- Revo Uninstaller: To remove programs, but perhaps more importantly, to nuke junk that auto-starts (click Tools, then the traffic-light icon). Does a nice job of removing the extra junk that inconsiderate programs leave behind.
- Ccleaner: To clean up trash on the hard drive and registry. I make sure to uncheck cookies for the cleanup in all my browsers. Longer-term, I will probably mark the cookies I care about as safe and let it nuke the rest. Then I run the registry cleanup repeatedly until it doesn't find anything any more.
- Microsoft Security Essentials (antivirus): Free, highly rated, low-resource, no hassle. Time will still tell, but so far, so good. I've always thought that Microsoft should be the one responsible for protecting their own operating system.
- MyDefrag: The "Weekly" script rocks. I don't run it weekly, but it's amazing what a mess Windows makes of its drive. It's like an animal soiling it's cage. MyDefrag really helps boot times. I'm very impressed. Note: I do not like the "Monthly" script at all. Sorting files in name and directory order seems like a total waste of time and disk-life to me.
- sdelete: A command-line utility from Microsoft that zeros out unused disk space. This is nice for security reasons, but I use it to keep my virtual disk images really small. I run "sdelete -c C:" Then in Linux, "VBoxManage modifyhd
- cygwin: A Linux command-line emulator for Windows. I wouldn't live without it, but people wouldn't have a need for it.
The above programs have helped me tame the most clogged-with-crapware systems and make them secure and responsive again.
If someone told me that once I ran Linux, I'd think nothing of running several Microsoft operating systems, I would have laughed. But Windows works great in a VM. It's a fun toy when you don't have to rely on it to do anything useful. I use one VM for IE6 (for testing) and the other for IE8 (for programs that don't have Linux equivalents). Both are running Windows XP SP3. A Windows 7 VM is probably in my future.