I lieu of the shortage of hardware news to cover before Computex, how about some housekeeping? As a “tech” user, one might frequently find themselves in the position of solving some mild to moderate PC problems from time to time; especially when you hang out with people who are more hardware illiterate about common problems that one can face when using a PC.

Here is the top 5 software I carry around in my USB just for the purposes of diagnosing a PC.

1) Testdisk/PhotoRec

I’m going to start with my favourite of the bunch; your aunt/uncle/grandma/friend/acquaintance is simply just too cheap to pay a professional to recover their data from a storage device and asks you if you can help. Usually you’ll say no, but in the even if you do say yes then there is no better Windows alternative to data recovery much like Testdisk.

Testdisk makes quick work of fixing common Hard Disk problems such as a corrupt MBR and partition file and even comes in some very handy variations in the kind of data you want to save. If photos and videos are the important things you want to save, then PhotoRec is the variant you want to use as it will only search for data that has the video/photo extension format.

I find that with this software in particular, you’ll always be able to recover some amount of data from failing storage unlike other third-party solutions like Recuva. Although this is on a pre-tense that you’re not experiencing a complete hardware failure as the minimum condition to get this software to work is that the storage is still detected by Windows itself.

Best of all, it’s free! (I would encourage you to donate to the author nonetheless, as this software is kickass)

Do note that this software has moderate learning curve as you are stuck with using a CLI (command-line interface) that is sometimes not very clear in terms of presentation.

I would recommend advanced users to try out ddrescue on Linux as that is the more powerful and versatile option of the two.

2) Throttlestop

Need a one-stop solution for tweaking/monitoring? Throttlestop has you covered. Not only is it easy to use with plenty of guides, none of the changes are permanent on boot (unless you set it so) which prevents inexperienced users from causing damage to their system.

I find this very helpful when it comes to troubleshooting laptops as I can monitor the general performance metrics that affects how fast the system is currently running. Namely, older laptops that are not well taken care of have the habit of suffering from thermal issues as the unit might rarely be cleaned; simple, easy to read thermal monitoring will help in this case.

3) CCleaner

Ever need to do actual housekeeping on your PC? CCleaner is the one-button solution that does the grunt work for you. Not only does it clear out minor registry errors easily, all manners of temporary file storage can be cleaned if you configure it to do so.

A must-have software for those that rarely do due diligence in freeing up additional space for their PC.

4) Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Much like CCleaner, another no-brainer option but for viruses and malware. Scans and cleans your PC with no fuss required from your part. It could also double as a firewall if you want to configure it as such.

5) MSI Afterburner/Riva Tuner

“I’m lagging in my games and I don’t know what’s causing it” is also another common problem that is echoed by PC gamers alike. Honestly, I wouldn’t know either. A ghost in the machine perhaps? Maybe your machine is compelling you to stop wasting time and get back to more productive things like work or study.

But for people who actually want to game, monitoring statistics is the first step in any troubleshooting process. These set of software provides all the essential data you would need on your journey for maximum performance.

But wait there’s more!

6) Lightweight Testing Programs

To my readers, I always go one step beyond; So, I’d also recommend any kind of lightweight testing software that is optimized for portability i.e. small in size but very useful. Software that is usually not under the realm of benchmarks, but is used as a gage on performance for troubleshooting purposes.

Things like HDTune that not only checks for performance, but also enables checks to partition damage for Hard Disks. Things like Memtest98, which is a good-enough indicator that checks for memory stability in your system. Things like Furmark/Cinebench that checks for instability of the GPU/CPU under high-stress situations, that sort of thing. You get the idea.

Chia is the horse-author from the far flung year of 2153. While not grazing on grass pastures or reviewing old time-y games and technology from the early 21st century pretending to not know what comes next (as to not disturb the space-time continuum), he can be seen exchanging vast quantities of Earth currency for parts needed to fix his damaged space ship.