Updated: The five best free utilities of 2015

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Introduction




A good set of system utilities is a must have for every PC to give you an easy way to make things right should the worst happen and hell freeze over on your system.

Windows does have a set of limited utilities built-in yet there are a number of excellent alternatives out there and the good news is that most of them can be procured easily and completely free of charge.

Ranging from driver updaters and partition wizards to full blown recovery suites and imaging tools, our list of the best five free PC utilities covers all the bases.

1. 3DP Chip




Programs that examine the registry and update drivers don't have to be big and 3DP Chip more than lives up to that with device examining expertise that are among the best around.

After navigating the installation process and preventing the added bloatware, it's straight into the program that displays all the devices that are a part of your PC along with a photo of the component alongside it.

Users can get on with the task of updating drivers by simply clicking on each device one-by-one before being whisked off to an external webpage where it asks you to confirm whether or not to update the driver in question.

Any time you run into problems there is a Q&A tab that allows you to send a bug report off to 3DP Chip for further examination and at the bottom of the window there is a brief description of the CPU clock speed, memory size and OS that is running.

One criticism of 3DP Chip would be that it is almost too lightweight when compared to various other solutions out there. Many others have a little bit more to offer in terms of automatically searching and downloading driver updates without having to leave the window.

2. MiniTool Partition Wizard Free




Fiddling around with the partitions on your hard drive can be very tricky if you don't know what you're doing and could even cause damage to your PC. MiniTool Partition Wizard Free is a tool that can help at every step of the process and even includes a section to repair any damaged partitions present on the system.

A series of different wizards make up the program and in its most basic form it is there to assist anyone looking to create, edit or recover partitions. When opened it shows the partitions on your system and by clicking on each one it comes up with a list of wizards and operations that can be performed by the program. This includes everything from formatting, deleting, moving, extending, merging, splitting, copying or aligning a partition to changing it from NFTS to FAT or the serial number of the drive. The most popular of these options are available along the top and novices will be consoled by the fact that help text appears when you click or hover over the option.

New features are regularly added and the latest one saw a full OS migration to SSD option and refreshed interface. Anyone looking to improve their system performance, and repair or edit partitions will find a lot to get their teeth stuck in to here.

3. Daemon Tools Lite




Creating virtual drives on your PC can provide a replacement for all manner of different tasks and Daemon Tools Lite has been, and remains, one of the best utilities around to do just that.

A word of caution should be added to this review before we even get kicked off thanks to the tricky installation process. Free pieces of software often come with the caveat that there will be plenty of bloatware thrown in for good measure and Daemon Tools Lite doesn't disappoint. The first obstacle is choosing to proceed with the free licence option, which is very easy to miss as it is in small blue writing at the bottom of the window below the paid-for options that are in bold. There is then one last thing to watch out for in the installation in the shape of a change to your browser's homepage and simply click cancel to ride it out.

Once inside the program there's little more to it than the ability to create disk images of a variety of different types and a store is on the right hand side that enables the purchase of a number of PC games that can be mounted onto virtual drives. Compatible images can be loaded onto the drive and it emulates them quickly making no mistake in performing its main task well and is an excellent product once you get past the installation.

4. Pandora Recovery




Ever gone on a mass deleting spree on your computer and accidentally got rid of the wedding photos? We've all done something similar and Pandora Recovery remains one of the easiest ways to get deleted files back from the grave.

The installation process is a painless one and the wizard that greets you when the program opens up for the first time can be set to appear every time it is opened. For beginners the wizard is a god-send as it first instructs you to look in the recycling bin before embarking on the full scan and then gives you three options. One is to manually review all files to pick the ones to restore, the second is to search using a number of parameters, and the third a deep (surface) scan that looks for files by type.

Unlike some other recovery programs, any files found are shown in an explorer window that makes it very easy to check through and restore any ones that you want to bring back. The program also recommends that these files are restored to a secondary drive such as a USB stick or external hard drive.

The program's quick scan mode does sometimes fail to get to as many files as a full scan and this is the only real downside to a program that makes it very easy to find lost files.

5. MiniTool Power Data Recovery Free Edition




Coming out of the same stable as the partition wizard mentioned earlier on, the MiniTool Power Data Recovery Free Edition is for all those users that have a little less to deal with than an entire lost partition.

The interface of this suite is an extremely simplified one and is made up of five different options that allow you to undelete, recover a damaged partition, recover a lost partition, rescue digital media and restore CD or DVDs that are damaged. Once inside each of the different sections it works as you'd expect a recovery program would function and its wide range of different methods plus the lack of bloatware makes it a credible choice.

The free edition only has a 1GB data restoration capacity and this could be used up in less than one scan if a lot of files need to be stored so is something to consider before embarking on a restore of any larger files.




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