15 free downloads to pep up your old PC

Can't afford a new PC? These free tools for Windows will help breathe new life into your old machine.

Keep your PC running in tip-top shape by cleaning its Windows Registry with Eusing Free Registry Cleaner.

Keep your PC running in tip-top shape by cleaning its Windows Registry with Eusing Free Registry Cleaner.

Troubleshoot hardware

Got hardware troubles? We've got help. These two freebies will catalog your hardware so that you can more easily troubleshoot it, and monitor your PC's temperature so you can see whether it may overheat.

Belarc Advisor

If you've got an aging PC, you run a chance of running into hardware trouble -- so be prepared to get friendly with tech support, or be ready to do some hands-on work. The first step in any kind of hardware troubleshooting is to know exactly what kind of hardware you've got, and this free program is the best for getting an exceedingly detailed audit of every part of your PC.

It details computer manufacturer, installed RAM, hard disk size, processor type and speed, for a start. But it goes well beyond that. You'll see the maker of your PC's motherboard, hard disk manufacturer, chassis serial number, your PC's service tag, bus type and speed, multimedia devices, whether you've got free memory module slots ... and plenty more as well.

In addition, it provides similar details about your software and Windows installation, including which security hot fixes you've got, which ones you're missing, a list of all user accounts on your PC, the name of your antivirus software and whether it uses real-time scanning, and lots more.

Works with: Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP/Vista

SpeedFan

One reason that PCs fail is that the system temperature gets too high. Overheated PCs can lead to system hangs and crashes, and ultimately to failures as well. This is particularly true for people who overclock their PCs -- that is, force them to run at faster than their rated CPU speed.

SpeedFan by Alfredo Milani Comparetti, who warns that the program is meant for advanced users only, monitors your PC's system temperature so that you can find out whether you're running into trouble. On some systems, it will also monitor your fan speed and let you adjust the fan speed to better cool your PC. It will also monitor some hard disks to see if they show any signs of impending failure.

Note that SpeedFan can't monitor all hard disks and fans. If your hard disk uses SMART technology, the software will be able to find a great deal of information about it. However, even if your hard disk doesn't use SMART, the software may still be able to get fan speed information as well as some hard disk information. The only sure way to find out is to give it a try. But it's free -- what have you got to lose?

Works with: Windows 9x/Me/2000/XP/Vista

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Preston Gralla

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