??The most important program on your PC at any given moment is the game you're playing, but what about the helper apps that surround it? Some of them, like Steam, are so essential we're not even going to name them here. But what about the ones that surround your games like little oxpeckers around their favourite hippo, keeping things running just a little better than they otherwise might? Here's PC Gamer's list of the 10 best.
The one application which you really can't afford to be without, Ventrilo is the voice chat channel of choice for online gaming. Easy to set up and better than any in-game system, it's enormously customisable. If you're based in the UK and want to connect to our Ventrilo server, you can find the details in our World of Warcraft forum.
You can't really get away without some sort of online security suite any more, and our current favourite of the free options is Avira Personal Edition 10 . Ligthweight, none intrusive, and holds top marks in one of the three key categories at av-test.org .
Another obvious one, CCleaner has for many years been the tool of choice for sorting out Windows' registry once it gets confused by game installations and removals and the regular driver updates gaming demands. Its no fuss click and go approach to problem solving enhances its charm.
Improbably powerful app for overclocking NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards, which doesn't require the presence of MSI hardware to work. Unlike most GPU tuning programs, MSI Afterburner opens up voltage settings you'll wish you didn't know existed but are essential for keeping an overclocked card stable.
By hiding system settings ever further away from the hands of the incompetent, the dumbing down of Windows 7 is generally good thing. If you want more access to system settings than the Control Panel will easily allow, though, EnhanceMySe7en is a very well designed overlay which brings all the important stuff to the top.
Even if you're not overclocking, you might well be surprised at how hot your CPU is running. Keeping an occasional eye on its temperature using Core Temp could help explain those odd moments of slowdown in game.
Fraps is a straightforward tool for taking screenshots and recording videos of your in-game exploits. The free version is good enough for most, but it limits your videos to thirty seconds and watermarks them. If you feel like shelling out for the full version, you can take lots of video footage and make wonderful things like this:
Hard drives are big, but games will always be bigger. If you're wondering why there's a low disk space warning flashing up on your brand new petabyte hard drive, WinDirStat will show you in a colour coded chart. Just don't try to say its name in public. People will think you're drunk.
From the makers of CCleaner, Recuva finds lost and corrupted files. It's not a gaming application per se, but with all that hard drive thrashing going on, it's a program many gamers will find themselves needing at some point. Especially if they have a callous disregard to safety when handling the delete button.
This cross-game messaging application Raptr is a gaming essential. Not only does it integrate with chat clients like AIM and MSN, but it also hooks into Steam and GfWL to show you what your friends are playing. Now if only Blizzard would stop being so silly and let programs like Raptr hook into Battle.net.