If Windows is the engine that drives your PC, utilities are the oil. They make it run faster, smoother, better. Here are seven of them, all insanely useful, all free.
Speed Up Your PC With CCleaner
Like a virtual mop and bucket, CCleaner scrubs away temporary files, old Registry entries, and other stuff that can gunk up your system. It not only frees up disk space, but also helps your PC recover some of its lost speed.
Fill Online Forms with Dashlane
Dashlane is a fantastic password manager, but the "utility" side of it lies in its browser extensions, which can automatically complete Web forms for you--and even supply credit card info (encrypted, of course) when you shop online.
Edit Photos with IrfanView
Windows' built-in picture viewer blows. IrfanView is a small, fast alternative that offers basic image-editing functions (crop, rotate, etc.) and supports virtually every file format known to man.
Find Programs and Files Faster with Launchy
Although Windows 8 lets you launch programs just by typing the first few letters, that works only in the "Metro" interface. Launchy works in Desktop mode and also finds documents, folders, bookmarks, and more. Sounds simplistic, but once you start using it, you'll never stop.
Save Time Typing with PhraseExpress
Tired of typing the same phrases over and over? Your mailing address, your e-mail signature, a form letter... PhraseExpress pastes in any frequently used text snippet with the keyboard shortcut of your choice.
View PDFs Faster with SumatraPDF
Most computer users need a PDF viewer, but few need one as pokey and overstuffed as Adobe Reader. SumatraPDF gets the job done in a smaller, faster package. And it lets you view e-book, comic-book, and other files as well.
Make Windows More Responsive with WizMouse
WizMouse accomplishes something that Microsoft has never managed: When you mouse over a window, your scroll-wheel works instantly--no clicking-it-first required. In other words, it makes your mouse work the way it should.