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TECH REVIEW: Four essential laptop utilities

Imagine the worst things that could happen to your laptop. It gets stolen at LAX, and you haven't encrypted the details of a merger deal you're about to present. Your most personal e-mails will be exposed to the world via the Internet. Or you des...

Imagine the worst things that could happen to your laptop. It gets stolen at LAX, and you haven't encrypted the details of a merger deal you're about to present. Your most personal e-mails will be exposed to the world via the Internet. Or you desperately need a Wi-Fi connection but can't find one. Or you're flying over Denver on your way to Omaha, and your battery is already pooping out. When you get to Omaha, and an electrical outlet, you have to e-mail a gargantuan file, which will take precious minutes from a schedule that doesn't have them -- if the file even gets sent. If only you had loaded Laptop Utilities, a suite of programs for Windows laptops that addresses four of your worst fears.

It will find the closest Wi-Fi networks and hot spots and help you figure out if they're safe, help you get more computing time from your laptop's wimpy battery and encrypt your files so that only you have the key. It will also compress huge files, such as your expense account, so that you can send them by e-mail and not clog the information highway.

The battery optimizer works by shutting down features you don't really need, and it will give you an accurate assessment of how much time you have left. The battery optimizer will have dimmed your screen a bit and shut down a passel of processes that are battery hogs. (The battery optimizer will work in Windows Vista, but not XP or Windows 7.)

The encryption utility will let you password-protect everything from your expense account to your entire hard drive. You can set it for two levels, so that files meant to be shared can be opened, while your most confidential files can be protected. You can use it on that USB drive you carry around in your pocket, too. But woe unto you if you forget your passwords. There's no way of retrieving them.

All in all, four essential utilities for your laptop that do the job and won't break the bank.

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Laptop Utilities will run on Windows Vista and XP. To order, send $20, plus $6 for shipping, to WashingtonCD, PO Box 351531, Los Angeles, CA 90035, or online at www.washingtoncd.net .

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