The Trouble-Free PC

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System Management

Compare Folders Fast

Beyond Compare can help you better manage the files sloshing around in your gargantuan hard drive. This utility, whose interface looks a bit like Windows Explorer, can simultaneously display the contents of two folders, enabling you to compare and sync local folders as well as folders located on remote network servers or FTP sites. You can even establish watch lists to note changes once they occur--great for ensuring that a remote Web site has the freshest versions of your Web pages, for example. $30

PC Truth Serum

PC Wizard 2005 makes it simple to unearth detailed information about every aspect of your system.
PC Wizard 2005 makes it simple to unearth detailed information about every aspect of your system.
From the make and model of your PC's motherboard to the exact speed and configuration of its system RAM, Windows doesn't conveniently report the critical information you need to troubleshoot conflicts or make upgrade decisions. PC Wizard 2005 can help. Within minutes, we pinpointed the most esoteric details of both a laptop PC and an aged Compaq Presario desktop, from their frontside bus speeds to their CMOS contents. You can easily drill down to whatever information you need, and a benchmark suite lets you quickly compare your PC's performance to that of a series of stock profile systems. Free

All About Your Motherboard

Motherboard Monitor peers into the low-level sensors built into most motherboards to display the board and processor temperatures. You can also monitor the speeds of various cooling fans, if your board keeps track of them. You can customize readouts and display formats, and set automatic alerts to notify you--in the Windows system tray or by e-mail--when temperatures or other characteristics pass thresholds you define. Motherboard Monitor is not for everyone, though. This utility was tricky to set up, and it exhibited some compatibility issues, failing to recognize the motherboards on an old Compaq Presario desktop and on a newer Sager laptop. We think it works best for overclockers and avid gamers, who push the performance limits of their computers. Free

A Friendlier Registry Editor

PC troubleshooters rely on the Registry Editor to tweak the all-important database at the heart of Windows, yet they grit their teeth in frustration at its interminable text searches and stark interface. RegWorks can rekindle a Registry romance. Within the utility's deceptively simple-looking interface is an invaluable undo feature, a much better search engine, a key comparison tool, and a Favorites function for quickly returning to oft-accessed keys or values--all great for troubleshooting. The most valuable part, however, may be the Tweaks section--a veritable gold mine of tricks for automating system tune-up tasks. $15

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