So 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!
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.
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.
Don’t “Install” Them At All
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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
This is another area that is highly occupied, but among all the rest, CCleaner shines the brightest in my opinion.
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 Skitch, Paint.NET and GIMP.
Audio & Video Tool
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 MediaMonkey, you should consider MusicBee.
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, Kingsoft Office and either Google Docs or Microsoft Web Apps.
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
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 Windows, Mac 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.
- Ninite Updater.
- SUMo (Software Update Manager).
- Npackd (pronounced “unpacked”).
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. 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 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.
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.
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!