Ten Free Tech Support Tools

Category: Software

A well-prepared scout never goes anywhere without his trusty Swiss army knife. Similarly, you need a portable arsenal of troubleshooting tools to solve common computer problems. You never know when your laptop, or a friend's computer, may start acting up. Load up these free tech support utilities onto a USB flash drive and they'll think you're a tech support superhero!

Ten Portable Tech Support Software Utilities

All of these handy programs are free, but they also share another important common factor. They don't require any installation, because they're designed to be portable. The ability to run them directly from the USB drive is important for several reasons. First, on a badly infected system, sometimes you can't even install new software. A virus may be blocking the introduction of new software, or the Windows installer may be broken. Also, some programs require administrator privileges to install, which presents a hurdle if the admin password is unknown.

#1 -- Malware infection (viruses, spyware and other nasties) is one of the most common problems. Some malware even disables the security software found on the infected hard drive. In such cases, a portable antimalware program stored safely on a USB drive is a lifesaver. ClamWin Portable is a free antivirus for Windows XP/Vista/Win7/Win8 that can be run from a USB drive without installing it on the target system. ClamWin is open-source, detects and eliminates viruses and spyware; automatically updates its signature database; can be integrated with Windows Explorer to scan individual files; and can strip infected attachments from Outlook email.

Tech Support Software

#2 -- If you run into a problem that ClamWin can't fix, check out the portable version of SpyBot Search and Destroy. This tool has been around for years, and has a strong reputation for detecting and removing spyware and other forms of malware.

#3 -- One form of malware that's particulary difficult to detect and remove is the rootkit. On infected systems, it can't hurt to use a dedicated rootkit removal tool such as Kaspersky's TDSSKiller Portable. Just remember this isn't a substitute for a full anti-virus tool.

#4 -- If your hard drive appears to be mangled, don't give up hope before trying TestDisk. This powerful portable utility can recover lost hard drive partitions, and fix problems with drives that won't boot up. TestDisk will analyze your disk, partitions, boot sector, and can help you recover deleted files, and even rebuild scrambled file systems.

#5 -- Sometimes all a sluggish system needs is a good disk defragmentation. Ultimate Defrag is a free portable disk defragger that lets you defragment any drive in a variety of ways. In addition to stitching fragmented files back together, this app can optimize the placement of frequently used files on your drive. After downloading and installing Ultimate Defrag, just copy its entire directory over to your USB drive. (For even more speed tips, see my article Make Windows Run Faster.)

#6 -- A bloated or disorganized Windows registry is another common cause of poor system performance. In more serious cases, a corrupted registry will prevent Windows from starting up. The Wise Registry Cleaner Free Portable edition scans the registry and fixes obsolete or incorrect registry entries. It makes a backup of the registry before scanning, so you can roll back changes if necessary. This program can be launched directly from a USB drive.

#7,8 -- Some programs cannot be uninstalled by the Windows "Add/Remove Programs" function. For those stubborn clingers, try the Revo Uninstaller program. Note the link to the portable version at the bottom of the download page. If you are trying to rid a brand-new system of all the unnecessary junk programs that came installed on it, try the free PC Decrapifier utility. Both can be launched directly from a USB drive.

#9 -- In cases where Internet Explorer is not functioning, and no other browser is installed, the portable version of Mozilla Firefox will help you get access to the Web, so you can find diagnostic information, updated drivers, or any additional software you may need. Since it runs from your flash drive, the portable Firefox won't leave anything behind (cookies, history, cache) on the machine where you run it. You can also customize the portable version with your bookmarks and Firefox extensions.

#10 -- In a similar vein, if Microsoft Word is totally hosed (or no office suite is installed) the portable AbiWord word processor will do very nicely as a substitute. AbiWord has all the important features you'd expect to find in a word processor, it can read and write MS Word files, and is also compatible with Word Perfect, OpenOffice and RTF format.

Bootable Rescue Disks

Sometimes a virus infection or other problem prevents you from booting directly from a system's hard drive. In these cases, you need a bootable recovery/rescue tool on a CD or USB drive. AVG offers a free rescue kit for downloading and disinfecting your system. Boot your system from the AVG Rescue CD, and it'll automatically scan your computer's hard drive for viruses and quarantine them.

For badly borked systems, you can boot up from a Windows 7 Recovery Disk (on a CD or USB drive), and repair your operating system. The recovery disk will help you do a System Repair (which attempts to fix problems that are keeping Windows from starting), a System Restore (roll back to an earlier point in time when things were working) or a System Image Recovery (recover using a backup image).

So what's in your wallet, uhh, I mean portable toolbox? Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 28 Mar 2013


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Most recent comments on "Ten Free Tech Support Tools"

(See all 23 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Daniel
28 Mar 2013

Bob,
I've never used Wise Registry Cleaner Free Portable edition. Is it better than the portable version of CCleaner? Otherwise, excellent list. Thank you very much for pulling them all together.


Posted by:

Jeffrey
28 Mar 2013

For some reason, when I tried to download any of the ZIP files, my Norton util prompts Run/Save/Cancel... I've hit 'Run' and windows goes crazy, flashing screen after screen and I have to turnoff my tower to get it to quit... and another bummer is when Explorer came back up,when I hit 'restore session' then windows kept flashing on my screen... Are we suppose to save the file(s) and extract them? Really slowing me down...


Posted by:

Leon
28 Mar 2013

Thanks, Bob! Per Daniel, CCleaner works (I think) and has never crashed my computer. How about Glary Utilities or toni-arts' Easy Cleaner? Similarly, no crashes, but each finds different trash cluttering the system.


Posted by:

Bart
28 Mar 2013

Always have a file recovery program on your USB flash drive. I use Piriform's Recuva (http://www.piriform.com). Very useful!


Posted by:

Kathy
28 Mar 2013

Fabulous article! I will put all these programs on a USB drive, as I am the Girlie Geek for my circle of friends, and the resident geek at work. Great resources, Thank You so much!


Posted by:

Alan
29 Mar 2013

Good list Bob. Would you consider a similar list for the Mac crowd which is hankering for the same info because we are not immune to bad stuff either.


Posted by:

Supun
29 Mar 2013

Thumbs up Bob!

Thanks for the excellent tips.

Supun


Posted by:

pramod
29 Mar 2013

You have not mention SUPERantispyware any way
Thanks.


Posted by:

Brother Tom
29 Mar 2013

Bob, how much space do these 10 items take up?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Only about 334 MB, installed!
ClamWin 35MB
SpyBot 151MB
TDSSKiller 3MB
TestDisk 38MB
Ultimate Defrag 4MB
Wise Registry Cleaner 2MB
PC Decrapifier 2MB
Revo Uninstaller 7MB
Firefox 77MB
AbiWord 15MB


Posted by:

Ari
29 Mar 2013

As usual once again very helpful article thank you Bob.

Regarding AVG free rescue kit, I wonder if it will also work on computer with Japanese Windows installed?



Posted by:

OldDog
30 Mar 2013

Bob - Thanks for all these "recovery" programs. I am downloading to thumb drive as suggested. I have been looking for something like this which lists the programs I needed for repair and backup, and on a thumb drive yet.


Posted by:

Phil S.
02 Apr 2013

It must be in the fine print: you can't install the disk defragmenter, apparently related to my having an encrypted hard disk...


Posted by:

JJ Sanders
04 Apr 2013

These are mostly very useful tools. HOWEVER - Be aware the the Ultimate Disk Defragger is loaded with Crapware!! Even if you carefully opt out of everything you see, it still installs items you won't want, and some is very hard to get rid of. Be aware!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Not true, in my recent test. I downloaded the software from CNET, and although it took some care, I managed to opt out of all the "extras" that CNET wanted to foist on me.


Posted by:

Bob Milligan
05 Apr 2013

Bob, I have a problem and I hope you can help. I have an XP system with Asus Motherboard and AMD Chip. Insalled WD 1Tb Caviar Black Hd in a removeable enclosure. After installing everything was fine. Wrote a coouple of backups to it and all was still fine. Removed the drive shut down the computer and then put the drive back in and all was still fine. I decided to change the drive letters with the tools in XP and everything seemed fine. I shut down the computer and removed the drive. I reinstalled the drive and the system will not recognize the drive. Bios knows it is there but XP does not. WD Data Lifegard does not find it either. Any ideas as to what I might do to correct the problem.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Does switching the drive letters back to the original fix the problem?


Posted by:

David Lagesse
07 Apr 2013

SpyBot Search and Destroy must be given "Run as Administrator" permission on Win 7 Computers, or it won't do a proper job of fixing spyware.

Right click on the Icon, select properties, hit the 'Advanced' button, select "Run as Administrator"

Spybot may be old and funky but it FINDS and cleans things others won't!


Posted by:

Zahid
08 Apr 2013

It is very good and helpful information and tools for windows.


Posted by:

dave
08 Apr 2013

Tool #11: Microsoft Windows Profiler... "bootvis"
Reboots windows number of times to optimise the boot up sequence of startup services and .DLL files.

Tool #12: Sysinternals Pagefile defrag.
The tool that noone ever uses, and should.


Posted by:

Thomas Lessman
09 Apr 2013

Hi. You should check out some of the greatest tools for computer techs to use in fixing almost any problem with a computer:
* D7 - one of the most comprehensive tools available & even works on systems that are "offline" (ie, boot from USB)
* Falcon4Boot Disk for Windows - a highly customized "pre-boot" or pebuilt version of Windows that uses "mini-XP" to boot yoru computer from a flash drive
* Hirens Boot Disk - much the same as Falcon4.


Posted by:

it support
22 Jan 2014

These tools are very handy and should not taken for granted. Very useful, easy and convenient to use as tech support tools.


Posted by:

Robert
21 Jul 2015

Note for anyone using ClamWin Portable:

Be sure to run the program after you first download it (on a system with an internet connection) as the program needs to check for updates and download a datafile with up-to-date malware info. The basic download does not include any signature database files and won't run without one. You'll need to update ClamWin's database files on a regular basis just like any other anti-virus program.


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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Ten Free Tech Support Tools (Posted: 28 Mar 2013)
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