I’ve been using Windows Desktop OS’s for years, starting with Windows 3.1, 95, 98, XP, Vista…etc…etc.. – I was also a SysAdmin for Server 2000/2003 for quite a few years, picked up a few things a long the way.
This not a complete guide, and I’m not going way back for early versions of Windows, so I’ll just start with apps I’ve found useful, say, from Windows XP and up, are usually free, free for non-commercial use or just free cut-down version of the full blown versions.
I lean towards apps that are lightweight and not too much of a resource hog, I usually try a bunch of them out, and then discard the ones I consider poorly implemented, don’t quite do what they say, behave oddly or cause system issues, all of course based on my empirical testing, not that scientific I know, but has served me well over the years.
Some of the solution listed below, primarily, the ones you need to boot from, are Linux based tools that can be equally used on Windows.
Security – Anti Virus & Malware
I use the solutions below, Threatfire is unusual in that in can be used along side an existing AV solution, so you can run both at the same time, this is not usually the case, for “normal” AV solutions you just stick to the one, i.e. do not install and try to use 2 AV solutions at the same time, as I said Threatfire is a little different.
- Avira (free) http://www.avira.com/en/avira-free-antivirus#tab2
Usually near the top in AV lab tests, here is great resource for finding out how good the various AV solutions fair, and if you read, it’s not a “one size fits all” thing: http://www.av-comparatives.org/
- Threatfire (free) http://www.threatfire.com/about/
Good for zero down attacks and can be used along side other existing AV software, which is unusual
- Malwarebytes (free) http://www.malwarebytes.org/
Great for sniffing out pesky malware, free version has to be run and updated manually
- DBAN – Darik’s Boot and Nuke (free) http://www.dban.org/
Very easy to use tool that securrly erases/wipes your hard disk, great if you are selling your PC on
- Clonezilla – http://clonezilla.org/
Need to clone or copy a hard disk? Thought you needed Norton Ghost or Acronis Trueimage? All of which I used heavily over the years, and yes, Clonezilla doesn’t have a pretty GUI, but is has a very simple to follow text base interface that doesn’t take rocket science to follow, if you fix/maintain PCs than this is a “must have” piece of software.
- Cobian Backup (free) http://www.cobiansoft.com/cobianbackup.htm
Great backup solution, used it for 4 years without a hitch, and restored from it, some reviews say it is complicated, and it can be as it offers many advanced options (which I like) that a typical user may not be interested, but honestly, it is not that difficult to get your head around.
- nlite – http://www.nliteos.com/
What nlite enables you to do is build your own version of XP (only ever used it with XP, looks like Vista/Win7 are not supported, but vLite looks promising), so you can cut-out all the crap you don’t want, have default account s set-up, IP addresses, patch & updates, services disabled and the such like, this makes for a very lightweight OS, it will install very quickly, and you can even build-in various drivers for storage controllers, printers etc, so, no more hunting around and downloading a crap load of drivers after you have installed XP or Server 2003.
I second the Malwarebytes suggestion. I use Combofix first, then MWB, and then finish off with Security Essentials- the greatest product Microsoft ever purchased and repackaged! And its free too. I like it because its not nearly a resource hog like Norton or McAfee.