Tag Archives: fast

Comodo IceDragon – A More Secure Firefox?

Comodo IceDragon Browser This is not 1985 when the only thing you had to worry about was what might be on the floppy disks you exchanged with your friends. Today, your Browser is the conduit into your computer – that’s the route by which the majority of malware spreads.

In an age when Internet threats present an ever-evolving, and increasingly sophisticated danger, to a user’s security, privacy, and identity, specialty Internet Browsers like Comodo IceDragon, are becoming much more popular.

Why should this be so – and, what’s the difference between Comodo IceDragon, and regular old Firefox?

First: You’ll notice during the installation process (screen capture shown below), you’ll have the option of choosing Comodo’s secure DNS servers. You may choose to implement this security feature system wide – or, you may choose instead to protect IceDragon only.

There’s not much point in choosing to opt out – since doing so, defeats one of the primary benefits of running with IceDragon.

While the developer points out that you may have potential issues to address, should you choose to run through a VPN – I didn’t experience any problems running through my favorite VPN – TunnelBear – free edition.

Do not be influenced by my choice (as shown below) – choose a setting that reflects your usage pattern.

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FYI: If you’re concerned with DNS security, you do have choices over and above running with a Browser which incorporates a DNS security feature. There are a number of free, beefed-up DNS services – including  Google Public DNS.

Second: Comodo has built into the Browser, it’s Site Inspector – a feature which must be manually launched by clicking on the related Icon, as shown in the following screen capture. My Australian mate Mal C., swears by this feature.

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A quick click (either on a link – or, while on a page), will provide the user with a report as to whether “malicious activity or malware has been detected on the site in question.”

Here’s a shot of a probe on Yahoo.

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So, is this being overplayed – or, is this really an issue?

The very small sample of malicious sites, shown in the following screen shot, should help convince you that it is an issue.

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So, what about my site – how’s it doing?

You’ll note in the screen capture below, that we’re free of malware or malicious activity here. Not surprising, since I use Comodo’s Web Inspector alert as a line of defense to protect this site.

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Third: If you’re a social media site affectionado then, Comodo has you covered with the addition of a social media button. A quick click will launch a log-in page for Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin (user selectable).

On the face of it, this feature may not seem as if it means very much. But, if it helps stop users from logging in using links contained in emails, for example – then, potentially it has substantial value.

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So, how does it look when compared with a “regular” version of Firefox?

Running with IceDragon – no add-ons or customization – yet.

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My regular Firefox with selected add-ons.

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The options menus appears slightly different that that in Firefox – but, the only noteworthy difference I found was, a user has an additional opportunity to turn on/turn off – the DNS feature as described earlier.

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Additional features:

Fully compatible with Firefox plug-ins and extensions – according to Comodo.

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Fast facts:

Fast, easy to use and light on PC resources

Scan web-pages for malware right from the browser

Lightning fast page loads with integrated DNS service

Privacy and performance enhancements over Firefox core

Full compatibility with Firefox plug-ins

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, – 32/64 bit. Tested on Windows 8 for this review.

Download at: Comodo

User Guide: Should you need help with CID, check out the online user guide.

You may be are aware that Comodo initially developed a version of Chromium/Chrome (Comodo Dragon), which has essentially the same features as described in this review of IceDragon.

I reviewed that version in February 2010. It’s worth noting, that substantial improvements have been made in the application since that review. Further information on this browser is available at the developer’s site, here.

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Filed under Browsers, Comodo, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware

Advanced System Care 6 – Newbie Friendly (With a Little Help)

imageSome months ago, IObit asked that I take a look at their latest Advanced System Care – Version 6 (free edition). Since I’ve reviewed IObit’s various applications as far back as 5 years ago (ancient history in Technology/Internet time) – and, since I’ve generally rated the company’s free offerings at the high end of the scale, it was easy to say “Yes”.

For this particular review though, it was time to do something a little different. Not only would I run with the application for several months (as opposed to my normal test period of two weeks, or so) – but, three of my “I’m only a regular user” friends would run with it as well.

The primary objective of structuring the test in this manner was to to isolate and compare the experiences of a techie, against the real life computing experiences of a “regular” user – one who has little or no understanding of the Registry, Junk Files, …………

There was no miracle transformation during the time that I worked with my small group. They did not magically turn into “super techs.” But, it’s fair to say, that each of them has a better understanding of the relationship between various parts of their OS, and the need to keep the OS neat and tidy.

Equally as important, at least for this review, was the unanimous agreement  (in this small friendly sample), that Advanced System Care, when run regularly, improved their computer experience.

But did it? Let’s find out.

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Installation:

Installation was fast and clean and did not lead to the expected (from the group) – “what’s this” or “what does this mean”, or……………..

User Interface:

As you’ll see in the following screen shots the GUI is relatively uncluttered and straightforward.

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The application is broken down into three modules – CareToolbox – and, Turbo Boost, as shown below.

Care:

Selecting specific settings to apply to a particular action/s can be accomplished by pointing to an item. If the item can be selected, a settings icon will appear as shown below at the arrow. Across the board, the group found this method awkward, easy to miss, and not instinctive.

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The settings menu allows for a considerable degree of choice. Participants in the test found that choosing which repairs to select was, in most instances, easy.  That’s not to say, that the occasional phone call wasn’t required. But, that’s a matter of user experience as opposed to a shortfall in the application.

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The results of a quick scan (less than a minute on a relatively clean system), are shown below.

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Users will have the option of selecting “automatic repair” prior to running the scan. Less experienced users should exercise caution.

Clicking on repair, in this example, completed the job in less than 30 seconds.

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Who makes mistakes? Me, you – we all do!

IObit, recognizing this, has built in a safeguard – the Rescue Center. Each time a cleaning operation is launched, the first process is the creation of a backup point so that Registry, and Internet changes, can be reversed if necessary.

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Bummer Time (or not?) -

From the Quick Settings menu, clicking on “Activate all functions” ……….

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pops up a teaser.

Keeping in mind that this is a FREE product, I must admit to being astonished by the negativity generated on many forums by this teaser. I wonder how these people respond to ads on TV, or in their newspaper – items that they’ve paid for.  

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Toolbox:

The Toolbox is chock full of goodies (lots of goodies) – some of which are in fact, built in OS system tools. Still, having access to a wide range of tools, all in one place, is a bonus.

More advanced users who like to carry around their “IT Toolbox” on their keychain (on a USB stick, of course   Smile) should find the portable tool creation applet worthwhile.

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Overall Rating:

My assessment: A-

On the whole, this application does what it says it will do – and, it’s fast. But, I will mark it down for a rather convoluted settings menu access.

The groups assessment: A+

Participating in an application test was, I think, a bit of a thrill for my guys – particularly one in which (HELP!) was just a call away. What surprised me was, just how quickly folks grasped the fundamentals with just a wee bit of help.

Overall, participants were pleasantly surprised at both the built-in functionality of the application, and the ease of use. And, in what may come as a surprise to more experienced users – participants were astonished at the availability of such a high quality application for FREE.

System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, XP and 2000.

Languages: English, Arabic, Belarusian, Czech, ChineseSimp, ChineseTrad, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese(PT-BR), Romanian, Russian, Serbian (cyrillic), Serbian (latin), Slovenian, Spanish, Turkish, Vietnamese.

Download at: Softpedia

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Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, IObit

Lookeen – An Outlook Search Add-on That’s FAST!

https://bizchange.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/overloaded-man.jpg?iact=hc&vpx=794&vpy=103&dur=2755&hovh=223&hovw=226&tx=79&ty=136&sig=104081718647520250308&ei=_Y3HT5z1Eef30gGv65itDw&page=14&tbnh=160&tbnw=162&start=450&ndsp=35&ved=1t:429,r:31,s:450,i:149Currently, there’s a BlackBerry commercial running here in Canada in which a young woman declares that she gets over 1,000 emails a day. I have to admit, that the 1,000+ emails that she purportedly receives daily, led me to do a little figuring. Truth in advertising and all that.

Assuming that each email takes one minute to read, that translates into 16+ hours devoted to just reading emails. Perhaps it takes less time than that but, even cutting the read time in half would result in a full 8 hour day devoted to just reading emails.

Riding this train of thought, led me to consider just how this young woman managed (assuming that what she claims is true), to handle the time constraints imposed by this massive volume of correspondence – assuming, that at least some of these emails would require an after the fact action plan.

How would she, for example, search for and find, relevant emails, attachments, appointments, tasks, notes and contacts in a rather extensive  email achieve? And, do so quickly and efficiently – no small task.

Coincidentally, at roughly the same time that I was putting myself through mental contortions in an attempt to break down the 1,000+ email claim, I was offered an opportunity to take Lookeen, an email search solution designed to integrate seamlessly into Microsoft Outlook, for a test ride.

Fast facts:

  • Massive increase of E-Mail search speed
  • Finds e-Mails, attachments, appointments, tasks, notes and contacts
  • Supports Exchange Server, Public Folder and external PST-archives
  • Integrated Desktop Search: Search in local and Network Files
  • For enterprises: Central Indexing reduces Server and Network Traffic
  • Over 500.000 installations worldwide
  • Installation in a few clicks

Following an easy installation, the application launches into a brief tutorial as illustrated in the following self-explanatory screen captures.

Step one.

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Step two.

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Step three.

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Step four.

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Step five.

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As shown in the following screen capture, you’ll note that Lookeen adds a simple, yet helpful, search box to Outlook.

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Did I mention FAST?

In the following quick search, the application pulled up 697 related items in three tenths of a second.

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In a more focused search, the application pulled up 79 related items in two tenths of a second.

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In this brief overview, I’ve barely touched on the functionality of this super little Outlook add-on. You can also expect the following:

Lookeen will search everywhere in your Outlook data.

Have every email at your fingertips – no matter how much data you have!

The integrated real-time-indexing enables you to search your local emails (PST), Exchange Server, Public Folder, your complete desktop, and even network files, all while Lookeen is indexing your files.

Lookeen will find every mail – even in the largest of archives.

Execute parallel searches for e-mails, attachments, appointments, tasks, notes and contacts.

Integrated Desktop search enables you to search in documents and PDFs.

Install and manage Lookeen in your enterprise with group policies (Lookeen Business Edition) and use the Lookeen Shared Index feature to reduce server traffic (Lookeen Enterprise Edition).

You can download Lookeen and try it for free for 14 days.

Download at: Lookeen.

As for the young woman’s claim of 1,000 emails a day? Yeah, sure.   Smile

A big “Thank You” to regular reader Lee Garber for taking the time to point me towards this application. Thanks Lee.

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Filed under downloads, Email, Integrated Solutions, Software Trial Versions, Utilities

Free Paint.NET 3.5.1 – Maybe Not A Photoshop Killer But…….

image This latest release of Paint.NET (October 9th, 2011), might not be quite Photoshop in disguise, but it’s a pretty serious contender.

While it can’t perform some of the more esoteric functions of Photoshop, it can certainly assist even an average photo hobbyist achieve spectacular results – results which are generally not achievable in a free photo application.

I’ve always been a big fan of Adobe Photoshop, the trendsetter/innovator for all photo editor and image manipulation software, but I stopped buying Photoshop at version 7, and in 2004 switched over to Paint.NET.

The downside of Adobe Photoshop, especially for typical users (other than its price – which is formidable), is it’s huge size on disk; it’s very challenging platform requirements, and an extreme learning curve which demands time and training.

Most of us don’t need the flexibility, or the power of a high end (read: expensive), photo editor. Instead, we’re generally looking for an application that’s small (at less than 4 MB, Paint.NET is small), fast, and free, with an intuitive interface that’s very easy to use; especially for those with only modest previous experience. Incidentally, for everyday basic photo manipulation, Irfanview gets a real workout on my machine.

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You don’t have to take advantage of all of the powerful features built into this impressive application of course – see fast facts below. You can just stick to those tools you are most familiar with, including resizing, cropping, correcting red eye, flipping, and rotating. As well, you can perform a wide variety of additional image adjustments, including brightness, contrast, and applying special effects such as sharpen and blur.

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Fast facts:

Interface – Simple, intuitive, and innovative user interface. Every feature and user interface element was designed to be immediately intuitive and quickly learnable without assistance. The interface is also enhanced for Aero Glass if you are using Windows 7 or Vista.

Performance – Extensive work has gone into making Paint.NET the fastest image editor available.

Layers – Usually only found on expensive or complicated professional software, layers form the basis for a rich image composition experience. You may think of them as a stack of transparency slides that, when viewed together at the same time, form one image.

Special Effects – Many special effects are included for enhancing and perfecting your images. Everything from blurring, sharpening, red-eye removal, distortion, noise, and embossing are included. Also included is our unique 3D Rotate/Zoom effect that makes it very easy to add perspective and tilting.

Adjustments – Adjustments are also included which help you tweak an image’s brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, curves, and levels. You can also convert an image to black and white, or sepia-toned.

Powerful Tools – The facilities for creating and working with selections is powerful, yet still simple enough to be picked up quickly. Other powerful tools include the Magic Wand for selecting regions of similar color, and the Clone Stamp for copying or erasing portions of an image. There is also a simple text editor, a tool for zooming, and a Recolor tool.

Unlimited History – Everybody makes mistakes, and everybody changes their mind. To accommodate this, every action you perform on an image is recorded in the History window and may be undone. Once you’ve undone an action, you can also redo it. The length of the history is only limited by available disk space.

Active Online Community – Paint.NET has an online forum with a friendly, passionate, and ever-expanding community. Be sure to check out the constantly growing list of tutorials and plugins!

Automatically Updated – Updates are free, and contain new features, performance improvements, and bug fixes. Upgrading to the latest version is very simple, requiring only two clicks of the mouse.

System requirements: Windows 2003, Vista, Server 2008, XP, Win 7 – NET Framework 3.5 SP1 (automatically downloaded with the application).

Languages: English, Chinese (Simplified), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, and Spanish

Download at: Paint.NET

Plugins –  There’s a solid choice of plugins available. These plugins add new effects and the ability to handle new file types. You can check these out here.

Tutorials - Tutorials that describe the use of core features of Paint.NET such as tools, effects, and adjustments. Check them out here.

Unless you have extremely unusual image editing requirements that can only be met with Photoshop, Paint.NET should more than meet your needs, and then some.

BTW, Paint.NET v4.0 is targeted for release in 2012. Features planned for version 4.0 include a new UI, improved extensibility, revamped brushes and shapes system, antialiased selections, and adjustment layers.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Free Photo Applications, Freeware, Graphic Software, Photo Tools, Software

NEW – Nitro PDF Reader Version 2 Launched Today

imageFollowing a year long beta testing period, Nitro PDF Reader Version 2, has hit the bricks with it’s official launching today. As an indication of just how popular this application is – during the beta test period, it was downloaded an astonishing 8 million times.

With its ability to not only view and review PDF files, but create PDF files as well, it’s little wonder Nitro PDF Reader has amassed such a large following. I have to say that Nitro PDF Reader is my favorite PDF tool so, I’m more than a little enthusiastic to get on the go with this latest release.

Version 2 continues the strong tradition which Nitro has established with previous version – it’s fast, lightweight, and incorporates customizable security controls, including the option to completely disable JavaScript – no small consideration for security conscious users.

Sample screens – Click on any screen shot to expand to original size.

Standard screen

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Fill in form

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Collaboration

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Fast facts:

Nitro PDF Reader 2.0 includes the following features and enhancements:

Web Browser Integration preview PDF files from within Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Internet Explorer

Nitro PDF Creator 2 all-new PDF creation engine enables users to create PDF files up to 4 times faster, with 50% reduction in file size

Optimized Rendering Engine draw and display PDF files on-screen faster with crisp rendering of text and graphics

QuickSign import a scanned image of your handwritten signature to sign and return documents electronically in just seconds

Optional Content Group (OCG) Layers show and hide content layers within PDF files with support for printing layer views and scripting OCG interaction in form controls

XFA Form Support fill-in and save static XML Form Architecture (XFA) forms

Hundreds more significant enhancements updated Ribbon UI, workflow refinements, improved performance, and more

If you really want to be impressed with just how much capability is built into this application, then visit the developer’s feature page.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 (32 bit  and 64 bit, Vista and Win 7).

Available languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Download at: Nitro PDF Reader

If you’re tired of working with that malware magnet, Adobe Reader – I think you’ll find that PDF Reader 2.0 is the substitute you’ve been searching for. On top of that – how do you beat FREE!

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Browser Plug-ins, downloads, Free PDF Software, Freeware, Integrated Solutions, Productivity Software, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Malwarebytes – A Must Have for Every PC Tech

Guest writer Julie Myers, gives us her personal take (backed up by her 14 years in IT Support), on why she believes Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware should be a part of every PC Tech’s toolbox.

Once Upon a Time

imageOnce upon a time, computers were free to roam the Internet. Websites took up very little space and not much traffic was on the sparkling new information highway. It was a time of early development and little risk for business folks. It was a time of discovery and information sharing for everyone else.

Nothing tried to rob our computers of their speed, network connectivity, or corrupt a file, nor unknowingly get our computers to spread a virus. Roaming the Internet was fun, though sometimes boring – but, crime free.

Times Have Changed

Unfortunately, it is no longer “once upon a time”. Today, the greatest threat to a computer is malware and the best post-invasion force is you, the PC Tech. As a PC Tech, your job is to rid the computer of malware. To do this you need an arsenal of the best software tools, and Google.

Since the best anti-malware software changes from time to time, it is important to stay current with which ones are the best. As of June, 2011, one of the best free anti-malware software programs, that you must have, is Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware.

Why Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes just plain works. A team of ten PC Techs and I, have run Malwarebytes on at least two hundred infected computers, over the past year, with outstanding success (there were, of course, a few computers that were so badly infected all tools failed, thus the only solution was to reimage).

Malwarebytes downloads and installs quickly. And, the user interface is relatively easy to figure out and navigate. It takes around 25 minutes to an hour to run a full scan, depending on how much data is on the user’s hard drive, and how badly infected the computer is. And, the user interface is relatively easy to figure out and navigate.

The employees at Malwarebytes Corp. do such an outstanding job at keeping on top of the latest threats, and programming their software to delete it from a computer, all you need to do is make sure you have the latest engine update before running a scan. From what I have seen Malwarebytes removes a variety of malware, 9 out of 10 times, with just one scan and a reboot.

Here are some additional features to get you even more excited:

  • It’s free. There is a PRO version that is very reasonably priced at $24.95 per license and the added features seem well worth the cost.
  • Scans are relatively fast compared to other malware software. The PRO version is said to be even faster.
  • It does a full scan on all drives, both free and PRO version.
  • PRO version has a real-time active malware prevention engine. In other words, the free version has to be run manually to scan your hard drive. The PRO version can be configured to run automatically in the background.
  • Currently, Malwarebytes will run on Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7 (32bit and 64bit).

Danger Continues

In the foreseeable future, malware will continue to be a threat to computers. You, the PC Tech, will need to keep up to date with the best tools to rid computers of these annoyances. Today, Malwarebytes is one of the best free anti-malware tools out there.

Good luck, and don’t swear at the computer too much. Now, go visit Malwarebytes.org and add their anti-malware software to your arsenal.

For more details and to download Malwarebytes, go to: http://www.malwarebytes.org

To compare the differences between the free and PRO versions, go to: http://www.malwarebytes.org/products/malwarebytes_free

Biography:

Guest writer Julie Myers has been in IT Support for 14 years, surfing the Internet since the mid 90s, and has been playing around with computers since the Apple II. Currently, Julie is tinkering with creating websites and she’s in the process of learning Java.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Guest Writers, Malware Removal, Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Technicians Advise, Windows Tips and Tools

Risk Rate Running Processes With Free Glary Security Process Explorer

Security Process Explorer, from the developer’s of the powerful, free system tool Glary Utilities, operates as an security tool, and provides advanced risk information on processes, running on your computer.

The program displays specific task manager information, (this application is not a replacement for Windows task manager), including file name, directory path, description, CPU usage, and so on. What sets the application apart, is the unique security risk rating that is applied to running processes.

Security process explorer new 1

The major caveat here however is, the user must make the decision whether a particular process, or program, should be terminated, or removed. Thankfully, you can get help in making that decision by clicking on the More Info Tab. Doing so, opens GlarySoft’s web based database where additional information about the specific program/process can be obtained, along with a risk factor for that inquiry, as the following graphic illustrates.

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Note: As an added bonus you can even Google the process from within the application.

Using Security Process Explorer you can easily find and remove unnecessary background processes. As well, you can assign more resources to demanding processes like games, real-time multimedia applications and CD writing software, where necessary.

Quick facts:

Provides detailed information about all running processes

Specifies whether a process is safe or not

Single click process termination

Block unneeded processes or malware

Simple user interface

If you are an experienced/advanced computer user, and you’re looking for a program to strengthen your anti-malware resources, then Security Process Explorer is one that’s worth taking a look at.

System requirements: Windows 7, 2000, XP and Vista (32bit and 64bit).

Download at: GlarySoft

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, downloads, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools