Hardware 2.0 - Best software applications/tools/utilities

Hardware 2.0 - Best software applications/tools/utilities

Summary: I regularly receive emails from readers asking me for a list of the software tools and utilities I use regularly. Well, you asked for it, so here it is! Here's a list of my favorite applications, tools and utilities.


I regularly receive emails from readers asking me for a list of the software tools and utilities I use regularly.

Well, you asked for it, so here it is! Here's a list of my favorite applications, tools and utilities.

Check out the full image gallery here.

Virtual CD

You might be thinking that Virtual CD is just another example of a tool that allows you to mount .ISO CD images on your system. Well, you'd be right. It also lets you create .ISO files and burn them to disc. OK, nothing special so far. Where Virtual CD differs from similar utilities such as Daemon Tools or Virtual CloneDrive is that Virtual CD allows you to create virtual CD and DVD burners on your system. This allows CD burning applications to see the drive as a valid disc burner and write data to a virtual disc that you can then store as an image.

Virtual CD

Why might you want this feature? Well, one use for it that I'd found is a quick way to burn a backup on an iTunes library without going through the physical disc stage. That's just one use for this tool. Once you have a virtual CD/DVD burner on your system, you'll wonder how you managed without.

Virtual CD

Virtual CD has some other cool features. One feature that I use regularly is its ability to make an .ISO image of a folder or collection of files from the right-click in an explorer Window.

One negative that I have of Virtual CD is that it can seem overwhelmingly complicated initially, offering a myriad of options and settings. However, if you work through the help file you'll soon figure out what does what.

Excellent utility that I couldn't do without. Also, as far as I'm aware, one of a kind!

Virtual CD - Single license $39.95


If you're a gamer who obsesses over frame rates then you should be familiar with Fraps already. Fraps has a number of uses, but the one that most people seem to be away of is its ability to display (and record) the number of frames per second you are getting in a game.


But Fraps does a lot more than display frames per second. Another handy Fraps feature is the ability to capture stills and video from games. Yeah, OK, not many people want to do this, but if you do, then Fraps is the tool for you.

Fraps - Freeware version available/Single license $37

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I used to be a huge fan of WinZip, but in recent years I've found the tool to be bloated and annoying. I tried several alternatives (including WinRAR) but in the end I settled on 7-Zip simply because it was fast and lightweight.


7-Zip is fast and easy to use, and has the added advantage of being able to compress files to a high ratio. The interface is somewhat basic but I'm happy to overlook that since it does what is says it does well.

7-Zip - Freeware


I don't compose any of my blog posts online because a single browser lockup (or accidentally hitting the back button) means that I'm back to square one. I'm much happier composing my posts offline and to do this I use an excellent WYSIWYG called BlogJet.


I've been using BlogJet now for years and it's an application that in all that time hasn't given me any trouble whatsoever. It also makes composing blogs posts easy - adding images, YouTube videos, and files is a snap. It also has powerful features such as a spell checker and auto replace.

BlogJet isn't free and there are free alternatives (such as Windows Live Writer) but I keep coming back to BlogJet.

BlogJet - Single license $39.95/Family license $69.95


Does DVD copy protection or region coding get in your way? It does with me, so I've invested in a copy of AnyDVD HD. This tool works in the background and automatically removes the region encoding and copy protection present on a DVD movie as soon as it's inserted into the drive. Not only that, but it allows you to skip FBI warnings and trailers that otherwise you are forced to sit through.


I don't use AnyDVD because I'm up to no good, I use AnyDVD because without it there are discs which I've legally bought which I can't play on my PC without it.

AnyDVD - 1-year subscription: 49, lifetime: 64/AnyDVD HD - 1-year subscription: 63, lifetime: 109


I believe that burning a CD or DVD should be easy. My disc burning needs used to be handled by Nero, but over the years this applications has become bloated with far too many features for my liking (or maybe the applications has just shifted markets and left me behind) and I've now moved CDBurnerXP.

Note: Despite the name, CDBurnerXP works on Vista too.


With CDBurnerXP I can easily create CDs and DVDs, including Blu-ray and HD-DVDs, as well as creating and burning .ISO image files. On top of that, CDBurnerXP is quick and simple to use thanks to the well laid out interface.

CDBurnerXP - Freeware

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Softros LAN Messenger

It's great being able to communicate with different PCs on a network. I used to think that i could get away with using IM to do this, but I prefer to have something that's not pack full of annoying stuff like nudges and winks and that sort of nonsense. I need something that's more business like.

Softros Messenger

Softros LAN Messenger is a small and easy to use application that allows me to chat with users on other PCs, as well as send and receive files. It's simple to set up and even simpler to use. It just works!

Softros LAN Messenger - Single license starts at $10.95


UltraEdit is Windows Notepad on steroids. Yes, it's a text editor and you can use UltraEdit simply as a replacement for Notepad, but UltraEdit is a lot more than that. It's an HTML editor. It's an advanced PHP editor. It has a built-in FTP/SSH/Telnet client. It offers syntax highlighting and code folding for the programmer. It supports files bigger than 4GB. It supports file encryption. And that's just scratching the surface!


UltraEdit is a huge application but even when you only use a small fraction of the features it offers (as I do) it still manages to feel easy to use. I've been using UltraEdit for years now and couldn't dream of switching to another text editor.

It might seem wierd to you paying for a text editor, but UltraEdit is an application that has never let me down. It just works!

UltraEdit - Single license $49.96

Foxit Reader

A few years ago I gave Adobe Reader the shove and moved to Foxit Reader. I expected all kinds of compatibility issues but these didn't materialize and over time I became attached to this simple yet powerful PDF viewer. I can't remember coming across a single PDF file that it hasn't been able to open.

Foxit Reader

Foxit Reader is small, it's fast, it's reliable and it's free!

Foxit Reader - Free (optional Pro pack $39)

VMware Workstation

For me, being able to run multiple operating systems on a single PC is not only a time saver, it saves me on desk space and on set up time. For me, the virtualization tool of choice is VMware Workstation. It is pricy and there are free alternatives but for me the price tag is insignificant compared to what this single application has saved me in the long run.

VMware Workstation

I use VMware Workstation for a number of tasks - testing out patches, testing beta software, checking the effects of malware on the OS, easing migration issues. I can have multiple OSes open simultaneously and create snapshots of the system for easy rollback at any time. I can even network the virtual systems together if I need to. This is truly a fantastic application.

VMware Workstation - Single license $189

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Topics: CXO, Hardware, Virtualization, VMware

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  • Why VMware workstation?

    Why VMware workstation and not VMware server?
    • Yes, whats the difference between the two? (nt)

  • That was nice. Only, you do all this stuff in Linux for FREE

    D T Schmitz
  • I was thinking the same thing...

    ...just replacing them with other apps.

    For example, I use Notepad++ which is open source instead of UltraEdit, and it really accomplishes the same end game.
    • 1 for notepad

      Plus Imgburn :create cd, image, burn image, duplicate... and all for free.
  • RE: Hardware 2.0 - Best software applications/tools/utilities

    MagicDisk, offered as freeware by the MagicISO programmers at:
    http://www.magiciso.com/tutorials/miso-magicdisc-overview.htm, available for several years and the reason I purchased the core MagicISO program several years ago, also provides the ability to create virtual CD and DVD burners on one's system.
  • RE: Hardware 2.0 - Best software applications/tools/utilities

    I formerly used Vmware but have switched to VirtualBox. Vmware is still king but Virtualbox is free and I am using it to run multiple operating systems with no trouble. The systems can also be networked. I can test things and then dump the clone or snapshot and be back to original.

    I also use notepad++. It's free and does everything.
  • What is so good about Foxit?

    Could you provide a little more information about why Foxit is so desirable?

    In these days of cheap 1 TiB disk drives, few people seem to be concerned about size.

    Faster? How much faster? 10%? 50% Just "feels" faster?

    The Adobe Reader is also free, so I am not sure that this is a selling point.

    I am not promoting Foxit or Adobe. I just want to know why this is your preferred reader.
    • Adobe Reader

      has unnecessary features that present security issues from time to time. My preference in the freeware PDF reader genre is PDF X-Change viewer. It didn't suffer from the last security problem that also affected FoxIt. It loads quicker (the only marker I use is how long I wait) than Adobe by far and has usable features that are not trial as in FoxIt.

      I merely need to read a PDF and alter a form when needed.
    • because

      I starting using Foxit just because it wasn't Adobe and it's seemingly endless security problems. Now I just use it because it's good for the job and Adobe isn't constantly harassing me with 'offers'.
    • For me, printing issues

      Adobe Reader has always had printing issues for us when it comes to large documents (50 or more pages). It'll either only print a few pages, or print nothing at all. Even setting to raw print can sometimes cause issues.
      Foxit prints the same documents with no problems at all.
    • Till he used it on Win7...

      So no mention of his Win7 woes with Foxit-http://blogs.zdnet.com/hardware/?p=5599&tag=nl.e539.
      I like PDF-XChange Viewer best as aussiedawg does-http://www.docu-track.com/home
    • Foxit is good, but...

      Foxit is a good PDF reader. It is small, fast, and has a clean interface. However, the last version I tried made it impossible to copy-and-paste text from a PDF into another application. C&P was available in the paid version.

      Therefore, I moved to PDF-Xchange. Seems to be about as fast as Foxit and I can get text when I want it.

      Adobe has features that may meet specific needs, but its bloat and security problems finally drove me to remove it. Not once have I regretted removing it from my PCs.

  • MagicISO - Free / Virtual CD - Not

    Good list and personally agree with most choices. Although, I tend to embrace GNU/GPL where possible. To that end I've found MagicISO to be a great virtual CD/DVD utility.

    Can't give enough props to IDM for UltraEdit/Ultracompare. Great products.

    AnyDVD is also a good product but the folks at Slysoft must be smoking something really good to charge the prices that they do. I have lifetime licenses for IDM for UltraEdit/UltraCompare but who has $115 to blow for a a background utility. And a limited license (2 year) at that. Yes, Slysoft has a lifetime option for $160 but seriously. There must be a lot of folks out there with a much more disposable income than I do. More power to them. In the meantime, I'll take a slightly more labor intensive but MUCH more affordable solution and use DVDFab.

    Thanks and good luck to all.
    Keeping Current
  • RE: Hardware 2.0 - Best software applications/tools/utilities

    Yes, VMware's Workstation is fantastic software.
  • Foxit ain't reliable

    One of the few pieces of junk programming I removed from my Vista installation. (only VLC is less stable but that is more usefull).
    I'd rather have the bloat of adobe reader
  • RE: Hardware 2.0 - Best software applications/tools/utilities

    Need to add Notepad ++ its light its free and supports many computer languages with built in syntax highlighting. I use it all the time when writing matlab code or to read a txt file
  • CCleaner is great!

    To me this is a must-have tool when evaluating a PC for repairs as long as I know there are no hardware weaknesses.It's the next thing to do after a virus scan on a bootable but erratic system. I find its ability to scan and repair registry problems remarkable. Even though CCleaner can make a pre-repair backup, I've not once found it necessary to restore a registry to its prior state.

    I run CCleaner's registry scanner after installing, upgrading or removing any software on my own Windows computers.

    License: Freeware


    Disclaimer: I have no stake in the failure or success of Piriform Ltd., its associates or its affiliates.
  • 7-Zip goes on all my Windows installs too (nt)

  • Hmmmm

    So, in writing about BlogJet you say:

    "It also has powerful features such as a spell checker and auto replace."

    And then for UltraEdit you write:

    "It might seem wierd to you paying for a text editor".

    It seems, um, weird to me that BlogJet's "powerful" spell checker didn't catch the spelling error. :-)