Software // Enterprise Applications
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Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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The Explorer: Find the Coolest Windows Tools

Here's a collection of great -- and mostly free! -- system tools and editors.

It all started with an offhand mention of SysEdit, a kind of super-notepad that uses a "multiple document interface" to open five important Windows 9x system files at once for easy, side-by-side scrutiny and editing. With a click, SysEdit lets you access and edit your Autoexc.bat, Config.Sys, Win.Ini, System.Ini, and Protocol.Ini files. It's a favorite of Windows power users everywhere.

You can see if SysEdit is available on your machine my typing SysEdit as a Run command on your Start menu. (SysEdit is included in normal Win9x installations; and a modified SysEdit is part of Windows 2000 SR-1 and later. You won't find SysEdit in clean installs of Windows Me, although it may be present on WinMe systems that were upgraded from Win9x.)

It's odd: SysEdit is installed on tens or hundreds of millions of PCs, and yet most people don't even know they have this handy tool!

It isn't the only cool system extra that's often overlooked. There are many TXT files in the Windows directory that most computers owners never examine at all. But those files, installed as part of standard Windows, contain tips, setup info, troubleshooting, and recovery info. There are a couple dozen files in all, some with information that just might give you a "I never knew that!" moment. Check 'em out!

We've discussed many of these little-known tools before. See, for example, Windows' Secret Toolkit or More Win98 'Goodies'. Each of those articles will lead you to a ton of great stuff you probably already have -- and have paid for! -- but that you may never have noticed.

But there are many more such items available. With that in mind, I asked readers to suggest their nominations for little-known system tools and I also asked for alternatives in cases where a tool might not be available in some versions of Windows. If you like the idea of SysEdit, but your copy of Windows doesn't have it, what alternatives can you use?

As usual, readers came through in spades -- you folks are great! -- and I got a huge pile of excellent suggestions. Here are the best, in the words of the readers who made each suggestion:

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