Great Free Software – Windows Apps For All New PCs

oh-yes-its-freeIf you want to find great free software that is well supported, annoyance free, and works well, then start here.

Any person setting up or cleaning up a Windows PC should take a look at the list below.

  1. Ninite: This site / tool is great!  You just tick off all the great free software you want to install, then download the installation tool.  This little program will download and install all of the software you ticked off, skipping unwanted toolbars, ads, and other annoying stuff.  It will also automatically skip things that you have already installed. The programs in Ninite that I reccommend are:
    1. Firefox Browser
    2. Sumatra PDF – PDF Reader
    3. LibreOffice – for editing / viewing word processing, spreadsheets, presentations etc (Similar to MS Office)
    4. CDBurnerXP – for burning CDs / DVDs
    5. TeraCopy – Great copy tool
    6. Glary – Windows cleanup tool
    7. MalawareBytes – a different sort of malware detection / scanning software.  I usually check things with both an anti-virus program and MalawareBytes
    8. Music Bee – Excellent music manager and player
    9. VLC – video / audio player that doesn’t require any Codecs to be installed
    10. Audacity – if you want a good sound file editor (MP3, Wav, etc)
    11. Handbrake – Converts videos to many formants
    12. WinRAR – great for creating / opening compressed files of many types
    13. Avast – Decent anti-virus software thats not too annoying.  Just remember to turn off the sounds!
    14. Windows Defender / Essentials – antivirus that works well, very unintrusive. Built in to Windows 10
    15. qBittorrent – do you have to ask…. ?
    16. Steam – Great platform for browsing / buying games.  Lots of free games on there too.
    17. DropBox – my preferred web storage too.  Integrates very well into Windows 7 / 8 / 10
    18. Inkscape – Handy vector drawing program, similar to CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator, etc.
    19. Krita – Great image editing and artwork drawing application
    20. Blender – Top 3D creation tool
  2. HTC Home:  This is a stylish weather / clock for your Windows desktop
  3. LastPass: Excellent password manager. Can take some time to set up and understand how it works, but it is worth it. Once you have put your passwords into LastPass, you can then clean them up to improve your digital security
  4. Light Adjusting Wallpaper Changer: Manage all of your wallpaper images more effectively, with many features that improve on standard wallpaper changers
  5. Rest Relax Reminder: An advanced alarm reminder program that will encourage you to take regular breaks
  6. Moonlight Game Streaming: Stream your games across your network. Very fast and lightweight. Needs an nVidia video card, and works best on a 5G wifi network.
  7. Playnite: Excellent game library manager that combines your game libraries from all of the main game services, into one organisable library. Steam, Battle.Net, GoG, Origin, uPlay, Twitch, Epic, Bethesda, and itch.io are all supported.
  8. emClient: Very handy and lightweight email application that has features comparable to the top applications (eg. Outlook, Thunderbird, etc)

Pro Tip: Re-run the Ninite installer you downloaded, and it will update all of the listed applications with their newest version (skipping ones that are current).

If you have any suggestions on any other great free software to add to the list, please let me know in the comments below.

Change the LastPass Main Password

Your LastPass Main Password (Master Password) is THE most important password to know if you use LastPass. This is the first key to getting access to all of your passwords within LastPass. Here are a few tips on passwords, and how to change the LastPass main password.

Choosing a Master Password

It is always good to know what best practice guidelines you should follow when creating and using passwords.

One thing to think about when choosing a new master password, is to consider using a passphrase. A passphrase is basically 3 (or more) unrelated words, joined together in a way you can easily remember them.

Use 2FA – 2 Factor Authentication

Two Factor Authentication is used as an extra layer of security. One example is that if someone managed to obtain your password for something and you did not have 2FA enabled, they would have access to your account immediately. If you did have 2FA enabled, then they would need to confirm an additional security check, like entering a code from your phone (via SMS or an Authenticator Application). The person with your password would not be able to gain access unless they had access to the 2FA process (eg. your smart phone).

Pro Tip: Always use Two Factor Authentication whenever a website / business provides it.

How To Change the Main Password (Master Password) in LastPass

The process to change the LastPass main Password is fairly easy and straightforward. The process I outline below uses the LastPass extension for Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Opera, etc.

  1. Once you have the extension installed into your browser of choice, and have logged in to LastPass, you should have a red icon available
  2. Click on this icon, and choose “Open My Vault”
  3. On the bottom right of this web page, choose “Account Settings”
  4. The screen that appears has a “Change Master Password” button. Pressing it will open a webpage
  5. Enter your current password
  6. Enter your new password / passphrase, then confirm it by entering it again in the “Re-Enter …” box
  7. Press the “Save Master Password” button
  8. If you already have 2FA enabled, you will need to approve the change.

Read my detailed guide on cleaning up LastPass Passwords

Fix Configuration system failed to initialize Errors

If, like me, you have tried the most popular fixes for the error “Configuration system failed to initialize” when you run certain application(s), and the problem is still persisting, then my rather drastic fix might help you too.

Warning: Back up your system before attempting any of these sorts of fixes. And try them at your own risk. I have not tested this fix on other systems.

Here is what I did that fixed the error:
1. Open File Explorer as Administrator
2. Navigate to This PC – your system drive (usually C:) – Windows
Microsoft.NET folder
3. Rename the Framework folder to something else, eg. FrameworkOLD
4. Rename the Framework64 folder to something else, eg. Framework64OLD
Note: You might get some warnings and messages about some apps are still running and using the framework. Stop as many as you can find. Worst case, restart in safe mode to do steps 3 and 4.
5. Start a command prompt as administrator
6. Run the command sfc /scannow
7. When that is finished, open the Control Panel / Settings window
8. Search for Update
9. Choose Check for Updates, and press the button Check for Updates
10. When the Update has finished, reboot the PC.
11. Test the app out, and hopefully the problem is resolved!

Advanced Fixes

If you still get “Configuration system failed to initialize” errors, then have a look in the C:\Users\(USERNAME)\AppData\Local\(COMPANY NAME) folder. Eg, for applications made by Strangetimez which are used by Fred, you would look in the C:\Users\Fred\AppData\Local\Strangetimez folder.
It gets trickier in here, as there could be a few issues. There may be multiple folders for the same application. Within these folders, you may see folders for version numbers (eg. a folder called 1.0.8.123, 1.0.8.129, and 1.1.0.1). Each of these will contain configuration information for that version of the application.
Try checking out the user.config files in the latest version (1.1.0.1 in the example above) of each of these folders. Check that these files do not have errors in them by opening them with Notepad. If there are funny characters in there (non text), then there might be a problem. If the text does not end with something like the following, then that could be another problem:

        </YourAppName.Properties.Settings>
    </userSettings>
</configuration>

You could try editing / fixing the file yourself (difficult if you dont get it right). Another option is to look in the folder of a previous version, and see if there is another user.config file there. As long as the configuration data has not changed between those versions, you can replace the faulty file with the complete / formatted one.

I hope that helps! Please let me know in the comments if you have a fix yourself, or if one of these worked for you.

Wallpaper Modes/Fitting Explained (with Examples!)

Trying to figure out the difference between the choices that Windows (and other OSs) gives you for wallpaper modes, can be very confusing. Even nicely summarised explanations like this and this, can still be confusing without some illustrations to show how wallpapers with different aspect ratios affect these different modes.

So, here are example pictures of each of the modes, with different sized and shaped wallpapers. This is particularly handy to know if you are using LAWC (Wallpaper Changer), and want to change how your wallpapers are displayed.

Wallpaper Modes Explained

Original Images
Centre
Fill Width
Fit / Fill Height
Stretch
Tile
LAWC**
1280x720
720x1280
481x481
3840x2160
2160x3840
Wide Screen Test Pattern3840x1080
Here are example pictures of each of the modes, with different sized and shaped wallpapers. This is particularly handy to know if you are using Windows Wallpapers and LAWC (Wallpaper Changer), and want to change how your wallpapers are displayed.

* The source images are 1280x720 (720p), 481x481, and 3840x2160 (4k). The desktop resolution is 1920x1080 (1080p).
** LAWC mode is only relevant to the LAWC Wallpaper Changer application. Not available in standard installations of Windows, iOS, Linux, etc. LAWC mode will also adapt based on the size and aspect ratio of the image.

Try LAWC – a FREE wallpaper changing application for Windows, that makes the most of these modes.

Light Adjusting Wallpaper Changer (LAWC)

LAWK256I’ve released the BETA of my handy little tool for Windows which allows you to change your wallpaper images, not only just at random, but it will also adjust the images for a Day / Night cycle which can be set to any time of the day. LAWC stores the library of pictures catalogued from user selected folders, and will select randomly from those images.

It also supports multi-monitors, showing different images on each screen, as well as many more features.


Best of all, its FREE!! But feel free to support me, and the application, by Donating whatever $ you can spare.

Click here to Read More about, and Download LAWC…

Performance Problems? And I mean your PC ;)

Having trouble with your PC just not being as fast as it used to be?  Personally, I reinstall the whole OS every 6-12 months, but I have a few friends who are a little daunted by that task, so Ive suggested a few things that might help clean up their computer.  It’s a fairly regular question too, so for anyone stumbling upon this, here are a few good, cheap/free applications that should make your system run better without any (or little) out-of-pocket expense.

Also, I have tried many other applications, some of which have not helped, and others which have made things worse.  These tend to be reliable and do what they say.  BUT, of course make your your system is backed up to a memory stick, hard drive, or burnt DVD, before running these sorts of applications just in case the unforeseen happens.  When was the last time you backed up your PC?  (Now that I think about it, its been a few months for me…)

First things first, head into the Control Panel, and uninstall any programs you don’t use anymore… after that, try these to finish off the cleanup process:

With all of that, the machine should be a little snappier.  After that, you could always overclock it!  Once your PC is out of warranty (as overclocking can void warranties) then its a relatively easy way of getting 10-20% more power with very little, or no cost.  Think of it like boosting the performance of the engine in your car…

Oh, one last word of advice, if you want to know more about how to do things Ive mentioned then just type it in to Google.  Don’t forget, Google is Your Friend!