Free utilities to speed up and tweak your PC

You have a good system, but you can always improve a PC's performance.

We've come up with six free utilities that will fix your Registry, power up your Windows Clipboard, record any action taken on your screen and turn it into video, and manage and defrag your hard drive.

BEST BET Advanced SystemCare Free: This download can speed up your system by fixing your Registry, removing spyware and junk files, killing unnecessary programs that run on startup, and more. It even offers a one-click option that automatically finds all problems and fixes them. (This program also installs the Yahoo Toolbar by default, so if you don't want that, uncheck the appropriate box during the installation process.)

Clipboard Help and Spell: Windows' Clipboard is anemic, nearly useless, and brain-dead. Power it up with Clipboard Help and Spell, which keeps a list of the text items you copy to it so that you can retrieve them later. This download also checks spelling, and lets you organize your clips in folders.

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Defraggler: Not happy with the defragmentation utility that came with Windows? Neither are we. Defraggler is better than Windows' own defragment utility in several ways. First off, this download scans your disk faster, which anyone with a large hard disk will certainly welcome. In addition, it can defragment individual files instead of your entire hard disk, and it's more entertaining to watch than the built-in utility.

Drive Manager: If you have multiple drives on your PC, including removable USB thumbdrives, various media card readers, CD and DVD drives, and network drives, life is complicated. This simple download cleans things up. It quickly identifies all of your drives, and shows you the type of each. You can also see at a glance the capacity of each, how much of each is used, and other vital information. If you have any SMART-enabled drives, you can peer deeply into them, seeing their temperature, model and serial number, and other details.

Recuva: Have you accidentally deleted a file, removed it from the Recycle Bin, and then realized you actually wanted to keep it? Despair not--this download will do its best to help you recover the file. The app scans your system for files that have been deleted, lists whatever it finds, and shows you the likelihood that you can recover it. Simply select the files you want to recover, and the software does the rest. (Recuva installs the Yahoo Toolbar by default, so if you don't want that, uncheck the appropriate box during the installation process.)

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ScreenToaster: If you need to record what happens on your screen for any reason--to show how an application works, for example--try this simple-to-use Web service. Head to the site and press Alt-S, and it records every action you take. Press Alt-S again, and it stops. You can edit what you record, including adding titles and audio. You can then upload your video to the ScreenToaster site or to YouTube, or download it to your PC.

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Preston Gralla

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