Tag Archives: Utility

Trap Malware With Toolwiz TimeFreeze

Toolwiz CareBack in April, I reviewed and highly recommended, a suite of freeware utility applications – Toolwiz Care. Having tested the application extensively, at the end of the day, it was no great leap in logic to say –  “This application is feature packed, and includes a wide range of tools that an average computer user should find powerful, efficient, and effective.”

One of the components included in this super suite is Time Freeze (recently released by the developer’s as a stand alone application) – a “one click simple” virtual system which, when active, virtualizes the operating system. In other words, a copy of the operating system is generated, and it’s within this “copy” – or sandbox, if you like – that all activity takes place. Keep in mind – the operating system is virtualized, only when Time Freeze is active.

So, why bother running in a virtualized environment, you might wonder? The answer is pretty simple – in most circumstances, there’s no real benefit. In fact, running virtualized may create a slight time lag in system response. There are, of course, particular circumstances in which running a virtual machine offers major  advantages – but, those circumstances (since I’ve covered this aspect numerous times in the past), are outside the scope of this review.

Instead, I’ll focus on the security aspect of running in virtual mode with Time Freeze when connected to the Internet. And, there can be significant security benefits.

Let’s assume, for example, that while surfing the Internet you fall victim to a drive-by download (more common than you might realize), while visiting an infected web site. Running in “real” mode would mean that you now have a significant problem on your hands. You can, if you like, believe that your AV application will protect you from the consequences – but, don’t count on it.

The same scenario, while running in virtual mode, will have an entirely different outcome. Since, in virtual mode – it’s a copy of the operating system which is facing the Internet – all system and application changes are restricted to the virtual environment. In other words – it’s the copy which has been infected. Simply rebooting the system does away with the copy, and with it – the infection.

Toolwiz Time Freeze, of all the virtual solutions I’ve reviewed over the past few years, has to be the simplest. It’s easy to use, non intrusive, and after initial setup, requires a minimum of user intervention – perfect for the average user.

Installation was hassle free – it was just a matter of  following the on-screen instructions.

Since the application place a small toolbar (shown below), on the Desktop – launching the application is a snap.

image

A quick click on the toolbar and, a click on “Start TimeFreeze”…………

image

image

… and, you’re in business.

image

image

Backing out of the application is equally as easy. At which time, you will have the option of saving any changes made to the system – or not. Not saving changes will require a reboot.

image

Fast facts:

Start up system protection. Prevents malicious threats being made and doing harm to your computer. It puts the actual system under protection and creates a virtual environment for system partition.

Simply reboot to restore your system to the previous state.

Don’t reboot to accept all the changes. It will take several minutes to save the changes to your real system.

Folder Protection – Help you to prohibit the changing of files by others.

Helps you to prohibit accessing the protected folders by others.

Protects your files from being infected by viruses or stolen by trojans.

Very easy switch between virtual & real system.

To enter virtual system, no need to reboot computer. To return to real system, just exit System Protection.

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

Download at: Major Geeks

FAQ for Toolwiz Time Freeze

A word of caution: There are no perfect solutions – this application will not protect you against rootkits. Developing safe surfing habits remains your best protection against malware infection.

A further word of caution: Although I’ve had no difficult with this application, there have been reports of system crashes caused by Toolwiz Time Freeze. It’s always good practice to occasionally create a Restore Point – just in case.

This just in: Jim Hillier over at Daves Computer Tips reports the following:

Hey Bill –

I was using Time Freeze pretty regularly to test software for review purposes. I actually stopped using Time Freeze because of persistent issues. Occasionally, after the reboot process, a random service would be stopped. It was no big deal, just go into Services and re-start whichever service had been affected. Then finally, after a reboot, the OS would not load at all. I tried everything to get the OS to boot but no go. I can only assume that this time an essential system service had been stopped. I ended up having to restore a recent image.

So, you may be better off avoiding this application.

10 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Freeware, Software, System Utilities, Virtualization

Free PC Decrapifier – Bloatware Begone!

imageYou might think that a reader comment that goes something like this, is unusual – “I don’t know how this program ended up on my computer. One day, it just showed up.” Surprisingly, this is not an unusual comment.

In almost every case, the reader is referring to the trial ware (crapware, bloatware), commonly preinstalled on major manufacturers computers. This is the type of thing that drives users buggy, since trying to figure out how to get rid of trial ware is not as easy as it should be.

Luckily, there is a free application designed to specifically uninstall these annoyances – and that’s PC Decrapifier. It’s been a couple of years since I last posted on this terrific application, so today, I’ve taken another look.

The program does not need to be installed; simply run the executable. Or, if you prefer, you can run this application from a USB drive. You choose the items to be removed from a preconfigured list, and you can create a restore point (highly recommended), to undo any changes.

Note: Since PC Decrapifier is written in a scripting language, you may get an security application warning. This warning (if you receive it), can safely be ignored.

The application, while designed to uninstall crapware, has additional functionality – as the following screen capture suggests. More on this in a moment.

image

Anytime changes are being considered, creating a restore point is always good practice.

image

In the following screen shot, you’ll notice the application has detected an application it considers crapware on my machine.

image

The following screen shot illustrates a relatively unknown aspect of PC Decrapifier – its ability to act as a bulk uninstaller. The user simply checks off those applications which are no longer needed; clicks “Next”, and the application will launch the appropriate uninstallers. A slightly better solution than the Add/Remove Program applet when uninstalling more than one application, I think.

image

image

Working with PC Decrapifier requires no particular skill. The application is “follow the bouncing ball” straightforward.

The following is the current list of software and items that PC Decrapifier can detect and remove. The list is generated from the items the program detects on your computer, and you then choose the items to be removed by the program automatically. What could be simpler than that?

Targeted applications:

AOL Install
AOL UK AOL 9.0, UK Version
AOL US AOL 9.0, US Version
BigFix
Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI
Corel Photo Album 6
Corel Snapfire Plus SE
Corel WordPerfect
Dell Search Assistant
Dell URL Assistant
Digital Content Portal
Earthlink Setup Files
Earthlink Setup Files
ESPN Motion
Get High Speed Internet!
Google Desktop
Google Desktop
Google Toolbar
Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer
HP Rhapsody
Internet Service Offers Launcher
Internet Service Offers Launcher
McAfee
Microsoft Office Activation Assistant 2007
Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007
Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003
Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003
MS Plus Digital Media Installer
MS Plus Photo Story 2LE
MusicMatch Jukebox
MusicMatch Music Services
muvee autoProducer 5.0
My HP Games
MyWinLocker
Norton AntiSpam
Norton AntiSpam
Norton AntiSpam
Norton AntiVirus 2005
Norton Ghost 10.0
Norton Internet Security
Norton Internet Security
Norton Protection Center
Norton Security Center
Norton Symantec Live Update A common component of Norton Symantec products
Office 2003 Trial Assistant
Orange Internet
PC-cillin Internet Security 12 Trend Micro
QuickBooks Trial
Quicken 2006 Possible Trial Version
Remove Empty Program Folders Looks for and removes empty ‘Program Files’ folders
Reset IE Home and Search Pages
Roxio Express Labeler
Roxio MyDVD LE
Roxio RecordNow
Sonic DLA
Sonic RecordNow Audio
Sonic RecordNow Copy
Sonic Update Manager
Tiscali Internet
Travelocity Gadget
Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 14
Vongo
Vongo
Wanadoo Europe Installer
Wild Tangent Games
Yahoo! Music Jukebox
Yahoo! Toolbar for Internet Explorer

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

Download at: Download.com

Note: PC Decrapifier is free for personal use only. If the application is used in a commercial environment “you will require a commercial license. The cost is $20 per “technician” (not per PC)”.

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.

6 Comments

Filed under Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Portable Applications, Software, Uninstall Tools, USB, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Replace Windows “Copy To” Function With Free TeraCopy – Enhance Speed And Functionality

imageIn terms of popularity, articles on backing up data, and articles on backup utilities on this site, definitely fall off the popularity scale.

I’ve often wondered why this is, and the best that I can come up with is – it seems that many users consider backing up data complex, and time consuming. Anecdotally, I see evidence of this fear of the perceived complexity involved in backing up data, when speaking with non-techie friends and associates.

Nevertheless, the best backup strategy includes Hard Drives imaging which allows users to restore critical data, the complete operating system, installed applications, user settings, etc.

That’s the ideal – but, I have a confession to make. While I do use all of the classic backup techniques, between scheduled backups I use a simple copy command to mirror critical data to a non-system partition, or a USB drive.

I’m a man of habit, and I realize this method is simply a carryover from the days of DOS, and the Xcopy command. But, it’s effective and it has saved me hours of reconstruction work, more than once.

If you have the “Copy to folder” command in your Explorer right click context menu, then copying data to a specific folder on a non-system partition, or a USB drive, is a snap.

image

image

But, as with all things “Windows”, there’s a slightly better way. In this case, using TeraCopy – a small, free file copy utility which can pause and resume file transfers, and automatically overwrite or skip existing files. Better yet, TeraCopy can completely replace Explorer’s copy and move functions.

Installation is easy, and preference setup is checkbox simple – as the following screen captures indicate.

image

For this article, I ran a quick speed test which involved copying 19 files totaling just under 2 GB.  TeraCopy completed the task in 44 seconds, which included testing for accuracy in file copying.

image

image

On the other hand, it took Windows “Copy to folder” applet, 91 seconds to complete the same task – with no test to ensure accuracy.

image

Fast facts:

Copy files faster. TeraCopy uses dynamically adjusted buffers to reduce seek times. Asynchronous copy speeds up file transfer between two physical hard drives.

Pause and resume file transfers. Pause copy process at any time to free up system resources and continue with a single click.

Error recovery. In case of copy error, TeraCopy will try several times and in the worse case just skip the file, not terminating the entire transfer.

Interactive file list. TeraCopy shows failed file transfers and lets you fix the problem and recopy only problem files.

Shell integration. TeraCopy can completely replace Explorer copy and move functions, allowing you work with files as usual.

Full Unicode support.

Windows 7 x64 support.

System requirements: Win 2000, XP, Vista, Win 7. Windows 7 x64 support.

Download at: Download.com

Note: Free for Home Users.

Copying critical data is a very simple way to guard against data loss, and TeraCopy can help you do that quickly, accurately, and with more options and control, than the normal “Copy to folder” applet. It’s worth investigating.

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.

16 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Backup Tools, downloads, flash drive, Freeware, Software, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Free PC Decrapifier – Use It As A Bulk Uninstaller

imageYou might think that a reader comment that goes something like this, is unusual – “I don’t know how this program ended up on my computer. One day, it just showed up.” Surprisingly, this is not an unusual comment.

In almost every case, the reader is referring to the trialware (crapware, bloatware), commonly preinstalled on major manufacturers computers. This is the type of thing that drives users buggy, since trying to figure out how to get rid of trialware is not as easy as it should be.

Luckily, there is a free application designed to specifically uninstall these annoyances – and that’s PC Decrapifier. It’s been a couple of years since I last posted on this terrific application, so today, I’ve taken another look.

The program does not need to be installed; simply run the executable. Or, if you prefer, you can run this application from a USB drive. You choose the items to be removed from a preconfigured list, and optionally, you can also create a restore point (highly recommended), to undo any changes.

Note: Since PC Decrapifier is written in a scripting language, you may get an security application warning. This warning (if you receive it), can safely be ignored.

The application, while designed to uninstall crapware, has additional functionality – as the following screen capture suggests. More on this in a moment.

image

Anytime changes are being considered, creating a restore point is always good practice.

image

In the following screen shot, you’ll notice the application has detected an application it considers crapware on my machine.

image

The following screen shot illustrates a relatively unknown aspect of PC Decrapifier – its ability to act as a bulk uninstaller. The user simply checks off those applications which are no longer needed; clicks “Next”, and the application will launch the appropriate uninstallers. A slightly better solution than the Add/Remove Program applet when uninstalling more than one application, I think.

image

image

Working with PC Decrapifier requires no particular skill. The application is “follow the bouncing ball” straightforward.

The following is the current list of software and items that PC Decrapifier can detect and remove. The list is generated from the items the program detects on your computer, and you then choose the items to be removed by the program automatically. What could be simpler than that?

Targeted applications:

AOL Install
AOL UK AOL 9.0, UK Version
AOL US AOL 9.0, US Version
BigFix
Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI
Corel Photo Album 6
Corel Snapfire Plus SE
Corel WordPerfect
Dell Search Assistant
Dell URL Assistant
Digital Content Portal
Earthlink Setup Files
Earthlink Setup Files
ESPN Motion
Get High Speed Internet!
Google Desktop
Google Desktop
Google Toolbar
Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer
HP Rhapsody
Internet Service Offers Launcher
Internet Service Offers Launcher
McAfee
Microsoft Office Activation Assistant 2007
Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007
Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003
Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003
MS Plus Digital Media Installer
MS Plus Photo Story 2LE
MusicMatch Jukebox
MusicMatch Music Services
muvee autoProducer 5.0
My HP Games
MyWinLocker
Norton AntiSpam
Norton AntiSpam
Norton AntiSpam
Norton AntiVirus 2005
Norton Ghost 10.0
Norton Internet Security
Norton Internet Security
Norton Protection Center
Norton Security Center
Norton Symantec Live Update A common component of Norton Symantec products
Office 2003 Trial Assistant
Orange Internet
PC-cillin Internet Security 12 Trend Micro
QuickBooks Trial
Quicken 2006 Possible Trial Version
Remove Empty Program Folders Looks for and removes empty ‘Program Files’ folders
Reset IE Home and Search Pages
Roxio Express Labeler
Roxio MyDVD LE
Roxio RecordNow
Sonic DLA
Sonic RecordNow Audio
Sonic RecordNow Copy
Sonic Update Manager
Tiscali Internet
Travelocity Gadget
Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 14
Vongo
Vongo
Wanadoo Europe Installer
Wild Tangent Games
Yahoo! Music Jukebox
Yahoo! Toolbar for Internet Explorer

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

Download at: Download.com

Note: PC Decrapifier is free for personal use only.

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.

13 Comments

Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, downloads, Freeware, Software, Uninstall Tools, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Backup Your Firefox Profile With MozBackup

imageMozilla has just released version 3.6.10 of Firefox to fix a startup bug that affected a small number of users. You may want to consider updating to this latest version. But before you do, consider backing up your existing  Firefox profile.

No doubt, you’ve invested much time and energy in setting up your Firefox bookmarks, extensions, add-ons, and other personal settings that work just for you, and which provide you with an effective, and efficient, browsing experience.

Personally, I have literally hundreds of bookmarks (some going back 7 or 8 years), 20+ add-ons, and additional tweaks that make my version of Firefox unique to me.

I shudder to think what I would need to do to recapture this exact configuration if, for some reason, I lost all the years of work that went into massaging Firefox to meet my exact personal requirements.

Luckily, I don’t have to lose any sleep over this possibility, since I frequently back up all of this critical data with MozBackup, a free tiny utility that all Firefox users should consider adding to their toolbox.

In addition to backing up a Firefox profile, MozBackup will create profile backups for the following applications – Mozilla Thunderbird, Sunbird, Flock, SeaMonkey, Mozilla Suite, Spicebird, Songbird and Netscape.

Lets run through a backup session for Firefox.

Open the application (be sure Firefox is not running) and follow the prompts as indicated in the following screen captures.

MozBackup 1

MozBackup 2

MozBackup 3

Please note, as shown in the above graphic, I backup to my E: drive, and not to my system drive. You should take the same precaution, and backup to a non-system partition, or a USB drive.

Frankly, after backing up my profile to a non-system partition, I then backup the same profile to a USB key. I will not take the risk of losing years of work through happenstance.

MozBackup 4

MozBackup 5

The backup is now complete – all in a matter of a few minutes.

MozBackup 6

Recovery is just as simple. Just start the application (be sure Firefox is not running), and follow the bouncing ball. In just a few moments, your previously backed up critical data will be restored.

MozBackup 7

MozBackup is one of the most important tools in my utility toolbox, and I strongly recommend it to all Firefox users.

For a lesson in just how important this application can be, please see  CoolPreviews – You Ruined My Day!

System requirements: Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista/7

Additional requirements: Mozilla Firefox

Download at: the developers 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.

14 Comments

Filed under Backup Applications, Backup Tools, downloads, Firefox, Freeware, Software, USB, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Update, Backup, and Restore Your Drivers With Free SlimDrivers

image Free driver update applications are very hard to come by. And, even if you can find one, generally the restrictions make them virtually useless. But, with a little bit of digging you can find, what should be, a suitable application.

Recently, we reviewed and recommended the driver update utility – Device Doctor, a very simple application which uses a minimalist GUI approach, (as the following screen capture shows), but which excels in fast download speeds.

image

There’s no doubt that Device Doctor is a terrific application, with its fast download speeds emphasize, but, if you’re looking for something more in this type of application, then take a look at free SlimDrivers Beta. SlimDrivers offers a whole lot more than just fast download speeds, including:

Driver updating

Driver backup

Restoration

Scheduling

The following screen shots (taken during an earlier test), shows the application located new drivers for my video device, as well as a new driver for my audio device.

image

image

All of that was very cool – it’s great to have all drivers updated at one go (notice the “Download all” button). But, the real strength of this application lies in its Options menu.

From here, you can not only update your drivers, but you have the option of backing up and restoring, either on an immediate basis, or you can choose to schedule an automatic check for updates.

image

image

image

Fast facts:

Automatically scans hardware to determine the right driver and actively downloads and installs the most current driver directly from the manufacturer.

Updates driver software to provide the best communication and function for sound cards, printers, video, motherboards, Webcams, Bluetooth devices, flip video devices, Smart- phones, USB drives, routers, Windows and other peripherals and operating systems.

Optimizes the interaction between software and hardware, making applications and devices run faster and minimizing system errors, freezes and crashes.

In the past, running Beta software could be challenging, but I have noticed in the last year or two, Beta software can often be as stable as the final release.

Still, since this application is in Beta, take sensible precautions prior to executing. This should include setting a new restore point.

Updating outdated system and peripheral drivers can often boost system performance. I recommend that you give this application a close look.

System requirements: Windows – tested on Win 7 Enterprise 32 bit.

Download at: the developers 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.

12 Comments

Filed under Backup Tools, downloads, Drivers, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Software, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

EnhanceMySe7en – A Free Windows 7 Tweaking Utility

image Free tweaking utilities (they seem to be a dime a dozen these days), run the gamut from overwhelming in their scope, to just barely making it.

EnhanceMySe7en, a free tweaking utility designed specifically for Windows 7,  hits the middle ground – which may be just right for the casual computer user.

The common tab and check box layout makes it easy to navigate, even for less experienced users – although it could be improved somewhat (more on that later).

The following screen captures will give you an overall view of this application’s capabilities.

Accessing System Information provides Processor, Mother Board and installed memory, Display Adapter and Hard Drive specs.

image

The processor information panel (in system information), will   graphically display CPU usage (by core), CPU temperature, and additional technical specs.

image

The tools applet is fairly comprehensive including access to Processes and Services. Individual tools include – Registry Cleaner, Disk Cleanup, Defragger, and a Startup item tweaker.

image

The System tab allows access to a good selection of tools, including a security applet, from which you can set enhanced security policies.

image

The optimization panel is not particularly impressive since the “optimizations” are fairly limited.

image

The customization applet, on the other hand, is much more complete, with a good range of tweaks available in Start Menu and Logon, Desktop, Taskbar, Error Reporting, Media Player, and Internet Explorer

image

Fast facts:

Process Identification – Identify unrecognized software

Start-Up Management – Disable unnecessary software increasing performance

Registry Cleaner – Can easily checks your registry and repair incorrectly linked registry entries, automatically remove invalid entries

Disk Cleaner – Find out which files or folders engross your disk space and shown with chart

Registry Defragmenter – Rebuilds and re-indexs your registry to reduce application response time and registry access time

Disk Defragmenter – Reduces the amount of fragmentation in file systems

Hard Drive Monitor – Gives the current values of various hard disk parameters such as Temperature, Head Flying Height, Spin-Up Time etc.

System Tools, File, Network and Security Tools

Security – EnhanceMySe7en has easy to configure security settings for managing the new security features of Windows Vista

Optimization – Optimize settings for maximum speed and stability

Customization – customize system desktop, menus, toolbar and notifications settings

Network – Optimize your Internet connection speed

Overall impression:

While interfaces are getting much easier to navigate these days, this application’s weak point, in my view, is the lack of a sensible layout. More attention should have been paid to a cohesive tool layout. As it is, the tools don’t always appear in an instinctive location.

Despite this shortcoming, EnhanceMySe7en is worth taking a look at –  particularly if you’re running a 64 bit system.

System requirements: Windows 7 32 and 64-bit (native).

Download at: Download.com

Vista user? Try EnhanceMyVista.

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 EnhanceMySe7en – A Free Windows 7 Tweaking Utility

Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, PC Tools, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista