01/25/2001 - Updated 10:42 AM ET

Software tools to make your life easier

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This week's selections

Preston's picks for January

This year, my main resolution is to keep all my resolutions. And it will be easy to do this year, because Iíll be using downloadable software to help. Iím going to tune up my PC, have more fun and do cooler things on the Internet.

Tune Up Your PC

My first New Year's resolution: Tune up my PC.

With downloadable software, itís a snap for you to do it as well. First off, get a copy of Sandra. With over 50 different modules that report on your systemís performance, Sandra will tell you anything you need to know about your PC. Youíll be able to graphically display system statistics such as drive benchmarks, CPU speed ratings, DOS memory and physical memory bank information, and a whole lot more.

Sandra will tell you how your PC performs, but it wonít let you do anything about it. For that, youíll need a program like System Mechanic. This one is a tinkererís dream. Remove duplicate files and a variety of waste files. Repair or eliminate broken shortcuts, remove errant Registry entries, and eliminate invalid uninstaller info. You can also see and edit which programs are slated to load when Windows starts and monitor program installations. You can take a system snapshot for later comparison or get a report that details any system changes for a particular install. Thereís a whole lot more here as well.

To change the way Windows looks and functions, get an all-time favorite, TweakUI. This free utility from Microsoft lets you change the way just about every part of Windows works and looks. It even includes "paranoia" settings that will clear all evidence of what youíve done in areas such as the Run, Documents and Find Files areas.

Everyone can use a larger hard disk. Instead of forking out the money for one, try out Clean It. Whenever it loads, this utility scans your PC for Internet waste files, temp files, recent documents, Internet cache files, cookie files and any other space-wasting files you want to monitor. Youíll then be able to delete them and gain back precious hard disk space.

If you want to make the most of your PCís memory, try out WinRamTurbo Pro. It reports on memory usage, swap file usage, and available system resources. It does more than that, though. Itíll optimize all those settings, and reclaim unused RAM for you, based on what you tell it to do.

Have Fun Without Paying a Penny

New Yearís resolution number two: Have more fun, and donít pay a penny for it.

That means free games. Iím not a big fan of the shoot-and-kill variety, but I do love card, board and similar games. And one of the more enjoyable free ones Iíve just come across is Maize Quest. You have to make your way through an incredibly complex maze, gathering letters and kernels of corn along the way. You have to get the highest score possible. Thereís dead ends galore, so youíll never run out of possibilities.


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