Home : WRH Store : WRH Index : Reader Letters : Archives : Advertise : Donate

Free Software Downloads to
Optimize Windows XP

Colin Bett

Windows XP has been replaced by a driver hating, DRM laden OS which regularly throws annoying pop-ups at you.

Don't be hypnotized by the pretty graphics -- putting Vista on your computer is one of the least desirable things you could do this side of hitting it with a baseball bat. [Georgetown Independent]

I am not planning on "upgrading", so I have trawled the internet for free utilities which optimize and enhance the "out of date" Windows XP. The software titles below are the result of my quest.

The main points of the software are:

  • Simplicity - if it takes more than 5 minutes to figure out how a program works I generally lose interest.
  • Effectiveness - a program has to do its job well.
  • Stability - I don't like seeing a blue screen.
  • Minimal system resources - my PC uses a humble AMD 64 3000+ CPU alongside a Seagate Momentus 5400 RPM hard drive (I like the quiet). I don't want bloatware slowing it to a crawl, so minimal program size and CPU usage is essential.

I prefer programs which require which no installation so that my registry stays bloat free. Programs shown with [NI] require no installation. If you want to easily install applications that do not provide an internal installation program then ZipInstaller [38KB] will do the job for you. It automatically extracts all files from a downloaded zip file, copies them to the destination folder you select, creates shortcuts in the start menu and on the desktop, and it adds an uninstall module to allow automatic removal of the software. To run a non-installed program at startup create a shortcut to the exe file in C:\Documents and Settings\User\Start Menu\Programs\Startup.

All of the software has been thoroughly tested, but it is recommended that you create a system restore point before any installations so that your system can be easily rolled back should anything go awry.

Please note that all of the tools are provided without warranty or support by WRH as a service to the community.

Internet software:

SG TCP Optimizer [596KB] - An easy way to optimize internet connection registry settings [program guide]

YouTube Downloader HD [888KB (portable version)] - Allows conventional, high quality & HD videos to be downloaded from YouTube and saved as FLV, mp4 & avi files.

TurnFlash v2.10 [6KB] [NI] - Allows web page Flash content to be turned off in IE. Speeds up web page downloads and prevents your PC from being hijacked by malware.

Kaufman Mail Warrior [924KB] [NI] - An ultra light, fast and straightforward program for receiving, sending and checking e-mail accounts.

i.FTP [439KB] - Straightforward FTP client. [Screenshot]

HFS - HTTP File Server [1.7MB] [NI] - A simple way to share files with friends, amongst many other things.

Free Download Manager [5.4MB] - A well featured downloading program.

NetMeter [600KB] - Monitors internet connection speed and keeps a log of bandwidth used.

No Frills Timer [105KB] - Allows you to keep a check on how long you've been online.

FollowMeIP Lite [152KB] [NI] - A simple tool which displays your external IP address.

Hard drive tools:

UltimateDefrag [2.1MB] - An excellent hard drive defragmentation tool. The "auto" option is  effective for novices, and hardcore tweakers can tune drives to the max [program guide]

Locate32 [1.1MB] [NI] - Ultra fast alternative to Windows search [details].

Turn off Windows indexing to free up system resources [details].

Backup software:

DriverMax [2.9MB] - Allows PC drivers to be easily backed up and reinstalled.

IdleBackup [1MB] - Easy to use data backup software that does its work when your PC is idle.

Graphics software:

PhotoFiltre [1.8MB] [NI] - Easy to use photo retouching software which includes advanced features [tutorial] [reviews].

FastStone Image Viewer [4MB] [NI] - Excellent image browser and editor.

PaintStar [2.4MB] - A suite of painting tools which allow numerous effects to be applied to images. A useful function of this program is it allows thumbnails of images selected in explorer to be displayed in the right-click context menu.

Serif DrawPlus 4 [19MB] - Feature rich vector drawing software [details]. Free registration required.

Diagram Designer [1.3MB] - Easy to use vector graphics editor for creating flowcharts.

Hardware monitoring and detection software:

SpeedFan [1.3MB] - Shows fan speed(s), voltages, chip and hard drive temperatures. Also monitors the condition of the hard drive.

MobileMeter [41KB] [NI] - A system monitoring tool for laptops. Shows the CPU clock speed and temperature, battery charge/discharge rate and HDD temperature.

Cpu-Z [592KB] [NI] - Detects CPU, memory and motherboard information.

Testing software:

MemTest [13KB] [NI] - RAM integrity tester.

CPU Burn-in [7KB] [NI] - CPU stability tester.

PDF software:

Sumatra PDF Viewer [1MB] [NI] - A lightweight alternative to Adobe's PDF bloatware.

P D F Converter [314KB] - A simple utility which extracts text from a PDF file and saves it as a text file via the right click context menu. [Screenshot]

Text/HTML software:

Tiny Editor [17KB] [NI]  - Ultra light (and more functional) alternative to Notepad.

EditPad Lite [3.1MB] - Feature rich tabbed notepad.

AbiWord [5.8MB] - MS Word alternative.

Text Tally [1.18MB] - Automatically counts lines, words, and characters in clipboard text.

WordWeb [7.4MB] - If you are ever stuck for words this dictionary/thesaurus will prove to be very handy.

Desktop/display software:

Samurize [5.3MB] - Software which allows Windows desktop to be comprehensively customized without too much fuss [basic guide].

Desktop Calendar [628KB] - A customisable calendar which sits neatly on the desktop.

Desktop Info [190KB] - Displays system information on the desktop.

ClocX [941KB] - A customisable analogue desktop alarm clock with numerous faces to choose from. Looks great, and uses negligible resources [brief review].

iRotate [112KB] - Rotates the screen display with a click of a mouse.

General software:

7-Zip [840KB] - High performance compression software which works with numerous compressed file formats (zip, rar etc).

If you are content with using Windows default Compressed (zipped) Folder for the zipping & unzipping of files then Win-GZ [49KB] [NI] will come in handy if you ever need to uncompress a gzip file. Simply place a shortcut to program the in the SendTo directory, you will then be able to use the program from the SendTo context menu.

BAD CD DVD Reader [2.4MB] - Can help recover data from unreadable CDs and DVDs.

Convert [152KB] [NI] - A versatile unit conversion tool.

FreeGuide [9MB] - A handy TV guide.

DOSBox [1.2MB] - Allows DOS games to be played on Windows XP.

Liberated Games - A collection of classic DOS games which are now free downloads.

See also: Optimize XP


What Really Happened