19 August 2007

#34. Cool Tools for Hot Days

I’m glad you have stepped through the swinging screen door into the Tool Bar & Grill (air conditioned for your comfort) to cool down in these dog days of August. Summer is the time for eating light, and in that spirit, the specials du jour are short reviews of charming little utilities that you might find useful. (Apologies for being so Northern Hemisphere-centric; old habits are especially hard to break when the heat has boiled your brain.)


It happens almost every day. You want to remove a USB flash disk, and Windows stops you with its tired old “The device cannot be stopped right now. Try stopping the device again later.” Or you try to rename or copy or delete a file and Windows balks – the file is in use by another program, or there has been a sharing violation, or access is denied....

This is Windows’ way of preventing you from trashing a disk or file as it is being written. But sometimes you are mystified about what program could be locking your device or file. You close every program and still Windows stubbornly refuses to let you grab your flash disk and dash out of the office. What to do?

Install Unlocker from http://ccollomb.free.fr/unlocker/#download. This dandy freebie opens any Windows lock. Usually, you need only to right-click the locked file or folder, choose Unlocker, and then click Unlock in the Unlocker window.

Use Unlocker with care, of course, to avoid damaging your files. Unlocker is free, but as always, I encourage you to donate money to the author if you benefit from the program (see the PayPal link on the Web site).

System Information for Windows

Here’s a little utility that lives up to its name. SIW tells you more than you ever thought you could know about your system’s software, hardware, and connections. All the components are listed in the tree frame at the left, with details in the properties frame to the right. You can create reports in several formats.

There are lots of other good system information utilities out there, offering functionality way beyond the basic Windows tools. But SIW provides more detailed information than any other I’ve seen. Better yet, it needs no installation, so you can run it from a flash drive, CD, or even floppy diskette. When I recently considered buying several used computers, SIW was indispensable in my evaluation and negotiations.

A new version of SIW was released last month, including Vista support. You can get it absolutely free at http://www.gtopala.com, and again, donations are encouraged.


No, this is not an aid to religious proselytism. Convert is a small program that converts just about anything to anything else. For example, it tells me that my 19 cu.ft. refrigerator holds 538 liters (see below), and that 98.6°F equals 37°C. Just look at the tabs to see all the types of measurements you can convert:

Convert is not the only program of its type, and you can find Web sites providing similar information. But Convert is thorough, easy to use, and instantly available any time. Download it from http://joshmadison.com/software/convert, and don’t forget to reward the author.

That wraps up another refreshing break at the Tool Bar & Grill. You can comment below or write to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com. If you find this blog useful, do please tell all your friends. Y’all come back and see us again real soon now, hear?


  1. Dear Jonathan,
    Once again, your blog was reader friendly and very informative. I look foward to them every week! Thank you so much! I'de love to take you out for dinner sometime...

  2. Thank you, Louise, for your flattering comment about my blog. I hope you find it useful every week. And I would love you to take me out to dinner, and to give you an opportunity to express your appreciation for my blog in person. However, we must be discreet, as I already have a wonderful girlfriend (coincidentally, also named Louise). I eagerly await your invitation to a secret rendezvous!