The Windows ecosystem is filled with more programs than we will ever need. But while you know to install essential programs like Firefox and Steam onto every new PC, there are plenty of core utilities you should install before downloading any application software.
Think you have every utility to bend Windows to your wishes? You'd be surprised!
After recommending SyncBack SE in our last app roundup, our readers turned us onto Cobian, an independently-developed backup utility that is as elegant as it is powerful. Cobian lets you schedule backups of folders and drives (yes, even networked ones) to encrypted archives. You can select the frequency of backups, the type of backups (incremental or differential), encryption algorithm, and compression format (Zip and 7z are supported). Backups can be stored onto physical disks, USB keys, or networked drives. The best part is that retrieving files is a cinch—just browse the backup with your preferred archiving program, like 7-Zip.
Executor / Launchy
It you want to rid Desktop icons once and for all, consider using Executor, a powerful visual implementation of the Run command. A keyboard shortcut brings up the Executor prompt, which lets you type open programs, documents, and websites that the program indexes in the background. You can associate keyword commands with applications to perform specific tasks, and manage Executor’s database to refine your results. It’s also extremely customizable to match your desktop aesthetic. Another recommended program launcher is Launchy, which isn’t as feature-heavy as Executor.
It’s easily the most popular registry-cleaning utility; though CCleaner will also purge your system of unwanted temporary files, memory dumps, and even system restore points. The latest version will let you manage start-up programs and services as well.
Since its introduction last year, Dropbox has been a perennial addition to our must-have software lists. So why does it always make the cut? Because it’s a utility that’s simultaneously intuitive, simple, and absolutely kick-ass.
Dropbox monitors a folder on your system, and syncs it with a folder on any other system you have Dropbox installed on, keeping all your important files everywhere you might need them. Even if you don’t have a second computer you want to sync, Dropbox is a worthy download thanks to its powerful browser interface, which lets you download or upload a file anywhere, and saves a revision history, in case you screw up an important document.
For neat freaks who like to keep their files organized, here’s a powerful utility that lets you automate file management in Windows. Belvedere is an open-source tool that lets you monitor folders and move, delete, rename, or open files based on specified rules. You can set it to keep track of your documents folder and archive files created over a month ago, or keep watch of your downloads folder and soft files based on the file’s name, extension, size, or creation date.