Toolbox: New Products for IT Professionals

This month’s tools cover a variety of file management tasks, from organizing your desktop and unlocking files to copying files from Linux disks.

Greg Steen


Organization leads to efficiency. If your Windows desktop is cluttered with icons, one tool that can help you get organized and work more efficiently is Fences from Stardock Corp. Fences lets you group your icons into titled, shaded regions on your desktop. This gives you easy access to your most frequently used programs, documents, shortcuts and folders. You can create a “fence” for your day-to-day operations documents or for specific presentations and meetings.

Creating a Fence is as easy as right-clicking on your desktop and dragging to create a box of the size of fence you wish to create. Then select “Create new Fence here” when you release the mouse button. Then title your fence and drag the desired icons from the desktop into that shaded region. You can rename or remove fences just as easily.

There are a number of options you can tweak with Fences to help you get the look and feel that best suits you. You can change the background style and color with sliders for transparency, color intensity, tint and saturation. You can have labels auto-hide, show always or never show. You can also change the label text color, outline fences and fade out scrollbars when inactive.

To organize the layout of your fences on the desktop, you have a number of preset options you can preview and apply within the configuration panel. Within those layouts, you can also order your fences as you wish. You can stick with your own custom layout and positioning as you create your fence set. Fences will also automatically scale to your screen resolution and preserve that layout.

Fences lets you save snapshots (or backups) of your fences so you can easily toggle between sets of fences or revert back to a known good state if you somehow need to undo changes. Fences also has a cool “Quick-Hide” feature where you can double-click an open space on your desktop to hide all the icons and fences. To restore them, simply double-click the desktop again. You can also configure Fences to exclude certain icons and fences from the Quick-Hide feature. This is another useful option for presentations or to simply clear the clutter from your workspace so you see only the essentials.

The Fences utility is free to use for both personal and commercial environments on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 machines. It supports both 32-bit and 64-bit editions of Windows Vista and Windows 7. Fences Pro sells for $19.95 and adds several features. You specify a default fence to which all new icons will be assigned. This is great for quick access to recent downloads, documents and installations.

With the Pro version, you can also sort your fences by the targets attributes, much like you can within Windows Explorer. You also get “fading fences.” This makes your fences only partially visible until you mouse over them, so the fences don’t “take over” your desktop view. All in all, Fences from Stardock is a useful tool to help keep your desktop and yourself organized.



Locked files can be a real pain, whatever the cause. Some application crashes leave a file handle open, which prevents you from deleting that file. Perhaps some process is hung up because it can’t access a file.

One quick, easy-to-use tool to help you discover which processes have locks on which files is LockHunter from Crystal Rich Ltd. You can use LockHunter to see what processes are locking files or folders and you can unlock, delete, copy or rename those files. You can kill the process locking the file, remove the process executor from your hard drive or even unload DLLs from processes. Currently, LockHunter supports both 32- and 64-bit Windows systems.

LockHunter integrates into Windows Explorer, so you can simply right-click on a file to see who established a lock. LockHunter works on both files and folders. Pick a folder, and you’ll see all the processes and what files they have locked for that folder and its subfolders. For example, you could target your system drive’s root folder to see all the locks on that drive.

To take action on a lock, expand the process tree, click on the file, and then click the big buttons to unlock and delete, unlock and rename, unlock and copy, close the locking process or even delete the offending process from the disk. If you delete something, LockHunter will dump the file into the Recycle Bin for easy restoration if you need to reconsider. The free LockHunter utility is well worth consideration for your IT toolbox.


DiskInternals Linux Reader

Have you ever needed to pull files off a drive formatted with the EXT2 or EXT3 file system over to your Windows desktop? For example, you may have wanted to copy files from a Linux installation or try to recover files from a drive in a Linux-based Network-Attached Storage (NAS). One free tool out there that lets you move files and remain within Windows is DiskInternals Linux Reader.

DiskInternals Linux Reader, as the name suggests, gives you read-only access to EXT2 and EXT3 file systems on drives within the current system. You can take a hard drive from a Linux system, put it in your external eSATA drive carriage, launch the Linux Reader and pull files from that disk onto your desktop. You can also mount virtual disk images with DiskInternals Linux Reader. This is good for copying files from your virtual machines to your local machine. Linux Reader supports VMware (VMDK), VirtualPC (VHD), VirtualBox (VDI) and Parallels (HDS) virtual disk container formats.

When you launch DiskInternals Linux Reader, you’ll see a list of all logical drives, physical disks and disk containers (virtual disk images) detected on the system. You can then browse the target system or use the system file search to find the file or files you want to bring over to your Windows system. Click on a file to preview its contents before copying.

You can’t simply drag and drop files from the target drive to your local system. To export (or save) files to your local Windows system, select a folder, file or set of files, and then right-click and choose Save. This brings up the Export Wizard dialog. Here you pick an output folder and choose to save the directory structure or just take all the files over to your computer. The dialog nicely aggregates all files and shows you the file size so you can easily see everything you’re about to copy from the target system. Clicking Finish performs the actual copy. The Recovery List feature lets you build up a queue of files and folders to copy so you don’t have to go through the Export Wizard repeatedly.

DiskInternals Linux Reader gets the job done, letting you copy and recover files from EXT2 and EXT3 drives to your Windows system—and it’s free.

DiskInternals Linux Reader

Greg Steen

Greg Steen is a technology professional, entrepreneur and enthusiast. He’s always on the hunt for new tools to help make operations, QA and development easier for the IT professional.