Ten Portable Tech Support Software Tools
By Bob Rankin
A well-prepared scout never goes anywhere without his trusty Swiss army knife. Similarly, you need a portable arsenal of troubleshooting tools to solve common computer problems. You never know when your laptop, or a friend’s computer, may start acting up. Load up these free tech support utilities onto a USB flash drive and they’ll think you’re a tech support superhero!
All of these handy programs are free, but they also share another important common factor. They don’t require any installation, because they’re designed to be portable. The ability to run them directly from the USB drive is important for several reasons. First, on a badly infected system, sometimes you can’t even install new software. A virus may be blocking the introduction of new software, or the Windows installer may be broken. Also, some programs require administrator privileges to install, which presents a hurdle if the admin password is unknown.
#1 — Malware infection (viruses, spyware and other nasties) is one of the most common problems. Some malware even disables the security software found on the infected hard drive. In such cases, a portable antimalware program stored safely on a USB drive is a lifesaver. ClamWin Portable is a free antivirus for Windows XP/Vista/Win7/Win8 that can be run from a USB drive without installing it on the target system. ClamWin is open-source, detects and eliminates viruses and spyware; automatically updates its signature database; can be integrated with Windows Explorer to scan individual files; and can strip infected attachments from Outlook email.
#2 — If you run into a problem that ClamWin can’t fix, check out the portable version of SpyBot Search and Destroy. This tool has been around for years, and has a strong reputation for detecting and removing spyware and other forms of malware.
#3 — One form of malware that’s particulary difficult to detect and remove is the rootkit. On infected systems, it can’t hurt to use a dedicated rootkit removal tool such as Kaspersky’s TDSSKiller Portable. Just remember this isn’t a substitute for a full anti-virus tool.
#4 — If your hard drive appears to be mangled, don’t give up hope before trying TestDisk. This powerful portable utility can recover lost hard drive partitions, and fix problems with drives that won’t boot up. TestDisk will analyze your disk, partitions, boot sector, and can help you recover deleted files, and even rebuild scrambled file systems.
#5 — Sometimes all a sluggish system needs is a good disk defragmentation. Ultimate Defrag is a free portable disk defragger that lets you defragment any drive in a variety of ways. In addition to stitching fragmented files back together, this app can optimize the placement of frequently used files on your drive. After downloading and installing Ultimate Defrag, just copy its entire directory over to your USB drive. (For even more speed tips, see my article Make Windows Run Faster.)
Excerpt shared with permission from Bob Rankin.