A longtime client e-mailed me to ask if I recommended having a certain program run on a scheduled basis. The program happened to be a registry cleaner that she was considering purchasing. A few days later I received an e-mail from a reader asking virtually the same thing. The programs were the same so it sounds like a marketing ploy. This got me thinking about how long it had been since I had written a column on which programs I feel are beneficial for your computer maintenance and which ones may cause more harm than good. Please keep in mind that every PC tech has their own areas of expertise, so their advice may differ from mine.

Registry cleaners: If your registry gets damaged or corrupted, your computer most likely will not start and will require some fairly extensive and expensive repairs to get it operational. If there is no real reason to run a registry cleaning program, why would you risk having the program make a mistake and damage your registry that may result in a repair bill? Do you know these guys who programmed this software? Do they offer a guarantee against damage? If something does happen that causes repair issues, will they reimburse you? I believe the answers to these questions are "No, No and probably No." To be fair, there are times when a registry cleaner will do a great job in speeding up your computer and deleting orphan files or cleaning up leftover files from old programs that have been uninstalled but as a component in regular maintenance, I would not recommend this. If you choose to run a regularly scheduled registry scan, please keep my number handy. We can always use the work.

Anti-virus and anti-spyware: In the past, we have recommended using AVG for an anti-virus program that did not slow down your machine and worked well. A number of years ago AVG was bought by an anti-spyware company and is now so loaded with junk, it is almost as bad as running Norton or McAfee. Then we endorsed Avira, which is also free and does an adequate job. Most recently, Microsoft has come out with Microsoft Security Essentials, which is a killer program that works better than anything I have found on the market today and is free. It takes the place of your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. It runs totally automatically in terms of updates and scans, so once installed you can simply forget it. You can download it at http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/ (there is an underline between security and essentials) or you can go to Google and search for it.

If you feel you need an extra level of spyware protection, we recommend the paid version of Malware Bytes. It is the best protection out there today, bar none. Go to www.malwarebytes.org and purchase the paid for version for full protection or download the free version and hope for the best. We strongly recommend the paid version for more robust protection. It cost $24.95 per license and well worth the price.

Ever wondered where your computer has been (or where your kids or employees are going on their computers) there is a free program called IEHV (Internet Explorer History Viewer) that will tell you. It works even if the Internet history has been erased or deleted. This is not the easiest program to use but it does a great job of reporting the websites visited by a computer. If you are interested in this program, go to http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/iehv.html and scroll down almost to the bottom to see a "Download IEHistory View" link you can click and download the program.

If you have any programs you really like, e-mail me and I will give them the PC made EZ test.

Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services and lives in Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to mike@smotherscomputers.com or call (480) 753-7667.


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