First off, this page is not meant to sell you anything, and I don't get any payment
for the following recommendations - most of which are freeware, anyway. It's just my
habit on this page to share a few tips and tricks. The programs I'll mention all run on
my own system, Windows XP/SP3. There might be versions for other OS, but I haven't
Alright, let's go!
My best find in recent months is Sandboxie - a light little program that
allows you to run your browser (or any other program) in a 'sandboxed' i.e. virtual
environment. Any changes an application makes while running in Sandboxie - be it setting
cookies, altering the registry, installing programs - stay in the sandbox and won't touch
the 'real' computer. When you empty the sandbox, it is all gone, like it never was there.
I use Sandboxie solely for surfing and I feel well protected now, knowing that my system is safe from whatever it might meet in the www.
Time Freeze is right up there with Sandoxie in the
list of my favorites, insofar as it does not only protect one program (as the free
version of Sandboxie does), but it puts your whole system drive (C:\) in a virtual
environment. The program is small and offers an easy interface, provinding an 'on' and
'off' button for your system protection.
If you turn Time Freeze off, all changes made to the computer will be transferred to the actual system. If you don't want to keep the changes, simply restart or shut down your computer while Time Freeze is still running. When the system starts again, it is back to the status in which it was before you turned Time Freeze on.
Maybe you're like me and prefer to run your own firewall instead of the one
Windows came with, because you want to know what gets out of your machine as well
as what gets in. Like me, you might run into some trouble to properly close your port
135, kept open by Windows DCOM process. DCOM is a thing that most of us will never, ever
need, a stealthed port 135, however, is crucial for your computer's security. Most
instructions to disable DCOM and close the port - even the one provided by Microsoft -
involve long scary manuals and fiddling in the registry. The great little DCOMbobulator
achieves the same result with a few easy clicks.
A neat and reliable spyware detector and remover - more than once it still found something where others had failed. SiperAntiSpyware also taught me to refularly clean my sandbox, and finally set the dandbox to 'delete on closing' - simply because it happily pointed out the tracker cookies stored therein. While they could do no harm in the sandbox, it still proved that SAS has its eyes everywhere.
What Mailwasher does is simple - it allows you a preview on your
emails stored at your mail provider before you download them on your computer. You
can weed out and delete what you don't need and then send the rest to your usual mail
client. If that happens to be Outlook Express - which will blindly shovel anything
into your inbox - you just cannot recommend a thingie like Mailwasher enough.
I still run an ageold version, v.1.33 from 2001 or so - this was the last freeware version (available here) that allowed to maintain multiple accounts. It might not have all the bells and whistles, but it is light and fast and still fine enough for me.