50 tools to speed up your PC

Get Windows humming again, supercharge your browser, and clear out the crud with these (mostly) free downloads.

Application and Startup Optimization

System sluggishness is often the result of problems with the applications you run. Are they outdated and in need of patching? Do too many run in the background? Use the following utilities to solve those problems and others.

Secunia PSI

If you make sure that all of your applications are patched and up-to-date, they'll run faster and be more secure--and so will your PC on the whole. Unfortunately, visiting the Web site for each of your applications can be so time-consuming that you'll never get around to doing it. Grab this freebie instead. It scans your system, lists all of your applications, and then regularly checks for security patches. When it finds a new patch, it applies the fix.

Download Secunia PSI | Price: Free

PC Decrapifier

One likely reason your system is sluggish is that it's bedeviled by "craplets"--software that your PC maker installed because it was paid to. Craplets slow down startup and general operation.

This free software removes dozens of unwanted items automatically. It zaps only a specific set of craplets and trialware programs: Those that are specifically put on new PCs, such as QuickBooks Trial, Wild Tangent Games, Dell URL Assistant, and others. (For a full list, go to the PC Decrapifier site.) Before you use this utility, create a restore point in case it kills something you wanted to keep.

Download PC Decrapifier | Price: Free

Autoruns

Unnecessary services and applications that run whenever you start your PC or log in to it are a big cause of system slowdowns. Unfortunately, it's tough to identify every item that starts up, because nothing in Windows gives you such information. That's why you need this free tool. It displays every program and service running and offers a great deal of detail about each, such as associated .dll files, the program or service name, and its location on your PC. With that knowledge, you can decide what you don't want to run on startup.

Download Autoruns | Price: Free

Security Task Manager

Similar to Autoruns, this excellent tool shows you every running program and process. The utility also indicates whether the program is likely malicious, its type, how it launched (for example, upon startup or from within Windows Explorer), and the file name. It lets you delete any program and process with a single click. It also rates files according to how harmless or dangerous they may be. To stop a program, highlight it, click Remove, and you're done.

Download Security Task Manager | Price: $29 (Trial)

WinPatrol

This very good all-around system optimizer frees your PC of unnecessary programs that run on startup and keeps it clean of spyware and other malware. Whenever a program tries to start automatically, WinPatrol sends you an alert so you can block it. In addition, it shows details about the program, including the creator, when the program was added, the file name, and so on. The Delayed Start feature allows you to put off the launch of certain programs for up to an hour. That way, you'll still have access to the program when you need it.

Download WinPatrol | Price: Free

Foxit Reader

Strictly speaking, this isn't an optimization tool because it doesn't clean your system or tune it up. But it does eliminate a cause of system slowdowns and instability for many people: buggy, bloated Adobe Reader software for reading PDF files.

The free Foxit Reader is smaller, loads quickly, doesn't take up unnecessary memory, and has no instability issues. So if Adobe Reader slows your system down, this is a great alternative.

Download Foxit Reader | Price: Free

Norton Removal Tool

Some Norton products, especially the security suites, are notorious for taking up far too many system resources and too much RAM. Removing them completely can be tough, but this free tool from Norton does the trick. Copy down your product key before removing them in case you want to reinstall.

Download Norton Removal Tool | Price: Free

McAfee Consumer Products Removal Tool

Like Norton products, some McAfee utilities can consume serious amounts of system resources. To remove them from your system, use this free tool.

Download McAfee Consumer Products Removal Tool | Price: Free

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Preston Gralla

PC World (US online)

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