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When choosing third-party software to replace functionality in Windows, you'll need to compare tool to tool; some of them are better, some are worse, and some altogether unnecessary.

I purchased a screen capture program (which I use everyday) from a third-party software retailer and consequently get other offers for software which I agreed to receive. My question is that they are offering programs like Uninstaller, Drive Cleaners and other programs, which are already on my XP and Windows 7 machines from Microsoft. Do they all work the same? Is one better than the other? Is there any reason or need to buy stuff like this?

In this excerpt from Answercast #31, I look at software from third-party vendors that compete with Windows tools. I recommend a number of third-party alternatives myself, but for some tools, the Windows alternative is just as good... or better.

Better than Windows?

There's no blanket answer for this.

The utilities that come with Windows: they're pretty good... especially with Windows 7. Many of them have been improved to the extent that you don't necessarily need to get third-party alternatives.

Third-party software

That being said, some of the third-party alternatives are pretty nifty. It really depends on what you're looking for out of a specific utility.

One of the examples that I'll throw out (that I used just recently) is:

  • Though Microsoft Windows includes its own defragmenting program, I happen to use a different program. It's a free program called Defraggler from Piriform, which is the same company that puts out CCleaner.

  • The reason I use it is I believe it does a slightly more aggressive job of defragging and it has a prettier display when it's working.

Is that enough? Is that something that would push me over the edge to, perhaps, buy a certain piece of software? Probably not.

Compare each one

The comparisons really have to be made on a utility-by-utility basis.

In many cases, the Microsoft alternatives are more than sufficient. In many cases, the alternatives that you might purchase, either offer additional functionality, or they may work a little bit better, or they may do nothing at all. They may be exactly equivalent and there's literally no reason to buy them.

  • As long as you make sure you're buying from a reputable vendor!

In some rare cases, the tools that you think you're buying are actually going to be significantly less functional... and in the worst case, even contain malware. It's one of the reasons we so often refer to making sure that you're purchasing software from reputable vendors. Particularly when you're buying online.

Watch out for...

There are definitely tools that I don't recommend.

  • I don't recommend registry cleaners: unless you're specifically trying to deal with a problem.

  • I don't necessarily recommend fix-all-your-problem programs: because all too often, they end up altering your system in ways that (while it may or may not have fixed a specific problem) it may have done other things to your system that you don't want.

I much prefer to address specific problems with specific tools.

Some are just better

Another good example that I'm just thinking of is that I frequently recommend a tool called Revo Uninstaller. It's an uninstalling tool that does a much better job than Windows uninstallation process.

  • So, that's an example of a third-party tool that's actually added significant functionality above and beyond what Windows provides natively.

Like I said, you have to compare tool to tool: the tool that you're looking at – versus its equivalent in Windows – to really understand where there's a benefit. There's no blanket answer to this. Sometimes they work the same, sometimes they work better, sometimes the better one is already in Windows.

Article C5534 - July 1, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Doug Brace
July 1, 2012 1:42 PM

Defraggler is made by Piriform.

Mark J
July 1, 2012 2:53 PM

Thanks! fixed it.

July 3, 2012 9:27 AM

Love Revo Uninstaller, but it should be noted that 64 bit programs are omitted without purchasing the pro version. Somewhat disappointing.


July 3, 2012 10:14 AM

Revo Uninstaller is OK; but, Geek Uninstaller, in my opinion, is a better one. Geek is smaller, faster and equal, if not better, in accuracy.

July 3, 2012 10:31 AM

Leo: Your recommendation for defrag must have an exception added: Defrag is NOT recommended for systems using SSD hard drives.

Very true.

July 3, 2012 11:15 AM

Why would you throw out Defraggler if it's more better than the inbuilt defrag? Is it too aggressive to cope with?

Mark J
July 3, 2012 1:00 PM

Leo didn't say "throw out" in the sense of to get rid of, he said it with the idea of throwing the example out to us to read.

July 3, 2012 8:51 PM

I'm one of those die-hard XP users and would like to know if Win 7 has something like CCleaner.
div class="leocomment">There is a disk cleanup utility, similar to what is in Windows XP. CCleaner also works in Windows 7.


Dave Markley
July 5, 2012 7:40 AM

I agree with Leo in using Defraggler (does a MUCH better job and can be scheduled to run automatically) and CCleaner. I never would recommend using any registry cleaner other than what is in CCleaner (it's 100%safe, unlike most others).

As far as uninstallers go, CCleaner has an excellent uninstaller built-in. It lists everything installed - Window's add/remove programs often does not.

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