Try These Free Tech Support Tools

Category: Software

A well-prepared explorer 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 these free tech support utilities on a USB flash drive and they'll think you're a tech support superhero!

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. Emsisoft Emergency Kit Portable is a free malware scanner and remover for Windows 7/8/10 that can be run from a USB drive without installing it on the target system. Emsisoft Emergency Kit will scan your computer for viruses, spyware, adware, keyloggers and other malicious programs.

Tech Support Software

#2 -- If you run into a problem that Emsisoft Emergency Kit can't fix, check out my article Offline Malware Scanners for details on a class of anti-malware tools that will clean up malware infections on systems that won't even start Windows.

#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.

#5,6 -- 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.

#7 -- In cases where Internet Explorer or Edge is not functioning, and no other browser is installed, the portable version of Chrome or 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 they run from your flash drive, the portable browser 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 extensions.

#8 -- In a similar vein, if Microsoft Word or Excel is totally hosed (or no office suite is installed) the portable Libre Office will do very nicely as a substitute. Libre Office is drop-in replacement for MS Office, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool and other utilities. It can even read and write MS Office files.

#9 -- I can't count the number of times I've been away from my computer, and needed to edit a photo or other type of image file. IrfanView is a handy graphic viewer and editor, supporting many file formats, basic editing (crop, resize), effects (sharpen, blur), screen capture and other image management features.

Hit the Reset Button

For badly borked systems, you may be tempted to just hit a big red Reset Button and start from scratch. It's possible to restore your computer to that shiny just-out-of-the-box condition, but I recommend caution. See my article [RESET BUTTON] Restore Your PC To Factory Defaults? for details on that process.

So what's in your tech support toolbox? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Try These Free Tech Support Tools"

Posted by:

Reginald Arulappu
18 Dec 2019

I am an avid reader of your excellent impartial recommendations on many issues over many years. I have often wondered how I could log onto my computer to run any of your "how to fix it recommendations" programmes should my computer "freeze" on me. This article, with a simple recommendation of holding all these important rescue programmes on an USB flash drive is brilliant. Sometimes the simplest is the hardest to see in the maze of all the information that is available.

Posted by:

August J.
18 Dec 2019

As to items #5 & 6,I use an application I already have on my computer. It is CCleaner. As far as I can tell it does an outstanding job of uninstalling programs no longer wanted or needed.

Posted by:

18 Dec 2019

Most of these are new to me so I will probably give at least some of them a try. Re Irfanview I've been using this for years. As a simple pic opening system not sure it can be bettered and as a simple resize and resample tool its brilliantly easy to use. Highly recommended.

Posted by:

Dave Rodgers
18 Dec 2019

Where can I get the Swiss Army Knife with the USB flash drive?!!!

Posted by:

ken McInnes
19 Dec 2019

i attempted to do an install of your suggested tools and wished they had offered a simple "download to zip"--I will d/l to my hd for now-- and hope for enlightenment...
Ken McInnes

Posted by:

22 Dec 2019


EDITOR'S NOTE: Whoa there, go easy on that Caps Lock key -- you'll wear it out.

Posted by:

22 Dec 2019

Maybe #2 should precede #1. If you decide to install Offline Microsoft Defender, it will require reformatting the USB drive wiping out the Emsisoft Emergency kit.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Or you could put it on a different USB stick.

Posted by:

Kenneth Gash
23 Dec 2019

In addition to its graphic and viewer functions, IRFANVUIEW is the best Twain scanner application I have used - and it is free!. it will scan documents and photos and save them in one of 20 different file formats including jpg, gif, pdf. Great UI.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Try These Free Tech Support Tools (Posted: 17 Dec 2019)
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