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getting a new computerSo you’ve just got a new computer and you’re ready to dive into installing all of your favorite programs – great! But you should understand that this isn’t the first thing you should do. In the two prior articles of this series we covered how to have a seamless transition from your old PC to your new one, and what you must do before you start “using” it. However, in both of those articles the topic of installing or using programs is mentioned, so the concept in this article is somewhat intertwined throughout those prior articles as well.

In the first article, How To Transition From Your Old PC To Your New One Getting a New Computer, Part 1: How to Transition From Your Old PC to Your New One Getting a New Computer, Part 1: How to Transition From Your Old PC to Your New One Ahhh! The joy of a new computer! An opportunity to start fresh and leave all the worries of your slow, dusty, old computer in the past. However, whether you've just purchased a new computer or... Read More , the tip of exporting your list of applications with a program like CCleaner is mentioned. It’s also mentioned that this is the perfect time to weed out any programs you really don’t need. In the second article, Things You Must Do Before Starting To Use It Getting A New Computer, Part 2: Things You Must Do Before Starting To Use It Getting A New Computer, Part 2: Things You Must Do Before Starting To Use It The first thing you probably want to do when you get that new computer is jump right into using it. But hold on! There are some things that you must do and take care of... Read More , the topic of uninstalling bloatware is covered. To do this best, it’s recommended to use a third-party program, such as PC Decrapifier, Revo Uninstaller Revo Uninstaller Will Hunt Down Your Bloatware Revo Uninstaller Will Hunt Down Your Bloatware Read More or Geek Uninstaller GeekUninstaller Will Uninstall Programs You Thought You Couldn't [Windows] GeekUninstaller Will Uninstall Programs You Thought You Couldn't [Windows] When it comes to third-party uninstallation software, everyone knows of Revo. It's often considered to be the top of that class. However, many alternatives exists and it's great to offer the MUO audience a choice.... Read More .

One of the great things about a new computer is that you get to reassess what programs you really need and even try new ones that perhaps you haven’t tried because you already had a comparable alternative. In this article we’ll explore some programs you must have on any computer and the best way to go about acquiring those programs – because there’s a much better way than visiting each individual program’s download page.

Before You Install Any Software, Read This A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk Picture this - you've just found this awesome free software that you are stoked about because of all that it can do for you, but when you install it, you discover that it is packed... Read More !

One fact about free software (and sometimes even premium) is that bloatware (also known as crapware) often accompanies it in the installation. If you’ve ever wondered how that program got on your desktop or how that toolbar got in your browser, you’ve been a victim of this problem. We’ve already talked about how to uninstall bloatware, earlier in this article and in the second article of this series, but wouldn’t it be easier if you just prevented it altogether? That’s where our checklist to safely install free software A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk Picture this - you've just found this awesome free software that you are stoked about because of all that it can do for you, but when you install it, you discover that it is packed... Read More  comes in.

If you use Ninite, Soft2Base or PortableApps (mentioned in the next section), you don’t need to worry as all of the “bloat” is removed in their installers.

How To Efficiently Install Programs

Perhaps you’re already familiar with the methods in this section, and if so, just skip on to the next. But if you are one to install programs the “traditional way,” meaning one program at a time, then you’re in for a real treat! Let me introduce mass installing!

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Ninite Ninite - Easily Install All Your Favorite Free Apps In One Go Ninite - Easily Install All Your Favorite Free Apps In One Go Read More  is an excellent website and service, which we reviewed back in 2009 Ninite - Easily Install All Your Favorite Free Apps In One Go Ninite - Easily Install All Your Favorite Free Apps In One Go Read More , that allows you to freely download all the programs you want. They have apps in every major category that you might need on your computer, from image programs to media players to security to developer tools, and a lot more.

getting a new computer

On the chance that they don’t have the program you’re looking for, you can suggest it to them at the bottom of their homepage. One example of this is Piriform, the creators of popular apps CCleaner, Speccy, Defraggler and Recuva. This, however, isn’t Ninite’s doing, but rather the CEO of Piriform – just something to keep in mind.

If you’re looking to easily download the programs that we recommend, check out the MakeUseOf Pack via Ninite.

Soft2Base, reviewed by Craig Soft2Base Automatically Updates 61 Popular Windows Applications Soft2Base Automatically Updates 61 Popular Windows Applications iOS and other platforms come built around automatic updates to core functionality and additional software that you should install. That's one huge benefit of having the App Store. Windows isn't quite there yet. However, that... Read More , is another great program which takes the approach of not just downloading, but also automatically updating your software as well.

Don’t “Install” Them At All

essential computer programs

Perhaps you don’t need to have all the programs you want to use on your computer, on your computer. Running portable applications allows you to keep the registry cleaner and frees up space on your hard drive, by running them off an external hard drive or flash drive.

PortableApps, which we’ve reviewed PortableApps.com Suite: The Best Portable Applications Manager & Database PortableApps.com Suite: The Best Portable Applications Manager & Database Portable applications are no secret – they have grown in popularity as their benefits continually become more well known. PortableApps.com should be given a lot of credit for this. Sure there are several portable application... Read More  is an application that runs on your external portable devices and allows you to launch a vast amount of portable apps that you might not need on a daily basis, but still would like to have.

More Options For Downloading Apps

In addition to all the methods mentioned here, there are even more options available for acquiring software, such as Intel AppUp, All My Apps and Chocolately Before The Windows Store - Package Managers & Software Repositories [Windows] Before The Windows Store - Package Managers & Software Repositories [Windows] App stores are everywhere these days. Whether you’re using iOS or Android, you can get all your apps from a single location and have them automatically update in a consistent way. If you’re using Mac... Read More . For more information, check out our full reviews on All My Apps All My Apps - Centralized App Store For Windows With Lots Of Free Software All My Apps - Centralized App Store For Windows With Lots Of Free Software Read More  and Chocolately Chocolately - Install Software By Typing Two Words [Windows] Chocolately - Install Software By Typing Two Words [Windows] Install Windows software by typing two words, skipping the usual routine of clicking "Next" five times and desperately trying to avoid useless/harmful toolbars. Chocolately makes Windows a little more like Linux, and in this case... Read More .

Essential Programs To Install

  • Security: Antivirus and anti-malware.
  • Backup program.
  • Uninstaller.
  • PC maintenance tool.
  • Image tool.
  • Audio and/or video tool.
  • Office suite.
  • Archive manager.
  • NOT Java.

Above is a list of the types of programs to install. In this section I will share my personal recommendations, all which come from the Best Of Windows Software page, which is full of excellent apps for downloading, many of which we’ve reviewed. Before you install any programs though, read how to safely install software and prevent all the junk from getting installed on your computer with it A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk Picture this - you've just found this awesome free software that you are stoked about because of all that it can do for you, but when you install it, you discover that it is packed... Read More .

Security: Antivirus & Anti-Malware

essential computer programs

This needs to be the first, I repeat, the first program you download, install and set up. Unless you’re using Ninite, don’t install any other programs before getting this running. There are several great programs that I recommend for this, but I personally recommend Avast! Free Antivirus or Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). Matt has covered the five best antivirus and compared them in an excellent article Free Anti-Virus Comparison: 5 Popular Choices Go Toe-To-Toe Free Anti-Virus Comparison: 5 Popular Choices Go Toe-To-Toe What is the best free antivirus? This is among the most common questions we receive at MakeUseOf. People want to be protected, but they don’t want to have to pay a yearly fee or use... Read More .

You may want to take a look at the other security and anti-malware programs that we recommend for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Backup Program

essential computer programs

Again, for this there are a vast majority of excellent options. We’ve covered many of the cloud storage options here at MakeUseOf. My personal favorites are SugarSync SugarSync: The Most Well-Rounded Free File Backup & Syncing Service SugarSync: The Most Well-Rounded Free File Backup & Syncing Service File backup is not a new conversation or topic by any means. If you search Google for “file backup” you will likely be overwhelmed by services and articles on the topic. It is a vast... Read More  and CrashPlan How To Back Up PCs To Each Other Via The Internet Using Crash Plan Personal How To Back Up PCs To Each Other Via The Internet Using Crash Plan Personal Backing up the data on your computer is vital. Yet not everyone does something about it. Why? Because backing up a computer remains a bit of a pain. If you own more than one computer,... Read More . Depending on your needs, you may not need the amount of storage that CrashPlan offers (at $5 per month) and maybe can get by with something like SugarSync which starts you off at 5GB and then allows you to build your storage through referrals, each one equaling 500MB.

View more backup apps for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Uninstaller

essential computer programs

We’ve already covered uninstallers when talking about removing bloatware. The two I’ve had the best success with are Revo Uninstaller and Geek Uninstaller, although there are many more on the Best Windows Software page.

PC Maintenance Tool

essential computer programs

This is another area that is highly occupied, but among all the rest, CCleaner shines the brightest in my opinion.

Image Tool

essential computer programs

This is one that a lot of people don’t think about. Depending on your use, you may want something different or even a couple. I feel though that for an all-round great image program, Picasa wins hands down Picasa - Still The Best & Most Versatile Photo Manager Available Picasa - Still The Best & Most Versatile Photo Manager Available How many photos would you say you have? More than a hundred? Six hundred? A thousand? Pictures are a big part of all of our lives, but there is else something which is equally important... Read More . The image editing tools are simple, it can upload straight to Google+ and the image viewing tool is the best. For more detailed editing, other great options are Skitch Skitch And Windows Finally Meet To Create An Intuitive, Yet Simple, Screen Capturing Experience Skitch And Windows Finally Meet To Create An Intuitive, Yet Simple, Screen Capturing Experience There is no shortage of screen capturing tools available – that is certain. However, there is a shortage of applications that are quick and simple to use, while remaining useful and intuitive. There are a... Read More Paint.NET Paint.NET: The Best Image Editor Available That You Should Download Paint.NET: The Best Image Editor Available That You Should Download We all edit images to some degree. Whether it’s a simple crop or resize, or maybe just adding some text, it’s nice to have an image editor that is reliable, fast, easy to navigate and... Read More  and GIMP Better Than Photoshop? Make GIMP Even More Powerful With These Plugins Better Than Photoshop? Make GIMP Even More Powerful With These Plugins We all know that Photoshop is the premiere application for image and graphics manipulation. It simply does everything you could possibly want, which is the reason why most professionals choose it and why your wallet... Read More .

For more imaging tools, whether they’re for Windows, Mac or Linux, check out our recommendations.

Audio & Video Tool

important computer programs

Depending on your needs, you may be looking for a dedicated music manager or maybe just something to play audio files and video. If you’re looking for an excellent program to play and manage your music, one that is comparable and (in my opinion) outshines iTunes, Winamp and MediaMonkeyyou should consider MusicBee MusicBee: Your Powerful, Yet Simple, All-In-One Music Manager [Windows] MusicBee: Your Powerful, Yet Simple, All-In-One Music Manager [Windows] What do you use to manage your music library? iTunes certainly is the popular choice, even on Windows. There are other options like Winamp, Songbird, Mediamonkey and Foobar just to name a few. I stumbled... Read More .

For an almost-perfect player, we all know about VLC The VLC Media Player - Does it Really Play Everything? The VLC Media Player - Does it Really Play Everything? Read More  and I still love it. However, the Daum PotPlayer has really shown some potential Does Your Media Player Suck? Try A Unique Alternative: Daum PotPlayer [Windows] Does Your Media Player Suck? Try A Unique Alternative: Daum PotPlayer [Windows] Whenever we have written an article about great media players, people were quick to remind us of PotPlayer. Once we checked it out, we had to agree that it was indeed pretty awesome. So the... Read More  and I recommend that one as well.

Take a look at our other recommendations of other media players for Windows (Audio, Video), Mac (Audio, Video) and Linux (Audio, Video).

Office Suite

important computer programs

Perhaps you didn’t know, but you don’t have to install and cough up the money for Microsoft Office, even though it is pretty nice, especially Office 2013. There are a lot of alternatives – free alternatives – that you should consider before spending the money. If you’re still not satisfied, then go ahead and buy Office. My personal recommendations are LibreOffice LibreOffice - A Free Office Suite For Windows, Linux & Mac LibreOffice - A Free Office Suite For Windows, Linux & Mac Read More Kingsoft Office and either Google Docs or Microsoft Web Apps Use Microsoft Office for Free with Microsoft Web Apps Use Microsoft Office for Free with Microsoft Web Apps Read More .

For more office suite alternatives, look to our recommendations on the Windows, Mac and Linux Best Of Software pages.

Archive Manager

Whether you think so or not, you’re likely going to be downloading a compressed file at some point or another, and maybe even needing to create one What’s The Best File Compression Method? MakeUseOf Tests Zip, RAR & More What’s The Best File Compression Method? MakeUseOf Tests Zip, RAR & More File compression is an important and common task users frequently ask of their computers. Reducing a file’s size makes it easier to email or place on a flash drive. It also reduces bandwidth usage and... Read More . Sure, you can do this with the default tool, but 7Zip 7Zip - A Free Program to Unzip Uncommon Archive Formats 7Zip - A Free Program to Unzip Uncommon Archive Formats Read More  for Windows is by far the superb choice for this.

There are other alternatives for unzipping compressed files in Windows that we recommend however, as well as Mac and Linux apps.

Don’t Install Java

important computer programs

You may have heard about the many threats against Java users recently. So take it as a warning and see if you can get by on your new computer without Java. You may not be able to, but try. See how the experience is. Java has proven to provide its users with excessive vulnerability – are the benefits really worth the risks Is Java Unsafe & Should You Disable It? Is Java Unsafe & Should You Disable It? Oracle’s Java plug-in has become less and less common on the Web, but it’s become more and more common in the news. Whether Java is allowing over 600,000 Macs to be infected or Oracle is... Read More ?

Don’t Know What To Install Yet?

That’s okay. I have a couple of recommendations. One option is to look through the programs on Ninite (most, if not all, are awesome) and do your own research Conquer Your Next Research Project The Easy Way With These Tools Conquer Your Next Research Project The Easy Way With These Tools Whether you’re in school or you have a job, you likely have or will have to research at one point or another. And if you’re like most people, you will have to do it several... Read More  on the different programs that seem intriguing. Another option is to search through the MakeUseOf Best Of Software pages for WindowsMac and Linux. Many of these have been reviewed by the MakeUseOf staff and are also available on Ninite.

If you already do know what you want, then great! But I will say that switching to a new computer is the best time to try new software too. So if there’s something that you feel can replace what you’ve already been using, why not try it out?

Keep Your Programs Updated

Keeping your programs up to date is essential! If not done, you could be vulnerable to possible security threats to holes in the software. There are a few options for keeping your software up to date:

  • FileHippo Update Checker.
  • Soft2Base.
  • Ninite Updater.
  • SUMo (Software Update Manager).
  • Npackd (pronounced “unpacked”).
  • PortableApps.

FileHippo Update Checker

A free, portable or standalone updater created by FileHippo.com and pulls from their software database. It isn’t automatic, but you can set it up to run automatically or schedule it to run with Windows Task Scheduler Run Programs Automatically Using Windows Task Scheduler Run Programs Automatically Using Windows Task Scheduler Read More . However, you’ll still have to download and install each individual app manually. Read the full review here FileHippo Update Checker Keeps Your PC Software Updated FileHippo Update Checker Keeps Your PC Software Updated Read More .

Soft2Base

We’ve already covered how Soft2Base can download and keep your programs up to date. For more information, I’ll once again point you to Craig’s review Soft2Base Automatically Updates 61 Popular Windows Applications Soft2Base Automatically Updates 61 Popular Windows Applications iOS and other platforms come built around automatic updates to core functionality and additional software that you should install. That's one huge benefit of having the App Store. Windows isn't quite there yet. However, that... Read More .

Ninite Updater

Ninite Updater is a premium solution to keeping your apps up to date. But at only $9.99 per year it won’t make you broke. It relieves you of the daughting task that comes with manually downloading each individual update. Read our full review of Ninite Updater Ninite - Easily Install All Your Favorite Free Apps In One Go Ninite - Easily Install All Your Favorite Free Apps In One Go Read More .

SUMo Software Update Manager

We reviewed SUMo back in 2009 5 Quick Steps to Manage Software Updates with SUMo 5 Quick Steps to Manage Software Updates with SUMo Read More . It can be scheduled to run automatically, however the updates must be downloaded manually.

Npackd

Justin reviewed Npackd in 2011 Npackd Automatically Downloads & Installs Windows Software Npackd Automatically Downloads & Installs Windows Software Read More and it is still going strong. To sum it up, it’s basically the open source app updater. You can view all the available apps in the Npackd directory.

PortableApps

PortableApps isn’t technically an app updater, but it does come with one and works perfectly for apps installed on your external device.

getting a new computer

Conclusion

Now that you know what to install and how to efficiently install them you should be set!

Do you have any routines, tools or sources that you use for acquiring software? Obviously they must be safe, but we’d love to here about them in the comments!

  1. Julie
    April 25, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I love the Image Tool it has helped my photography a lot.

    A new tool I just got actually combines Revo and Updatechecker. I hate having too many programs installed. Try OUTDATEfighter from spamfighter : http://www.spamfighter.com/outdatefighter

    I think your replacement for Office is a good alternative but sometimes habbits die hard.

    • Aaron Couch
      April 25, 2013 at 7:35 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation Julie! I'm excited to try OUTDATEfighter! I hope it's as good as it sounds!

      Thanks for reading and for commenting!

  2. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    March 15, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Everytime I get myself a clean system, I find myself trying every single software I've hoarded but never tried before. That way I can find some gems to use afterwards. The downside? Messy registry, My Document, Appdata and Program Files folder that I must clean again...

  3. Doc
    March 15, 2013 at 5:13 am

    "PortableApps, which we’ve reviewed is an application that runs on your external portable devices..." PortableApps apps (even the Portable Apps Launcher) will work just fine from a hard disk, as well; the first thing I do when setting up a new computer is partitioning the hard disk into C: and D: drives, then setting up portable apps on the D: partition. This way, if I need to reinstall Windows, all my apps are safe on the D: drive (I just reformat C: to reinstall Windows and non-portable apps, such as AVG Free, my antivirus program). You can even launch the PortableApps menu to update all of the software it's installed.

    • Aaron Couch
      March 15, 2013 at 6:50 pm

      That's good advice! Thanks for adding that!

  4. James Graham
    March 15, 2013 at 2:27 am

    Thanks for this article...I just got a new laptop and thought instead of going through my regular routine I'd try something new. This article fits the bill.

  5. Kirby
    March 15, 2013 at 12:25 am

    I'm getting my installers from filehippo. I'm checking out Ninite right now. Thanks for the info.

  6. Edward Goldblatt
    March 14, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Here's how I work on a new machine. First, I make sure I don't have it connected to a network. Then I uninstall... well, just about everything that I don't want, won't use, and will just slow me down. Especially those well-known pieces of Malware, Norton and McAfee (I've used McAfee, but it just... I like Avast!). Then I get out my handy flash drive and I install Avast!, Spybot S&D, MalwareBytes, and Firefox. After that I get into the network and I get everything I need from PortableApps, LupoPenSuite, and WinPenPack.

  7. Arron Walker
    March 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    First, major ups for Shinedown - awesome band. However - where's get a better browser? IE has come a long way, but it's still not up to scratch. The damage is deep. Just getting Ninite now, I've recently had to format. Long story short, I made a typo editing boot files, and it was as bad as it sounds.

  8. Scott M
    March 14, 2013 at 11:02 am

    A great article.Thanks for the tips!!

  9. Nevzat Akkaya
    March 14, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Recently I've used "All My Apps" and I impressed.
    Super suggestions, super article. Many thanks Aaron. Definitely a keeper!

  10. Richard Steven Hack
    March 14, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Haven't tried ninite yet. I usually install PatchMyPC on home user machines and tell them to run it weekly or so. It will update the most security-critical programs plus a slew of others. But it won't install them initially.

    I disagree about Microsoft Security Essentials. Recent tests by AV testing organizations show it's dropped in comprehensive protection to a point where it can't be recommended. I recommend Avast or AVG. Just remember to turn off sounds in Avast or it will scream at you when it finds malware. :-)

    • suneo nobi
      March 15, 2013 at 8:07 am

      Agree with you upon Microsoft Security Essentials. It provides a mediocre protection.................

  11. Johann
    March 14, 2013 at 12:41 am

    You don't have to buy the Ninite update tool. Keep the original installer and rerun it - it'll install latest versions for you. You can even schedule it to run (as an admin) every week, say, and it'll keep you uptodate.

    The official (paid) updater will update everything on your system it knows about, whereas obviously the original exe only updates to packages already defined in it. Still if you did your build with Ninite originally, this should be good enough.

    • Aaron Couch
      March 14, 2013 at 1:43 am

      Johann,

      Thanks for your input on this. I knew downloading the same pack of programs again would work for updating the apps, but I didn't think about scheduling it to run -- that's ingenious! Thanks for sharing that tip with our readers.

      I do have a question though. In your experience, will it keep the settings for the apps when reinstalled?

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