Your Free Tech Support Toolkit

Category: Software

A well-prepared adventurer never goes anywhere without his trusty Swiss Army knife. Similarly, you need a portable arsenal of troubleshooting tools to solve common computer problems. Load these free tech support utilities on a USB flash drive and your friends and family will think you're a tech support superhero! Read on for your tech support toolkit...

Portable Tech Support Software Utilities

When writing this article, I was reminded of an old friend at IBM who was an avid spelunker (cave explorer). He always wore boots to work, because, he said, "You never know when a cave might pop up in the machine room!" It's also true that you never know when your laptop, or a friend's computer, may start acting up.

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 Bulk Crap Uninstaller utility.

#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 "Your Free Tech Support Toolkit"

Posted by:

23 Aug 2022

Two impressive free applications should be added to this list ...'s Windows Repair, and Windows_Repair_Toolbox (easily found through a search).

I've used Windows Repair for years an on many, many computers. It's solved lots of problems and I have never had a problem with it. Download the portable version.

Windows_Repair_Toolbox is just that, many tools to check and/or solve problems. You probably will never use all the tools there, but many are exceptionally good, best of their type. I particularly like the fact that it is portable. My favorite app is SDI Origin, a great Driver Updater and, in my experience, safer than others with updating Microsoft Surface machines.

Posted by:

23 Aug 2022

Bob, you left out the MEDICAT. If you search for it, be careful, MedicatUSB is a dangerous web site according to Norton Safe browsing.

Posted by:

23 Aug 2022

Computer idiot here, Bob. So you individually download these to your USB, but under which option? For example, Bulk Crap Uninstaller has the options of FossHub or OSDN. I don't know what either of these are! I told you I was an idiot. I need directions like I'm a five-year old. Thanks!

Posted by:

23 Aug 2022

To Cheryl: FossHub and OSDN are repositories for open source software. BCU is asking you which site you want to download from. Actually the FOSSHub (Free Open Source Software Hub) has almost all of the apps/programs listed above. It is a great resource.

Posted by:

23 Aug 2022

Very useful advice as always. I notice that you refer to a 'Portable' toolkit. Is this simply an ad hoc reference to the fact that the apps are on a USB drive and can be carried around, or are they part of the 'Portable Apps' system running under the Portable 'master' launcher? I'm not sure if the 'Portable Apps' name is registered or copyright - it might be worth checking...

Posted by:

23 Aug 2022 offers 400 free portable apps, including Bob's recommendations. Very handy.

Posted by:

24 Aug 2022

Anything for MACintosh users?

Posted by:

10 Sep 2022

As usual Bob, your coming to my aid at just the
right time. My Desk Top has totally lost speed
and Mouse usage for the past four months.
This article sounds like it will cure my problem.
I read and keep all your E-mail Articles.

Thank You

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Your Free Tech Support Toolkit (Posted: 23 Aug 2022)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved