What are you planning to do this summer?
- Eat Maryland Blue Crabs?
- Dip popsicles in Prosecco?
- Go to Wimbledon?
- Get a job?
- Visit San Francisco?
Whatever you’re planning to do, I’m sure you’ll cross paths with your Windows computer at some point.
Most people can’t bear the thought of parting from their beloved laptops for a day, much less a full weekend; that’s why I’m going to show you two essential programs to pack on your trip.
In between the steak grilling and sandwich slinging you’ll undoubtedly retreat from the heat to browse the web, check a few emails and read my site of-course 🙂
Here’s my list of the top two free programs every Windows 8.1 PC needs this summer.
1. VirusTotal + MalwareBytes = Bliss
What’s the one thing that could ruin your summer vacation?
If you, or the person you love, became ill during your jaunt to the Bahamas I promise you the experience is going to suck.
In the same way, malware is a virulent force that can ruin your PC too.
It’s sad, but even on vacation we need to stay vigilant against pernicious hackers who care more about selfish gain than the well-being of their victims.
In my experience, the singular way to stay ahead of the noxious effects of trojans and viruses is to use a world-class anti-malware solution such as MalwareBytes.
Admittedly, no antivirus solution is perfect and Malwarebytes isn’t exempt from its share of foibles; however, it excels in more places than it fails.
Over 300 million people have downloaded the application, it offers unparalleled protection against Rootkits, and has sophisticated techniques for removing even the most intractable viruses.
In my experience, Malwarebytes often detects and destroys malware that other solutions such as AVG never discover. I’m a huge exponent of the product and suggest that you load up the free version on your laptop today.
But that’s not all.
This is the thing, MalwareBytes is only one term in the equation; when you add in VirusTotal you’ll bless your PC with a euphoria that’s so amazing it will make you jealous.
PC’s love being clean from viruses; and even though computers are reticent to express their thanks, installing MalwareBytes with VirusTotal on your Windows 8.1 laptop will:
- Make every semicolon in the source code clap
- Convince every error box to rethink before popping up and…
- Imbue Internet Explorer to work as hard as Chrome.
Okay, wait… wait… that last bit about Internet Explorer isn’t true, Chrome is pretty hot; it’s hard to top Chrome.
But I digress.
The bottom line is that if you really want to give those hackers a hard time, install both MalwareBytes and VirusTotal.
VirusTotal is a free online virus and malware scanner that allows you to submit suspicious files to over 50 antivirus engines at once. It’s like having a swarm of antivirus vendors all working concurrently to inspect wonky files.
In out war against viruses we have two options with VirusTotal:
- We can either upload the suspect files through the web form or
- Get the VirusTotal Windows Uploader which is way more efficient.
With VirusTotal, you can go from infected to protected in just 60 seconds!
Wait, I sound like an officious salesman on one of those late night infomercials.
But seriously, the installation completes in less than a minute. Just keep all the defaults. There’s no tricky smuggleware or solicitous offers in the setup wizard so you can blindly click through to the finish line.
Now to scan a file for viruses, just right click and choose Send to VirusTotal.
I’m going to scan my vintage R-Kelly photo for viruses…
VirusTotal will start munching on files up to 32MB in size so don’t be afraid to throw a few heavyweights at it. If you have files larger than that you’ll run into issues but you can always contact the nice (and smart) folks at VirusTotal and they’ll try to get you access to interface for sending big files.
Let’s see how our R-Kelly scan went.
Ahh it’s clean.
Another cool thing is that you can send the current processes running in memory to VirusTotal for analysis.
Sometimes viruses will surreptitiously loiter in memory as a rogue process. But it’s pretty hard to discern which processes are good or bad.
Just open the app, select the process then click Upload process executable.
2. Pimp out your PC
Now that you’ve erected an indomitable fortress around your PC, it’s time to have some fun.
After all, what’s the point of a summer vacation without the sun, picnics and smoothies? Now that your computer is healthy, we’re going to give it the equivalent of a great vacation.
This super tool has a thing for customization.
You can change everything from the monolithic to the minutia.
Want to change the welcome screen behavior? Or perhaps you want to be furtive and hide your PC from your local network? Or even better, you can modify the appearance of the taskbar and make the windows elements vogue.
Honestly, there are way too many tweaks for me to enumerate here so I exhort you to simply grab the tool and dive in.
Extract the file then create a restore point. This is a necessary safety net so you can back out of the customization chaos if things get zany.
So here’s what’s up:
There are so many options in your face that it might feel about as daunting as the the Bulk File Renaming Utility that lets you rename hundreds of files at once.
But have no fear!
Inferior programs with only a modicum of options shouldn’t win the day! The best way to get comfortable with the Ultimate Windows Tweaker is to just start pulling sliders, checking boxes and clicking tabs.
Remember, since you created a restore point you can always revert the changes. (you did create that restore point right?)
If you still think that clicking a particular checkbox will accidentally sully the pristine appearance of your PC, then move your mouse over the setting and leave it there for a few seconds.
A tooltip should emerge with a pithy comment explaining the option.
The Bottom Line
There you have it.
Whether you’re flexing your brawn on the beach during a game of beach volleyball or hiding your gut in the air conditioned haven of your hotel room, the programs I mentioned above will undoubtedly keep your PC happy.
Do you have any essential programs that you love that I left out? Share your thoughts in the comments (and stay cool this summer)!