Maximum PC



1. Microsoft PC Manager

Microsoft caused a stir in October 2022, when it quietly released a new PC clean-up tool called PC Manager through a Chinese website. The free app has since been added to the Microsoft Store (though its page is currently hidden) and now has an Englishlan­guage website ( pcmanager-en., and we expect it to be officially launched in the first half of the year. Although PC Manager is still at the ‘public beta’ stage, it already provides a fast and effective way to clean and speed up your computer. You can remove junk files and space hogs, disable unwanted startup items and background processes, and scan your PC for threats and driver updates.

The app is easy to use and integrates seamlessly with Windows 10 and 11 to perform clean-up tasks with a single click and reveal useful informatio­n about your system. This includes your current memory usage ( in our screenshot below left), how much storage you have available and how long your PC takes to start . PC Cleaner is worth downloadin­g now to try a simpler, if less sophistica­ted, alternativ­e to CCleaner and BleachBit. You may experience a few bugs, but Microsoft is regularly updating the app to fix reported problems.

When we tested PC Manager, we noted that ‘treats’ were found and there was a nagging suggestion to change our browser to Edge. In the latest beta version, this has been corrected to ‘threats’ and PC Cleaner now respects and protects your default browser. We can’t wait to see its first stable release. Be aware that some Windows users have experience­d problems when trying to install PC Manager—see our box below for potential fixes.

2. Hasleo Backup Suite 3

In sad news for users of Macrium Reflect Free—and we know that includes many MaximumP C readers—the excellent free backup program is being retired. Although you’ll still be able to use the current version of the software (Reflect 8 Free), it will no

longer be updated and won’t receive security fixes after 1 January 2024. This puts your backups at risk from vulnerabil­ities that could allow hackers to steal your files.

It also means it’s wise, if not essential, to find an alternativ­e backup solution this year. You may be familiar with Paragon’s ‘Backup & Recovery’ Free Edition ( www. paragon- free/ br-free/) and AOMEI Backupper Standard ( www., which are free versions of paid-for backup software with some features missing, but a new option to consider in the new year is Hasleo Backup Suite (­ware/backup-suite-free.html).

Free to use, with no options locked behind Upgrade buttons, version 3 (released in November 2022) provides everything you need to back up your hard drives, partitions, and the entire system, and now also lets you back up specific files and folders.

Hasleo Backup Suite 3 is easy to use— simply click New Backup on its home screen, choose System, Disk/Partition, or File Backup (see screenshot above), then select the relevant item(s) and backup destinatio­n, and click Proceed. You can secure your backups by encrypting them, compress your files to save space, and choose between full, incrementa­l, and differenti­al backups.

The software also lets you schedule your backups to run at the frequency and time of your choice, as well as offering a Clone tool for copying your current Windows installati­on to another PC.

3. Paint.NET 5

Packed with powerful tools and useful effects, Paint.NET has long been one of our favorite free image editors. But although it’s been updated many times over the years, the last major version (Paint.NET 4.0) was released in 2014 and since then, rival programs such as GIMP and PhotoDemon have lured users away.

So we’re excited that this year will see the arrival of Paint.NET 5, which is optimized for modern computers and current ways of working with graphics. In fact, if you don’t mind a few bugs, you can download an ‘alpha’ preview version right now (— click the ‘ zip’ link).

Paint.NET 5 switches to using your PC’s graphic processor to render images and perform most of its tasks. This makes it faster and more stable, improves picture quality and color accuracy, and also boosts battery life if you’re using it on your laptop.

There are plenty of new adjustment­s you can apply to your images, including Exposure, ‘Highlights & Shadows’ and ‘Temperatur­e & Tint’, and effects such as Straighten and Drop Shadow. We’re particular­ly looking forward to trying the new Bokeh effect, which lets you blur the background of photos while keeping the subject in focus. Previously, these options required you to install plug-ins.

Existing effects have been enhanced and Paint.NET has added ‘pressure sensitivit­y’ to let you write and draw with natural-looking brush strokes (see screenshot above right) using a stylus pen or graphics tablet. Expect even more features in the final release.

4. ChromeOS Flex

After 10 January 2023, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates or technical support for Windows 7 or 8.1 (support for Windows 7 ended in January 2020, but extended security updates were still available).

This means that if you have an old laptop running either of those operating systems, it’s no longer safe to use it to go online because it will be vulnerable to malware. Microsoft has stopped offering free upgrades from Windows 7 or 8.1 to Windows 10 or 11, but you can give your laptop a new lease of life by downloadin­g ChromeOS Flex.

This new operating system from Google effectivel­y turns a Windows PC or Mac into a Chromebook and works on most computers with at least 4GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a 64-bit processor. It gives you instant access to Google tools including Gmail, Drive, and YouTube, it’s simpler than Linux, more secure than Windows, and it’s free.

To set up ChromeOS Flex, you first need to install a Chromium extension called Chromebook Recovery Utility ( tinyurl. com/4xmjyfcc). This lets you create a bootable version of the operating system on an 8GB USB stick (see screenshot below left). If you need help, you can follow Google’s instructio­ns ( https://

Once you’ve successful­ly booted ChromeOS Flex, you can permanentl­y install it on your old laptop, which will wipe Windows and all your data, or continue running it from your USB stick. Choose the latter option first to ensure ChromeOS Flex connects to your home network and works properly then, if you’re happy with it, keep using it.

Check how long your device will be supported at

5. Bitwarden Free

Five years after it launched, the free password manager RememBear, from the company behind the TunnelBear VPN, will be discontinu­ed on 18 July 2023.

“By the time RememBear was released, many users had already found their password solution and switching to a new service was too much to ask,” the team said in a blog ( www.remembear. com/blog). But if you’re looking for a more secure and versatile way to manage your passwords than the password manager built into your browser, and don’t like the restrictio­ns imposed by LastPass on free accounts, Bitwarden Free ( www. is your best option.

Bitwarden had a good 2022, introducin­g useful features, such as the ability to generate unique usernames and create email aliases using services including Firefox Relay and DuckDuckGo Email Protection. It also added support for passwordle­ss logins through Touch ID, Windows Hello (see screenshot, below left), and other biometric methods. These make securing your accounts much easier and are set to become more widely used in 2023, while Bitwarden is certain to continue its innovative streak.

Bitwarden’s basic free plan gives you all the features you need to store and secure your passwords, payment card details, and identity informatio­n. You can sync your data across an unlimited number of devices using its desktop and mobile apps, browser extensions, and web vault and import details from other password managers, including your browser’s.

 ?? ?? Microsoft PC Manager is a new free way to clean and speed up your PC.
Microsoft PC Manager is a new free way to clean and speed up your PC.
 ?? ?? Hasleo Backup Suite lets you back up your system, hard drives, and specific files.
Hasleo Backup Suite lets you back up your system, hard drives, and specific files.
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 ?? ?? Paint.NET 5 adds plenty of new tools, including pressure sensitivit­y for stylus pens.
Paint.NET 5 adds plenty of new tools, including pressure sensitivit­y for stylus pens.
 ?? ?? Install ChromeOS Flex on a USB stick to turn an old laptop into a Chromebook.
Install ChromeOS Flex on a USB stick to turn an old laptop into a Chromebook.
 ?? ?? Bitwarden now supports password-free logins, which are set to be popular in 2023.
Bitwarden now supports password-free logins, which are set to be popular in 2023.
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