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Best Free Windows 7 / Vista 64 bit Software
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You have no doubt invested time, trouble and possibly money, in your "must have" software. This investment is largely protected when you move to Windows 7 / Vista 64 and, if not, there are many excellent freeware alternatives. (In addition, Windows 7 / Vista 64 continue the tradition of offering 32 bit compatibility mode .)
Here are the top freeware picks for Windows 7 / Vista 64 in their various sections. Where a native 64 bit application is currently unavailable in an important category, a suitable 32 bit alternative is provided.
Although Windows 7 / Vista 64 include both the 32 and 64 bit versions of Internet Explorer, version 8 in the case of Windows 7, many prefer more secure products. The 32 bit versions of Firefox, Google Chrome,and Opera all work without a hitch under both operating systems.
Apart from 64 bit Internet Explorer, the only other 64 bit browser currently available, and still under development, is an unofficial version of Firefox based on the Mozilla code. Various preview versions can be found here . I've found version 3.6.3 to be as stable as the 32 bit version. This version will import all of your bookmarks and history from 32 bit Firefox. All currently installed addons are checked for compatibility when 64 bit Firefox is started, and those that are known to work are loaded automatically.
Although active development has been under way for some time these applications are not yet ready for daily use:
If you find these restrictions unacceptable, stick with a 32 bit browser. See:
Currently, the only released 64 bit email client is Windows Mail, included with Vista 64. Windows 7 does not include an email client.
There is a development project for 64 bit Thunderbird 3, the latest build, 3.05, codenamed Shredder, is available here . Unfortunately, moving from your existing email client to 64 bit Thunderbird 3 can be quite a challenge. Users moving from Thunderbird 2 under Windows 7 / Vista 64 will need to use two third party freeware products, MozBackup  and MailStore Home . Migration from Outlook is relatively simple under Vista 64 using the Thunderbird 3 import function. This approach doesn't work under Windows 7 due to changes in the registration of MAPI entries which no one appears to want to acknowledge or address.
Thunderbird 2 users who are considering the switch should be aware that the popular Lightning addon is not supported.
For the time being I would recommend that you stick with a 32 bit email client. For details refer to our review:
Following a comment from a reader I have been searching for free 64 bit FTP clients. So far, I have only managed to find one, Null FTP from Vision Works.
The free version of Null FTP, a cut down version of the paid product, has the following limitations:
Whether or not you can live with the first two limitations depends largely on how much you rely on FTP in your day to day activities. The third restriction has no impact on the speed of Internet or local network FTP transfers so I am surprised that they even bother to mention it.
Overall, the product fails to match the top 32 bit selections in our review Best Free FTP Client . Unless you feel that a 64 bit FTP client is essential I suggest that you look there for the solution best suited to your needs.
Remember that you should never run two or more firewall products side-by-side. If you plan to switch to one of the products below, ensure that you disable Windows Firewall and any other firewall you have installed first.
If all you need is a simple interface to the built-in Windows firewall, and aren't too fussy about appearance or features, the free version of Windows 7 Firewall Control is perhaps the answer. Despite the name both Windows 7 and Vista 64 are supported. Be warned that access has to be defined for each application using one of four modes; out only, in only, enable all, or disable all. I suspect for many this will not offer a fine enough degree of control.
If you are looking for a free firewall with extra peace of mind in the form of a Host-Based Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS - see our article HIPS Explained  for further information), and from version 4 sandboxing, Comodo Internet Security (CIS), is an excellent choice. CIS can be rather intrusive at first, but things do settle down as the program learns more about the system. It's necessary to change mode when installing new software and when dealing with reports, but this is a small price to pay since CIS includes one of the most effective firewalls on the market, free. Full instructions are available in the "Miscellaneous" tab, or from the Comodo website.
When installing CIS, deselect the Install Antivirus option if you already have a suitable antivirus solution installed. If you are using an old version of the CFP or CIS you should upgrade to the latest version as this will increase stability and reduce memory footprint. Windows 7 users should ensure they install version 3.9.x or later.
With its ease of use, fast scanning, and excellent detection rates, my first choice is Avira Antivir Personal Edition. Although it lacks an email scanning feature, it compensates by the speed in which the real-time protection leaps to your defence when any threats, including infected email attachments, are detected. As of version 9, Avira protects against Viruses, Worms, Trojans, Rootkits, Dialers, Spyware and Adware. I have no information, as yet, regarding the effectiveness of the anti-spyware and anti-adware components.
From version 9, Avira also adds the facility to review suspect items at the end of a scan, rather than dealing with each item when detected. This leaves the user free to run a scan unattended at any time and simply deal with the results when appropriate.
I do have criticisms. The large advert for the paid version which accompanies the updates, but it only takes a click to make it go away. In recent months many people have encountered problems with updates although this issue seems to have been resolved. You also need to periodically reregister.
If you need an antivirus with extra features, Avast! Free AntiVirus may be the answer. Avast has full real-time capabilities, including web, e-mail, IM, P2P and network shields, boot-time scanning, and a behavioural blocker. Avast is light on resources. Detection rates are good but not quite up to the standard of Avira.
Many of the protection mechanisms used by Avast rely on interactive Windows services. Support in Windows 7 / Vista 64 for interactive services is intended for use by legacy applications. This places restrictions on the information that can be sent to the user.
Both Avira and Avast are hybrid 64 bit applications. Only the low level kernel mode drivers that interface with operating system are written in 64 bit code.
You can have more than one AV product installed, but only one should be enabled for real-time scanning. The same applies to email scanning.
If you are interested in alternatives to Avira and Avast, such as AVG Free,a-squared Free, or Microsoft Security Essentials, then refer to our review:
There are some very good on-demand scanners which don't conflict with real-time protection. Perhaps the best of these is SUPERAntiSpyware (SAS). Available as a 64 bit application, it can detect malware that other products miss, remove rogue applications, and also repair some malware damage.
Malwarebytes, a 32 bit only application, is also worth considering due to its fast scanning and general ease of use. Effective at detecting and removing trojans, results are less impressive for other types of malware.
Ad-Aware 2008 includes heuristic detection and integrated real-time protection, although the latter is only for rogue processes in the free version.
Real-time protection is implemented by a combination of an interactive Windows service and a 64 bit kernel mode device driver making Ad-Aware a hybrid 32/64 bit application. Support in Windows 7 / Vista 64 for interactive services is intended for use by legacy applications. This places restrictions on the information that can be sent to the user.
As to real world effectiveness, Ad-Aware continues to maintain a reasonable detection rate but many threats go undetected.
For full details of the testing carried out on these and other products in this category refer to our review:
Although Windows 7 / Vista 64 have their own housekeeping tools for defragmenting the hard disk, removing junk files and various other tasks, there are 3rd party alternatives which perform better and offer additional features. There are few 64 bit tools but the ones available, added to the 32 bit versions that work under Windows 7 / Vista 64, are very good at what they do.
Before you dig too deeply into this section you might want to read the great article:
"How to make Vista run faster "
The information contained in the article applies equally well to Windows 7.
ALL IN ONE
If you prefer to use a single tool for the upkeep of your PC, you need look no further than the latest version of the excellent Glary Utilities. Some sixteen different utilities are included, covering virtually every aspect of PC maintenance. Although none of the individual utilities can compare to standalone competition, you do have the advantage of having everything in one place.
As this is a 32 bit program, you will notice that one or two of the modules are not fully working, the Uninstall Manager, for example, doesn't recognise 64 bit applications, and therefore cannot uninstall them.
MyDefrag, by the author of JKDefrag, available in 32 and 64 bit versions, is novel in that it is a merely a defragmentation and file placement engine. The actions carried out by my MyDefrag are script driven, with a number of useful example scripts being included in the installation. The simple scripting language is well documented allowing scripts to be developed to suit any defragmentation/optimisation requirement. The scripting language includes a command that allows the files identified in the Windows Prefetch cache to be optimised.
A script can be executed by double clicking on it in Explorer, passing it as a parameter to MyDefrag invoked via a shortcut or the appropriate task scheduler. MyDefrag requires administrator privilege and, if running from the Task Scheduler under Windows 7 or Vista, it is recommended that the SYSTEM account is used.
If the MyDefrag GUI interface is set to be visible during script execution, the default, the rather poor disk map, familiar to JK Defrag users, is displayed. You can switch from this to a text based statistics/progress view, but presentation is equally unimpressive.
All physical directory/file operations carried out by MyDefrag use the Windows Defragmentation API and can therefore be considered safe. The process can be interrupted at any time without risk of data loss or corruption.
For those with unusual defragmentation and/or optimisation requirements MyDefrag offers unparalleled flexibility. Readers who merely want to defragment their disk(s) on a regularly basis should use one of the standard scripts provided with MyDefrag, I use Optimize Daily, to achieve excellent results. MyDefrag definitely deserves to replace JKDefrag as Gizmo's Top Pick.
Defraggler , finally provides native 64 bit competition for MyDefrag. From the authors of CCleaner and Recuva, Defraggler is a great application for day to day defragmentation tasks. However, MyDefrag still produces the best results, albeit with a considerable runtime penalty.
In typical Piriform style, the Defraggler interface is clean, easy to follow, and therefore simple to use. Analysing a drive only takes a few seconds, performing a quick defragmentation typically takes less than ten minutes. Impressive. Unfortunately, Defraggler falls down by not optimising file placement or taking into account the results of 'ReadyBoot' (sic), and it doesn't have the flexibility of MyDefrag's scripting language.
Conclusion: Use Defraggler day to day, and once a week run MyDefrag using Optimize Weekly. Together they do the job nicely.
Readers who would prefer to consider 32 bit products should refer to our review:
Keep in mind that 32 bit disk defragmentation tools will incur a performance hit by having to use the WOW64 (32 bit compatibility mode ) interface.
If you decide to use a third party disk defragmenter, other than MyDefrag, don't be tempted to disable the built in Windows 7 / Vista 64 disk defragmenter. If you do, you will greatly reduce the effectiveness of ReadyBoot (sic), the mechanism that monitors files accessed during the last 5 boots and creates a boot plan to reduce startup time. This boot plan is passed to the Windows disk defragmenter to allow the placement of files used during the boot process to be optimized.
CCleaner, recently rewritten in C++ , scans for both junk files and registry errors. The registry cleaning component only handles that part of the registry visible to 32 bit applications and is quite mild. Additional features include cookie management, program removal, and secure file erasing. Existing users who upgrade will notice a significant reduction in scanning times.
This is one of the first tools I recommend people install on a Windows PC, and regular use will go a long way to preventing the hard drive from becoming bogged down with unwanted junk.
CCleaner has never dealt with purging Windows Restore Points, a major source of accumulated junk. The Disk Cleanup tool available in 32 bit Windows 7 / Vista allows you to do this but, under Windows 7 / Vista 64, although the option to perform this task still exists, it does not work correctly. My thanks go to Kristan Kenny for providing the solution to this problem.
If you want to correct the Disk Cleanup shortcut in the Start menu, follow these steps:
If you've automated Disk Cleanup, the correct path to use in your script is:
If you launch Disk Cleanup from another location in Windows, for instance by clicking the “Disk Cleanup” button in the properties window of a drive, the correct 64 bit version of Disk Cleanup is launched.
I am not a fan of Registry cleaners. They have a nasty habit of removing things that are vital to the correct operation of commercial software.
That aside, even finding a specific Registry Cleaner free of charge for Windows 7 / Vista 64 is no easy task . People on many forums recommend Wise Registry Cleaner. It only handles that part of the registry visible to 32 bit applications, but is the most satisfactory product I have come across.
Firstly, it allows you to backup the Registry before you start and there is also a restore option. Secondly, by default, it doesn't check Class Security Identifiers (CLSIDs) or other areas where most Registry tricks are played, although these can be included if required. Finally it divides redundant/invalid entries into two groups, 1) those you can remove safely, and 2) the rest which require closer examination before removing. I think it is fair to say that you are reasonably safe removing the entries in the first group although I would caution against removing those in the second group unless you have a good understanding of the Registry and how applications use it.
While a PC is in use there is a constant stream of data being added to and removed from the registry and over time this can cause the registry to become fragmented, there is also the problem of registry cleaners and program uninstalls producing gaps in the registry file. When this occurs, it does nothing to enhance the performance or reliability of the system, therefore, the occasional use of a registry defragmenter / optimiser is seen by some as a necessary part of the maintenance regime.
Free Registry Defrag  is a fast, reliable and free tool which is capable of compacting and defragmenting the registry and from version 2.4 onwards includes both 32 and 64 bit versions. Be aware that the software does not include a Registry backup option so exercise caution and create a Restore Point before using.
'User friendly' and 'registry editor' are not terms that I would think of putting together however it is possible to improve on the rather limited tools included with Windows 7 / Vista 64. Remember that using a registry editor is generally a last resort. You need to know what you are doing which includes creating a Restore Point before you start.
The native 64 bit Registrar Registry Manager Lite, a cut down version of the shareware tool, is considerably more user friendly than the Windows built-in registry editor and includes a host of advanced features such as registry backup, multi-level undo, a lightning fast search, plus lots of information about what particular registry entries actually mean. Some of the features of the shareware version of Registrar Registry Manager 6.50, such as adding bookmarks and search and delete, are disabled, but the lite version still leaves regedit for dead.
If you ever need to use a registry editor this is definitely the tool to use.
No list of system tools would be complete without mentioning the excellent SysInternals Suite which is used to trouble shoot PCs worldwide. Although SysInternals is now part of Microsoft, the tools remain free and are regularly updated.
Most of the SysInternals tools work correctly under Windows 7 / Vista 64. In particular, the three most widely used tools, Process Explorer, Process Monitor and Autoruns, extract and run 64 bit code. At present, Autologon doesn't work, but a suitable alternative can be found here .
If you are looking for a utility that will create shortcuts to the most commonly used SysInternals tools, check out SysInternals Toolbox in our review :
SYSTEM INFORMATION UTILITY
 The 32 bit SIW utility still manages to display a host of detailed information relating to your PC hardware, operating system, installed programs, processes, services, serial numbers (CD keys), users, open files, system uptime, network, network shares, as well as real-time monitors for CPU, memory, page file usage and network traffic when running under Windows 7 / Vista 64. It also displays currently active network connections, passwords hidden behind asterisks, installed codecs, and more.
SIW doesn't require installation so it can be run from a USB flash drive without problem. Advisory: SIW is bundled with OpenCandy. More information here .
For a full guide to System Information Utilities:
SYSTEM TOOLS/UTILITIES INCLUDED IN WINDOWS 7
The Windows 7 Resource Monitor provides access to a host of information about what is using your precious system resources. Resource usage information is available for the CPU(s), memory, disk and network. The level of detail that can be viewed means Resource Monitor is more closely related to the Process Explorer/Process Monitor tools from SysInternals than it is Task Manager. Unlike Process Explorer/Process Monitor, you don't have to be overwhelmed by detail, since you can view information in a way that suits you.
To try out Resource Monitor, click on Start, type resource monitor into the search box, and then click on the Resource Monitor entry that appears under Programs.
For an in depth look at Resource Monitor refer to our article:
My favourite new feature in Windows 7 is the Problem Steps Recorder.
If you've ever tried to help a friend or family member over the phone, or via email, with a PC problem I'm sure you know how difficult and frustrating it can be. With the best will in the world things tend to get lost in translation. They miss out a piece of information relating to the problem, or you do regarding the solution. PSR overcomes this problem by allowing the steps needed to reproduce a problem, or to implement a fix, to be recorded and saved to a file.
To start PSR, click on Start, type psr.exe into the search box, and then either click on the psr.exe entry that appears under Programs, or right click and choose Run as a administrator. Note you need to choose Run as administrator if any of the screens you wish to capture are running with administrator privilege.
Once loaded you simply click on the red circular Start Record button to start capturing user activity. Comments can be added during the capture and to finish the session you simply click on the Stop Record button. Once recording has stopped you will be prompted to enter a filename and the whole session will be saved to a ZIP file. The maximum number of screen shots that can be recorded by default is 25. To change this, click on the downward arrow at the right hand end of the PSR dialog box and choose Settings.
The ZIP contains a MHT, mime encoded HTML, format document that includes the screen shots, any comments that were added, and a text based description of the actions that were carried out. This can be opened and edited in any version of Word from 2002 upwards. Alternatively, the file can be viewed using the free Word Viewer , Internet Explorer version 5 or higher, Firefox with the UnMHT  extension installed and Opera version 9.0 or higher.
PSR is not a ground breaking application, but it will help me to assist others much more quickly and efficiently.
The majority of tools in this category are covered in: Best Free Vista Tweaks  which includes details of compatibility with Vista 64. With the exception of Vista Logon Studio all the applications that work under Vista 64 will also work under Windows 7. An alternative to Vista Logon Studio for Windows 7 users is given below.
Iconoid, a 64 bit port of SillySot's application, allows you to change the colour of text associated with your desktop icons. You can also save and restore the position of desktop icons and, optionally, hide and restore icons by clicking on the desktop.
In order to use Iconoid to change the colour of text you must first turn off drop shadows for icon text. This must be done via Control Panel, System, Advanced System Settings, and then click on the Settings button under Performance. Right clicking on Computer, and then choosing Properties, will only change settings until you logoff or the PC is rebooted.
Tweak.com's Logon Changer, available only as a 32 bit application, allows you select any JPG image for the Windows 7 logon screen. To change the image used, simply click on Change Logon Screen. The application will prompt for the location and name of the new background image and then install it.
Windows 7 imposes a 256 Kb limit on the size of the JPEG image that can be used for the logon screen. If your image is larger than this, Logon Changer will give you the option to automatically resize and/or compress the image. Note that the original image is left untouched.
DATA RECOVERY / UNDELETE
No matter how careful we try to be, there's a chance that an important file, picture, track etc will get deleted by accident. Hours of work and valuable photos can all be lost with a click of the mouse, or by selecting the wrong option on a digital camera. A data recovery tool such as Recuva, from the makers of CCleaner, now available as a native 64 bit application, can help you resolve such unfortunate errors.
Recuva is simple to use, effective, and can be used to recover lost items from the following:
FILE ARCHIVER/ZIP UTILITY
7-Zip  and PeaZip  are available as native 64 bit applications and contain all of the functionality of their 32 bit counterparts. Readers interested in a comparison of these products should refer to our review:
If you spend more than a few minutes a day carrying out file management tasks the chances are that you will soon find Explorer really isn't up to the job. Until recently, overcoming this meant putting up with the limitations of a 32 bit freeware file manager, i.e. no context menu entries for 64 bit applications, or paying out for a commercial 64 bit file manager. Things are starting to improve, at least now there are two freeware 64 bit file managers to choose from.
Double Commander, a long standing beta project based on the shareware Total Commander, is a dual pane file manager that provides a host of features out of the box:
In addition to these built-in features, Double Commander also supports Total Commander plug-ins  that provide a bewildering array of additional functionality.
Double Commander is a very capable file manager, don't let the 'beta' label put you off, I suspect it's just one of those projects that they don't seem to be quite able to put down and finish.
Q-Dir  supports up to four panes, each of which can have multiple tabs. Full drag and drop is implemented immediately making it more productive than Explorer. It supports a wide variety of functions and customisations although you really need to refer to the on-line FAQs  to get the most out of it. It isn't resource intensive, 16Mb on my machine, and it just does exactly what it says it will do.
Some might find the interface a little clunky, the lack of breadcrumbs grates, but give it a try, you might find it grows on you.
FOLDER SYNCHRONIZATION UTILITY
Microsoft's SyncToy, available as a native 64 bit application, can copy, move, rename, and delete files between any number of folders and even computers. Operations are carried out on local and/or remote pre-defined folder pairs. Remote folders can be specified by drive letter or UNC name. You define and name these pairs, files can be included or excluded based on wildcards and/or file attributes, and then when you want to perform a task, you recall one of these pairs and carry out the operation. Syncing can be in either direction and covers all options from complete sync to updating newer files only. SyncToy can also keep track of files you rename and rename those in the sync destination. Overwritten files in the destination can be saved in the recycle bin, in case you need the older version. SyncToy also allows you to preview a sync, that is, view what would happen if the sync operation was executed. This ensures the operation will do exactly what you want before you use it.
In addition to the easy to use GUI, SyncToy can also be run from the command line to sync a chosen folder pair or, all folder pairs.
SyncToy is a versatile utility that will satisfy all but the most demanding of users. It also runs very quickly despite being based on the .NET framework. The only major things it lacks are the ability to select files from a folder via a standard tree view, direct support for ftp, and a portable version.
If you would prefer a non-Microsoft solution, or require features that SyncToy doesn't have, then refer to our review Best Free Folder Synchronization Utility .
SECURE ERASE UTILITY
The 64 bit version of Eraser will securely overwrite selected files and folders, or even whole disks (it works with any drive, including IDE, SCSI, RAID, and CD-RWs). It addition to handling normal data areas, Eraser can also wipe data in the paging file, Internet cache, temporary files, Internet cookies, unused disk space, and a number of other places where data can secretly lurk. It can handle FAT, FAT32, and NTFS partitions. Erasing files with a high level of security, involving user selected data patterns and multiple passes, will always be a time consuming task, and 100% security cannot be guaranteed. However, Eraser makes the task about as easy as it can be, at a security level that exceeds most conceivable requirements.
If Eraser goes beyond what you need, then refer to our review Best Free Secure Erase Utility  for details of simpler, 32 bit alternatives, that work quite happily under Windows 7 / Vista 64.
Both CDBurnerXP  and InfraRecorder  are available as native 64 bit applications. I have successfully tested both under Windows 7 / Vista 64 and they satisfy my somewhat limited CD/DVD burning requirements. For an expert comparison of these products refer to our review Best Free CD / DVD Burning Software .
DIGITAL IMAGE EDITOR
This is not a field in which I can claim to have any expertise. I have tested the products identified to confirm that they work under Windows 7 / Vista 64. Readers who are interested in comparing product features should refer to our review:
Paint.Net  is available as a native 64 bit application. In addition to the products built in features there are a huge number of user contributed plugins that add further capabilities. Despite requiring version 3.5 or higher of the .NET Framework, 3.5 SP1 is recommended, Paint.NET isn't too resource intensive and during testing I didn't notice slow downs at any point.
An experimental 64 bit version of The GIMP is available although the installation routine stresses the fact that this version isn't suitable for day to day work.
DIGITAL IMAGE VIEWER
The top picks in our review Best Free Digital Image Viewer , XnView  and IrfanView , both 32 bit applications that include 64 bit shell extensions, run flawlessly under Windows 7 / Vista 64. I suggest that you refer to the review for an expert comparison of these products.
Open Office covers just about all the bases, everything from a document writer to databases and spreadsheets, it handles files produced with Excel. Word and Powerpoint, and also there are numerous extensions available. All in all this is one of the best examples of freeware to be found!
For those of you who need to be able to handle Office 2007 documents I suggest that you check out How do I open Microsoft Office 2007 files? 
Thanks go to one of our readers for bringing PDFXCHANGE Viewer to my attention. PDFXCHANGE Viewer is available as a combined 32/64 bit download containing the full product and 32 bit shell extensions, or as a 32 bit only portable version. The free version of PDFXCHANGE, which simply has the features of the Pro version disabled, has enough capabilities to satisfy all but the most demanding of users. The toolbars can be customised to suit user taste, even the performance of the application, maximum memory usage, number of threads and so on can be tuned.
In use, the 64 bit version is quick and memory usage is on a par with Adobe Reader. Image quality, although not quite as good as Adobe's product, is still excellent. In fact, for documents that originally contained rasterised images, reproduction is actually far better.
The portable 32 bit version is worthy of mention. It naturally lacks some features available in the full product but still produces high quality images making it ideal for a personal PC toolkit.
If you want a feature rich 64 bit PDF viewer and are not prepared to wait for Adobe to play catch up, then I recommend you take a look at this product.
BullZip, CuteWriter and doPDF all have 64 bit versions although BullZip and CuteWriter rely on the 32 bit version of GhostScript Lite.
I have successfully tested all of these applications under Windows 7 / Vista 64 and suggest that interested readers refer to our review :
Best Free PDF Writer 
to assist them in choosing the best product for their needs.
Related Articles, Reviews and Useful Links
This software category is maintained by editor Remah . Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or suggestions they might have by clicking here .
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