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Specifically, I'm interested in knowing what tools you keep loaded on your thumb drive when asked to deal with a family member or friend's personal computer issue? Off the top of my head, I can think of things like:

  • AVG
  • Advanced WindowsCare
  • SpyBot
  • etc.

...but this question is not necessarily limited to virus/malware/spyware issues.

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7 Answers 7

up vote 76 down vote accepted

So, here is my list:

Note: feel free to add your tools to my list. If it's an alternative, please don't replace mine, add a sub-list started by "alt:" and say why do you prefer this one.

Boot-cd/usb key

  • Ubcd4win create a (custom) live cd that contains software used for repairing, restoring, or diagnosing almost any computer problem.
    • alt: Microsoft Emergency Repair Disk: a system rescue disk PE environment with advanced recovery tools like resetting passwords, hard drive repair, offline registry editing, file explorer, command prompt, etc. Only available to Software Assurance and MSDN subscribers, as part of the Desktop Optimization Pack. If you're a student, may be available to you through MSDNAA.
  • Offline NT Password & Registry Editor reset windows password
    • alt: Ophcrack (sort-of) brute-force windows password (if they are EFS encrypted files)
  • CloneZilla disk imaging backup
  • GParted partition editor
  • Stresslinux minimal linux with tools to monitoring hardware health: stress, cpuburn, hddtemp, lm_sensors, memtest86+, ...
    • alt: Memtest86+ RAM tester (don't need command line)
  • Hard Drive Manufacturers diagnostic tools: fujitsu / hitachi / samsung / western digital / seagate (maxtor)
  • Spinrite low level hard disk recovery (89$)

Kits

  • Sysinternals suite (1=included in this suite) a great set of tools by Sysinternals (so great that MS bought them)
  • NirLauncher (2=included in this suite) another great set of tools by NirSoft integrated in a launcher (that could be used easily with sysinternals suite too)
  • GnuWin32 port of the most important GNU utilities to Windows (command-line)

Remote control

  • Teamviewer all-in-one solution for remote access and support over the Internet. Easy (don't have to open ports on firewall/router), secure, and full featured.
    • alt: UltraVNC: less convenient but open source and free even in a professional environment

Anti-malware

Startup Tools

  • Autoruns(1) the most comprehensive knowledge of auto-starting locations of any startup monitor
    • alt: RunAlyzer edit an external registry hive (used easily from a boot cd)

Process Tools

  • Process Explorer(1) detailed process, handles & dll informations
  • Process Monitor(1) real-time file system, registry and process/thread activity
  • Svchost analyzer lists all svchost instances and checks the services they contain

Registry Tools

Backup Tools

File Tools

Disk Tools

Hardware Tools

Drivers Tools

Cleaning Tools

  • RevoUninstaller uninstaller that help to remove leftovers (without the need of monitoring install)
  • CCleaner remove unused and temporary files
  • PC Decrapifier remove or uninstall a specific list of unwanted software
  • JavaRa removes old and redundant versions of the Java Runtime Environment

Network Tools

  • NetWorx bandwidth meter
    • alt: NetMeter the live graph looks better but is a little less featured and have some instabilities on w7
  • NetResView(2) lists all network resources (computers, disk shares, and printer shares) on your LAN
  • CurrPorts(2) lists all currently opened TCP/IP and UDP ports and the processes that opened them
  • AS3 Personal Firewall portable firewall
  • eToolz gui for NS-Lookup, Ping, TraceRoute and Whois
  • Performance Pinging graph ping
  • Wireshark network protocol analyzer
  • Secunia PSI vulnerability scanning
  • SG TCP Optimizer (XP) (re)set & optimize tcp parameters

Misc

And some other essential tools, but not directly related, like notepad++, autohotkey, firefox (and its bookmarks)...

Most of these tools are portable and free (at least for personal use) and yes it's only the essentials one ;)

And if you want more security related software: Gizmo's Best Free Security List (by Antti Koponen)

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Great list :) I think it's ENOUGH –  nXqd Feb 14 '10 at 8:12
    
Does WhyReboot work properly with Windows 7? –  galacticninja Dec 28 '10 at 8:32
    
@galacticninja, yes, the registry key where it is stored has not changed. I use MoveLater for this purpose because it lets me see, edit, and clear the list. –  Synetech Oct 16 '11 at 18:25

A Live Linux CD.

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I have the entire Sysinternals free toolset on my utility USB drive. CPU-Z is excellent for getting a good handle on the hardware specs, particularly for knowing what motherboard they have (for obtaining drivers) and what the RAM configuration is.

I also have a half-dozen good, free anti-malware programs.

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You might also be interested in aida32 & astra32. –  Joe Internet Jan 20 '10 at 20:54

The Internet.

And possibly Ultimate Boot CD.

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Hiren's Boot CD is a good one too –  Chris McGrath Feb 18 '10 at 7:54

Nirsoft's tools. Nearly all of them, but especially things to grab passwords like MailPassView.

ComboFix is a good all-purpose utility for knocking out a whole swath of malware. It's updated VERY frequently, however, so be sure your stick is always up-to-date.

SuperAntiSpyware, especially the portable one which has been getting good reviews of late.

I'd say an installer for some freeware antivirus product like Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast, etc.

HiJackThis (Trend's version).

I'd also put a couple of bootable CDs in your bag to reset/blank passwords and MemTestx86. Look around for the best suite that has the tools you want.

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I often carry a USB hard drive with a Debian installation equipped with many utilites and a PartedMagic CD (mine set of tools is really almost identical to PM's, but in older PartedMagic images there were no manpages, Internet browser or WiFi support, now it is much more powerful).

Also SysInternals' tools are best for tweaking and debugging Windows problems, and AVZ antimalware checker (from one of Kaspersky's employees) has very good tools, especially for user and kernel mode rootkit detection.

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A CD of Ubuntu or Knoppix along with a copy of avast and spybot will tell the tale most of the time.

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