Software Recommendations

This page is not a comprehensive list of everything that needs to be in your Software Toolkit or every tool you might ever need. (GeGeek has a good categorized list of apps that covers that territory.) This list is a rundown of the apps that get the meat and potatoes of your work done the best, apps that I just like using, and apps I find interesting or impressive. As a group these apps have my bases covered with a good amount of overlapping features in case one can’t get the job done.

1. Antivirus Removers

Whether you are onboarding new clients or just cleaning up solo systems, you’ll encounter a variety of malfunctioning, half-uninstalled, or password-locked Antivirus software, and also Antivirus software hidden from the Add/Remove Programs Control Panel. So before you roll out your MSP-managed AV solution, you need to get these old AV programs cleanly out.

Here’s a list of the uninstallers for the five Antivirus software packages.

2. Carbon Copy Cloner

If you service Macs or use them internally, Mike Bombich’s classic app is still a must, and it’s completely current for macOS Catalina. The license is clear, affordable, and liberal.

For internal use, the scheduling feature is great, but for the most part CCC is a must for easily snapshotting, upgrading, or migrating Mac disks. I’ve been using it happily for over a decade and it’s been great version-to-version from day one.

3. Drive Snapshot

I’ve also been using Tom Ehlert’s Drive Snapshot for even longer than CCC—since 2007—and I’m just as happy with it as I am with CCC on the Mac. It’s super tiny (under a megabyte!), uses very little ram, and is widely compatible through Windows versions, raid configurations, and file systems. You can make images while Windows is running, encrypt images, generate hashes, and mount an image as a virtual drive, but the best feature is the command line interface by which you can easily run automation tasks of image backups.

Alternatively, Image for Windows from TeraByte Unlimited is also great.

4. Emergency Boot Kit

One of several Kits/Compilations on this list, I got this kit mostly for resetting windows passwords, backing up files from an unbootable system to a USB key (without having to pop the drive out), and to have a solid partition manager that runs outside of Windows.

5. Flashboot

There are other ways of making USB Windows installers and bootable Windows USB drives, but at $30 there’s value in the convenience of this neat app. It’ll not only make the aforementioned drives from ISOs, but it can also clone an existing install.

Finally, it’s handy for making/restoring images to USB drives, and they even threw in the ability to make self-extracting executables with your own content. It’s really a one-stop-shop for USB bootables and installers.

6. Free Anti-Malware

Despite your intentions as an MSP supporting businesses, once and a while you’ll end up working on home and otherwise unmanaged systems, in which case your RMM Antivirus won’t be of help. Have a CD with a few basics for such a case.

7. Windows Installer

Keeping USB Installers of the latest versions of the Operating Systems you service is a must. Whether you make it with FlashBoot (see above) or the Windows Media Creation Tool, a Windows Installer is a must for being able quickly to install and update Windows 10 as well as run various Windows Recovery Tools.

N.B. Don’t get stingy when getting a USB drive for this purpose. Get a USB 3 one with fast storage. Yes, some of the storage will probably go to waste since the Windows Installer only needs a few gigabytes, but the small capacity cheap USB drives are often pretty slow.

8. MiniTool Partition Wizard

The MiniTool Partition Wizard is my go-to Partition Management Software. It’s not because it has a Windows GUI or even any particular unique features you won’t find among other programs on this list. It’s because it has the best track record. MiniTool Partition Wizard has never failed me, and pretty much every other tool has somehow at some time failed copying, gotten stuck, encountered errors, or otherwise flaked out.

9. SpinRite

I bought SpinRite in 2008 and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve used it to recover data from bad sectors on drives. It’s also kept many drives working for me for many years, without ever needing to be reformatted. In a nutshell, it works at both recovery and maintenance by tenaciously and variously reading and re-writing data. This not only recovers data but helps maintain drives by helping them map out bad sectors so they are not used. There’s nothing else like SpinRite for recovery and maintenance.

10. Trinity Rescue Kit

This toolkit is a Live Linux CD, and my favorite thing about it is that all of its enormous amount of commands are documented in one place on the distribution’s website, which means if I have a very particular task I can just search the documentation, boot up the CD, and run the command. No fussing through menus and wizards.

11. Ultimate Boot CD

A lot of the tools here are not my favorites and a lot I haven’t used, but there are so many and it’s free. And since it’s free I don’t mind leaving it onsite running somewhere if I can’t take the system with me. I even leave copies with certain clients who are outside driving distance and whom I can walk through procedures.

12. Sysinternals Suite

Sysinternals’ apps were essential well before Microsoft acquired them in 2006 and they fill in a lot of missing diagnostic features in Windows’ built-in tools. They’re free, small, and go a long way toward quickly figuring out what’s going on when things are wonky, so there’s no reason not to have them on all of your systems.