The Trouble-Free PC

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Tune-Up Tools

Control Your Graphics Board

PowerStrip lets you reach into the guts of your graphics subsystem to overclock your graphics chip, optimize memory timings, and fine-tune refresh rates to within a tenth of a hertz. Powerful gamma and color settings provide control over display output--you can even use hot-keys to bump up gamma output during game play so you can see down dark halls. Choose from preset profiles or laboriously tweak your own settings. PowerStrip can be risky, however. Nudging the memory and chip clock on our system produced bad visual artifacts on screen and ultimately forced a reboot, though it did accelerate performance slightly. If you plan to connect a PC to your home theater system, PowerStrip is terrific for tuning the computer's graphics output to your large-screen TV, matching the TV's resolution, refresh rates, and other characteristics. $30

Change Everything

X-Setup Pro is an inexpensive yet exhaustive package of more than 1700 tweaks for hardware, software, and the Windows OS. Every area of your system is fair game. You can change the displayed name of the My Computer and My Network icons on your desktop. Link the Windows Media Player Media Guide button to a site other than Or change low-level system settings to harden the Windows network stack against Web-based attacks. The program collects Windows management utilities like the Registry Editor, Task Manager, and Disk Cleanup under a single menu heading to aid in troubleshooting. The sheer number of esoteric options in X-Setup Pro can be overwhelming, but the program warns of tweaks that could land you in real trouble. $8

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