Process Explorer (Sysinternals/Microsoft) The most amazing diagnostic tool ever, created by Microsoft Distinguished Fellow Mark Russinovich. If you use Task Manager, you should replace it with this free alternative, which does so much more.
RoboForm (Siber Systems) Create strong passwords, save them, and automatically fill them in using Firefox or IE. If you’re frustrated by passwords, this is your answer.
Keyfinder (Magical Jelly Bean Software) If you had to reinstall Windows tomorrow, do you know where your product ID is? If the answer is no, get this tiny free utility, which finds product IDs for dozens of popular programs (including Windows and Office) and lets you print or save the results.
ClipMate Clipboard Extender (ThornSoft Development) When I set up a new PC, this is the first program I install. It’s that good. I save thousands of keystrokes a year thanks to this gem of a utility.
FeedDemon for Windows (NewsGator Technologies) The best damn RSS reader in the Windows world. Period. And it’s now free.
Windows Live Photo Gallery (Microsoft) You’ll have to search for it, but this updated version of the Windows Photo Gallery that debuted in Vista is worth the hunt. If you’ve chosen to steer clear of Vista, no worries: It works in XP too.
Allway Sync (Usov Lab) This powerful tool synchronizes the contents of folders over a network or to external storage and is an ideal complement to most backup programs.
SnagIt (TechSmith) As a technology writer, I use this screen capture program nearly every day. Even after six years, I’m still discovering new tricks it can do.
IE7 Pro If you use IE7, you need this free add-on, which provides ad blocking, tab management, inline search, crash recovery, and all the other features Microsoft left out.
FinePrint (FinePrint Software) Over the years, I can’t even imagine how many trees I’ve spared with the help of this program. If you print more than a few pages a month, you have to try this.