Category Archives: System File Protection

Don’t Have WinPatrol? Look What You’re Missing!

imageI’m often asked to describe the security applications I run on my primary home machine and, I’ll occasionally post an article which does just that. Regular readers will have noticed, that consistent with that old aphorism “the only constant is change”, my choices of security applications over the years have frequently changed. Except for one application – WinPatrol.

WinPatrol makes my indispensible program list every time – as it has for the last 10 years, or more (WinPatrol is now in its 20th version). No other security application, on any of my machines, comes close to that.

WinPatrol’s strong point is – it monitors system areas that malicious programs attack. The free version of this highly regarded application doesn’t stop there though. With WinPatrol in your system tray, you can monitor your system, startup programs, services, cookies, current tasks, and more.

If anything changes, Scotty (the system tray Icon) will alert you. Taking it one step further; WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs.

WinPatrol’s user interface couldn’t be any simpler. New users should have no difficulty following this self explanatory layout.

Selecting options is “click the box” simple.

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The following screen shot shows currently running applications on my machine, at the time the window was captured.

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The following screen shot shows recent activity. The right click context menu allows the user to perform a number of operations on the selected entry. I’ve illustrated this by selecting “Properties” of the highlighted .dll.

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WinPatrol Free – Feature Chart

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Additional Features in WinPatrol Plus

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System requirements: Window XP, Vista, Win 7 ( including x64 support).

Download WinPatrol Free at: BillP Studios

If you’re currently a WinPatrol user – don’t keep it a secret. Let you friends/relatives/associates know – WinPatrol is a must have application.

BTW, Bill Pytlovany, WinPatrol’s developer, accepts and encourages donations.

WinPatrol Plus lifetime licenses are available as follows:

WinPatrol PLUS $29.95

WinPatrol PLUS Family Pack $49.95

Download WinPatrol Plus at: BillP Studios

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Returnil System Safe 2011 Free –Virtualization With Added Antimalware Protection

System virtualization is a very cool technology which, if used correctly, has the power to control malware intrusion through the use of a ‘”virtual” environment, rather than operating in a “real” environment.

Running virtualized while surfing the Internet makes sense, and since it does, we’ve reviewed a number of these applications in the last year or two, including -Shadow Defender, Returnil Virtual System (a previous version of the application currently being reviewed), Sandboxie, GeSWall, Wondershare Time Freeze, Free BufferZone Pro, and more – including virtualized Browser add-ons.

A quick overview of Returnil System Safe 2011 Free:

Returnil System Safe clones your computer’s System Partition and boots the PC into a controlled virtual environment, rather than native Windows. Since the OS operates virtually, the “real” OS cannot be compromised by malware, malicious software, etc. Should the virtual OS become compromised, a simple restart will return the machine to its original state.

Returnil System Safe 2011 Free is compatible with both 32 bit and 64 bit Windows systems. As a value added bonus, Returnil System Safe 2011 Free incorporates an Anti-malware and Anti-spyware component.

Installation is uncomplicated and should run error free. All of the following screen captures can be expanded to the original size, by clicking on the graphic.

Pay particular attention to the registration screen. Should you choose not to register the application, certain product features will not be available past 30 days.

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If you plan on continuing to run the application past the 30 day mark, it seems sensible to register. Registration will be confirmed as per the following screen shot.

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Setting the Virus Guard real-time protection is simple and straightforward.

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You will have the option of automatically starting the application on Windows startup but, I caution against this. Once the application is running, any changes (including downloads, for example, cannot be saved). You will, of course, be guided by your own needs.

The following screen capture explains this restriction.

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Instead of an autostart, launch the application manually as needed – surfing the Web, for example.

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Fast facts:

  Overall Product

  • New an improved interface
  • Clear protection status of your system
  • Manage main features from one screen

Virus Guard (Anti-malware and Anti-spyware)

  • Real-time protection – define your own shield sensitivity
  • Quick Scan – light on resources and effective
  • Full Scan – thorough scan of pre-defined areas on your computer
  • Scan is dynamically adjustable to user workload (less resource intensive)

Virtual Mode

  • Protect your system – Virtualize it!
  • Virtual Mode Always On or just in current session
  • Ability to save files via File Manager (paid version only)
  • Powerful anti-execute protection

System Restore (System Rollback)

  • Repair infections with ease
  • Restore your system to a previously known/clean state
  • Recover individual infected files
  • Do not ever worry about losing your data

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003, Server 2008,  Windows 7 (all – 32 and 64-bit).

Supported Languages: English, German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese (Simplified), Russian, Portuguese (Brazil), Dutch, Polish, Bulgarian, Finnish.

Download at: Download.com

Overall assessment:

Compared to previous free versions of Returnil, this version suffers from a major lack of functionality – with the focus primarily directed towards a user upgrade. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that of course – that’s marketing. But, this market driven position ignores the fact that free competitive products offer more substantial features and benefits.

If you’re looking for a free virtualization application that offers a reasonably complete solution, then you should consider Free BufferZone Pro. You can read a full review here – Free BufferZone Pro – Maybe The Best Surfing Virtualization Application At Any Price

Update: July 1, 2011

Mike Wood, from Returnil, has clarified a number of issues in the response which follows:

Thanks for the review and write up. All feedback is welcomed and yours has been taken into account for future versions. Some feedback on a couple of things in the article:

1. “… this version suffers from a major lack of functionality “: In the older RVS 2010 versions, the Virus Guard was limited to Quick Scans only. We changed this in the 3.2x versions to include Full System scans in RSS Free. We also provide updates via the Cloud feature that are based on the unknown/malicious file and behavior data collection and server side analysis in our own engine/AI tech. RSS Free does have some limitations as far as premium features are concerned, but that is actually only for the System Restore and File Manager/Access Real disk features. The latter centers around being able to save content to the real System partition while in Virtual Mode and the former is centered on the additional tools we provide to the native Windows Shadow Copy service used for the SR feature.

Those using the Free version can still save content and data to disk; the key is in where that data is stored. In the free version you can still save content to non-system disks/partitions and also have access to the Virtual Disk which can be used as a convenience for those with single partition rigs (only a C:\ drive for example).

The features in the System Restore in the paid versions includes automatic antimalware scanning of restore points and backups prior to implementation as well as the ability to recover files from the previous machine state following a restore. Another feature of the SR is that it can monitor all forms of backups and will list them in the Full Restore option when activated so they can be scanned for malicious content as described above.

2. The discussion of layered security approaches: RSS Pro was designed from the outset to be a vertical layered security approach in a single application where each component part works to not only provide its core functionality, but also to cover the weaknesses in the other component parts. As the free version does have some feature limitations, it is more appropriately placed as a team player in a larger layered strategy that the user is implementing with an ability to cover System level virtualization (as opposed to BZ’s application layer approach), complimentary antimalware, and anti-execute so you can reduce the overall number of other security applications you need to make said strategy work.

The paid version takes this a step further and allows the user to have a layered strategy in a one-stop package that can reduce the need for additional programs in the mix other than a good firewall solution.

With Kind regards,

Mike

Returnil Support

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Free BufferZone Pro – Maybe The Best Surfing Virtualization Application At Any Price

Back in December, regular reader John W, pointed me to a free license giveaway for BufferZone, a virtualization application which creates an isolated environment called the Virtual Zone, while you surf the Internet.

Based on John’s recommendation, I wrote an informational only article, since I had not had an opportunity to test the application. I’ve spent some time in the interim testing this application, and there’s just one word to describe it – brilliant, exceptional, splendid, superb.

OK, that’s more than one word – but I’m more than just a little enthusiastic about this program. Best of all, this application is now free – as in FREE.

This is not 1985 when the only thing you had to worry about was the crud that 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, and intrusion attempts take place.

A case in point:

While surfing the Net, a user mistakenly accepts an invitation to install a scareware application but realizes, after the fact, that this is a scam. Operating in a “real” environment, the damage, unfortunately, would already have been done.

Operating in a “virtual” environment with BufferZone active, system changes attempted by this parasite would simply not occur.

So, controlling malware intrusion, while surfing the Net, through the use of a ‘”virtual” environment rather than operating in a “real” environment, makes sense given the escalating level of cyber criminal activity on the Internet.

From the developer’s site:

BufferZone Pro keeps you surfing, downloading, e-banking, sharing, chatting, and e-mailing to your heart’s content – basically, using the Internet as it should be used. The Virtual Zone gives you total freedom, peace and security on the Web. With BufferZone Pro, you can do absolutely anything on the Internet threat free.

With BufferZone, all programs or files that enter your computer through downloading, browsing, or uploading with external media devices, are redirected to a Virtual Zone (C:\Virtual). And, since any intrusion attempt occurs within this virtual environment, there’s nothing in that summary that I can disagree with. BufferZone’s Virtual Zone does protect a PC from all forms of known, or unknown, attacks originating from the Internet, or external devices.

It does so in a non intrusive way, and after initial setup, requires a minimum of user intervention – perfect for the average user. Installation is hassle free – it’s just a matter of  following the on-screen instructions.

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BufferZone sits in the Taskbar and can be fully controlled from there.

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Once the application is installed, and after a re-boot, you will be taken to the developer’s site (this is a one time occurrence), for a point by point introduction to Buffer Zone. The following screen captures (taken from the developer’s site), provide a clear explanation.

Clicking on any screen shot will expand it to the original.

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In the last few months we’ve looked at operating system virtualization – Shadow Defender, Returnil Virtual System, Wondershare Time Freeze, and a number of other similar applications. As well as alternatives to OS virtualization – specific application virtualization running in a sandbox. For straight out ease of use while surfing the Internet though, BufferZone has become my favorite.

If you’re unsure as to whether you should operate in “virtual mode” while surfing the Net, then take this free security test at the developer’s site.

On my “unprotected” test machine, the following is the result of the simulated Trojan attack. The “stolen” files were on a non-system partition so the Trojan doesn’t restrict itself to just the (C:) drive.

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Actually, I forgot to turn off ThreatFire, which picked up the attack in progress. This shows the benefit of a layered security approach.

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 (32-bit).

Download at: the developer’s site (Trustware.com).

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Protect Your Bits With BitDefender Internet Security 2011

imageIf it’s true that 50% of computer users run without adequate security protection, as some statistics indicate, then I can understand why. Given the complexity of a typical anti-malware product in both setup and operation, it’s little wonder that many users throw up their hands in frustration.

To be sure, computer security is a complex issue, but that shouldn’t mean that the average end user of a security application, needs to be exposed to a labyrinth of choices in either application setup, or in monitoring activity.

It’s hard to overstate the fact that typical computer users require a simple, intuitive, and easy to use interface in order to get the most out of a security suite, and BitDefender’s Internet Security 2011 breaks new ground here. More on this later.

By combining an efficient Firewall, an Antivirus engine, an Antispyware engine, Spam filtering, a parental control system, privacy control, home network and game/laptop modes – BitDefender has built a suite of applications that provides powerful protection.

Taken together, the components provide excellent protection from hackers, cybercriminals, unauthorized software, network attacks, and more.

The application is straightforward to setup, customize, and run – as the following screen captures illustrate. (Click on any graphic to enlarge).

Following installation the application automatically runs a quick scan to ensure the system is clean prior to setup completion.

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Very cool! No malware found on the test system.

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BitDefender’s Internet Security 2011 is all about simple initial choices – average users can sit back and allow the application to choose the most appropriate settings.  Sophisticated users, on the other hand, can get their hands dirty.

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The user has an opportunity to choose a simple, intuitive, and easy to use interface, rather than the more complex intermediate, or expert mode. When I installed this application, I did so with 10 average users in attendance – each one agreed that the “Basic View”, would be the most appropriate for their needs.

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The additional tools menu is push button simple, as the following screen shot indicates.

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On the completion of the installation, a summary of installed application modules is provided.

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Finally, a guided tour is a helpful tool which makes it easy for an average user to become familiar with the application.

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Fast facts:

Firewall

Antivirus & Antispyware

Antispam

Anti-phishing

Chat Encryption

Identity protection and privacy controls

Parental Control

Family Network Protection – Home network monitor

Smart Scan

Quick Scan

Smart Schedule

Smart Help

Smart Sense

System requirements: Windows XP SP3, Vista (SP1), Wind 7 (both 32 bit and 64 bit).

Note: Recommended hardware –

  • CPU: Intel CORE Duo (1.66 GHz) or equivalent processor
  • Memory (RAM):
  • 1 GB (Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Windows 7)
  • 1.5 GB (Microsoft Windows Vista)

Having tested this application on a number of machines, I suggest you don’t install this application unless your computer meets, or exceeds, these requirements.

Download 30 day trial version at: BitDefender

Purchase product at: BitDefender (3 PCs for 1 year $49.95).

A personal note: BitDefender is one of my favorite security providers, since it offers a bevy of free virus removal tools, as well as a number of free specialty security tools.

A final word: Choosing a security application correctly depends on a number of variables including – how you use a computer on the Internet. In the final analysis though, the application should simply work –  unobtrusively and silently, with a minimum of fuss and bother – without presenting complex questions that average users simply can’t grasp.

Overall, BitDefender Internet Security 2011 handles this issue very well, and its overall detection and malware removal rates, place it in the top tier of security applications.

A word of caution here regarding tests carried out by antimalware labs. By and large, these tests are one time “snap shots”, and are not always indicative of an applications strengths, or weaknesses. Applications tend to change relative positions based on these tests, very often.

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Download Shadow Defender – Virtualized Intrusion Prevention

Shadow Defender is an intrusion prevention system that is non-intrusive, and after initial setup, requires a minimum of user intervention – perfect for the average user.

Simply put, Shadow Defender, when active, creates a virtual environment on your computer by redirecting all changes to your system to an unused location on your Hard Drive. At, or before shut down, these system changes can be permanently saved to disk, or completely discarded.

Virtualization can be analogous to – “now you see me; now you don’t”, or “you think you can see me, but I’m not really here”. By handling security in this way, Shadow Defender prevents damage from intrusions, and malicious software: viruses, worms, spyware, key loggers, etc.

A case in point:

While surfing the Net, an inexperienced user mistakenly accepts an invitation to install a scareware application but realizes, after the fact, that this is a scam. Operating in a “real” environment, the damage, unfortunately, would already have been done.

Operating in a “virtual” environment with Shadow Defender active; operating in Shadow Mode, the system changes made by this parasite could be completely discarded, since the attack occurred in the, “I’m not really here” environment .

A system reboot would restore the system to the original state, as if the attack had not occurred.

So what’s Shadow Mode?

Shadow Defender clones an independent system platform with the same configuration, and functions,  as the existing system. The important difference between “normal mode”, and the shadow mode is: everything in Shadow Mode, including the file/s you downloaded, the document/s you created, or the settings that you changed, will disappear when you exit Shadow Mode.

The user interface is “follow the bouncing ball” simple as the following screen captures illustrate.

Since I’m not a fan of application auto start, I configured this application to start on an on demand basis – only at Browser launch.

Shadow Defender 1

At the following screen, I set the application to protect both partitions on my Hard Drive. Simple.

Shadow Defender 2

If a user choose to run Shadow Defender on a continuous basis, an option is available to exclude specific files and folders. Remember, since all downloaded files, all created documents, and all system changes will disappear when the user exits Shadow Mode, unless excluded, this is a critical option.

Shadow Defender 3

The administration screen allows the user to fine tune the application to their specific needs including allowing/disallowing auto start at boot.

Shadow Defender 4

Fast facts:

Prevent all viruses and malware.

Surf the internet safely and eliminate unwanted traces.

Protect your privacy.

Eliminate system downtime and maintenance costs.

Reboot to restore your system back to its original state.

Maintain a system free from malicious activity and unwanted changes.

Test software and game installations in a safe environment.

Protect against unwanted changes by shared users (suitable for workplaces and educational institutions).

During a quick test, I downloaded application files, video files, moved files between partitions, wrote and saved test documents, and made minor system changes with Shadow Defender active. On reboot, no changes were evident.

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

This application is not freeware but you may download a 30 day trial version at: Shadow Defender

Purchase Price $35.00

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WinPatrol – Today Only 99 Cents (A Great Addition to Your Geek Toolbox)

image Do you want to get a better understanding of what programs are being added to your computer? Then WinPatrol, a neat system utility that’s compatible with Windows 95 through to Windows 7, is the program for you.

WinPatrol monitors system areas that malicious programs must attack and use. If anything changes, Scotty (the system tray Icon) will alert you.

WinPatrol to go 1

In most cases, it will be a legitimate program you have recently installed. You can decide to keep it, remove it, or disable it, based on information provided by WinPatrol.

WinPatrol to go 2

Fast facts:

Remove Un-Wanted Auto Start crapware.

Disable Un-Needed Automatic Windows Services

Remove Annoying Toolbars and BHO’s

Create Reports that provide a snapshot of potential problems

Disable ActiveX Controls & MORE!

Compatible with Windows 95 – Windows 7

There are a host of additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security toolbox.

Take a look at the following from the developer’s site:

Enhanced Keylogger Detection

The use of keyloggers for illegal purposes has exploded. A Schenectady man was recently jailed for up to three years for felony eavesdropping after putting a keylogger on his wife’s computer. I’ve heard too many stories of abuse made possible due to keyloggers so it’s time for it to stop. While WinPatrol PLUS had always detected keyloggers we’ve enhanced this feature and it’s now available to free users so everyone is protected.

Optimized Detection of New Services

As more and more programs move to the Windows Service model it become apparent that this may be a popular avenue of attack in the future. The routine used to monitor and detect new Window Services has been optimized to make this process transparent.

Decrease CPU Usage and Conflicts

Conflicts with some other registry intense programs may have resulted in abnormally high CPU usage on past versions. WinPatrol 14 includes some intelligent routines to allow complete protection without fighting over resources with other security suites and system level programs.

Default -expressboot option

WinPatrol now includes a -expressboot option which will be used when machines boot up for the first time. This new feature optimizes boot time and allows other applications to maximize their initialization routines.

Regular Registry Cleanup

Some registry cleaners have complained that we don’t clean up some data stored in the registry quickly enough. This version will remove information that is no longer needed and “First Detected” information on a regular basic when the file no longer exists.

Download at: BillP Studios

For a comprehensive security article on this Blog, “The Top 10 Free Security Applications Your Security Toolbox Can’t be Without!” –  Click here.

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Filed under downloads, Geek Software and Tools, System File Protection, System Security, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Free GeSWall Isolates You From Cybercriminals

imageI originally reviewed GesWall in September, after having tested this free security application for roughly 30 days. I’ve now gone well past the testing stage, and GesWall has become a permanent fixture on my personal machines.

Since installing GesWall on these home machines (I do not use these machines for testing purposes), I have not had to deal with a single instance of malware intrusion. GesWall is not entirely responsible for this of course, but it has certainly given me an enhanced level of confidence while surfing the Internet.

I think that all users, but particularly new and less experienced users, could benefit significantly by adding this application to their existing layered anti-malware defenses, and here’s why:

Anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall applications generally offer reasonable protection against the increasingly more powerful and destructive Internet based attacks, against home computer systems. Unfortunately, these applications, even taken together, do not make up for the lack of experience, and intuitiveness, of many computer users.

A good example of the effects of this lack of experience can be seen in the field day that malware such as rogue applications, or scareware, is currently enjoying on the Internet. Unaware users are downloading these highly damaging applications by the boatload. Regular readers are aware, that we report on these extremely malicious applications frequently.

Techies and geeks, on the other hand, have the ability to respond to these types of Internet threats in ways that would dazzle an average computer user. They can do this because of their experience, and their highly developed intuitiveness.

So, why not develop a software application that is, in a sense, experienced and intuitive?

GentleSecurity has done just that with the release of GesWall, an intrusion prevention system that is non-intrusive, and requires a minimum of user intervention – perfect for the average user.

I’m going to describe this application, as best I can, in a non-technical way, since the objective is to convince less experienced users to give this free application a try. Power users already understand the principals involved in “isolating”, or “sandboxing” applications. Strictly speaking though, GeSWall is not a sandbox.

Simply put, GeSWall is an isolator which dynamically isolates Internet applications including Web Browsers, Chat Clients, Email Clients, and so on. In fact, it can isolate any installed application which the user is unsure of, including application installation applets.

By handling security in this way, GeSWall prevents damage from intrusions and malicious software: viruses, worms, spyware, key loggers etc., including preventing rogue software from being installed.

The following graphic illustrates, in an uncomplicated way, how GeSWall works. Use your screen magnifier to make viewing easier.

GeSWall 2

Following the installation of GeSWall, you are presented with the following screen at which time you have the opportunity to isolate specific applications; particularly applications that interact with the Internet. For example, I have isolated all of my web browsers, and I strongly recommend that you do so as well.

GeSWall 3

There is nothing to be gained by re-inventing the wheel, so I’ll refer you to an excellent video, posted on YouTube, which provides a terrific overview on how effective GeSWall is at protecting a computer against infection. This is an impressive video, and Kudos to Matt over at RemoveMalware.com, for putting it together.

Regular readers of this site are aware that I surf the underbelly of the Internet regularly, seeking out unsafe and damaging sites, malware, rogue applications, etc. I regularly infect the test bed machine I have set aside for this purpose. I then test the removal ability of anti-malware applications.

No matter how I tried however, (being reasonably responsible, of course), I could not infect the machine I set aside to test GeSWall  – it performed flawlessly. If you watched the video I recommended above, then you’ll have seen just how effective this application can be.

GeSWall Fast facts:

Prevents key loggers, rootkits, backdoors.

Prevents confidential file disclosure.

Prevents targeted intrusions.

Prevents malicious software infection.

Independent of attack techniques.

Easy to use, non-intrusive.

Central Management through Active Directory Group Policy

If you use any of the following applications, you can increase your Internet security substantially by installing this free application.

Chat Messengers

Download Managers

E-Mail and News

IRC

Multimedia

Office

P2P

Viewers

Web Browsers

Operating system: Windows 2003, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows 7

Download at: Download.com

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