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Best FREE software

Posted on 2008-01-24
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Hey all,

I am looking for your opinions here.... I have a few of my own that I will throw in, but looking to expand my knowledge in the area!

I am a network administrator in the US Army and a Computer Information Technology major in college.  As you can imagine, I work with people that have very little money to spend on software!  I try to recommend the best FREE software that I can think of, so that they have at least something to work with... What are your opinions on the FREE stuff?

Usually they need the following:

Anti-virus:
I always recommend Avast! It sees to have awesome update capabilities and I love the boot time scan option!  Is there anything else out that that is as good with the boot time scan option?

Anti-spyware/malware:
This seems to be the biggest new request!  I am always at a loss as to what is the best, what is good, and what is worthless!  For time I have been suggesting the obvious... Spybot S&D, Windows Defender, Ad-Aware, SpywareBlaster, AVG Anti-rootkit, CW Shredder, and COMODO Firewall.  What else is out there that is FREE and worth a darn?

Productivity:
The best I found is OxygenOffice Professional 2.3!  Anything better out there?

Tools:
Dont know much in this category, but have heard about TuneXP 1.5 and ZSoft Uninstaller!  Are they any good and is there anything else out there that is better?

and for the parents:
The only free protection I have tried out is K9 Web Protection.  Seems to work pretty well!

I know the old saying you get what you pay for, but many of the people I work with have no Pay to get More!  Please let me know of what you use, what works, etc... so that I can help these guys out more!

Thanks!
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Question by:commo25u
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Accepted Solution

by:
vikyprabu earned 100 total points
ID: 20739006
Antivirus - Avast  - http://www.avast.com/eng/avast_4_home.html
               - AVG   - free.grisoft.com/
               - MCAFEE - http://safety.aol.com/isc/MaximumSecurity/

AntiSPyware- Spyware Doctor ( TOP NOTCH SCANNING, with less protection system for free)- http://www.pctools.com/spyware-doctor/google_pack/

OFFICE -  Star Office ( from google pack)
            - Open Office
             
Uninstaller - revo ( The best) - http://www.revouninstaller.com/

Optimiser - www.kessels.com/JkDefrag/
                - http://www.iobit.com/advancedwindowscareper.html
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Assisted Solution

by:younghv
younghv earned 100 total points
ID: 20744936
Concur with AVG-Free (Pro is only $14.50/year)
Best Anti-Spyware is "SuperAntiSpyware-Free" (Pro is $29.00/lifetime license).

HOSTS file protection (Google MVPS HOSTS).

CCleaner (fully deletes junk/temp files - plus a great 'uninstaller' and registry cleaner).

More later, but I'm logged in from a client's office.

Vic
(Old 251A)
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Expert Comment

by:cpaglee
ID: 20765809
There are a lot of applications and strategies out there that people an use without installing anything new on their system.

1. Make hard drives into two partitions C Drive and D Drive and then move all data to the D drive. If anything ever happens to corrupt your C Drive your Data on your D drive will still be safer. I cannot tell you how many times this has saved my butt.

2. Recommend they use backup software to ghost their hard drive often in case something does go wrong.

3. Use a Dial Up Networking Monitor / Bandwidth Monitor. This is especially helpful if you are using a modem because you can actually see the data coming into your machine and it gives you something to watch when you are waiting or lets you know that nothing is coming in so you don't wait in vain. This will help you watch your bandwidth usage and will also be the best way to alert you to Spyware on your system that should not be there. Spyware / Malware is designed to take over your computer and when it does it makes liberal use of your bandwidth to send out SPAM or to perform DDOS attacks or other bad things. If you are not using a web browser or any other Internet applications but you see your bandwidth spiking you will know something is wrong. Without a bandwidth monitor you will never know this is happening. There are a bunch of free ones out there like:

http://www.softpedia.com/get/Network-Tools/Bandwidth-Tools/Emsa-Bandwidth-Monitor.shtml
http://sourceforge.net/projects/freemeter/

4. Even though there is a built in Firewall in XP my advice is to get rid of it and use a free one. Windows XP firewall does not work securely for both incoming and outgoing Internet connections because Microsoft has designed many of its own applications to 'phone home' and send out data that you wouldn't necessarily want it to send out. Find a firewall that blocks outgoing connection attempts as well as incoming attempts, and by blocking outoing attempts from software you don't recognize you will prevent Spyware / Malware from communicating with the outside world if it is on your system.

5. Customize which applications run within Windows using Msconfig - Click on Start + Run and type Msconfig.exe then hit enter and click on the StartUp tab. This will allow you to get rid of applications people never asked for in the first place (like MS Messenger). This is already included in XP so nothing else is needed.

6. Customize which services run with Windows by clicking Start + Run and typing Services.msc then hit enter. The steps listed here allow users to tweak Services the way they want them to be tweaked:

http://www.tweakhound.com/xp/xptweaks/supertweaks1.htm

This is especially important if you are running an older system because you can set up XP to behave in a lot of ways like Windows 98 and it is SO MUCH FASTER. You get the reliability of XP with the speed and simplicity of 98. The whole process takes about an hour but is well worth the time spent.

7. Defrag hard drives by running Start - Programs - Accessories - System Tools and then run Disk Defragmenter. Just do it manually say once every few months. Do NOT need to schedule something like this because that will just tie up more system resources. No other software is needed.

8. Do NOT use Internet Explorer. This is probably the BEST recommendation that anybody can make to keep Spyware off their system. Install and use alternate browsers on your system. My suggestion is to use Firefox for your daily browsing, use Opera for high risk browsing on less reputable websites and use IE ONLY for online banking.

9. I use Nod32 Antivirus and I think it is well worth the money. Nod32 is the absolute lowest resource Antivirus software out there and it is worth the money. If people are willing to spend a little bit of money for better security this is the best choice. As far as AVG goes it is a resource HOG which makes my system crawl and I would never use it, free or otherwise.
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Expert Comment

by:Slym
ID: 20799611
These aren't all in the IT utility catagory, but t add a few general apps:
Audio Editing:  Audacity
Graphics:  The Gimp, Irfanview
Tools and utilities:  Wireshark (ethernet sniffer),
Malware removal:  Killbox (kills or deletes files on reboot), HiJackThis
HTML editors:  nvu, Arachnophilia
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