We could all use some computer help from time to time, whether it be with email, instant messaging or internet security. We've put together the best 14 software downloads. We've got a universal messenger, a way to troubleshoot email problems, and programs to keep yourself safe. These are the software tools that come to the rescue. And best of all, most of them are free.

General networking and internet tools

Need to troubleshoot your network, manage your downloads, get a free alternative to the bloated Adobe Reader..? Here's where to go:


The simplest of all internet tools is the humble ping command, which lets you use the command prompt to contact a website and see if it is alive and responds to your ping request. It also resolves host names to IP addresses, in other words, if you issue the command ping www.techadvisor.co.uk, it will tell you the site's associated IP address. And it also tells you the speed of the connection and response.

The free PingInfoView makes the simple ping command a lot more useful. It lets you ping multiple websites simultaneously, will ping the sites on any schedule you set, and displays the results in a graphical interface, rather than in a command prompt.

Is this an earth-shaking tool? Certainly not. But if you use ping at all, you'll find it a useful, worthy alternative.

VisualRoute 2008 Lite

Here's another update of a venerable command line internet tool, tracert. The command line tool displays the route you take to contact a web server or other internet device - every hop on every server or router along the way, plus the server's or router's IP address, and how long it takes to get to each one.

VisualRoute 2008 Lite displays all that in a visually appealing way, not just through the command line. It shows a map of every hop, and graphs it against a background that shows response times. Highlight any hop, and you'll see important details, such as packet loss and speed.

In addition, the program displays a narrative of the route, detailing whether the route has fast, average or slow throughput, and highlighting any problems.

This version of VisualRoute is free, but a variety of for-pay versions are also available, with many extra features that display the network names of devices, test DNS services, and more.

NEXT PAGE: Foxit Reader and Advanced LAN Scanner

  1. Downloads to help you with your online life
  2. Foxit Reader and Advanced LAN Scanner
  3. More downloads to help you solve problems online
  4. Downloads to make email and IM easier
  5. Digsby and SMTP diagnostics
  6. Free security downloads