Whether you’ve just bought a new computer, have reinstalled your Windows operating system or simply want to know if you have all the programs you need, this article is for you. Having the basic software for doing the most common tasks and activities is crucial for you to take full advantage of your PC’s resources. That’s why I’ve decided to compile a definitely not comprehensive list of the essential programs you should have in your system.
Security comes first, always. Before downloading and installing anything else, you should always be protected. There is a great amount of security software out there that cover all kinds of needs, from very basic products to the most complete suites. You can get fabulous applications for a considerable amount of money or very respectable alternatives without spending a nickel. It’s all about what you want, what you need and what you willing to pay. Having said so, I’m inclined to recommend Microsoft Security Essentials when talking about antivirus software. Practical, powerful and free, this Microsoft product is very capable of satisfying your protection needs.
Additionally, it’s a great idea to have a secondary application to watch your back in case anything happens. And for that, nothing is better than Malwarebytes Anti-malware. This is an amazing choice for doing more thorough scans of your system which will keep it free from viruses.
Boy, how much we’ve talked about web browsers! And we’ll continue to do so, since today more than ever these applications are the center of our computer-related activities. As with security tools, there’s no definitive answer to the question “which one is the best Internet browser?” You can follow certain guidelines and read some reviews but at the end of the day, you have the final choice. But, hey, I’m laying down my perspectives here so, if I’m going to recommend you one of them, your choice must definitely be between Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.
Although other browsers have surprised us greatly with their latest editions (especially the highly revamped Internet Explorer 9) nobody can argue that both Firefox and Chrome are the safest and speediest web browsers out there. Besides, the two alternatives can completely customized with themes and add-ons. How to decide between them? Download them, try them and decide for yourself!
Why it is important to have backup utilities before any others? Because they’ll protect all the data you’ll be loading to your hard drives. Acknowledging that the PC is the place where most of our important files are stored (photos, songs, documents and more) is the first step towards securing them. Having security copies of all your precious data will save you some strong headaches in the future. And among the vast alternatives you’ll find in the backup field, one of the most complete applications you can use is called Mozy.
This utility lets you save all your security copies to multiple destinations, especially external hard drives and online servers. You can go for the free alternative and get 2GB of storage space or pay $4.95 for unlimited space.
Computers and Internet are a marvelous combination to keep in touch with friends and family. No matter where you are, you can always go online to chat about your day with the people you love and care about. Of course, you’ll need some specialized software to do so and that’s why I present you several alternatives.
First of all, two obvious choices: Skype, an application that lets you make voice and video calls to anyone on the world (with instant messaging capabilities and an amazing aptitude to adapt to your Internet connection); and Windows Live Messenger, one of the most popular programs in the world that will allow you to keep in contact with your Windows Live and Facebook contacts.
If you’re looking for something else, then you should check Pidgin, an instant messaging program that will let you connect with your friends in the same way WLM does but with the added bonus of chatting with contacts that use other platforms (such as Yahoo, ICQ, Live and Google).
Once you got your security and communication needs covered, it’s time to let the fun begin. And the best place to start is by listening to your favorite music while you continue downloading and installing everything else. The first obliged stop is Winamp, one of the most popular music players in the world. Filled with settings that allows you to customize sound and sight, Winamp offers plenty of features that most users will surely crave.
But if you want more than just a standard player, I can recommend you my personal favorite: Jaangle. We’ve already talked about it but it’s good to refresh your memory by saying that this player comes with various customization options, a near-perfect Internet integration and even a trivia that music lovers will certainly love.
If none of these alternatives suits your preferences, you can visit the other posts in which we discussed the subject. You’ll find desktop alternatives as well as online options so you’ll have to find something there.
Continuing with multimedia programs, video applications are a must for modern computers. We grew accustomed to playing all sorts of videos on our PCs so having a practical, powerful and problem-free video player is essential. Which software combines all of those characteristics? VLC Media Player. It can play many of today’s video formats as well as a wide variety of audio files, it comes with a comprehensive list of settings to adjust its behavior and it takes up very little resources from your PC. What else do you want?
However, there are times when having a converter installed comes in handy whether because you prefer to watch a video on your favorite format or because you are experiencing problems with the original format. Freemake Video Converter is the tool to get this job done: it converts almost all kind of files into popular formats, it processes them very quickly and it can even burn them to a DVD or Blu-ray disc.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one application with which you can work with your images, then Google has the answer for you: Picasa. It can scan your computer and external devices looking for photos and after it finds them, you’ll have the possibility to organize them according to your preferences. Besides, you’ll have several quick-fix options for retouching your pictures and you’ll be able to create your own HTML albums to post on the Web.
Picasa isn’t what you were looking for? Then you can try several of the available online image editing alternatives out there.
Computers aren’t all about the Internet. There are other activities in which the PCs can help and one of them is the creation of documents to support your work and studies. One of the most popular alternatives for this is Microsoft Office suite, which is a very complete solution that includes a text editor, a spreadsheet program, a presentation creator and other wonderful applications. It even comes for Mac! However, this can be an expensive alternative.
If you can’t afford Microsoft’s suite, you can take advantage of its free counterpart. I’m talking about OpenOffice, a more limited yet very powerful suite that will help you in your daily activities and that has Microsoft Office compatibility.
When it comes to compressing and decompressing files, 7-Zip is the program to turn to. Great compression levels, seamless integration with your operating system and the ability to manage many of the most used compression formats are some of the features this fantastic program will offer you. Best of all: it’s free. If 7-Zip isn’t the application you were looking for, you can try another compression alternative since there are many of them in the market.
Well, now that you’ve taken care of all the important aspects of your PC, you can relax by playing the games you want. I won’t tell you what titles you have to play (but you can certainly wander about the blog to check some alternatives) but I’ll recommend a very useful tool with which you can find games you might like. The program’s name is Steam and it will let you explore all sorts of gaming categories and it will give you the possibility to download them right there with some of the lowest prices tags in the market. If you’re a gaming enthusiast, then Steam has to be installed in your computer.
Finally, you can’t install everything, use all the programs and let the computer be. For your machine to be at its highest performance at all times you have to maintain it. You have to watch out the free space available on your hard disks, you must clean your registry and you should uninstall programs properly, among other tasks that will help you take full advantage of your computer. For this you have TuneUp Utilities, a tool that will take care of these and other maintenance-related tasks while you are busy with other stuff.
These are only some suggestions we’d like to give you. Naturally, there are other programs and utilities for the tasks described here, alternatives you can always turn to in case any of these don’t satisfy your needs. Think I missed an essential program? Tell me which in the comments!
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