Monday, September 3, 2012

Free apps for your computer

POSTED: June 9, 2012 1:00 a.m.

Computer Care: Free apps are fine, but some are worth paying for

Computer Care: Free apps are fine, but some are worth paying for

POSTED: June 9, 2012 1:00 a.m.

The easiest way to get a program on your computer is to download it by clicking on a link. Unfortunately, that’s also the easiest way to get your computer infected.

Instead of having the program come to you, you should go to the program. If you know what you want, search for and download it. To stumble across random links or respond to blind email solicitations could prove to be detrimental.

I’m all in favor of free software; I have plenty. But sometimes you need to buy a program. You’ve got a lot invested in your computer and it should be properly protected.

Would you use free oil for your car, hoping that it would work? How about an unknown additive for your engine claiming to increase your gas mileage?

By using unproven random software for your computer, you take a similar risk. Sometimes you just have to buy an app.

Free anti-virus programs abound on the Internet and many do a decent job. But they only look for viruses.

I still remove more malware than viruses from clients’ computers. You can get around massive infections by increasing your protection. Go out and buy an Internet Security Suite that checks your system for all kinds of ailments.

Get additional utilities to complement those applications. You still need to remove junk files, tune the registry, adjust system settings and tweak your Internet connection. There are many good utilities to be had. The free ones are adequate, but only tell you of what you may have on your system. You need to pay to get the full version to make the necessary adjustments.

Many of them are teasers, just trying to intimidate you. You may see a pop-up warning you of impending doom or that you have 47 errors in your registry. (They tell everyone the same number.)
A program that you didn’t install or run can’t tell you anything about your computer. I’ve said it before, but Windows does not advise you of infections. It’s not part of its job. That’s what the utilities are for, so don’t be fooled by a pop-up that looks like it’s from Microsoft. Chances are, it is not.

The free version of Advanced System Care is on my system. It does a decent job, but I think the full app would do a better job considering the extra tools it offers.

Probably better still is Iolo’s System Mechanic. It has been around for a long time and has increased its versatility since I first tried it over a decade ago. This Swiss Army Knife of utilities has my back with a plethora of tool and utilities. It watches over the registry, hard drive, memory and Internet connection and more.

Unlike many utilities that delete things and change settings without your input, Iolo explains what it is about to alter and let’s you opt out, should you desire to do so.

As cautious a user as I am, System Mechanic has discovered programs that clandestinely found their way into my startup folder and warned me of them. Yeah, it was worth the price.

The icing on the cake is that Iolo allows you to install it on as many home computers as you need to.
I have not yet purchased the full version of Malwarebytes, but I think that one’s next. As good a job as the free version does, I look forward to experiencing the increased protection of the paid app.
Uninstallers are something else we all should have. The Windows tool is weak and slow and it fails to cleanse the registry of remnants after eliminating a program.

Revo is a good free choice. Advanced or Your Uninstaller are both good options if you want to buy one.
Something else Windows lacks is a good device driver updater. Manufacturers are constantly updating their hardware with new drivers and they are free. Often though, the apps to get them are not. Again, sometimes you just have to buy a utility.

SlimDriver Free and DriverMax are cost-free, although you do need to register the latter product to use it. Often with free versions, there are nag screens begging you to buy the product and the speeds at which they update your system are agonizingly slow.

Find one that allows you to archive all of the drivers on your computer into a self-installing utility; you never know when you’ll need to use it.

Remember, all downloads are free.

If you do install programs from the Internet, there are the usual caveats. First, make sure the link you’re about to click on is legitimate. Then, watch the installer.

Free apps are sponsored by other apps. They try to sneak in additional utilities, toolbars, screen savers and widgets. They may also attempt to alter your browser’s search engine or start page.
Clicking “Next” and “OK” without scrutinizing what boxes are checked will get you into trouble.

It’s also always prudent to create a system restore point prior to making any changes and to reboot the computer for those changes to take effect.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on

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