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Spotlight: Editor's Choice
Let us be frank: the Windows Defragmentation tool is best described as functional. Defragging your hard drive is an essential part of PC maintenance as otherwise files get scattered in multiple segments (or fragments) all over your drive, forcing the disk’s mechanical parts to work harder to piece them back together when they’re needed. Net result: files are slower to access, so computer slows down, but another side-effect is that the drive’s temperature increases and its moving parts wear out that much quicker.
XP’s Defrag tool doesn’t even run automatically, so it’s essential you find another solution. And even though Windows 7 and Vista do attempt to run on a weekly basis, the default timing isn’t great and the results are barely adequate. Your hard drive is the biggest bottleneck in your system, so it pays to make sure it’s defragged regularly to give it the best possible chance of performing at a half-decent level.
Third-party defrag tools have long trumped Windows’ own meagre efforts, and in recent years a number of powerful, versatile and feature-rich freebies have come on to the market, such as Puran Defrag Free and Auslogics Disk Defrag. That probably explains why O&O – one of the pioneers in disk defrag technology – has finally wised up to the fact it needs to provide a free version of its own defrag tool to appeal to the home market.
The net result is this: O&O Defrag Free Edition. It’s based on its Professional big brother, so you enjoy the top-notch performance gains and light system footprint that it brings. The downside is that it’s actually a cut-down version, so you’re only able to use one of two defrag methods (as opposed to eight in the full version), neither of which will keep your drive defragged in the background as you work. There’s no boot-time defragmentation either for system files, and while the program comes with three “zones” for placing files in for best performance on your drive, you can’t actually configure them as you can with the Pro Edition.
It sounds churlish to mention these limitations in the free version, but we do so because many of these options are available in other free tools, so should be noted here. However, if you’re looking for a “set-it-and-forget-it” solution and are happy for your drive to be defragged on a regular basis, then O&O Defrag Free definitely represents a step up from the basic tool provided by Windows itself.
This is the 64-bit version of O&O Defrag Free Edition: a separate build is available for 32-bit versions of Windows.
AVG Ultimate 2018 [2-YR]
$179.98Our Price: $49.99
O&O DiskImage 11 Professional
$49.95Our Price: $22.95
AVG TuneUp - Unlimited 2018 [2-YR]
$79.99Our Price: $24.99
CyberLink PowerDirector 15 Ultra
$99.99Our Price: $89.99
Acronis True Image 2016
$49.99Our Price: $19.95
Genie Timeline Professional 2016
$59.95Our Price: $47.95
iolo System Mechanic 17
$49.95Our Price: $24.95
CCleaner 5 Professional
$24.95Our Price: $17.46
Laplink PCmover Professional v10 [1-MIGRATION]
$59.95Our Price: $39.95
Spotlight: Editor's Choice
Oracle VM VirtualBox is an industrial-strength open source virtualisation tool that makes it easy to create virtual machines (VMs), simulated computers that run on your PC but act as though they were separate systems. It's a powerful capability that has many different applications.
If you'd like a closer look at Windows 8 before you upgrade, for instance, then you could install Microsoft's latest in a VM, then access it in a window on your XP or Vista desktop.
Or maybe you've upgraded to Windows 8 and find a favourite old app doesn't work any more? Create a Windows XP VM and you might be able to run it again.
VirtualBox can also be a useful security tool: if you download and test apps in a VM, then any malware you might encounter will be isolated from your main system.
And it's the perfect choice if you want to try out another operating system with the minimum of hassle. Right now you can install Google Chrome OS, all the mainstream Linux variants (2.4 and 2.6), OpenBSD, OS/2, ReactOS, SkyOS, DOS, and just about every version of Windows there's ever been. (Of course you'll need to have the system discs to hand.)
VirtualBox 4 included an interface redesign, making it easier to view and manage your virtual machines. VM displays can now be scaled, so you can reduce a window size by half (for instance) and still see everything that's going on. The ability to limit a VM's CPU and IO time means the program will be less of a drain on your system's resources, and there are a host of other performance optimisations and bug fixes available.
What's new in VirtualBox 5.2.8 (see changelog for more)?
- VMM: added support for FSGSBASE, PCID, INVPCID CPU features for guests
- VMM: fixed EMM386 issue with detecting suitable page frame base (bug #10022)
- Front end: Linux: prevent VM window from jumping and auto-resizing to tiny size after resizing it on HiDPI screen
- Front end: Linux: fixed seamless regression caused by wm_class functionality (bugs #12534, #17304)
- Front end: switched to https downloads
- Front end: fixed crash while opening New machine wizard (s.a. forums topic 86592)
- Audio: added support for distinguishing recording sources in the PulseAudio mixer on the host when multiple VMs are running
- Audio: various fixes for the DirectSound backend
- Video recording: added better file seeking support and fixed playback of recorded files with certain players (e.g. Firefox)
- Audio: various fixes for Windows guest surround setups
- Audio: various fixes for HDA emulation
- Serial: fixed an issue where the serial port parameters in the emulation and host serial port got out of sync (bug #17116)
- Storage: fixed overwriting certain INQUIRY data for the DVD/CD drive attached to a AHCI controller
- Storage: fixed handling VMDK images created by Amazon EC2 VM export
- Network: fixed PXE boot regression in e1000
- Network: Added a workaround for older guests which do not enable bus mastering for the virtio PCI device
- 3D: add environment variable to configure presenting 3D content on main thread (see bug #13653)
- Windows hosts: fixed indiscriminate binding of NDIS5 bridged driver, that caused PPPOE malfunction (bugs #16407, #17489)
- Windows guests: fixed incorrect function error when using shared folders in certain applications (bug #14118)
- Linux guests: Linux 4.15 support (bugs #17311, #17320, #17282)
- Linux guests: fixed black screen when 3D enabled in guests (bug #17463, 5.2.6 regression)
- Linux guests: suppress setuid and setgid in shared folders