Sunday, March 29, 2009

Software recommendations

My computer has been plodding along lately. It's probably tired -- it's about 7 1/2 years old, which is something like 100 years old in computer years. But it works fine for my limited usage -- mainly surfing the internet, writing the occasional story/letter, and playing word games. So it's in my best interests to keep it running and this week, I took a stab at trying to reduce the recent sluggishness. The good news is, as far as I can tell, no virus infection. I ran several different programs and I do have some difference in performance, so that's good. The best part is that all the programs I ran are free for home use. So here's a list of free software that can make your life (and that of your computer's) easier.

  • Lavasoft's Ad-Aware - this program is pretty darn good for searching out malware and again, it's free for home use. One word of caution -- I had a heck of a time with the Anniversary Edition of Ad-Aware; it installed but then wouldn't run. It turns out to be an issue with the registry. If you've had a previous installation of Ad-Aware, it leaves behind some "junk" that the AE edition can't handle. Which leads me to my next piece of recommended software.

  • CCleaner -- Jerie recommended this to me years ago, but I admit to not being great about using it. When I ran into the aforementioned problem with the Ad-Aware AE, I remembered this program. It's basically a registry-cleaner. It goes in and finds orphan commands, files, etc., and cleans them out for you. In my case, most of the issues had to do with remnants of programs I had previously installed/uninstalled, such as an earlier edition of Ad-Aware. It's worth running. It was amazing just how much "stuff" the uninstallers leave behind to clutter up your system.

  • Avast -- I replaced McAfee with this free anti-virus software and I'm much, much happier with it than McAfee. I guess I believe its real-time protection more than I did with McAfee because Avast is pretty shrill when something happens -- either online or downloading email -- that it doesn't approve of. Its GUI is pretty easy to deal with and did I mention it was free? Note, you still have to register the software with Avast within 60 days of installing it on your computer.

I'm also running ZoneAlarm firewall on my computer instead of the built-in Windows firewall, however, I find ZoneAlarm to be kind of a pain. It is constantly nagging at me to update software (no more than 15 days apart each time) and with every update, you have to "retrain" the software to remember all the programs permitted to access the Internet. I guess this is how ZoneLabs gets people to upgrade to the paid version of their software. For free software, it's not bad if you're looking for a firewall. Just be ready to need to update every two weeks or so.

And then back to Ad-Aware. I ended up uninstalling Ad-Aware AE and re-gressing back to an earlier version of Ad-Aware (I still happened to have the *.exe file). That worked just fine. If I'm feeling really bold this weekend, I might try again with the Ad-Aware AE. Right now, due to the issues I had with the installation of Ad-Aware AE, I can't recommend it and would suggest, if possible, to keep your current, working version of the software, or find a *clean* site that will allow you to download an earlier version.

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