We all use some obscure Windows utilities that we couldn’t do without every
day but that hardly anyone knows…  Here are some of the programs that are
installed on every single Windows machine I own:

Xplorer2 

The Windows File Explorer is laughably mediocre, starting with the fact that
it doesn’t even offer a two-view pane (not shown in the screenshot below) and makes it very hard to achieve the
simplest things.  Xplorer2 to the rescue.  It’s a free file explorer
that allows lightning-fast file manipulations, especially if you like keyboard
shortcuts.  Every little feature of this program shines with optimization
and it’s clear that the author is an efficiency nut.  My favorite features
are:  hold ALT to execute the action in the other pane (such as ALT-click
to open a folder in the other pane) and F8 to create a directory.  It comes
with a "quick" HTML help file (which is still several pages long and is a
must-read) and a real user manual.  It comes in a "lite" (free) and pro
(commercial) version.

StartupMonitor

With the increasing threat posed by AdWare and viruses, I have become a bit
paranoid about what’s happening with my computer.  StartupMonitor is a
lightweight program that informs you whenever a program is trying to register
itself at start-up and gives you the opportunity to deny the change.  Since
this is a relatively obscure utility, it’s quite likely that viruses and MalWare
won’t bother checking for its presence, so it makes me feel safer.  Note
that SpyBot S&D
contains a similar utility called TeaTimer.



ProcessExplorer

Written by the good people at Sys-Internals, this is a souped up task manager that lets you not only inspect which tasks are
running and how much resources they consume, it’s also more effective that the
Task Manager at killing certain tasks, it shows you the launch hierarchy of your
tasks and, most importantly, allows you to determine which process locks a
certain file (very handy when you are trying to delete such a file and Windows
tells you it is being locked by "a" process).

Finally, I am currently playing with
Rock-It Launcher
in a quest to find a universal keyboard-based application
launcher.  The probleme here is that the most important applications I use
have an icon in the QuickLaunch bar, but not all of them, and sometimes, I just
forget where they are stored.  I need a launcher that will let me type a
few letters belong to this application and will automatically find it and launch
it for me.  Rock-It Launcher does a decent job at that but I once used a
different program that had a more friendly GUI.  If you have suggestions,
please let me know…