As fun as it is to rip on Microsoft for the mistakes it has made - and continues to make - with Windows, the truth is that Windows is an amazing achievement.
It runs - successfully - on more than a billion computers that vary wildly in specs and age. It supports endless third-party add-ons from basic mice, keyboards, scanners and printers to high-end graphics tablets, audio hardware and video hardware.
Windows works equally well for students, gamers, web junkies, graphic artists, Fortune 500 companies, startup companies and just about any other person or situation you can think of.
Obviously, with that kind of scope it can't be perfect for everyone - or even anyone. Still, for most people "good enough" is ... well ... good enough.
But there are some areas where you don't have to settle for "good enough." These third-party tools fix some of Windows' most glaring annoyances.
Copying files is a critical feature of Windows, but for some reason, it's always been terrible. If you've ever tried to copy hundreds of files at once, I'm sure you know exactly what I mean.
The file copy takes forever, so you go do something else while you wait for it to finish. After a few hours, you come back only to find that there was an error with one file, and Windows has just been sitting there doing nothing the whole time.
Windows 8 finally - FINALLY! - has decent file copying. It's faster, ignores problem files and lets you pause copying if you have to do something else with the computer.
Of course, you can get these same features in Windows Vista and 7 with the popular TeraCopy. Just install it and it integrates with Windows Explorer to take over copying when appropriate.
Windows on its own is actually reasonably stable, but not every third-party program agrees with it. When you're trying to track down what program is making Windows unstable, it can be a chore and a half.
It doesn't help that Windows' built-in Task Manager doesn't label things well. Even if you find the offending process you don't know what program is using it.
Process Explorer does a much better job of telling you what's what. Click here to learn how to use it to troubleshoot Windows problems.
Uninstalling programs with Windows' built-in uninstaller is sometimes harder than it should be. The uninstalled program might leave behind unwanted icons, folders, context menu entries or just refuse to uninstall.
Revo Uninstaller goes deeper to get rid of everything when you uninstall a program. No icons, folders, registry entries or anything else are left behind.
Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 10 make it easy to find specific files with a computer-wide search. But tracking down files based on size is another matter. If you need to know what file or folder is hogging your drive space, prepare for a lot of trial and error.
Or you can grab WinDirStat. It shows you a graphical breakdown of your file and folder sizes. You can see at a glance what is taking up space. From there, you can delete it or move it to another drive.
One of the first programs I install on any Windows or Mac computer - after security software of course - is F.lux. This lightweight program adjusts the tint of your monitor based on the time of day.
At night, F.lux shifts your monitor from the usual white light to a reddish tint. White light tricks your brain into thinking it is still daytime, while red light signals that it's night.
That means less eye strain and a better night's sleep. As someone who uses the computer both day and night, it's an essential tweak.