Tag Archives: monitor

NoSleepHD Keeps Your External HD Spinning

imageWe all have those “damn, that drives me crazy” moments with computing, I expect. My particular “damn, that drives me crazy” moment, repeated throughout the day, day in and day out is, waiting for the auxiliary Hard Drives (non-OS drives) on my system, to spin up.

Most Hard Drives feature a firmware auto spin down function, independent of the OS, that shuts down the drive after 10 minutes, or so, of inactivity. A primary Hard Drive, of course, can be controlled by adjusting power options in the OS’s advanced power settings menu. But, not auxiliary Hard Drives.

So, dealing with a repetitive non-responsive time lag of 3/5 seconds while my D, or E drive spins up – short though it may be – is annoying. Particularly, since I need to save my work periodically to drive D, or drive E – and, it’s generally outside the 10 minute spin down window.

I found a small (22 KB) free (open source) application, NoSleepHD, which I hoped might solve this annoyance. Despite the fact, that this small application is designed specifically to keep external Hard Drives from entering sleep mode, I gave it a try. Alas, it was a “no go”. So, I’m on the hunt for a freebie application which will solve the “damn, that drives me crazy” daily refrain.

Still, NoSleepHD is a simple, but nonetheless impressive little application, that writes a blank text file every few minutes (selectable 1 to 15) to an external Hard Drive (which effectively prevents the drive from entering sleep mode), which might come in handy for those who run with external Hard Drives.

Here’s a quick overview:

A simple GUI.

image

Click ‘Info’ tab to view drive information.

Monitor multiple drives by selecting, more drives in ‘Configuration’ tab. (Up to 5 External Hard Drives).

Hard drive monitoring can be stopped if necessary. (Which would allow the drive to go to auto-sleep).

Application can sit in the System Tray or simply minimized.

Auto-run at start-up can also be enabled.

System requirements: All versions of Windows.

Download at: Softpedia

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4 Comments

Filed under downloads, Freeware, Open Source, Software, System Utilities

WinPatrol Plus – ONLY $5 This Weekend

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, that is, 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.

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

From the site:

Instead of a $29.95 upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS this weekend upgrading will only for $5. Like our everyday pricing you can use your single license on every personal computer you own and use it for your lifetime including any new versions we release.

For our friends in Europe $5 USD currently converts to about €3.73 so it’s even a better deal. $25 USD converts to about €18.7 at least by today’s rate.

The sale starts midnight, Friday morning EST time zone.

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WinPatrol Overview:

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.

image

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

image

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.

image

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.

From the site:

Instead of a $29.95 upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS this weekend upgrading will only for $5. Like our everyday pricing you can use your single license on every personal computer you own and use it for your lifetime including any new versions we release.

For our friends in Europe $5 USD currently converts to about €3.73 so it’s even a better deal. $25 USD converts to about €18.7 at least by today’s rate.

Download WinPatrol Plus at: BillP Studios

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 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, HIPS, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Utilities

Daylight Savings Time Ends – It’s That Semi-Annual “Clean Your Computer” Time Again

imageTo make it easy to remember, I schedule my computer maintenance and cleaning, at the Spring and Fall time changes. Since we’ve adjusted our clocks back one hour today (here in North America), it’s time to rerun a primer on how to do a top to bottom physical cleanup of your computer.

Spring cleaning

Over the years I’ve noticed that many computer users are not too concerned with keeping the physical components clean; and they need to be concerned.  Computer maintenance involves not only keeping a computer clean of malware; viruses, Trojans, spyware, and adware – but, keeping the physical machine clean as well.

As regular reader TeX pointed out last year, when I ran this article – “Think of a place that hides more dust than the space under your bed.” He’s right – a computer system can collect an an amazing amount of dust.

image

No, this is not one of my machines. Winking smile

Physically cleaning your computer is potentially one of the most important cleanup jobs you’re ever likely to do. Here’s why – heat.

Heat is a component killer, and it’s the chief cause of CPU failure in computers. CPU failure, caused by dust clogged vents, which leads to reduced air flow, is a more common occurrence than many realize.

Killer Dirt = Killer Heat

Overheating of the CPU will, at a minimum, cause the system to behave erratically; the computer spontaneously switches off, or restarts; frequent “blue-screen” error messages, and more.

Here’s a comment from my Australian buddy Mal, on last year’s reposting of this article – “Earlier this year, my computer started beeping at me. It was an alarm to say “I’m overheating”. I took off the cover and cleaned out all the dust, which was everywhere.

When I turned it back on, the temp at dropped 30 degrees Celsius. No wonder the machine was screaming at me. So a good timely article on your part.”

Keeping your computer in top shape, with a regularly scheduled cleaning program, will prevent the inconvenience of having your system go down, and in the long run save you money.

Tools you’ll need:

Screwdriver

A can of compressed air

Cotton swabs

Rubbing alcohol (70% is fine)

Paper towels or anti-static cloths

Water

Make sure you disconnect the machine from the wall outlet before you begin maintenance and cleanup, and be gentle when touching the components inside the case.

Open the case:

If required, use the screwdriver to remove the side of the case that’s opposite the motherboard. Blow compresses air over the components and interior of the case, keeping the can upright and nozzle four inches away from components.

Clean the power supply and the case fan with a shot of compressed air. Next, blow compressed air into the CD/DVD drive. Give the inside of the case a wipe with a slightly moistened cloth before replacing the cover.

Clean the exterior:

Wipe the exterior of the case with a slightly moistened cloth; repeat the wipe with a dry cloth or paper towel. Be sure to clean all case openings using this method.

Clean the keyboard:

Since the keyboard gets more physical contact than any other component, if you can, clean it on a monthly basis. Blowout in and around the keys with compressed air monthly and on your scheduled cleanup rub down the keys and case with a clean cloth slightly dampened with rubbing alcohol.

Clean the mouse:

Like the keyboard, the mouse gets substantial physical contact and requires cleaning on a monthly basis. If you have an optical mouse simply wipe it down just as you wiped down the keyboard. If you have a mechanical mouse then you need to remove, wash, and then dry the ball.

Next, clean inside the mouse with a cotton swab moistened with rubbing alcohol. Finally blow compressed air into the opening and then reassemble the mouse.

Clean the monitor:

Never spray liquid directly onto the screen. Instead, moisten the cloth, or the paper towel, with the cleaning solution. Spraying the screen directly runs the risk of liquid penetrating into the monitor components.

Wipe the screen gently to remove dust and fingerprints. For laptop screens, buy a special cleaning solution available at computer stores. Do this weekly.

I know this is a no-brainer, but before you plug the computer back into the wall outlet, be sure all components are thoroughly dry.

Previous postings of this article drew some very valuable comments from regular readers, including the following:

Vhick:

I always clean my PC one a month. In a tropical country like here, dust is everywhere. Clean, turn around, and there’s a dust again. PC cleaning inside and out is must here, because of very hot temperatures.

Georg L:

Cleaning is nice, but when doing so, one should also change the heat sink compound between hot semiconductors and the respective heat sinks. The CPU is most critical in this respect.

Volatile components evaporate over time, turning the compound into an effective heat insulator with a plaster-like texture. I suggest a change every second year in moderate climates, and an annual change in the tropics.

Just to follow up on Georg’s comment – earlier this year, a reader explained that he had rebuilt his machine and replaced all components (other than the CPU), and yet, the machine still locked up after just a few minutes of operation. I passed on Georg’s advice and voila – problem solved!

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.

25 Comments

Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Computer Maintenance, Save Your CPU, Windows Tips and Tools

Not Running Secunia PSI? Why Not?

imageDespite the fact that burglaries are at an all-time high in my neighborhood, and despite the fact that the Police regularly caution residents to lock both windows and doors when not at home, one of my close neighbors always leaves at least one window open while she’s out. I have to say – it just boggles my mind.

Throughout the summer she is out of town every weekend and, you guessed it – she still leaves at least one window wide open. Her behavior, not to put too fine a point on it – is idiotic. If you’ve ever wondered why your home owners insurance policy is more expensive than it needs to be, it’s partially due to lamebrains like my neighbor.

Computer systems running insecure and unpatched applications are analogous to the open window in my neighbor’s house, and are a common gateway used by cyber-criminals to infect unaware users’ machines. Worse, unlike the aftereffects of a home burglary, which are rather self evident, a compromised computer can often remain undetected.

As important as it is, that you secure your computer by implementing a layered security approach, it’s equally as important that you close any “open windows” in your operating system, by keeping your installed applications current and up-to-date. And, Secunia, the leading provider of Vulnerability Intelligence, can help you do just that with its free application – Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI).

Since PSI constantly monitors your system for insecure software installations, notifies you when an insecure application is installed, and even provides you with detailed instructions for updating the application, when available – installing this small free application will assist you in ensuring that your software installations are relatively secure. I say “relatively”, since there is no perfect system.

The following screen captures illustrate, just how easy it is to take that extra step toward a more secure computing experience, using PSI. Click on any graphic to expand to its original size.

During the install process, you will have an opportunity to select “Auto Updates”. I suggest that you take advantage of this feature.

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Again, during the install process, you will have an opportunity to select “full changes in the tray icon”. If you have selected “Auto Updates”, as per the previous window, you should select this option.

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The settings menu provides a full range of adjustments so that you can configure the application to more accurately meet your specific needs.

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The following screen capture illustrates a security scan in progress. The full scan took under two minutes to complete.

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According to the scan results, my test machine is 12% more secure compared to non-users of PSI in my local area. This is no cause for celebration though, since the test machine is running two insecure applications. One of which, VLC Media Player, has been a recent target of cyber criminals. Ouch!

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The following screen capture shows the full test results and you can readily see, that both Adobe Flash Player and the previously mentioned VLC, are both insecure. Adobe Flash Player, dramatically so. Double ouch!

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Additional data on an insecure program can be gathered by double clicking on the program, as shown in the following screen shot.

image

Quick facts:

Secunia PSI is free for private use.

Allows you to secure your PC – Patch your applications – Be proactive

Scans for Insecure and End-of-Life applications

Verifies that all Microsoft patches are applied

Tracks your patch-performance week by week

Direct and easy access to security patches.

Detects more than 300,000 unique application versions

Provides a detailed report of missing security related updates

Provides a tabbed report which indicates programs that are no longer supported – programs with all known patches – insecure programs, etc.

Provides a Toolbox offering a set of links which helps you assess a problem and how to resolve it.

Installing this small free application will definitely assist you in identifying possible security leaks; give it a try.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista SP 1 or later, XP SP 3 (32 & 64 bit).

Watch: How to install and use the Secunia PSI 2.0

Download at: Secunia

Bonus: Do it in the Cloud – The Secunia Online Software Inspector, (OSI), is a fast way to scan your PC for the most common programs and vulnerabilities; checking if your PC has a minimum security baseline against known patched vulnerabilities.

Link: Secunia Online Software Inspector. In the last 24 hours, fully 19% of applications checked by this online tool, were insecure.

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.

15 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Application Vulnerabilities, Cloud Computing Applications, Computer Audit Applications, cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Recommended Web Sites, Secunia, Software, System Security, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

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.

image

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

image

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.

image

WinPatrol Free – Feature Chart

image

Additional Features in WinPatrol Plus

image

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

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 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, HIPS, Malware Protection, New Computer User Software Tools, Software, System File Protection, System Security, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Daylight Savings Time Begins – It’s That Semi-Annual “Clean Your Computer” Time Again

To make it easy to remember, I schedule my computer maintenance and cleaning, at the Spring and Fall time changes – just as I schedule my smoke detector battery replacement.

Since we’ve just recently adjusted our clocks one hour forward (here in North America), advancing into “daylight savings time”, it’s time to rerun a primer on how to do a top to bottom physical cleanup of your computer.

Spring cleaning

Over the years I’ve noticed that many computer users are not too concerned with keeping the physical components clean; and they need to be concerned.  Computer maintenance involves not only keeping a computer clean of malware; viruses, Trojans, spyware, and adware – but, keeping the physical machine clean as well.

As regular reader TeX pointed out last year, when I ran this article – “Think of a place that hides more dust than the space under your bed.” He’s right – a computer system can collect an an amazing amount of dust.

image

No, this is not one of my machines. Winking smile

Physically cleaning your computer is potentially one of the most important cleanup jobs you’re ever likely to do. Here’s why – heat.

Heat is a component killer, and it’s the chief cause of CPU failure in computers. CPU failure, caused by dust clogged vents, which leads to reduced air flow, is a more common occurrence than many realize.

Killer Dirt = Killer Heat

Overheating of the CPU will, at a minimum, cause the system to behave erratically; the computer spontaneously switches off, or restarts; frequent “blue-screen” error messages, and more.

Here’s a comment from my Australian buddy Mal, on last year’s reposting of this article – “Earlier this year, my computer started beeping at me. It was an alarm to say “I’m overheating”. I took off the cover and cleaned out all the dust, which was everywhere.

When I turned it back on, the temp at dropped 30 degrees Celsius. No wonder the machine was screaming at me. So a good timely article on your part.”

Keeping your computer in top shape, with a regularly scheduled cleaning program, will prevent the inconvenience of having your system go down, and in the long run save you money.

Tools you’ll need:

Screwdriver

A can of compressed air

Cotton swabs

Rubbing alcohol (70% is fine)

Paper towels or anti-static cloths

Water

Make sure you disconnect the machine from the wall outlet before you begin maintenance and cleanup, and be gentle when touching the components inside the case.

Open the case:

If required, use the screwdriver to remove the side of the case that’s opposite the motherboard. Blow compresses air over the components and interior of the case, keeping the can upright and nozzle four inches away from components.

Clean the power supply and the case fan with a shot of compressed air. Next, blow compressed air into the CD/DVD drive. Give the inside of the case a wipe with a slightly moistened cloth before replacing the cover.

Clean the exterior:

Wipe the exterior of the case with a slightly moistened cloth; repeat the wipe with a dry cloth or paper towel. Be sure to clean all case openings using this method.

Clean the keyboard:

Since the keyboard gets more physical contact than any other component, if you can, clean it on a monthly basis. Blowout in and around the keys with compressed air monthly and on your scheduled cleanup rub down the keys and case with a clean cloth slightly dampened with rubbing alcohol.

Clean the mouse:

Like the keyboard, the mouse gets substantial physical contact and requires cleaning on a monthly basis. If you have an optical mouse simply wipe it down just as you wiped down the keyboard. If you have a mechanical mouse then you need to remove, wash, and then dry the ball.

Next, clean inside the mouse with a cotton swab moistened with rubbing alcohol. Finally blow compressed air into the opening and then reassemble the mouse.

Clean the monitor:

Never spray liquid directly onto the screen. Instead, moisten the cloth, or the paper towel, with the cleaning solution. Spraying the screen directly runs the risk of liquid penetrating into the monitor components.

Wipe the screen gently to remove dust and fingerprints. For laptop screens, buy a special cleaning solution available at computer stores. Do this weekly.

I know this is a no-brainer, but before you plug the computer back into the wall outlet, be sure all components are thoroughly dry.

Previous postings of this article drew some very valuable comments from regular readers, including the following:

Vhick:

I always clean my PC one a month. In a tropical country like here, dust is everywhere. Clean, turn around, and there’s a dust again. PC cleaning inside and out is must here, because of very hot temperatures.

Georg L:

Cleaning is nice, but when doing so, one should also change the heat sink compound between hot semiconductors and the respective heat sinks. The CPU is most critical in this respect.

Volatile components evaporate over time, turning the compound into an effective heat insulator with a plaster-like texture. I suggest a change every second year in moderate climates, and an annual change in the tropics.

Just to follow up on Georg’s comment – earlier this year, a reader explained that he had rebuilt his machine and replaced all components (other than the CPU), and yet, the machine still locked up after just a few minutes of operation. I passed on Georg’s advice and voila – problem solved!

If you have the time, and you want to give your computer system a total clean up, you should consider reading “Maintain Your Machine – 10 + 1 Free Computer System Tools”, on this site.

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Computer Maintenance, downloads, Freeware, Save Your CPU, Slow Computer, Software, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Secunia PSI Updated – Version 2.0 Released

imageSecunia has just released (December 20, 2010), Version 2.0 of their award winning vulnerability and patch scanning free application – Secunia PSI.

As important as it is, that you secure your computer by implementing a layered security approach, it’s equally as important that you keep your installed applications current and up-to-date. Insecure and unpatched applications are a common gateway used by cyber-criminals to infect unaware users’ machines.

Since PSI constantly monitors your system for insecure software installations, notifies you when an insecure application is installed, and even provides you with detailed instructions for updating the application, when available – installing this small free application will assist you in ensuring that your software installations are relatively secure. I say “relatively”, since there is no perfect system.

The following screen captures illustrate, just how easy it is to take that extra step toward a more secure computing experience, using PSI. Click on any graphic to expand to its original size.

image

Following the initial scan of two Hard Drives – which took only two and a half minutes, PSI found two end-of-life applications, and one insecure application. The insecure application (VLC Media Player 1.1.14), is currently under attack by cyber-criminals. So, that was a good catch.

image

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Updating VLC Media Player 1.1.14, was a snap – I simply clicked on “Install Solution”. Boom – done!

image

Quick facts:

Secunia PSI is free for private use.

Allows you to secure your PC – Patch your applications – Be proactive

Scans for Insecure and End-of-Life applications

Verifies that all Microsoft patches are applied

Tracks your patch-performance week by week

Direct and easy access to security patches.

Detects more than 300,000 unique application versions

Provides a detailed report of missing security related updates

Provides a tabbed report which indicates programs that are no longer supported – programs with all known patches – insecure programs, etc.

Provides a Toolbox offering a set of links which helps you assess a problem and how you can resolve it.

Improvements in Version 2.0.

  • Automatic Updates: Functionality for Auto Updates is now implemented as a core feature in the Secunia PSI.
  • New User Interface: A new User Interface has been implemented. The design has been updated to make it simpler and easy to use the Secunia PSI, as well as improving the overall look and feel.
  • Integration with Secunia CSI: The new Secunia PSI features integration with the commercial Secunia CSI. Secunia CSI customers can learn more about this feature with the release of the Secunia CSI 4.1.
  • Improved Presentation of Scan Result: The presentation of scan results have been significantly improved, using techniques that have been tested during the Technology Preview. The Scan Results are grouped according to their installation and patch state, which in turn makes it simpler to identify the programs that actually requires the latest security patches.

ZD Net, one of my favorite web sites has stated “Secunia Personal Software Inspector, is quite possibly the most useful and important free application you can have running on your Windows machine”. In my view, this is not an overstatement.

Installing this small free application will definitely assist you in identifying possible security leaks; give it a try.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista SP 1 or later, XP SP 3 (32 & 64 bit).

Watch: How to install and use the Secunia PSI 2.0

Download at: Secunia

Bonus: Do it in the Cloud – The Secunia Online Software Inspector, (OSI), is a fast way to scan your PC for the most common programs and vulnerabilities; checking if your PC has a minimum security baseline against known patched vulnerabilities.

Link: Secunia Online Software Inspector. In the last 24 hours, fully 19% of applications checked by this online tool, were insecure.

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, Anti-Malware Tools, Cloud Computing Applications, Computer Audit Applications, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Malware Protection, Security Rating Applications, Software, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP