Best PC Support Utilities?
April 28, 2013 6:13 PM   Subscribe

What are your list of the most essential PC support utilities?

Virus, cloning, optimization, etc.

I want to create a flash drive of the best applications to address the most common issues.

I have 22+ years Mac experience. 3+ Win7 muddling. I would like to be better at the Windows side.

Cost is not an issue if the cost is worth it.

Please hope me!
posted by cjorgensen to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
SysInternals Process Explorer, Autoruns and TCP-UDP endpoint viewer are great diagnostics tools.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:34 PM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

I haven't done much IT stuff with post-WinXP versions but hasn't SysInternals' Process Explorer been superseded by a built-in Windows utility? I thought I remembered fiddling around with a borrowed Windows 7 system and coming across something that appeared to have all of the same functionality.

If not, though, it's definitely an indispensible tool.

deezil's profile and samara's profile contain valuable information and recommendations about analyzing, dealing with, and preventing viruses and malware.
posted by XMLicious at 6:49 PM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Parted Magic
posted by zinon at 6:52 PM on April 28, 2013

You should look at UBCD or HBCD

Though they were originally for CD, they now are better used on a USB.

And if cost isn't important, go and get licenses for all the items in the HBCD Restored Edition and then get that instead. It is definitely the swiss army knife of PC troubleshooting.

Figure out what each utility on those does and you'll never need to download another PC support utility again.
posted by calm down at 7:13 PM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

gparted live disk/usb, or one of the many other linux distributions.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:14 PM on April 28, 2013

I'd also add D7 (free or paid) to the above excellent answers. Especially when you use its third-party tool updating utility, it's the most-useful utility pack I've found for when the computer is running.

Stick it and UBCD/HBCD on a USB stick, and you'll be pretty much golden.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:28 PM on April 28, 2013

In addition to the awesome Process Explorer, Process Monitor can be invaluable for working out exactly whats happening. The author keeps a blog that often details getting to the bottom of tricky issues. For example, here's one about unexplained FTP connections. Here's another about slow logons.

I seriously couldn't do my job without Process Explorer and Process Monitor.

If you work with SCCM generally or log files that are updated, I find trace32 (part of the SCCM toolkit) to be a great log file reader.

Also if you work with SCCM, the SCCM Client Center is invaluable.

Hope that helps.
posted by Admira at 2:19 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Clonezilla for taking images of entire systems (as backup before making some major change, cloning just one partition, etc).
posted by thewalrus at 11:05 AM on April 29, 2013

I'll second Hiren's Boot CD (HBCD, above). I mostly use HBCD to reset winlogon passwords when someone changes them on a customer's unit and the password is lost.

Second also Clonezilla. (Doesn't work on PIO (pre-DMA) storage reliable)

I'll add that has some utils that make the process of getting an ISO into a USB stick a breeze, including multiboot, so you can have Clonezilla (a bootable ISO) and HBCD or UBCD (also bootable ISOs) on the same USB drive.

For windows, add WinDirStat, which creates visual maps of drive space used by files. Great way to figure out which logfile is filling your drive. Unlocker unlocks files locked by windows processes. RegAlyzer for Registry editing. Speccy and CPU-Z for pulling system specs from unknown windows boxes. 7-Zip for breaking into tarballs and other compressed files.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:07 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

nthing WinDirStat, Unlocker, Process Monitor, Sysinternals.
I also like:

DBAN (Darik's Boot And Nuke) - let's you create a bootable CD, DVD or USB stick that will allow you to completely wipe any HDD or SSD in your box. Perfect for doing really clean re-installs and for wiping sensitive or infected drives. (FREE)

Spybot Search & Destroy - aside from its anti-malware capabilities I'm mentioning it here mainly because of its convenient startup editor. Makes it easy to get rid of all the unwanted/unneeded auto starting services and apps that often appear in the wake of installing software. There's probably equally convenient standalone tools for this as well. (FREE)

Revo Uninstaller - For doing better uninstalls of software. Often the uninstallers that come with the software (if any) are crap and leave stuff behind. Revo does a pretty good job finding everything that's left behind. (NOT FREE)

Secunia PSI - inspects all installed software and flags it if there's newer versions. Can handle some updates and installs itself if desired (I usually prefer just to be notified and to do updates/installs on my own schedule and terms). Helps you identify out of date software that doesn't flag update availability itself or that you aren't running frequently. Can be a little heavy on startup on weaker boxes. (FREE)

GRC's SpinRite - the guy's a bit weird (and so is his web site) but AFAIK this is still one of the better mass storage maintenance and recovery tools. (NOT FREE)

Not downloadable software as such but a good resource for testing your firewall setup: GRC's ShieldsUP! (FREE)
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:36 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, forgot to add...

There's probably better ping plotters but I used this particular one to prove to AT&T that there was a problem with their line (a crack in the copper that expanded during midday heat and resulted in cutting my connection). This one's less PC specific I guess but I think it's good to have something like this in your tool chest to help analyze network problems.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:42 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older How does one acquire a pair of rose-tinted glasses...   |   Please identify this structure? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.