Apps for smartphones and the iPad have stolen most of the thunder away from PC programs. And with good reason because that’s where most of the excitement is these days. Had someone told me a year ago that I’d migrate a third of my PC usage over to the iPad I would have called them insane.
But even with all the iPad excitement many of us still rely on a Windows PC for at least a portion of our computing needs. I still prefer to browse the web, write and listen to music on my PC. Sure, I can do all that on my iPad, but I still enjoy sitting in front of two large monitors when I’m juggling a few tasks.
This time of year, I’m often asked to take a look at a computer that’s been giving a friend fits. The question I hear most is, “Can you fix my computer or determine if I’d be better off buying a new one?”
That’s not always an easy question to answer because it requires asking a number of follow-up questions. Often I see a newer computer that has been taken over by children who bring it to its knees by installing toolbars, P2P apps, plugins, and a bunch of other performance killing junk. The state of software is such that crapware often piggybacks onto legitimate software, and you end up with a lot more than that irresistible free game.
Even Apple pulls this stunt by trying to get you install their Safari browser at the same time you install a new version of iTunes. And it gets worse when that unwelcome software changes your default browser, search engine and media player.
Installing PC software today is risky business. Although I’ve moved some of my work to the web through the use of Gmail and Google Docs, which decreases the amount of software on my PC, I still rely on a number of programs to keep my PC running smoothly.
So if you end up with a new PC under your tree on Christmas morning, he’s my list of software that I install on each PC I own. I highly recommend upgrading to Windows 7 if you haven’t already.
1. Windows Update – I run this before I install anything. This will install any new drivers and update some software for you. This could take a while if your new PC was sitting in a warehouse for months. Technically not a program you can download, but important nonetheless.
2. Firefox or Chrome – Launch Internet Explorer and download yourself a much better browser. Then close Internet Explorer and you’ll never need to run it again. I switch between Firefox and Chrome, and both work well. (free)
3. Microsoft Security Essentials – There’s no need to pay for anti-virus software because this free program works great and won’t slow down your system like Norton and others will. If you’re running McAfee or Norton my suggestion is to uninstall them before installing Security Essentials. (free)
4. Threatfire – Picks up where your antivirus leaves off by protecting your PC against malicious behavior from bugs your antivirus program doesn’t yet know about. I’ve used Threatfire in conjunction with Security Essentials for nearly five years without a single infestation. (free)
5. CCleaner – Wipes your PC of temporary internet files and old registry entries. You won’t believe all the junk it cleans off your system the first time you run it. I run this each week. (free)
6. FileHippo – This nifty utility will help you update all the software on your PC that Windows Update skips right over. I prefer to ignore the beta updates and only installed the released updates it finds. (free)
7. Dropbox – Dropbox allows me to sync important files to the cloud as well as other PCs, my iPhone and iPad. So simple and elegant I can’t imagine computing without it. (free for 2GB)
8. GFI Backup – I’ve tried so many backup utilities over the years. Most have been an exercise in frustration. But GFI is different. A simple step-by-step wizard walks me through the process of backing up my music, photos and videos to a backup USB drive. I use Dropbox to sync files I need access to on my my devices, but I use GFI to backup my large collections to an removable drive. (free Home edition)
I have more software than this on my system, but these are the programs I install on every PC in our home. And they are the set of software I suggest to others when I’m asked to assist in setting up a new computer.
What programs or utilities do you install on a new PC?