Must-have Windows tools

We round up seven system utilities to help keep your computer in top form. Did we mention they're all free?

System utilities may not seem like the most provocative category in the annals of software development, but the apps within are essential for maintaining a tip-top computer. On top of that, their universality makes them a good choice for almost any computer.

With that in mind, we gathered together seven of our favorite freeware applications--most will support Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 operating systems. This list isn't the end-all and be-all--not when so many quality programs abound--but it is a good beginning.

We start with Glary Utilities, which is actually a suite of apps to optimize and tweak Windows computers. CCleaner and Smart Defrag also make the top of our list for sweeping away Internet tracks and drefragmenting the hard disk, respectively. When it's traces of files you're worried about after removing a program, Revo Uninstaller is our go-to app, thanks to its capability to scour nooks and crannies for leftovers.

When it comes to maintaining files, we're fans of 7-Zip, which can compress large files in a range of formats, including ZIP and RAR. To preserve those files in the event of a system crash, we recommend a backup program like SyncBack, which is accessible enough for most home users. Finally, a recovery app like Pandora Recovery belongs in your collection, for hunting down files you may have mistakenly deleted.

Do you have other favorite utility essentials? In the newsletter, click the "Read More" link below to share them in the comments. Check out our original roundup.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.