Last time I discussed finding drivers for your software programs and also how to set up a printer on Windows. Well today I am going to get onto a more interesting topic – what to put on your computer. I know countless other blogs have done lists like this so this isn’t anything groundbreaking. But I know quite a few people at the moment who are buying their first PC and who are asking me “so what do I put on this PC-thingy-ma-jig then?”. Well, here’s your answer.
So for all the newbies, parents, grandparents, techno-phobes and computer doofs out there, here’s what should be on your computer.
1. THE BASICS
A good firewall – my personal preference is ZoneAlarm
A good virus checker – why pay through the nose for Norton when you get the free and excellent AVG Anti-Virus?
A good spyware checker – despite their 2007 version not quite being up to scratch as its predecessor, I still recommend Ad-Aware for ease of use and efficiency at finding those nasty spyware critters.
2. BROWSER AND EMAIL
You’ll obviously get Internet Explorer as the default browser but you should definately shun it in favour of Mozilla Firefox. If you prefer, Opera is also excellent but Firefox is (in my opinion), the top browser. But don’t try to uninstall Internet Explorer. Best to keep it on the PC, at least to get the Microsoft security patches downloaded (Microsoft doesn’t allow you to download their patches using the Firefox browser. You also cannot use Firefox to access the Microsoft Office templates.)
If you want to have your email downloaded to your PC, Microsoft will naturally push you in the direction of Outlook but again, you can shun that in favour of Mozilla Thunderbird. Similarly to Firefox, Thunderbird is full of useful extensions. If you decide on Thunderbird and don’t want Outlook cluttering up your computer, you can remove Outlook (and any other Microsoft product for that matter) by inserting your Windows set-up CD into the CD drive of your computer then go to the start menu then Add/Remove Programs –>>Add/Remove Windows Components (on the left side). You can then uncheck what you don’t want and they will be uninstalled for you. But you need the original Windows installation disk for the programs to be uninstalled properly. You will also need the Windows installation disk if you want to re-install anything later. So keep that disk safe!
3. THE REST (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)
Winpatrol – alerts you when programs secretly try to burrow their way into your start menu. You can also customise and control your other computer functions as well as set up scheduled tasks. You can see the MakeUseOf review here.
Winamp – for playing audio and video. Customisable and easy to use.
Picasa – one of the best photo management tools out there. I like how you can set up photos on the page before printing them out on photo paper.
Skype – the best VOIP telephone program on the internet. Also has an excellent chat function, and is highly customisable.
The Google toolbar – I am not normally a fan of toolbars but the Google toolbar is the exception. Highly useful with quick access to the search engine and most Google services. The Firefox version can be found here.
Unlocker – helps you to stop any system processes that may be stopping you from deleting, moving or renaming a file on your computer. See the MakeUseOf article here.
Google Earth – this is my time-wasting application. I like to zoom in on people’s houses!
CDex – it’s perfectly legal to make private backup copies of your CD’s and keep them on the computer. I use CDex which is an easy CD ripping tool.
eBay Turbo Lister – if you sell on eBay, Turbo Lister can help you to write and list your auctions offline. Totally invaluable, although sometimes it is a little buggy.
That’s the basic list but of course there are other programs based on your needs. For example, I find a video editing program called VirtualDub totally invaluable but unless you deal with a lot of raw video footage, VirtualDub will be not much help. I also use a paid program called SnagIt but some of you may not want to pay for a screen capture program (does anyone know of a free screen capture program?). Oh and if any of you have a website and need to make thumbnail pictures, a good program is Easy Thumbnails.
So that’s the total sum of my PC at the moment. What do you think of the above list? Do you agree with my choices or do you have better alternatives? Let’s hear it in the comments.