Suggested Setup for My PC

[updated 2018.7.3]

Some personal recommendations from the editor:

This is a personal listing of the software I usually install on Windows-based PCs which I use.  It may not be to anyone else’s taste, but it may be of interest to those looking for ideas on what might be useful to install.  YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

If the computer is my property, I always do a backup first. This is usually the first instruction in the manual, anyway.  Preserve the initial setup as it, at least, should be functional if not ideal, and it’s one place to start over if necessary.  Get a blank CD or DVD and do it before anything else.

Then comes the following:

Basic Settings

I open My Computer and select Tools, then Folder Options, then the View tab.

I check:

  • Display the full path in the address bar
  • Show hidden files and folders

and UNcheck Hide extensions for known file types as this allows me to see the real nature of potentially dangerous files (files that will run programs even though they look harmless — such as a picture file that really ends in .exe or something like that.

I also Display the contents of system folders and UNcheck Hide protected operating system files but those are optional if you never get into changing them.

Protection

My work computer has protection behind the campus firewall and the provided anti-virus.

Currently I’m using the Windows 10 built-in security on my computers.  There are some other good freeware anti-virus programs out there.  Check this page and the posts for it.  You should only load one anti-virus — they fight each other if there is more than one.  Comodo offers a combination product free.

WARNING: Never, never, NEVER use a product from a strange popup window that offers to download itself to “fix” your supposed infection — it’s a scam and may actually be a virus or trojan infection itself.  These are “scareware” forms of malware.

I use at least one spyware/malware program (you can load more than one of these) such as Spybot and/or Ad-Aware (you can just get the free version).

Not all programs on a computer are necessarily up-to-date, and they certainly won’t stay that way.  I like FileHippo to check for other software updates.

Browser

Another point of protection is to use a browser other than Internet Explorer (IE).  You can — and should — have more than one browser, anyway, in case one has trouble doing something.

I’ve long used Chrome and Firefox as my main browsers.  Perhaps not always the fastest, but the updates and fixes for any problems or holes are done very quickly, and the add-ons are really great.  Also, it isn’t attacked by the bad guys as often as IE.

For add-ons, I always like to load:

  • Download Statusbar which is great for showing progress in your status bar and gives you options on handling downloads.
  • LastPass which lets me sync passwords securely from any browser where I install it.
  • Zotero can “help you collect, manage, cite, and share your research sources.”

Themes (the colors, general appearance, etc.) are personal, but you might want to try some different ones.  Remember that some of these might not work as well for you as others (some, for example, don’t work well with Delicious and some other programs as they show text in the popups in a pale yellow that’s hard to read).

Utilities

I like the following free utilities anywhere I am:

  • Evernote which lets you keep notes no matter which computer you use — this is a freeware alternative to Microsoft OneNote. HOWEVER this only allows two free places to use it, so I’ve moved to Microsoft OneNote.
  • Irfanview is a handy graphics viewer for pictures, photos, and such, which also lets you do some editing and change formats.
  • Jarte which is an enhanced WordPad alternate that can handle novel-length files, convert to .doc format if you like, but is faster and smaller than Microsoft Word or OpenOffice
  • LastPass (as above) is available for multiple browsers to handle logins securely.  It’s really handy if you use more than one computer, or smartphone, or fill in forms, and it’s unlimited (unlike Roboform or some other services).

General Software

Software for other uses is going to be determined by personal use.

Word processor and Office-type suite: LibreOffice, which is like having Microsoft Office Suite for free.  With the latest version, you can import Office Open XML (Microsoft Office 2007), Works, WordPerfect files and T602 documents also you can import WordPerfect Graphics graphical files too.  I was a long-time WordPerfect user, but now I can still use all those old WP files without having to pay to update at intervals.  You can do word processing, presentation (PowerPoint), spreadsheets, draw, and even a database.

Foobar 2000 for music.

That’s a basic list, subject to change as I find new “basic” favorites.

 

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