The quest for the perfect personalized Windows setup is too often derailed when it comes to finding the right tools for your needs. Top 10 lists abound, but few of them offer truly helpful utilities, especially for those of us steeped in Windows.
More often than not, the best bets come from hard-won research and trusted colleagues. With that in mind, I set out to compile a list of Windows 7 essentials, polling friends and trolling the Internet, a fruitful process through which I cleaned up my system, fenced in my desktop, and transformed my laptop into a friendly sharer of Internet connectivity for all to use around me at the airport. Here are the best tools I found:
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Windows Live Essentials
Set up a Windows Live account, and you can leverage a wealth of free tools from Microsoft on your Windows 7, Vista, or, with some exceptions, XP machine. SkyDrive, for example, provides 25GB of protected free online storage, allowing you to access your documents, photos, and videos from anywhere, and to share those files with whomever you choose. Windows Live Essentials remains my favorite set of tools to date. This suite includes Photo Gallery, Mail, Movie Maker, Messenger, Writer, Family Safety, and Toolbar, among others.
Windows Live Gallery
Windows Live Gallery offers a wealth of gadgets, several of which provide insight into your CPU use, network activity, and so forth. One of my favorites is the Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor. This Wi-Fi monitoring gadget shows available wireless network connections, verifies wireless coverage, and comes complete with a really cool radar display. Also available at the Windows Live Gallery are Twadget and TweetZ, two worthwhile Twitter gadgets for Windows.