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Switchblade: a free, portable troubleshooting toolkit

04 January 2013, Mike Williams

If you regularly find yourself helping to fix other people’s PC problems then you’ve probably already thought about creating a portable troubleshooting toolkit. And this needn’t take very long. Just copy something like the Sysinternals Suite to a USB stick, for instance, and you’ll be more than equipped to diagnose and resolve all kinds of issues.

And if you find you need to extend your troubleshooting capabilities even further, then you can always add another free toolkit or two. Switchblade is an excellent free example: just download the latest version, unzip it to your USB key and you’ll gain all kinds of useful features and functionality.

This can start very simply. If a PC is suffering from internet or network connectivity issues, for instance, then you may normally open a command line to run a few tests. No need here, though, as Switchblade’s “Network” box has various handy shortcuts. You can try pinging Google to confirm that the system is able to get online, for instance; list its network interfaces; renew or release the computer’s IP addresses, and a whole lot more.

Every Switchblade program and function is launched from a single screen

If your problems are more involved, though, Switchblade also bundles a range of free tools which may be able to help. So you can launch Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to check for infections; run Error Lookup to translate odd Windows error codes into meaningful text; or use RegShot to take and compare Registry snapshots, showing you whatever might have changed. And you also get copies of PuTTY, Notepad++, FileZilla, IObit Uninstaller, IObit Unlocker, UltraDefrag, DiskCleaner, TrueCrypt and Media Player Classic.

Still not enough? Switchblade also includes the installers for various programs. CCleaner and IObit’s Advanced System Care will help with maintenance issues, for instance; Microsoft Security Essentials adds more antivirus capabilities; and you’re also able to install Chrome, perhaps useful if you’re having problems with the system’s current browser.

And there’s more. You get buttons to back up and restore your drivers, for instance. Or grab event logs to your USB stuck for analysis later. Installing the K-Lite Codec pack could help to get some video file types playing, and there’s a set of useful links to, say, help you find and download the latest graphics drivers.

We found Switchblade’s selection of tools to sometimes be a little odd. UltraDefrag doesn’t really seem necessary, for instance (defragging is useful, but not usually something which requires this kind of emergency assistance). Apache Web Server probably isn’t something you’ll need to install very often, either: we’d rather have had Process Explorer or some other system monitoring tool.

Still, as we pointed out, you don’t have to live with these deficiencies. It’s easy to equip your USB stick with Sysinternals utilities, and whatever else you might like. And so, while Switchblade may not be enough on its own, the program does provide a host of useful troubleshooting tools and features, and if you regularly need to work on other people’s PCs then it’s worth a closer look.

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