Friday, January 22, 2010

Question: What do I install on my computer?

Recently I did a complete re-install of Windows XP on a client’s computer. I love jobs like this because this requires the least amount of time on my part to get the PC up and running top-notch again :) When I do jobs like this I need to know what the client needs re-installed on it. They had Microsoft Office 2007, so I made sure I had that installed and re-activated (I only deal with fully legal software people!), but I didn’t know what else they needed. I also didn’t know what anti-virus software they preferred. When I asked them, “What software do you need installed on this computer?”, they asked me in return “Well, what do you recommend?”. This led into a discussion of me asking questions such as, “What do you need to do with your computer?” and them asking more questions such as “What do you recommend?”. It got down to showing them a demo of what I have installed on my own PC, me showing them different software options for the tasks they needed to do, and having them make the selection.

So, for this post I am going to share with you what I ALWAYS install on my own PCs after I wipe out the hard drive and re-install Windows. This is a pretty comprehensive list of software that will allow you to do most everything on your computer right after first startup such as listen to music, watch online movies, watch DVDs and downloaded movies, surf the net, view documents, and other basic things that require some type of software install. Here is a link to the software and if it is usable on Windows XP or Vista/Win7:

Adobe Reader – XP, Vista, Win7
Adobe Reader is a PDF document viewer.

Adobe Flash Player - XP, Vista, Win7
Flash Player is required by many web sites, especially if you want to watch videos on or

Adobe AIR - XP, Vista, Win7
AIR is a software platform, similar to Java. It is quickly becoming very popular and more and more programs are requiring AIR to be installed.

Adobe Shockwave Player - XP, Vista, Win7
Shockwave is similar to Flash. Many online applications require Shockwave.

7-Zip - XP, Vista, Win7
This is the Swiss Army knife of un-archiving tools. It can un-zip, un-RAR, or otherwise un-package archive files such as ZIP, RAR, ACE, some EXEs, and many other file formats.
Fishbowl – Win7 only
This is a Facebook front-end. It just makes Facebook look more fancy than in a web browser.

Google Chrome - XP, Vista, Win7
A fantastic alternative to Internet Explorer. Every web site that I visit has worked with this browser. It is also a very small application that requires little system resources which helps to keep your system fast. Also, it makes browsing the web faster on your computer.

ImgBurn - XP, Vista, Win7
Copies and burns CDs or DVD discs (but not encrypted DVD movies). It also will burn CD or DVD data discs better than Windows ever will. This program, however, will not make audio CDs. Use Windows Media Player for that.

Microsoft Security Essentials - XP, Vista, Win7
This is my main anti-virus program and I use it on all of my personal PCs and laptops. There are some other great, free, anti-virus products but this is the one that I currently prefer.

Mozilla Firefox - XP, Vista, Win7
Another amazing alternative to Internet Explorer. Firefox has been around longer than Google Chrome and has a great community of contributors. There are some great add-ons such as themes, extensions, and utilities for Firefox that make it a truly fully customizable web browser.

Skype - XP, Vista, Win7
A free PC-to-PC video calling application. I use this to keep in touch with my friends and family across the US. Skype also has a pay-for feature where you can call actual phone numbers directly from your computer. I have been using Skype for years and may never stop!

Windows Live Essentials - XP, Vista, Win7
This is the suite of Windows Live applications that I use on a day to day basis. There is an Instant Messaging client, blogging tool, parental add-ons for Windows, and much more.

Windows Virtual PC – Win7 only / Virtual PC 2007 – XP or Vista only
This is one of the apps that will not apply to most people. Virtual PC allows you to install an additional operating system in an isolated, virtual, environment on your computer. I use this to set up virtual OS environments or to test software on different operating systems. If you don’t need to do this, then do not install it.

WinRAR - XP, Vista, Win7
Another UnZIP program, but can package archive files as well as un-package them. 

Vitrual Clone Drive - XP, Vista, Win7
Mounts disc images in a virtual drive so you don’t have to burn the image to a CD or DVD first before checking the content.

Xmarks - XP, Vista, Win7
Finally, I use Xmarks to sync my Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Google Chrome bookmarks\favorites between all of my computers.

That is the list. You may notice that I left out Microsoft Office. That is because you must pay for the software. Everything listed above is 100% free with NO catches. Enjoy!