What are the essential tools you always have handy when attempting to fix someone’s PC?

Question

Specifically, I’m interested in knowing what tools you keep loaded on your thumb drive when asked to deal with a family member or friend’s personal computer issue? Off the top of my head, I can think of things like:

  • AVG
  • Advanced WindowsCare
  • SpyBot
  • etc.

…but this question is not necessarily limited to virus/malware/spyware issues.

Asked by n/a

Answer

So, here is my list:

Note: feel free to add your tools to my list. If it’s an alternative, please don’t replace mine, add a sub-list started by “alt:” and say why do you prefer this one.

Boot-cd/usb key

  • Ubcd4win create a (custom) live cd that contains software used for repairing, restoring, or diagnosing almost any computer problem.
    • alt: Microsoft Emergency Repair Disk: a system rescue disk PE environment with advanced recovery tools like resetting passwords, hard drive repair, offline registry editing, file explorer, command prompt, etc. Only available to Software Assurance and MSDN subscribers, as part of the Desktop Optimization Pack. If you’re a student, may be available to you through MSDNAA.
  • Offline NT Password & Registry Editor reset windows password
    • alt: Ophcrack (sort-of) brute-force windows password (if they are EFS encrypted files)
  • CloneZilla disk imaging backup
  • GParted partition editor
  • Stresslinux minimal linux with tools to monitoring hardware health: stress, cpuburn, hddtemp, lm_sensors, memtest86+, …
    • alt: Memtest86+ RAM tester (don’t need command line)
  • Hard Drive Manufacturers diagnostic tools: fujitsu / hitachi / samsung / western digital / seagate (maxtor)
  • Spinrite low level hard disk recovery (89$)

Kits

  • Sysinternals suite (1=included in this suite) a great set of tools by Sysinternals (so great that MS bought them)
  • NirLauncher (2=included in this suite) another great set of tools by NirSoft integrated in a launcher (that could be used easily with sysinternals suite too)
  • GnuWin32 port of the most important GNU utilities to Windows (command-line)

Remote control

  • Teamviewer all-in-one solution for remote access and support over the Internet. Easy (don’t have to open ports on firewall/router), secure, and full featured.
    • alt: UltraVNC: less convenient but open source and free even in a professional environment

Anti-malware

Startup Tools

  • Autoruns(1) the most comprehensive knowledge of auto-starting locations of any startup monitor
    • alt: RunAlyzer edit an external registry hive (used easily from a boot cd)

Process Tools

  • Process Explorer(1) detailed process, handles & dll informations
  • Process Monitor(1) real-time file system, registry and process/thread activity
  • Svchost analyzer lists all svchost instances and checks the services they contain

Registry Tools

Backup Tools

File Tools

Disk Tools

Hardware Tools

Drivers Tools

Cleaning Tools

  • RevoUninstaller uninstaller that help to remove leftovers (without the need of monitoring install)
  • CCleaner remove unused and temporary files
  • PC Decrapifier remove or uninstall a specific list of unwanted software
  • JavaRa removes old and redundant versions of the Java Runtime Environment

Network Tools

  • NetWorx bandwidth meter
    • alt: NetMeter the live graph looks better but is a little less featured and have some instabilities on w7
  • NetResView(2) lists all network resources (computers, disk shares, and printer shares) on your LAN
  • CurrPorts(2) lists all currently opened TCP/IP and UDP ports and the processes that opened them
  • AS3 Personal Firewall portable firewall
  • eToolz gui for NS-Lookup, Ping, TraceRoute and Whois
  • Performance Pinging graph ping
  • Wireshark network protocol analyzer
  • Secunia PSI vulnerability scanning
  • SG TCP Optimizer (XP) (re)set & optimize tcp parameters

Misc

  • System Info for Windows (aka SIW) gives a ton of information about the system, including installed software, hardware configuration, license keys, and network info. Free for non-commercial use; $70 for “technician’s license”.
  • SUMo software updater tool
  • BlueScreenView(2) crash dump analysis
  • ShellExView(2) shell extensions manager
  • Whyreboot lists reboot “pending file operations”
  • XP Quick Fix Plus 40 common Windows XP problems fixes
  • 7 Quick Fix 21 common Windows 7 problems fixes
  • thewindowsclub.com fix tools: FixWin (50 common 7/vista annoyances), Fix IE (internet explorer), Fix MSE (ms security essential), Fix WU (windows update), Fix WMP (windows media player), File Association Fixer
  • GodMode creator (7/Vista) create easy shortcuts to almost every settings & informations (CLSID folders)
  • Print Service Manager easily kill stucked print jobs
  • Filmerit directshow filter manager

And some other essential tools, but not directly related, like notepad++, autohotkey, firefox (and its bookmarks)…

Most of these tools are portable and free (at least for personal use) and yes it’s only the essentials one ;)

And if you want more security related software: Gizmo’s Best Free Security List (by Antti Koponen)

Answered by n/a