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CNET.co.uk Speed Pack: 7 free downloads for a faster PC

Computer running like a dog? Come sample a list of essential applications that can help your PC roll back the years

Your computer's slow, isn't it? We know this, because no matter what hardware you're running, Windows has an uncanny knack of reducing it to a stuttering, bumbling wreck of a machine. If you're one of the four people who doesn't use Windows, you'd better get back to your forum -- you're wasting valuable moaning time.

But fret not! In case you hadn't noticed, we have a burgeoning Downloads section with enough free and free-to-try software to put your high street PC shop firmly out of business. Among this fountain of perpetual freeness are programs that can be used to speed up your machine.

We've taken the time to select seven of the best apps for turbo-charging your PC. You'll find registry cleaners, anti-spyware apps, duplicate file finders and memory optimisers, all of which should help make your brick of a machine behave a little more like it did when you first got it out of the box.

So what are you waiting for? Have a look over the next few pages and download to your heart's content. They're all free or free to try, completely devoid of malware and can only do nice things to your machine.* Get leeching! -Rory Reid

*If you break your PC, it's not our our fault.

Abexo Free Registry Cleaner
The Windows registry is a directory that stores settings for almost all the applications on your PC. When you remove these applications, these settings sometimes remain, and can slow down your PC. Removing applications without removing registry entries is akin to divorcing your spouse without filing the appropriate paperwork. The remaining loose ends can come back to bite you on the backside.

Abexo Free Registry Cleaner is a registry defragmenting and compression tool that removes obsolete entries, fixes errors and make the registry more compact. It's an essential stop on the route to making your PC a more responsive machine.

Grab your copy here.

WinCleaner AntiSpyware
People don't always associate spyware with a lack of system speed, but those people are fools. While you're busy working on a project, spyware can install hidden programs, monitor your usage, collect personal information and redirect your Web browser, all of which uses valuable system resources. It's like having an invisible squatter.

WinCleaner AntiSpyware issues an eviction notice to unwanted malware. It features real-time, automatic system protection and puts minimal strain on your PC during scanning, so you can get on with the more important business of watching YouTube.

Grab your free copy here.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition
Computers can't sneeze, cough or spew luminous phlegm, but they can still act pretty strangely when affected by viruses. Some damage applications, some show inappropriate text or images, and others just sit there, gorging themselves on system resources like fat, infectious leeches.

AVG is one of the best free anti-virus applications on the market. The Free Edition has a large database of known viruses and a Resident Shield which provides real-time protection as files are opened and programs are run. It also has an automatic updates feature to keep your PC protected over time.

Get it here.

Quick Startup
Nobody would go to a party wearing the entire contents of their wardrobe, so why should you boot your PC while it's running dozens of different applications?

When Windows gets bogged down on startup, you can trim things down by running the msconfig.exe application. But a more flexible and user-friendly option is to use Quick Startup. This gives you a list of programs that load on startup, as well as details about whether they can be trusted.

Every program listed has an importance rating, so you have a better idea about whether to remove it. Check it out here.

Duplicate File Finder
Many users end up with two of more versions of the same file. This happens regularly to ardent downloaders, who commonly leech different instances of the same file over P2P. This increases their chances of a successful download, but can also leave them with duplicates hogging precious space. 

Having plenty of disk space is important because your Windows PC uses a portion of the hard drive to temporarily store data that doesn't fit into physical RAM. If disk space is taken up by files that needn't be there, there's less room for Windows to play with.

Duplicate File Finder is a quick and easy way to identify which files you can delete in order to free up space, and possibly improve performance. Grab a copy here.

If duplicate files aren't an issue on your PC and you're still struggling for space, check out JDiskReport. This utility lets you understand how much space is being consumed by which file types. We managed to free up over 4GB of space in one sitting after we spotted a little-used but space-intensive application.

JDiskReport also shows you when files were last modified, how large they are, and a graph that shows what percentage of files are .mp3s, .jpgs, etc. You also get a top 100 list of the largest files, least modified and most recently used. It's invaluable stuff.

Download it here.


Process Explorer
If you've ever used Task Manager you'll love Process Explorer. It shows comprehensive details of each active process and can list all the DLLs and memory-mapped files that have been loaded. Colour highlighting shows you what state each process is in so you can easily track down and kill unwanted processes that slow down your PC.

Check it out here.