The Trouble-Free PC

Small Utilities

There are times when one specialized tool can be better than a CD full of general ones. We've handpicked 18 little programs that find lost files, secure data, manage files, tune up your PC, customize Windows Explorer, and more.

File and Data Recovery

Undelete Files for Free

When you accidentally erase your most precious photos or documents, you want to recover those files fast. Usually you can recover a deleted file from Windows' Recycle Bin, but if it's too big or if you held down <Shift> while deleting, it won't be in there. In such cases,Free Undelete offers an efficient solution tuned for the NTFS file system used on most Windows XP systems. Windows deletes files not by erasing the file from your hard disk but by designating areas of the disk occupied by deleted files as available for new files to occupy. Free Undelete searches these areas for recognizable data. If you act quickly after a mistaken deletion, you should see a list of your dearly departed files. Don't delay, though. If Windows writes over your file data, even Free Undelete will be powerless. Free

Disk Image for Data Recovery

You may back up your data religiously, but if your hard drive tanks or becomes irretrievably corrupted, you face the burdensome task of reinstalling and tweaking scores of applications. Acronis TrueImage doesn't just back up your data. This powerful tool takes a snapshot of your hard drive that you can store offline and then use to restore the drive to its earlier state, should disaster strike. TrueImage comes with a capable partitioning program that lets you create, resize, and remove partitions on a hard drive while preserving the files stored on them. You can partition an active disk and perform incremental backups as well. Its informative, streamlined interface and reliable operation enabled us to create multiple partitions and images without a hiccup. $50

The Ultimate Boot Disc

Winternals ERD Commander lets you create a bootable recovery disc more sophisticated than what an all-in-one suite offers.
Winternals ERD Commander lets you create a bootable recovery disc more sophisticated than what an all-in-one suite offers.
Even the bootable recovery CD that accompanies Norton SystemWorks is no match for Winternals ERD Commander 2005, a server-grade bootable CD that gives you access to a dead system's files, folders, and Windows XP restore points. It even bundles the Firefox Web browser so you can connect to the Internet to download software and transfer files over a network. The disc's Windows-like environment detects all your system hardware and includes look-alikes of the Registry Editor, the Windows Management Console (including Event Viewer and Disk Manager), and the System Restore tool. A file undelete application helps you recover vital data, while the Locksmith Wizard can restore access to a PC whose administrator password is lost or forgotten. Winternals ERD Commander 2005 provides things that a standard Windows boot disc can't. The product's only downside is its price--but hey, if you're locked out of your PC, it's cheap. $149

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