(NB These programs are free and available for download off the internet. I don't represent the companies nor individuals making them in any way; neither do I make money off their promotion. I'm just very grateful that they exist!)
1, CCleaner. My absolutely top pick is CCleaner. If I can ninja nothing else onto the computers of my family and friends, then I'll get CCleaner on there.
Here's how I described it to my Mum's friend yesterday: 'You know the gunk that acculumates behind the cooker? Well, something similar happens in your hard-drive, as you surf the net. CCleaner is the computer equivalent of bleach and a scouring pad for crap.' She seemed to get it then.
I installed and ran it for her. The program found 2GB of rubbish that was slowing down her computer. One click of a button deleted it and the effect on speeding things up was immediate.
CCleaner is developed by hard-core geeks. They know what's safe to remove and what is better left alone. Whatever is listed, after a scan, just delete. I have been using this program for years and I've never had any issues with it. Whenever my computer starts slowing down or chugging away, I run CCleaner. If that doesn't fix it, then I know I have a problem!
Speccy. If you do have a real problem, then Speccy is a great little program for finding out what's going on. It quickly analyses your hardware and not only tells you what is, and isn't, running normally, but also provides a very accurate temperature.
For those with little to no knowledge of what goes on inside their computer, then this is your way to sound very informed.
You can copy and paste what Speccy tells you, into forums or e-mails, so that your geek friends have the details to help you. It might save a bob or two down the repair shops, if your problem turns out to be something very simple.
Speccy was recommended to me by someone who works in a said repair shop. When a customer brings their computer in, this is the first program that he runs. He has it on a memory stick, so he can just plug it in and voila! Then he takes the repairs from there.
Crossloop. I love the people who made this program. If I could find them, I'd get down onto my knees and kiss their feet. They are my gods, my idols, my heroes. What is it? It's a way to remotely operate the computer of your clueless relative, who lives miles away.
Ever sat on the 'phone for an hour just trying to explain where the 'start' button is to your old Gran? Ever thought it might just be easier to get in the car and drive across the country to do it yourself? This program is your saviour!
Obviously getting it installed on their system in the first place is going to be an issue, but if you can wade through that, your troubles are over. You download it and they download it. You ask them to read the code for this session and you type that into your interface. They get a request for access and press yes.
Then they can go away and make a cup of tea, while you use your own computer to empty their recycle bin; or deal with the virus; or get their photographs off the camera's memory card; or set up their e-mail; or whatever else they've called you about.
At any time, they can click a prominent button to eject you from their system. At the end of the session, you (or they) break the connection between your computers. You can't get in again. You would need a brand new access code to start a new session.
This program has saved me hours of frustration; and saved the feelings of elderly relatives, who were humiliated by their own lack of understanding. The makers deserve a medal.
So those are my three geek programs that I wouldn't do without. You're very welcome. <3