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clippy.gif 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.


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.


I covered AVG and Ad-Aware in a previous MakeUseOf article which you can find here Freeware to Speed up your Computer Freeware to Speed up your Computer Read More . They were also mentioned in our round-up of free security programs 10 Most Downloaded Free Security AND PC Care Programs 10 Most Downloaded Free Security AND PC Care Programs Read More .


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 Switching To Mozilla Thunderbird!!! Switching To Mozilla Thunderbird!!! Read More . Similarly to Firefox, Thunderbird is full of useful extensions 10 must-have Thunderbird Addons (+ 25 more) 10 must-have Thunderbird Addons (+ 25 more) Read More . 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!


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 Freeware to Speed up your Computer (Part 2) Freeware to Speed up your Computer (Part 2) Read More .

Winamp – for playing audio and video. Customisable and easy to use.

7-Zip – for zipping and unzipping files. There’s also the previously reviewed Universal Extractor Open Any Compressed File with Universal Extractor Open Any Compressed File with Universal Extractor Read More but that is only for unzipping files. To zip them, you would also need something like 7 Zip.

TrueCrypt – for encrypting those files you don’t want anyone else to see. See the MakeUseOf review here How To Encrypt Sensitive Data with TrueCrypt How To Encrypt Sensitive Data with TrueCrypt Read More .

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.

Pidgin – got more than one chat ID? Manage them all with this alternative to Trillian. Constant upgrades being put out.

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 Untangle your computer with Unlocker Untangle your computer with Unlocker Read More .

Google Earth – this is my time-wasting application. I like to zoom in on people’s houses!

FileZilla – for moving bulk files from my PC to my website. See the MakeUseOf review here Transfer Files by FTP with FileZilla Transfer Files by FTP with FileZilla Read More .

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.

CCleaner – clean out all the junk that has accumulated on the computer. Cleans out temp files, cookies and much more. See the MakeUseOf review here Freeware to Speed up your Computer Freeware to Speed up your Computer Read More .

Auslogics – along with CCleaner, use Auslogics to get your files defragged and in order. You can see the MakeUseOf review here Freeware to Speed up your Computer (Part 2) Freeware to Speed up your Computer (Part 2) Read More .

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.

  1. Devicepedia
    October 31, 2008 at 2:55 am

    Avast anti virus and zone alarm firewall, great combination :)

  2. JohnH
    November 10, 2007 at 1:20 am

    Free screen capture: as already noted, Gadwin is simply superb for rapid, high-quality output, particularly useful for active windows rather than entire desktop; snippy.exe is a simple executable that doesn't need installation and sits in system tray for quick and dirty grabs -- its freehand function can be particularly useful and pastes readily into just about anywhere. :)

  3. Mark
    November 8, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Well, yes you have to set the permission settings for each outgoing connection but if you tick the box that says "remember this setting" then it won't ask again.

    • Aibek
      November 10, 2007 at 5:33 am

      Yeah I know, but it keeps doing it again and again, even after I set “remember this setting”.

  4. Mark
    November 8, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Zonealarm takes ages to configure?? Do we have the same program?! I set it up and it was running within minutes!

    • Aibek
      November 8, 2007 at 11:11 am

      I am not sure if we share the same version, but in my case (version:7.0.408.000) I was prompted to set permission settings for almost each outgoing connection. It definitely gives you complete control of what's going on, however things would be much easier if it could make 'smart decisions' on what should be allowed and what should be blocked.

  5. Syahid Ali
    November 8, 2007 at 12:57 am

    i prefer to use comodo than zonealarm. for antivirus, i've been using the free avast home for 2 years and never had a problem.

    • Aibek
      November 8, 2007 at 8:13 am

      Btw, I am switching to Comodo as well. ZoneAlarm is too much of a hassle for me, takes ages to configure.

  6. Aibek
    November 6, 2007 at 10:49 am

    from Ken Hultman:

    Best free screen capture utility I\'ve found is Gadwin Print Screen( which has excellent capture options and an intuitive GUI. Since you are a Firefox devotee like myself a capture-like extension called ScrapBook is an excellent tool that saves me lots of printer ink and which I use daily(

  7. StckFigure
    November 5, 2007 at 10:14 am

    There's an extension for Firefox called IETab that does what it sounds like - it lets you open a window in Firefox's environment using the IE engine. I think you still have to have IE *installed*, and I would anyway 'just in case', but you theoretically never have to open it again - you can even download MS updates through FireFox this way.

  8. surfmadpig
    November 3, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    another great IM multi-protocol client (much better than pidgin IMO) is miranda im.

    • koselara
      November 3, 2007 at 7:57 pm

      I was going to suggest that, too, but forgot while writing my comment... It really seems to be the "Firefox" of chat clients -- the base client works just fine, but there are all kinds of additions we can install based on what we want it to work/look like. I'm hoping to introduce my mother (who has some memory/cognitive problems) to it this weekend, in fact, because she has had so many problems trying to use Pidgen.

  9. koselara
    November 3, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    I *much* prefer Quintessential Beta over WinAmp:
    (It's "beta" but has been stable for several years, so it's no less stable than any "full" release.)

    They have a slightly simplified older version just for music here:
    (I believe it is like the old WinAmp 2.x except with more abilities & creative skins.)

    ScreenshotCaptor is powerful, free, and works great on multi-monitor setups:

    I also highly recommend this sticky-notes app:

    These guys make several great freeware apps that are especially good for newbies:
    (Compression/decompression program, music player with automatically downloaded song lyrics, video player, image management/viewer, FTP, and password manager.)

    Not a new-to-computers thing, but a must-have for anyone with a secondary monitor:
    (That page links to resources, plus sends you to their "UltraMon", which is the "must have" app.)

    • M0we
      November 4, 2007 at 3:16 am

      I agree QMP (Quintessential Beta) is the ultimate player, I always tend to try others from time to time (winamp 5.5 for example), but keep going back tp QMP!

    • Aibek
      November 4, 2007 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks koselara, ScreenshotCaptor is pretty cool. Actually most of DontaionCoder software is quite useful. I highly recommend it to everyone else.

  10. TQuizzle
    November 3, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    Echo what alex says. MWSnap has been on my PC for quite some time and is very small and easy to use.

    • Rob
      July 27, 2008 at 8:49 am

      Thanks for the 'heads up'.
      MWSnap is free.
      It remembers where you last saved and how(jpg)
      It does not require installation.
      It has me as a happy user.

  11. alex
    November 3, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    My recommendation for a free screen capture program: MWSnap

  12. Neolex
    November 3, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Hmmm... I think you forgot VLC for the ultimate video player.

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