Category Archives: Hard Drive Tools

Free Tweak-SSD – SSD Tweaking and Optimization Software

Back when the World was young (1984) – and, me too for that matter – I bought my first Hard Drive. A mega sized 10 MB HD (yep, 10 MB – not 10 GB) with a seek time of 198 ms. I paid $800 ($1,780 in today’s coin) for this “Model T” of hard drives – which required one to invoke the DOS Park utility to secure the heads in case of misadventure.

It would be an understatement to say that we’ve come a long way since – but, I’ll say it. We’ve come a long way. Mechanical Hard Drives, while not quite passé, are becoming the new “Model T” of storage devices.

SSDs – Solid State Drives – which do not employ any moving mechanical components and, are far less susceptible to physical shock; capable of faster boot times; faster system shutdown; along with faster sleep and hibernation modes, are the choice of “serious” computer users.

I like to think of myself as a serious user so, just as soon as SSDs dropped in price to a reasonable level, off I went to my supplier and walked out with an OCZ Vertex Plus 60GB SATA II SSD (a tiny little thing), in hand.

https://billmullins.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/image_thumb26.png?w=300&h=218

Both Windows 7, and Windows 8, set up nicely on an SSD and the OS will optimize the drive, to some extent. But, a user can take the optimization process much further. Doing so can increase an SSD’s response considerably.

I must admit, that I had no reason to quarrel with the response time of my OCZ Vertex Plus. Even so, when I happened to find a free application that promised to optimize the drive even further, to effect an additional increase in speed, I had to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

Tweak-SSD – the freebie version – did exactly as advertised and increased performance noticeably. Some examples:

Boot time is as close to instant on as I’ve seen. No, it’s not really instant on – but, it’s not far off.

MS Word now opens in less than 2 seconds as opposed to 4/5 seconds previously.

Firefox opens virtually instantly.

In fact, broadly speaking, every application on the system opens noticeable faster following Tweak-SSD’s optimization.

Following the first boot after running the application, I’ll tell you frankly – I was astonished with the system performance. Wow, hardly describes my response.

The following is a quick walkthrough with this “push button” application:

A simple click on the Start bar gets the process underway. The application is designed to recommend suggested settings.

Clicking on any screen shot will expand it to it’s original size.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Fast facts:

image

System requirements: Windows 7, Windows 8 (both 32 bit and 64 bit editions).

Download at: Totalidea Software

7 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Tools, Solid State Drives

Advanced Uninstaller PRO Version 10.6 – Now Free For Everyone!

imageI’m a big fan of Revo Uninstaller but, I’ve had some problems getting it to behave in Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The screen shot below illustrates Revo attempting to round up surplus Registry entries following an uninstall – and, not succeeding (21,132 entries and still counting – uh, no).

image_thumb3

A robust uninstaller – one which thoroughly cleans out the Registry is a must have application for a software reviewer like myself – so, on the hunt I went for a free replacement. The timing couldn’t have been better since, as it turns out, Advanced Uninstaller PRO is now free.

Advanced Uninstaller PRO is no lightweight, and this latest release features full support for Windows 8 – both 32 bit and 64 bit platforms.

Advanced Uninstaller PRO includes additional handy tools (all in a conveniently laid out GUI), to help you clean your system, and keep it running at top speed – as shown in the following selected screen shots. Clicking on any screen shot will expand it to the original size.

image

Uninstalling a selected application is a simple process as indicated.

image

If you’re into controlling Windows services – you’ll find that it’s a breeze with the Windows Services module.

image

The Installation Monitor module provides granular control over application installation.

image

The Internet Browser Tools module includes a robust set of tools all neatly packaged for easy access.

image

When you need help – it’s just a click away. Press the F1 key and an advanced help system is readily available – as shown in the following screen capture.

image

Fast facts:

Uninstall programs quickly and completely, with full disk and registry clean-up to remove leftovers. Way better than the standard Windows uninstaller!

Installation monitor. Examine all the items an application has installed on your PC, and makes sure all of them were removed.

Startup Manager – manages all Windows startup areas. Fully control what gets started when you turn on your PC.

Windows Services – control the services (background processes) that are run by Windows.

Quick Cleaner – erase the web browsing history and the history traces of over 200 programs.

Start Menu Cleaner – fully clean-up your Start Menu, eliminate all the shortcuts that don’t work anymore.

Start Menu Items Manager – show and hide start menu items, sort them alphabetically, etc.

Font Manager – manage the fonts on your computer, disable or uninstall the fonts you don’t need.

Control Panel Manager – full control over the items in your Control Panel. Disable broken items, etc.

Duplicate Files – find and delete all your duplicate files, saving a lot of disk space!

Live File Compression – harness the powerful and safe file compression built into Windows. Compress rarely used files in such a way that you can still use them normally, but you save disk space.

File Shredder – completely overwrites and destroys the files you want to be destroyed, so nobody can recover them.

Windows Temporary Files – recover lots of disk space by finding and deleting garbage files.

Full web browser management of cookies, history, add-ons, extensions, plugins, temporary cache files for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome – up to date for the latest versions!

Registry Cleaner – to remove errors and to make Windows lighter.

Registry Optimizer – help Windows and the programs run faster by speeding up registry accesses.

Registry Backup and Restore – to avoid disaster where the Windows Registry gets hosed.

System requirements: XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8 (32 and 64 bit).

Download at: Download.com (this file does not contain the usual CNET wrapper).

If you’re looking for a freeware application that not only gets in there and cleans out the deep dirt, but offers a range of additional functionality, then Advanced Uninstaller PRO should definitely make your short list.

31 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Tools, Registry Cleaners, Software, Utilities

Delete Data Permanently With Free Free File Shredder 2

This article is a companion piece to – Staples Resells Storage Devices Without Wiping Customers’ Personal Information – published earlier today.

File Shredder 3Many of us now own, and use a paper file shredder to destroy documents, and personal and financial papers that we don’t want to fall into the hands of identity thieves, or anyone else not entitled to have access.

So now, consider those files on your computer that you’ve deleted, sent to the recycle bin, and then flushed as you emptied the recycle bin. When you go through this process the deleted files are gone forever, right?

Well if you’re a typical computer user, you quite likely do believe that they’re gone forever, since the deleted files can’t be seen in Windows Explorer. In fact, you can’t find these files anywhere on your Hard Drive.

It may surprise you to learn that not only can I find those files but I can recover them as well. Oh, it’s not because I’m a super- duper tech wizard – although I will say, with some modesty, that I am. LOL.

Here’s the lowdown: when a file is deleted from your Hard Drive, what really gets deleted is the system link pointing towards the file, but not the file itself. Surprisingly, it is relatively easy to retrieve the deleted file using specialized file recovery software (often available as a free download), which takes advantage of shortcomings in the Windows operating systems.

Let me give you an example. Recently, I agreed to rebuild 30+ computers (at no cost – my way of giving back), being donated to a local charity for distribution to less fortunate families.

While working on these machines I noticed immediately that although the Hard Drives had undergone file deletion, they had not been wiped. Since these machine had been donated by a government agency; that struck me as being negligent in the extreme.

In order to bring this situation to the attention of those who had committed this serious breach in security, I recovered a number of these files. Not unexpectedly, the recovered files did in fact did contain confidential information. In this case – confidential information on families on public assistance.

As part of the process, I saved the recovered files to disk and presented the disk to the appropriate authorities. Shock, surprise, embarrassment, were just some of the reactions. It’s easy to see from this example, that deleted files (or a good portion of a file) can easily be recovered.

In order to delete or shred files permanently, to protect your privacy and potentially your security, or for any other reason for that matter, you need a program such as File Shredder 2 that is capable of overwriting the file with a random series of binary data multiple times.

This process is often called shredding. That way, the actual content of the file has been overwritten and the possibilities of recovering such a shredded file becomes mainly theoretical.

File Shredder 2, is a simple but powerful program, with a straightforward interface, that many users judge to be better than some commercial file shredders. With File Shredder 2 you can remove files from your hard drive permanently, and feel confident that the file can’t be recovered.

File Shredder 4

Running the program allows you to choose between 5 different shredding algorithms, each one gradually stronger than the previous one. As well, it has an integrated Disk Wiper which uses a shredding algorithm to wipe unused disk space. I use this feature frequently, to clean up my drives (after running test applications), and to destroy any leftover fragments of previously deleted/uninstalled files.

If you’re looking for a great free file shredder application that does what it says it does, in an easy to understand manner, I highly recommend File Shredder 2.

System requirements: Windows 2000,  XP, Vista, Win 7.

Download at: Download.com

If you’re looking for a more robust portable application – checkout Disk Wipe.

Disk Wipe is a free, portable Windows application for permanent volume data destruction. With Disk Wipe you can erase all disk data and prevent recovery of that data.

Disk Wipe uses powerful algorithms which fill the volume with useless rubbish binary data, multiple times. The possibility of recovering information from drives formatted with Disk Wipe, is virtually non existent.

System requirements: Windows 2000,  XP, Vista, Win 7.

Download at: the developer’s site (Disk Wipe)

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.

5 Comments

Filed under Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Hard Drive Tools, Portable Applications, Privacy, Secure File Deletion, Software, USB, Windows Tips and Tools

Check Disk GUI–Check Hard Drive System Integrity The Easy Way

This past week I put up a post on Hard Drive maintenance – Don’t Wait Until Your Hard Drive Goes “Clunk-Clunk” – Check It Out Now With These Two Free Tools – which led to a query from Michael F., as to whether I had checked out a super little freeware application; CheckDiskGUI.

In fact I have. I originally posted on CheckDiskGUI in November 2010, but since CheckDiskGUI was recently updated to version 1.1.1, I’ve retested it. While I didn’t find any noticeable improvements, I continue to see this application as part of a sophisticated computer user’s system toolbox.

Here’s why:

imageFrom time to time, as part of your computer maintenance routine, it’s a good idea to check your Hard Drive’s file system integrity, by running Windows system integrity checker – CHKDSK (short for Check Disk).

There are a number of ways to run CHKDSK. If you’re an old MS DOS hound like me, then you’re probably comfortable running from the command prompt, using the following switches.

/c – NTFS only. Skips checking of cycles within the folder structure.

/f – Fixes errors on the volume. The volume must be locked. If Chkdsk cannot lock the volume, it offers to check it the next time the computer starts.

/i – NTFS only. Performs a less vigorous check of index entries.

/l – NTFS only. Displays current size of the log file.

/r – Locates bad sectors and recovers readable information (implies /f ). If Chkdsk cannot lock the volume, it offers to check it the next time the computer starts.

/v – On FAT. Displays the full path and name of every file on the volume.

On NTFS. Displays cleanup messages, if any.

/x – NTFS only. Forces the volume to dismount first, if necessary. All opened handles to the volume are then invalid (implies /f ).

/? – Displays this list of Chkdsk switches.

After CHKDSK has completed (if you’ve used the /f, or the /r, switches, this will only occur following a reboot since the volume is locked when in use), you can then view the Application Log by launching the Windows Event Viewer.

If you’re more comfortable operating in a graphical user interface environment the following method will suit your needs.

In Windows Explorer open the volume’s “Property” Tab “Tools” – click on “Error checking” and then “check now”.

image

In this example, I’ve checked “fix errors”, and “recover bad sectors”, the equivalent of the /f and /r switches, in the command prompt. As I said earlier, these commands will not be executed, until a system restart.

image

image

This method is not terrible complicated, but it’s still lacking a report capability. Once again, the users must launch Windows Event Viewer in order to view the Application Log.

As an alternative to either of the these two methods, I recommend that you run the Chkdsk command using the free CheckDiskGUI application.

The following screen captures will give you a quick overview of this small, but fairly powerful application.

image

Read only results – no “Fix”, or Fix and Recover”, options selected. However, notice that a full report is available.

image

Executing in “Fix”, or “Fix and Recover mode”, will allow two options – you can either run the commands at system restart, or immediately – by choosing to dismount the selected volume.

image

System requirements: Win7 x32, Win7 x64, Vista, Vista x64, XP.

Download at: Major Geeks

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.

Comments Off on Check Disk GUI–Check Hard Drive System Integrity The Easy Way

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Maintenance, computer repair, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Hard Drive Tools, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Don’t Wait Until Your Hard Drive Goes “Clunk-Clunk” – Check It Out Now With These Two Free Tools

Hard Drive DiagAll modern Hard Drives are equipped with a feature known as S.M.A.R.T. technology that provides real-time hard Drive analysis, including the ability to report on developing problems and potential issues.

The big question is: can you read the warnings S.M.A.R.T. technology provides? If you understand what – Reallocated sector count – Value 200, Threshold 140, Raw Value 0, means – you’ll have no need for either of the following free tools. But, if all that’s gobbledygook to you – you’ll find these tools a great addition to your utilities toolbox.

Your Hard Drive is the workhorse of your computer, and either on of these free tools can make it easier than ever, to diagnose what’s really happening inside it’s complex environment.

DiskCheckup:

PassMark Software, whose applications including BurnInTest 6.0 and PerformanceTest 7.0 , we’ve recommended here previously, offers a well laid out, free hard drive application, that’s worth considering.

DiskCheckup, utilizing S.M.A.R.T technology, will allow you to monitor the SMART attributes of your hard drive. Best of all, if the application detects a potential problem, you’ll get advanced warning through either a standard “warning window”, or (now this is cool), an email message.

Bonus: DiskCheckup can track changes to S.M.A.R.T attributes over time, and make a extrapolated ‘prediction’ as to the failure date of the HDD.

Setup, and application configuration are novice user simple, and the GUI presents an uncomplicated environment.

Everything you might want to know about your HDD – including drive geometry, serial number, model number, media rotation rate, and a broad list of supported features. Click on graphic to expand.

image

The configuration window offers very few, but nevertheless, important choices.

image

DiskCheckup provides a wealth of information on S.M.A.R.T attributes. Click on graphic to expand.

image

If you’re not familiar with interpreting the data  generated by the application – you can relax.  The application includes a well laid out help file.

System requirements: Windows XP, 2003 Server, 2008 Server, Vista and Windows 7.

Download at: PassMark Software

DiskCheckup is free for personal use. Company licenses can be purchased for $15 USD per license.

HD Tune:

HD Tune is no slouch when it comes to analyzing S.M.A.R.T. information from your Hard Drive. The gathered information, which includes data on the Hard Drive’s attributes as well as the Hard Drive’s health, is presented in an easy to understand format.

HD Tune’s additional functionality includes the ability to scan for errors, and a Benchmarking utility which you can use to give your Hard Drive a workout, and then analyze the results.

Drive information screen. Click on graphic to expand.

image

The HD Tune Health screen provides a no nonsense assessment of your HD’s S.M.A.R.T attributes. There’s nothing ambiguous here – it’s either OK, or not. Click on graphic to expand.

image

If you’ve ever wondered just how well your hard drive performs, then you’ll appreciate the Benchmark test included in HD Tune. Here’s an example of a test I ran for this review. Click on graphic to expand.

image

Checking your HD for errors is quick and painless. Click on graphic to expand.

image

The available settings are minimal – as they should be. Click on graphic to expand.

image

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

Download at: HD Tune – (scroll down for the free version).

HD Tune is free for personal use only.

Note: Hard Drive diagnostic software is offered free from all the major Hard Drive manufacturers. Check out their sites.

Western Digital Support

Samsung

Seagate and Maxtor

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.

8 Comments

Filed under downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Maintenance, Hard Drive Problems, Hard Drive Tools, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Smarter Than Ever – IObit Releases Free Smart Defrag 2

IObit announces a new version of their free disk defragment software – Smart Defrag 2.

Defrag In a real sense, it’s often difficult to measure an increase in system performance following Hard Drive defragmentation. Nevertheless, I do agree, that defragging is a positive maintenance process, and should be done regularly.

A  quick recap on disk fragmentation: What is it?

Creating and deleting files and folders, installing new software, and downloading files from the Internet, will cause a Hard Drive to become fragmented. When you delete files or folders, the first available empty spaces on the Hard Drive are filled in randomly when you create new files and folders – as you do when you save pics from your camera, install software, save emails, or create documents.

To keep fragmentation to a minimum, I run the paid version of TuneUp Utilities 2011 in the background, which continuously optimizes, amongst other things, my computer’s hardware, including automatic disk defragging.

The latest release (March 18, 2011 ), of the award winning free system tool, IObit Smart Defrag 2 , can also run on this type of “set and forget” basis. I occasionally hear from users that they can’t remember the last time they defragged their disk/s – they’ll get to it – eventually. But, they don’t have to – IObit Smart Defrag 2, can do this for them on a continuous basis.

Sporting a brand new user interface, (which remains uncluttered), IObit Smart Defrag 2 continues to be easy to use, and as in previous versions – it’s fast and efficient, and best of all, it’s free.

Installation: Be cautious.

image

NEW – Boot time defrag allows files which can’t be defragged, or moved while the system is running, to be defragged. These files include pagefile, hibernation file, MFT, and system files.

image

image

If you’re running the automatic defrag feature, you’ll have ready access to a simple reporting tool.

image

Running a full defrag, and full optimization (which places  frequently used files and folders into the fastest area of the disk), took just a few minutes.

image

Fast facts:

Extremely Fast and Efficient Defragmentation Enhanced – Using IObit’s latest defrag engine and the new “Boot Time Defrag” technology, Smart Defrag 2 has not only the world’s fastest defragmenting speed but also the most advanced defragmenting ability. It’s been specially designed for modern, large hard drives, which eliminates the long waiting time.

Always-on Automatic Defragment Enhanced – Smart Defrag 2 works automatically and quietly in the background, so it continually and constantly keeps your computer fragment-free.

New! “Boot Time Defrag” Technology – Smart Defrag 2 uses a new “Boot Time Defrag” technology which allows you to defrag files during the system boot process – files which cannot be defragged or are not safe to move after the system is already up.

System requirements: Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit), Vista (32-bit and 64-bit), XP (32-bit and 64-bit) with SP2/SP3 or Home/Professional/Media Center, and 2000.

Languages: English, Albanian, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italiano, Japanese, Korean, Malayalam, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese, 简体中文, 繁體中文.

Download at: Download.com

The addition of a “boot-time defrag” feature (not always available in a free defrager), coupled with an improved defrag engine, makes Smart Defrag 2 a worthy competitor in a crowded freeware defrag market.

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.

10 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tune Up Utilities, Defrag Tools, Defraggers, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Tools, IObit, Software, TuneUp Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Save $29: Partition Assistant Professional Edition 4 Day License Giveaway

Windows Partition Manager: Partition Assistant Pro Edition

There are a number of sound reasons to partition today’s large Hard Drives. The best reason I can think of (from a personal perspective), is simply this – data organization.

Additional good reasons to partition could include, keeping your valuable data separate from the operating system so that if you are faced with an OS reinstall following an infection, you can do so without losing irreplaceable data. As well, a multiple boot configuration (resident on one of my machines), which allow users to have more than one operating systems on a computer, requires multiple partitions.

While we’re talking about an OS reinstall following a malware infection, let me just remind you that partitioning is NOT a substitute for backing up your important data. Hard Drives can, and do, fail – a good backup strategy is an absolute must.

Software developer Aomei Technology, recently invited me to be part of their four day giveaway (January 25 to 29, 2011), for a free licensed version of their premier partition manager – Partition Assistant Professional Edition.

Partition Assistant Professional Edition, with its simple user interface allows you to easily create, delete, format, move, resize partitions, and much more. The “much more” characterization (see fast facts), takes this application out of the range of typical free partition management applications.

image

Click graphic to expand.

Publisher’s description:

This professional edition is an advanced partition manager software to assist you to optimize your disk performance; most widely used by personal users which allows you to be an partition solution expert with professional unique technology.

Fast facts:

Extend NTFS partition without restarting computer.

Resize and Move partition to optimize disk space management.

Extend Partition Wizard help you step by step expand the size of your selected partition.

Clone/Copy Disk, Clone/Copy Partition.

Merge two or more partitions into a larger one.

Split one partition into two or more.

Create, Delete and Format partition.

Convert file system from FAT to NTFS.

Wipe permanently sensitive data to anti-recovery.

Wipe hard drive, Wipe Partition.

Repartition by drag & drop mouse on a disk panel.

Support resizing NTFS and FAT32 file system.

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

Publisher’s siteAomei Technology

Giveaway download link. This is the only link from which the license giveaway is available.

If you’re in the market for a partition manager that includes professional capabilities, then Partition Assistant Professional Edition is worth a close look. As well, FREE has a nice ring to it.

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.

3 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Tools, downloads, Free Full Versions, Giveaways, Hard Drive Cloning, Hard Drive Tools, Software, Software Giveaways, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP