10 classic but essential (and free!) utilities for Windows 10

You can get more from Win10 by adding these useful tools.

Let’s talk about Windows 10 utilities. Sound dull? Far from it.

Many of these programs have been around through several versions of Windows. They’ve become popular by providing features not included with the OS, doing something better than a built-in tool or optimizing overall performance.

This slideshow doesn’t showcase anti-malware tools, programs that change the Windows UI, or general applications (such as image editors, office tools or web browsers). Instead, these are niche programs that help make using Windows every day a little better and more convenient. All of these tools are available free to use.

Computerworld > Windows 10 Utilities > Slide #02 > CCleaner
IDG / Piriform

CCleaner

CCleaner quickly scans for cache, log, temporary and other background files that Windows has accumulated over time but that are not necessary to its operation. You can then have this tool delete the unwanted files, potentially recovering a significant amount of storage space on your computer. CCleaner can also scan for and delete the browser history, cache, cookies, download history, temporary files, user passwords and other files associated with any web browser installed on your computer.

Computerworld > Windows 10 Utilities > Slide #03 > Everything
IDG / voidtools

Everything

Everything helps you find files on your Windows computer very quickly. Start typing the letters of a filename in its search box, and it instantly starts narrowing down the results. The more letters you type, the shorter the list of search results becomes until Everything drills down to the file you want. File search results can be viewed as thumbnails, and Everything does an equally fast job generating preview images of pictures under this view method.

Computerworld > Windows 10 Utilities > Slide #04 > KeyFinder
IDG / Magical Jelly Bean

KeyFinder

Let’s say you want to remove a licensed application from your current computer and install it on another computer. Or maybe you need to format the main drive of your computer, necessitating a reinstall of a licensed application. If you can’t find the application’s license key, run KeyFinder. It scans your computer for licensed applications and generates a list of them. Click the name of an application, and the tool shows you its key, which you can save to text file. KeyFinder can fish out the keys of over 300 licensed applications.

Computerworld > Windows 10 Utilities > Slide #05 > Unlocker / LockHunter
IDG / IObit / Crystal Rich Ltd

LockHunter and Unlocker

Sometimes you’ll encounter a file or folder in Windows that appears to be “locked” — you can’t delete it, move it, rename it or otherwise manage it. (If it’s a personal file such as a document, picture or video, it could still be “linked” to an application that you used to view it.) Whatever the reason, Windows may have failed to “free” this file. Both LockHunter and Unlocker are equally good at fixing this; each will try to unlock a file or folder so that you can then delete or manipulate it as usual.

Computerworld > Windows 10 Utilities > Slide #06 > Partition Wizard
IDG / MiniTool

Partition Wizard

Partition Wizard lets you manage the partitions of your computer’s main storage drive, a secondary drive or an external one connected to your computer (such as a USB flash drive). You can create, copy, delete, merge, resize or split partitions.

Additional tools can copy the entire contents of a drive to another drive, move your computer’s Windows installation to another drive (if, for example, you’re upgrading your computer’s main drive to a larger-capacity one), and try to recover damaged or deleted partitions.

Computerworld > Windows 10 Utilities > Slide #07 > Recuva
IDG / Piriform

Recuva

If you accidentally delete a file and it’s no longer in the Windows recycling bin, this tool may be your best shot at recovering it. Recuva scans the storage drive where the deleted file was located before deletion and presents a list of deleted files that it found. Each filename on this list is rated by a color indicating the odds of it being restored to its original state. (Green means Recuva can most likely recover it.) You can use a search tool to sort through these found deleted files — for example, if you’re looking for a document, you can search among the deleted files for specific words that your deleted document contains.

Computerworld > Windows 10 Utilities > Slide #08 > Sandboxie
IDG / Sandboxie

Sandboxie

Sandboxie provides a layer of security between applications and Windows. It sets up a “sandbox” for an application to run inside. If the application tries to run malware, or if it’s a web browser that has downloaded something just as bad, Sandboxie should be able to keep this malicious code confined within this sandbox. Thus, the code can’t mess with the normal operations of Windows, for example by changing or deleting files, hijacking your computer or locking up your personal files. Sandboxie places a shortcut on the desktop, which you can click to run your Windows computer’s default browser inside this isolated mode.

Computerworld > Windows 10 Utilities > Slide #09 > Seer
IDG / 1218.io

Seer

Seer copies a feature Mac users enjoy on macOS named Quick Look. Click on a file to select it, press the spacebar, and Seer loads a preview of it. If it’s a picture, you see the image floating over the Windows desktop. If it’s a PDF, RTF or text file, Seer loads it inside a simple viewer app. You can preview a compressed archive, peeking at the entire listing of files inside it. Seer can play audio and video files (but the playback isn’t optimal compared to using a normal media player). Plugins can be downloaded and installed to enable Seer to preview more file types, such as Microsoft Office documents.

Computerworld > Windows 10 Utilities > Slide #10 > Speccy
IDG / Piriform

Speccy

When you load Speccy, it audits the hardware of your computer and summarizes the technology of your computer under categories such as CPU, RAM, motherboard and storage. Click a category name to see a lot more technical details about this part of your computer. For example, if you click “Motherboard,” Speccy will tell you what kind of chipset your computer’s motherboard has, the version of its onboard BIOS system, and how many expansion slots it may have. All of these nitty-gritty specs about your computer can be printed, or saved to a text file.

Computerworld > Windows 10 Utilities > Slide #11 > WiFi Password Revealer
IDG / Magical Jelly Bean

WiFi Password Revealer

Finding your saved Wi-Fi network passwords on Windows is a convoluted process of digging through the OS’s network settings. (This may be due to bad interface design. Or it may be intended as a security measure, sloppy as it is.) WiFi Password Revealer is the best kind of utility because its name describes exactly what it does. Load it, and it lists all at once the Wi-Fi networks that you’ve signed onto with your notebook or computer, revealing their passwords, if any. The security authentication and encryption methods for each network are also shown.