Getting A New Computer, Part 3: Essential Programs & How To Efficiently Install Them

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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, 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, 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 or Geek Uninstaller.

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!

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 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 is an excellent website and service, which we reviewed back in 2009, 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, 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 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. For more information, check out our full reviews on All My Apps and Chocolately.

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.

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.

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 and CrashPlan. 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.


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. 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 SkitchPaint.NET and GIMP.

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.

For an almost-perfect player, we all know about VLC and I still love it. However, the Daum PotPlayer has really shown some potential 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 LibreOfficeKingsoft Office and either Google Docs or Microsoft Web Apps.

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. Sure, you can do this with the default tool, but 7Zip 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?

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 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 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. However, you’ll still have to download and install each individual app manually. Read the full review here.


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.

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.

SUMo Software Update Manager

We reviewed SUMo back in 2009. It can be scheduled to run automatically, however the updates must be downloaded manually.


Justin reviewed Npackd in 2011 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 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


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!

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Comments (15)
  • Julie

    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 :

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

    • Aaron Couch

      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!

  • Lisa Santika Onggrid

    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…

  • Doc

    “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.

  • James Graham

    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.

  • Kirby

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

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
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