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Genealogy This Week - 21 November 2009

It was a very quiet week in genealogy. We thought we would take the time to review a trio of free Windows utility software programs that are particularly useful to genealogists.

The recent release of Windows 7 has probably gotten many genealogists wondering whether they should consider upgrading their computers. People normally want to upgrade their computers once they become slow and unreliable or their hard drives become clogged with files. Before you run down to your local computer store to buy a new computer, we have some suggestions as to how you can clean up your old hard drive, speed up your computer, make your internet surfing more secure and help you find all those files you have either lost or accidently deleted. These programs will help you extend the life of your old computer.

Clean Up and Speed Up Your Computer

After you have owned a computer for more than a couple of months then you know that computers have a tendency to slow down on their own. Often, this is due to temporary files and extraneous registry files that accumulate over time on all Windows computers. As well, if you do a lot of internet surfing looking for your ancestors, you can also accumulate large internet history files. These files are probably not particularly useful to you but can be used by others to track your internet habits. This is where CCleaner comes in. This great little free utility program is a system optimizer, privacy and cleaning tool. It will help optimize the performance of your computer by removing unneeded and unwanted Windows files. Basically, it gets rid of the junk that accumulates on your computer over time. It will also help to secure your privacy by erasing all evidence of your internet surfing habits from your computer. This program works with all the major internet browser programs.

The first time we ran CCleaner on an old Windows XP computer, we were amazed that it managed to free up almost 1 GB of space on an 80 GB hard drive. It did this by removing useless temporarily files. Freeing up all this clutter helped speed up the computer by about 20% and also noticeably reduced the boot time of the computer. Obviously, results will vary from computer to computer. However, we find that this is a great little program to install on older computers and even newer computers. We run the program at least once a month now to keep our older computers tuned up and in great shape.

CCleaner has been around for several years. According to the website, it has been downloaded over 350 million times! CCleaner is definitely a must-have for any genealogist using a Windows computer. It is particularly useful for older computers. [Link to CCleaner]

Shred Old Files

Do you have an old computer that you want to dispose of and you want to ensure that all personal files have been permanently removed from the hard drive? Or do you want to securely destroy some files on your hard drive or memory stick? There is a useful free utility program called File Shredder that will do the job for you. This Windows application will permanently erase files by overwriting the disk space with random noise. The program is small, fast and intuitive. It is just the thing for genealogists wanting to permanently erase sensitive personal data from their computers. [Link to FileShredder]


Restore Lost Files

Here is the opposite problem to shredding files that can sometimes occur to genealogists. What happens if you accidently delete a file from your computer or accidently remove a picture from the memory of your digital camera? What happens if your old computer simply crashes? How do you retrieve critical lost files? This is where Recuva can help. Recuva is a free utility program that was designed by the same company who built CCleaner. It will help you try to recover lost files. This is one of those programs that you may never need, but when you do need it, this program can be a lifesaver. [Link to Recuva]


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