Tag Archives: System Tools

Lock Your Programs with Lockup

lockup-icon [Windows Only] Do you manage or share user accounts on a PC? Are there certain programs that you don’t want someone to use? A tiny stand-alone freeware application named Lockup‘ will let you lock programs so they won’t run at all.

Lockup is very easy to use, but you should be very careful with it. If you make one wrong move, you can accidentally lock an entire user account so that it’s difficult to return to a usable state.

How to use Lockup:

Here’s a screenshot of one of the two modes of operation, Only the listmode.

lockup-block-internet-explorer

In the screenshot above, you can see that I’ve added Internet Explorer to the list of executable files that will not run. To add more executables to the list, click the Browsebutton to select an EXE file, then click the little green check-mark icon at the bottom of the Lockup window. After you reboot or log off the PC and log back in, you’ll find that the EXEs you’ve listed will bring up a message telling you that the program is restricted.

Below, you can see a screenshot of Lockup in the All except the listmode.

lockup-block-everything

This is a fairly risky mode since all executable files will be blocked from running, except those you add to the list. Make sure you don’t remove Lockup from the list or you may have a little trouble getting back access to it. I tried this mode briefly and it works great. All of my autorun (startup) applications failed to load when I logged in, even my antivirus application was blocked. This mode would be perfect for a PC that was used in a public place such as a library, school or cafe.

How does it work?

Occasionally, I run into a little program like this and I have to figure out what it’s doing. I learn lots of neat tricks this way. I suspected that Lockup was only making some changes to the Windows Registry and I was correct. I used an installation monitor to find out what changes it made in the second mode I showed you above.

lockup-block-registry-settings

As you can see in the image above, Lockup made changes to the Current_User policy to achieve the blocking it does. Anyone with the knowledge of these registry keys can do the same thing using the Windows Registry Editor (regedit.exe). Here’s a link to more information on the DisallowRun and RestrictRun registry keys.

Final Tips:

If you do get blocked from using programs or a specific program, you can still launch them using the Windows Run menu (Press Windows key + R) or from the command console (Press Windows key + R / type CMD’ without quotes / press Enter). For example, if I wanted to run Notepad, I could type notepad’ into the Run menu.

You can run Lockup from a USB flash drive if you want to make sure that nobody using the PC has access to the Lockup program. This could also be used for a practical joke if you are feeling mean (not recommended).

Also … here’s how to:

* Password Protect Programs and Files
* Lock and Hide Files and Folders
* Hide Your Secret Files in Zip Folders

Download: Home page for Lockup (requires .NET Framework 3.5)

Techie Buzz Verdict:

If you need to keep people from running specific applications on your PC, this little freeware app could be one of your favorite tools. It’s small, easy to use and it’s free.  The only thing missing from this application is a password protection feature.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

Set and Create Time Zones with Zone Manager

clock-002 Have you ever heard of Karen’s Power Tools? Karen Kenworthy is a Visual Basic programmer and she offers most of the programs she writes for free at her website, KarenWare.com. Karen also occasionally sends out a newsletter featuring one of the tools she’s recently worked on. This time her newsletter featured a tool named Zone Manager.

Zone Manager let’s you quickly control and set new time zones in Windows. You can create a desktop shortcut to any time zone, so that you can switch between zones with a double-click of your mouse. You can also create your own custom time zones and enable or disable Daylight Saving Time. In addition, Zone Manager can synchronize your PC clock to one of the super accurate Internet Time Servers.

Why would you need it? Let’s say that I’m hopping on a jet from New York to India. While I’m on the way there, I may stop in Europe or Arabia. If I know my route ahead of time, I can create desktop shortcuts that quickly change my PC’s time zones. A double click and I’ve changed from one time zone to another. I’ll have the local time set even before I hit the terminal.

You can find out more about Zone Manager in Karen’s most recent Newsletter.

Here’s what it looks like.

zone-manager-interface-1

Here you can see that I’ve made a time zone named Twilight Zone.

zone-manager-edit-zones

Download Karen’s Zone Manager

The source code for many of the programs at Karen’s site is available for download. That means you can customize these programs or use the code as a learning resource.

Once I asked Karen about making one of these program portable, so that it could run from a flash drive. I didn’t get an answer, but I’ve figured it out on my own. If you want to use any of Karen’s Power Tools on a flash drive, follow these steps.

1. Download and install the Power Tool. (note step 4 before you finish installing)

2. Go to the Program folder for that program and copy it to your portable drive. Example path: C:\Program Files\Karen’s Power Tools

3. Since Karen’s tools need the Visual Basic runtime files, you need to copy these into the portable drive folder you created in step 2. If you don’t have VB6 runtime support installed, you can get it here. Here are the files you will need, they are usually located in the C:\Windows\System32 folder.

ASycFilt.dll
ComCat.dll
MSVBVM60.dll
OLEAut32.dll
OLEPro32.dll
STDOLE2.tlb

4. There may also be some OCX files you’ll need. When you install a Power Tool, it will display all of the files it needs in it’s installation window just as it finishes. Once again, these are usually located in the System32 folder.

Here are some more of Karen’s Power Tools, just in case you are curious:

Replicator – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptreplicator.asp
Countdown Timer II – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptcount2.asp
Directory Printer – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptdirprn.asp
Computer Profiler – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptprofiler.asp
Show Stopper – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptstopper.asp
WhoIs – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptwhois.asp
URL Discombobulator – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptlookup.asp
Calculator – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptcalc.asp
Once-A-Day II – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptoad.asp
Hasher – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/pthasher.asp
‘Net Monitor – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptnetmon.asp
Cookie Viewer – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptcookie.asp
Zone Manager – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptzone.asp
Print Logger – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptprnlog.asp
E-Mailer II – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptmailer2.asp
Disk Slack Checker – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptslack.asp
Drive Info – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptdinfo.asp
Time Sync – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptsync.asp
LAN Monitor – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptlanmon.asp
Window Watcher – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptwinwatch.asp
Recycler – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptrecycler.asp
Alarm Clock – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptalarm.asp
Font Explorer – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptfonts.asp
Power Toy – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/pttoy.asp
Time Cop – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/pttimecop.asp
Mailer – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptmailer.asp
Version Browser – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptbrowse.asp
Autorun.inf Editor – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptautorun.asp
Registry Pruner – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptpruner.asp
Registry Ripper – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptregrip.asp
Snooper – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptsnoop.asp
Clipboard Viewer – http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptclpvue.asp

Techie Buzz Verdict:

Zone Manager is one of many very good tools from Karen that I’ve used over the years. It offers a unique set of features you aren’t likely to find anywhere else. I like the fact that it’s not only free, but that the source code is also offered for free.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Backup Your Device Drivers with Double Driver

IN A WINDOWS PC, the drivers are some of the most important files you need to keep everything working as it should. The drivers control all of the hardware devices in your PC. So when they don’t work, your display, or sound, or CD/DVD drives, or networking cards may not be working.

Usually, this happens when you are setting up a new PC that you don’t have the original install disks for. I’ve had it happen many times and the only solution is to search the internet for the correct drivers, then install them.

If you have all of your required drivers, re-installing Windows will most likely be a trouble free experience. The best place to get the drivers is off of the PC that’s going to need them. Over the years, I’ve gotten a little smarter. After a successful install of Windows, one of the first things I do is back up all of the system drivers someplace safe. I’ve found one of the best ways to do this is to use a driver backup utility.

double-driver-icon Double Driver is a good freeware driver backup solution. It’s not a large download and it’s also a portable application, meaning, you can take the program with you on a flash card or USB drive. There’s no need to install it since it will run right from the portable drive.

double-driver-files

Installation is easy. Download the zip file, extract it to a folder, then double click the dd.exe file to start Double Driver.

Once it’s running, click the Scan button to make Double Driver scan your PC for all of the driver files.

By default, the drivers you need to back up will already be selected. However, it never hurts to back them all up. You can select all of the drivers from the Select menu.

double-driver-scanned

Once you’ve selected all the drivers you wish to back up, then you only need to hit the Backup button to start the process. You’ll have an option to change the backup settings at this point.

double-driver-backup

The default options are fine unless you need to compress the files because of limited space in your backup location. The default option to Include Double Driveris a bonus that’s worthy of praise. After all, it’s likely you’ll only need to restore the drivers to a system which doesn’t already have Double Driver on it.

Restoring the drivers on a PC is also very easy. Navigate to the folder where you have the backup drivers stored, then double click the dd.exe file.

double-driver-restore

Once Double Driver is running, hit the Restore button and you’ll see your drivers listed, selected, and ready for you to hit the Restore button once again.

Download Double Driver

Techie Buzz Verdict:

Double Driver meets almost every good point that I use to judge software. It’s freeware, portable, useful, easy to use, bug free and runs on most versions of Windows. I have no problem recommending it as a must have.

techie-buzz-recommended-software

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

How to Restore Default File Types in Vista and Windows 7

registry iconA few weeks ago, I told you how to repair the default image file types in Windows XP. At the time, I wasn’t aware of any utilities that could help you restore file types in Vista or Windows 7. I should have guessed that Ramesh Srinivasan would make good on his word. I had seen an old post which said he’d be working on something to help out.

Why would you need to restore a default file type?

You probably already know that a file type is controlled by the last letters after the dot in a file name. When you install new applications, sometimes the new app takes over the opening of some file types automatically. If you installed a new music player, you might discover that all .MP3 files now open up in the new player. That’s fine if you like the new player, but what if you don’t? You can re-assign the MP3 file type to another player by using the Open Withmenu when you right click on an MP3.

If you want Windows to use the default player that Microsoft had originally chosen for MP3 files, you might have trouble figuring out how to do that. I have found that it’s also sometimes tricky to get the defaults back on image file types. Fortunately, there are a few scripts and utilities that can help.

Using .REG Scripts

Ramesh has a page on his site that helps you restore a few Windows 7 file types to their defaults. He also has a page that lets you restore Vista file types to their defaults. Read the instructions on those pages to use REG (registry) scripts to make the changes.

Here’s a list of the file types that can be changed there:

AUDIOCD, AVI, BAT, BMP, CHM, CMD, COM, DVR-MS, EXE, GIF, HTM, HTML, ICO, INF, IMG, JPE, JPEG, JPG, JS, LNK, MP3, MPE, MPG, MSC, MPEG, REG, SCR, TIF, TIFF, TXT, VBS, WMA, WMV, WSF, XML, XPS, ZIP, FOLDER, DIRECTORY, DRIVE

Using the Unassoc Utility

How To Create and Use System Restore Points

I often create backups of my registry files when I’m getting ready to try out new software. Lately, I’ve been setting System Restore Pointsas well. Why would I do this? Let’s ask Microsoft.

Quote from Microsoft: Every time you download or install a new game, application, or software update, you make changes to your computer. Sometimes that change may make your system unstable. Have you ever wanted to go back to the way it was? With System Restore, you can.(source)

What is a System Restore Point?

System Restore is a Windows feature that takes snapshots of the system files and registry at regular intervals or during important system events. The snapshots are stored as System Restore Points (SRP). If you run into a problem, you can often use a previous SRP to undo many of the changes to your system that created the problem.

It’s not fool proof. Sometimes it didn’t correct the problems I had. Most of the time, it does a good job as long as the Restore Point isn’t very old. Since it seems to be important to use a recent SRP, I often set my own SRP just before installing software. I’ll show you how to do this below.

How to Create a System Restore Point

In Windows XP, use your start menu to go to Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore.

You should see this:

system-restore-point-create-xp

Set the button on Create a restore pointand click Next. At the next screen, you’ll be able to type in a name or description for your restore point.

system-restore-point-name-xp

In Vista and Win7, you can set an SRP just as easily.

Click your Start button, then type restore, then click the entry that says Create a restore point.

create-a-restore-point-win7

Next you’ll see a screen like this:

advanced-system-settings-protection-tab

Click the Createbutton and you’ll get a window that will let you choose a description for the new SRP.

create-a-restore-point-name-win7

How to Use a Restore Point to Recover from a Problem

In WinXP, you can use the Start menu as shown above to find the System Restore settings.

When you get to the System Restore panel, select Restore my computer to an earlier time.

You’ll get a window that will let you select a restore point.

system-restore-select-a-point-xp

Once you have an SRP selected, hit the Nextbutton to start the recovery. You’ll get a screen with some info on it and you’ll have to click Nextone final time. The computer will restart.

In Vista and Win7, you can click the start button and type restore. You’ll need to click the entry labeled Restore your computer to an earlier time.

image

You’ll get a window up that let’s you start System Restore. Then you’ll be able to select an SRP to recover.

system-restore-point-list

Once you have one selected, hit the Nextbutton, and then the Finishbutton to confirm it. Your computer will reboot and hopefully everything will be better.

Conclusion

Now that you have the general idea, don’t forget that setting a System Restore Point could save you time and trouble when you try out new software. If you have any suggestions or questions, be sure to comment below.

Back Up Your Registry in Case of Disaster – ERUNT

registry icon Most of you already know what the Windows registry is and what it does. I’ll tell you about it anyway, just in case you’ve forgotten. The Windows registry is the keeper of all the settings in Windows and many of the programs you install. If something goes wrong in the registry, you can end up with a PC that won’t even boot properly.

In some of the older Windows operating systems, such as Win95, 98 and ME, your PC used to back up the registry every time you rebooted. If you are using Windows 2000, XP, Vista or Win7, this isn’t true. In those older systems, you could restore an older copy of the registry while you were booting up. In the newer systems, you can’t do that.

Many years ago, I ran into a program called ERUNT that solves this problem to some extent. The name stands for Emergency Recovery Utility NT. ERUNT allows you to back up the registry completely and restore older copies of the registry if you run into any problems. It has saved me plenty of headaches over the years.

The ERUNT program is fairly small. The installer is about 772kb when you download it. The installation is fairly standard up to the final option. You will be asked if you want ERUNT to run every time Windows starts. I always tell it No’, but it’s a great safety option.

erunt-autostart-setup

Once installed, you can launch ERUNT from your Start menu, or a shortcut. You’ll see a screen like this.

erunt-in-backup-mode

As you can see, the default location of the backup files is a folder called ERDNT inside the Windows folder. Once you click the OK button to start the backup operation, it actually does it’s job fairly quick.

erunt

Now that you have a backup, what good is it? Let’s use me as an example. I had recently tried out a new image viewer and I didn’t like it after trying it. I tried to uninstall it, and I found out that the uninstall wouldn’t work. The image viewer had changed all of my image file type settings and now there was no way to return them to the original settings.

If I had used ERUNT before installing the image viewer, I’d be able to restore the registry to make all of those changes vanish. Unfortunately, I hadn’t made any backups, and I ended up with far more trouble. Hopefully, I won’t do that again.

To recover the registry from an earlier backup, you need to go to the C:\Windows\ERDNT folder, then into one of the dated backup folders. Once inside one of the date folders, you’ll see the ERDNT.exe file.

erdnt-file

Double click the ERDNT file to launch the restore operation. Once it’s finished, you will be prompted to reboot the PC. During the reboot, Windows will load the backup copy of the registry.

Here’s what I recommend for the use of ERUNT.

• Back up the registry just before installing new programs.
• Back up the registry just before you start a Windows update.
• Back up the registry on a regular basis (like once a week).

ERUNT works in Windows NT, 2000, XP, and I’ve read it also works with Windows 7 and Vista.

When you install ERUNT, it also provides you with a utility called NTREGOPT. This is a registry optimizing tool and supposedly compacts the registry to remove wasted space in it. I don’t use it often, but you may find it useful.

Download ERUNT
http://www.larshederer.homepage.t-online.de/erunt/

Techie Buzz Verdict:

If you want to prepare for disaster, you should always keep full backups of your Windows hard drives. For smaller and quicker backups, you can use ERUNT to back up the Windows registry. It could save you hours of trouble, and I could almost say it’s a must have‘ utility.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

How To Repair Your Default Image FileTypes

I can’t explain how disappointed I was. I was angry too. I had just tried out a new freebie image viewer and decided I didn’t like it. Most good applications will remove their custom settings when you uninstall them. This time I was foiled because the uninstaller decided that it couldn’t read the install.log file it had created.

broken-image-icon What could I do now? I had let the new application take over all of the image filetypes. I could manually delete the program, but that wouldn’t change all the system registry entries it would leave behind. The Windows registry is what controls the filetype settings and I wasn’t looking forward to making all of those changes manually.

After I mentally kicked myself for not using an installation monitor like Z-Soft, I manually deleted the program from my Program Files folder. Then I opened regedit and used global searches to remove all entries containing the name or the former path of the now dead image viewer. It took me awhile to do this and I was still kicking myself for not being more careful. Warning: Editing the Windows registry to remove entries is risky and can leave your PC in worse shape than it started out.

Naturally after I’d removed all of the registry entries, none of my images were opening up like they used to. I decided to do a Google search for restore default image typesand sure enough, someone had solved this problem. I found the answer I was looking for at a trustworthy site. The site is owned by Ramesh Srinivasan, an old acquaintance of mine, an all around nice guy and a Microsoft MVP. About 5 years ago, I’d written about one of his websites and he was kind enough to link back to me after we exchanged a few emails.

So, what did I find there? I found a tiny little application called imageditor.exe. The app’s name doesn’t really give you a clue about what it does. Take a look at the interface and you’ll get a good idea how to use it.

Note: This utility is intended for Windows XP systems only. Ramesh said that he is working on similar fixes for Vista, which may also work in Windows 7. (Update: Here are default file type fixes for Win7 and Vista)

imageditor-exe-screenshot

Okay, it isn’t super simple to figure out by just looking at it. I’ll explain it to you now.

The top pull-down menu allows you to choose individual image filetypes such as – BMP, DIB, EMF, GIF, JFIF, JPG, JPE, JPEG, PNG, TIF, TIFF and WMF. It lets you restore each filetype individually, as needed, when you click the button beside it.

You may not like the image viewer that Windows assigns by default. The center text field let’s you force Windows to use the viewer you want. Just choose a filetype from the pull-down at the top. Hit the Browsebutton and then select an image viewer that you’d like to assign as the default image viewer for the image type you have selected.

Finally, the bottom section let’s you re-assign all of Windows image types to the Windows default viewers in one quick action. Add checkmarks to the boxes you’d like to change, then hit the Repair associationsbutton.

I used this last option after checking every one of the 12 image types. It worked perfectly.

• Thank you Ramesh you are awesome. I hope to talk to you again some day.

• To the people behind CoffeeCup Free Image Viewer thank you for your defective uninstaller. It led me to find this cool tool.

• For the rest of you out there – don’t do what I did. It’s not smart to install new applications without running an install monitor or at least setting a Windows Restore point. Good luck, and I hope you never have to edit the registry. It isn’t fun and it’s not always safe.

Download Imageditor v1.1 from windowsxp.mvps.org

http://windowsxp.mvps.org/imgassofix.htm

Techie Buzz Verdict:

If you’re image filetypes get all mixed up, imageditor may be exactly what you need. It’s free, it’s small and it’s easy.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

Defragging the Easy Way – Disk Defrag Screen Saver

If you can’t live without a fancy looking screen-saver, move on, this review isn’t for you. However, if you’d like a screen-saver that actually does something useful, then this is a good option.

defrag-icon If you don’t know what it means to defrag a hard drive or why you need to do it regularly, you might want to read this article at Wikipedia. You may also be interested in some of the other free defragmentation tools we’ve mentioned here at Techie Buzz.

There’s a fairly new defragger out there named Auslogics Disk Defrag Screen Saver. I ran into a mention of this freeware tool last week and gave it a try. I’ve used the standard Auslogics defrag tool for many years. The only problem I’ve had recently is getting to the Auslogics website. Their home site seems to be having some problems, so I’ve provided a link to the software below.

Why do I like it? It’s very easy to set up and use. Download it, install it and set it up. The setup is basically the same as any other screen-saver. When you are in your screen-saver options, just click the settings button and you’ll see a window with a very simple choice for you to make.
auslogics-defrag-screensaver-settings

Other than the normal time settings that you’d have with any screen-saver, the only option is to choose which hard drive you want to defrag.

Whenever your computer goes idle and the screen-saver kicks in, here’s what you will see.

auslogics-defrag-screensaver

This defrag tool works just as well as most other defraggers I’ve tried over the years. However, I can’t count the number of minutes or hours I’ve spent waiting for a manual defrag session to finish. With the new tool from Auslogics, you will never wait. It’s working when you aren’t.

Note: This isn’t a new idea. JK Defrag (now called MyDefrag) has a screen-saver option as well. I wrote an article about it almost 3 years ago.

Download – Auslogics Disk Defrag Screen Saver

Techie Buzz Verdict:

There’s no reason not to try this tool. It works well and it performs a very useful service at no cost to you and no loss of time. You can have an awesome looking screen-saver that does nothing for you, or you can use a tool like this to save you time and trouble.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

Easy Full System Backup and Recovery with Easeus Todo Backup

This Christmas, Santa brought me a new HP Mini 110 netbook. It came with Windows XP pre-installed and it also came with all the normal stuff except for two things. It doesn’t have a CD/DVD drive and it doesn’t have a system recovery CD.

The first thing I wanted to do after getting all of my must haveprograms loaded, was to get the new netbook backed up on my external USB backup drive. I knew that creating the backup on my USB drive was not going to be a problem with almost any software I chose to use. However, how was I going to be able to boot my PC into a recovery mode if Windows or my hard drive failed? After some trial and error, I found that Easeus Todo Backup makes the job pretty easy once you’ve learned a trick or two. Below, I’ll share my new tricks with you, so that you won’t have to sweat for hours figuring it out on your own.

Monitor Changes To Your System With Tiny Watcher

Tiny Watcher is a free utility which takes a snapshot of crucial areas of your system and alerts you if something has been changed. It creates a snapshot of running processes, start-up registry keys, services registry keys, scheduled tasks, system directories and other sensitive registry keys.

Tiny-Watcher-Scan
Tiny-Watcher-Scanning

Tiny Watcher is designed to function without getting in your way. It automatically scans your system for changes on start-up and can also be run on demand. Although the report generated by Tiny Watcher is comprehensive, it provides very little usable information about each entry. Hence, it is entirely up to the user to determine whether the changes are innocuous or malicious. Tiny Watcher is primarily a monitoring tool, however the option to delete or even permanently disable certain items is also available.

Tiny Watcher

Techie Buzz Verdict

Tiny Watcher is a useful utility for monitoring changes made by dubious applications. It’s not something meant for novice users. While it is a good choice if you want a simplistic solution, there are other better alternatives (like Winpatrol).

Techie-Buzz Rating: 2/5 (Average)