Windows Utilities

A few people I know have recently switched jobs where they now find themselves using Windows on a day-to-day basis. One of my friends reached out to me asking about some productivity tricks with Windows since he was a Mac user for a long time and is unfamiliar with Windows.

I am somewhat of a rare bird in that I switched to the Mac in 2005, but switched back to the PC. I talked a bit about that previously, but never really explained why I switched back to Windows. The truth isn't very interesting. I didn't really like what Apple was doing with its software (something I think is especially true today) and wanted something else.

I find myself very productive using Windows. I figured I would share some of the ways I use Windows well in a multi-part post series. This first post is just some of the software that I, personally, find most useful for productivity in Windows. I also plan on talking about some workflow tips, and some cross-platform solutions as well since I do use Linux and Mac, just not on my main work machines.

These programs are not in any particular order and are just my opinions. Nobody is paying me to talk about these programs, and I get no incentives if you download or buy anything.


FileLocator - MythicSoft - Free Lite Version, Pro Version $69

FileLocator Pro

Searching for files in Windows is broken. It's not powerful and cannot reliably search inside of documents. FileLocator is perfect. It's fast, easy to use, and very powerful, especially the pro version with regex searching and searching inside archives. In my day job I work with software products that are very large and generate large log files. It's very useful to have a powerful search tool to find what I'm looking for.


Notepad++ - Notepad++ - Free (GNU GPL)

Notepad ++

Notepad++ is a general-purpose text editor that is quite powerful, but without going too far into IDE territory. It has loads of features for text manipulation, easy-to-use menus that make discovery of features easy. While its UI is not "modern" or "fancy" it is blazing fast, even on seriously low end hardware. Always the first thing I install, even under Linux with WINE. It's that good.

HD Tune

HD Tune - HD Tune - Free Lite Version, Pro Version - €24.95

HD Tune Pro

HD Tune is a utility I used all the time when I was a computer technician. It's dead easy to run a hard drive error scan to check for any bad blocks. I still use it periodically to scan my drives to see if I need to replace anything before it is too late.

Honorable Mention

I also recommend SpinRite ($89) for recovery and serious drive maintenance. It's a bit of a pain to use in the modern era due to it's need to be run booted in a DOS environment and it's slowness on large drives, but can be useful in an emergency.

Unstoppable Copier

Unstoppable Copier - Roadkil - Free

Like HD Tune, this was used when I was a computer technician. In situations where a hard drive is malfunctioning, it can attempt to copy everything it can without crashing like a traditional copy in Windows. It also will start copying right away without calculating total number/size of files first which can make it faster for copying a large number of files, like when I am backing up my Documents folder, for example.


WinDirStat - WinDirStat - Free (GNU GPL)


Have you suddenly found yourself running out of disk space and wondering where it all went? WinDirStat is a great utility for discovering, visually, what is taking all of your free space. You can delete "blocks" and get a quick, real-time update of the visualization to help remove large chunks of nonsense quickly.


ZoomIt - Microsoft - Free

ZoomIt Options

ZoomIt is part of Mark Russinovich's Sysinternals, now part of Microsoft. While nearly all the sysinternals apps are incredibly useful, I find ZoomIt particularly useful if you ever find yourself presenting software. It allows you to zoom the screen, draw shapes and boxes to highlight things in real time, and do a break timer, all with some simple keyboard shortcuts.


LINQPad - LINQPad - Free Lite Version, Pro Versions $59-115

LINQPad Query

LINQPad is probably only useful if you are familiar with .NET. I know Python is the choice of scripting language these days and .NET is not really a scripting language, but LINQPad makes it possible. The Premium version has all of the usefulness of a full IDE, without the need to compile programs and make an executable. When I need to automate tasks for work that are aided by scripting but not something I am apt to need to make a real program for, LINQPad is my go-to. It also makes visualizing arbitrary objects and classes very easy.


Article by: 8/20/2022 9:56:46AM

Published: Noah Wood