As good as they get: The most essential pieces of (free) utility software for your PC

7.11.2013 Daniel Jaramillo
Let me put it to you bluntly: if, by the end of this article, you haven’t downloaded and installed every single one of the following utility software suggestions on your PC, you are simply not getting the most out of your computer. And look, I honestly do understand the desire to be skeptical about that sort of statement. There are too many software solutions today that are popular and successful primarily due to the intricacies of their design, or because they were so often backed by a giant corporation with PR to spare, but the finished product is usually lacking at best. But there are still those isolated pieces of software that distinguish themselves only by the sole excellence and the quality of the content, and here they are:

First, let’s talk file-archiving utilities. The purpose of these apps is to reduce the size of big files and make them simpler to manage, the two most prominent examples being WinZip and WinRaR. Both of these are amazing third-party alternatives, but they are, in the end, trialware. If you need a program that doesn’t bug you about purchasing your license every so often and excludes some of the features from you until you do so, it’s 7-Zip to the rescue. It easily stands its own against the paid contenders, and even allows for your zip files to be secured by a 256-bit encryption.

If you’re not a fan of carrying your USB everywhere you go in case you end up needing it, you can safely store all of your files in a cloud. You’ve probably heard of Dropbox as one of the most popular programs offering such services, but apps like SugarSync are giving him the run for his money (figuratively, since both apps are free). In some tests, SugarSync even proved superior, so you might want to opt out of a popular choice, and go with the one better for you in the end.

Next up, disk-cleaning tools. CCleaner is an essential software for those of us not satisfied with merely scrubbing old logs and recycle bin items: this cleaner will give everything from your favorite browser to even the Windows Registry a good old bit of dusting, at no charge whatsoever.

Finally, for hardware-monitoring, go with CPU-Z. This app gives you all the data you may need about your components: if you’re interesting in the manufacturing process, the size of the cache, and even the clock rate of your processor, or you want to know what kind of core-logic chipset your motherboard uses, this program provides the answers.

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