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9 free tools that make Windows much better

Alex Castle | Feb. 4, 2014
These free utilities do image editing, file management, screenshots and more, much, much better than Windows' own versions can.

Windows is packed to the rafters with features, many of them great — and others, just meh. Luckily, there are free alternatives that are more powerful, more efficient, and take only minutes to install. Read on, and we'll show you 9 built-in features of Windows that aren't up to snuff, and the free software you can use to replace them.

The search functionality in Windows 8 is fast and well-integrated with the new Start Screen. Still, the Start Screen search isn't perfect: It can't find files that aren't executables or documents. If you want to search through every file on your system, you have to use the excruciatingly slow File Explorer search. Or, you can use Everything.

"Everything" is an indexed search utility that lets you search through every single file on your system, practically instantly. Just type a file name, and before you're done you'll see what you're looking for. Yes, it really is that fast. For even faster access, pin it to your toolbar.

File Transfer
It's ironic that one of the simplest things you do in Windows can be one of the most frustrating. File transfers have gotten better in recent versions of Windows, but they can still take a long time, and faulty transfers are a great way to ruin your afternoon (especially if your afternoon consists of shuffling numerous files around).

Particularly in Windows 7 or earlier, you should immediately update your system with TeraCopy, a free utility that speeds up file moves substantially and protects you from failed transfers — it'll skip over a file that generates an error, rather than sending the entire transfer grinding to a halt. It also allows you to pause and resume transfers at any time, and even better, it integrates directly with Windows Explorer, so once it's installed you can just drag and drop files like usual but with the full benefits TeraCopy provides.

In Windows 8 you can take a screenshot by pressing Win-PrtScn, but to take a whole bunch at once, you should get a dedicated screenshot app.

There are more contenders than you'd expect, but we recommend Greenshot. It lets you bind hotkeys to all sorts of screenshot commands (capture the whole screen, just a window, and just a region, for instance), and specify what will happen with those screenshots. You can automatically open a Save As dialogue, open the screenshots in a lightweight image editor, or save them directly to your hard drive using a naming scheme of your choice.

Process manager

The Windows process manager, which pops up when you hit Ctrl-Esc-Shift or open the "Processes" tab in the Windows task manager, shows you which programs and processes are running and how much system resources they are using. For the most part, Windows' built-in process manager works fine, and it was substantially improved in Windows 8, but sometimes you need a little more.


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