Ten Free Tech Support Tools
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.
#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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 28 Mar 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Ten Free Tech Support Tools (Posted: 28 Mar 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved