reduce the number of third party software running on your computer.
The benefits Microsoft software has over freeware are potentially security and stability, although they may not seem as flashy
or feature filled as many alternatives at least you can trust them. It doesn’t apply in all cases of course, but here a few Windows Tools which I suggest are adequate enough to not really need replacement.
1) System Maintenance
Vista comes with a lot of Administrative tools built in including the Disc Clean-up, Spyware and Virus scanner and background defragmenting.
If you run Windows XP then you can use the Windows Live OneCare online tools to scan your computer. This will scan for viruses, check for junk files, check defragmentation and ‘tune’ System performance.
A Vista OneCare beta is offered here but it says my system is unsupported for some reason, I’m not sure why unless it’s simply no longer unavailable.
2) Virus Scanner
It’s actually always good to be running more then one virus scanner on your system, but don’t write Windows Defender off as useless.
I would suggest maybe running AVG or ThreatFire or other anti-virus software as well, but Defender is a great tool to run in the background.
Defender runs daily scans but If you have a reasonably new computer I don’t think you will notice much slow down, if any.
3) Start-Up Blocker
Programs automatically adding themselves to system start up do cause significant slow down when logging into your account, however you certainly don’t need to get a dedicated program to manage this.
You can either use System Configuration (type ‘msconfig’ into the start men) or Software Explorer.
Software Explorer is hidden away in Windows Defender but provides a much better interface for working out what programs are unnecessary.
In fact it has just about all the features you will need for this, and using a third party program like aShampoo Startup Tuner is completely pointless.
Software Explorer can also be used as a task manager as you can also use it view currently running programs, Network Connected Programs and Winsock Service Providers.
4) Screenshot Utility
if you have any version of Vista except Home Basic then you’ll find you already have a very handy screenshot tool. Searching for ‘Snipping Tool’ in the start menu and you’ll discover it.
Snipping tool can take Free Forms, Windows, Rectangles and Full screen shots and save them in as GIFS, JPEGS, HTML, Png files or simply copy to the clipboard.
Becuase it was designed for Tablet PC’s initially you can also draw on the snip using a pen tool after you’ve taken it.
The only lacking feature is that it cannot be assigned the ‘PrintScreen’ key to launch it. However you can give it a shortcut key by placing Snipping Tool on the Quick Launch toolbar as one of the first 10 shortcuts. If you made it the 3rd shortcut then pressing WINKEY + 3 will instantly launch it, the same applies for the other shortcuts 1-10.
5) Spyware Scanner
Microsoft has a free spyware scanning tool called Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool which is a free download Windows users.
It’s updated every Tuesday and searches for specific infections on your system.
It’s not really a real substitute for a spyware scanner as it only searches for major issues and infections, however it is one extra precaution.
6) Windows DVD Maker
I have seen this criticised as being under-featured and lacking, but in mu opinion it’s great as a simple DVD authoring tool for creating nice menus for your holiday or photo DVD’s.
I think it has some pretty good menus to choose from and its aimed at people who don’t need anything more complex then simply creating a DVD which will play on their computer and TV then its perfect. My only complaint is that it seems incredibly slow to actually burn to a disc.