Don't-Miss Utility software Stories
Stardock's Start8 addresses one of the major user complaints about Windows 8: the lack of a Start Menu. It works like a charm.
Ripbot264 is a front end for free video tools. With it, you can transcode video without a lot of fuss (and without making massive files).
Transcode movies, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs to the Matroska video container format with this deceptively powerful utility.
Jalatext lets you open and navigate extremely large files. Although it works relatively well, at $30 it's pricey.
SlimCleaner is a comprehensive set of system cleaning utilities that also taps into an online database for information on programs.
To do your best at games, you need a PC in peak condition. These utilities—five free, one inexpensive—make your PC faster and more controllable for the most demanding games.
You can get modern graphics on 3D games without updates or patches via FXAA Post Process Injector. Originally developed by Nvidia's Timothy Lottes, this tool has been embraced by the modding community and expanded to work with both Nvidia and ATI graphics cards.
Platform-agnostic PC overclockers can tweak their to tweak their video card collection with MSI's venerable Afterburner utility. Designed to work with MSI's own products, Afterburner nonetheless works with most modern hardware.
XPadder emulates a mouse and keyboard with the buttons and directional thumbpad of your game controller. It supports multiple profiles, rumble feedback, and chorded input, which allows for more commands than the number of buttons would normally permit.
This third-party overclocking package Nvidia Inspector a different tack from older video card utilities, eschewing the system tray for a simple, extensible-pane interface that puts information and card controls front and center.
The AMD OverDrive utility not only replicates the OverDrive clocking controls built into Catalyst drivers, it also provides a full range of BIOS style CPU speed, voltage, and system controls unified in a tabbed window.
The free and open source x360ce project was designed to address the problems of using a classic controller for PC gaming. Doing the job Microsoft should have done, x360ce intercepts and translates XInput calls so DirectInput controllers can understand them.
The DOSBox emulator lets you run your DOS games and software again. It's free and open source, so you won't have to pay just to use programs you already own.