In the second part of this ultimate guide to get started with your brand new Windows PC, I am going to talk about several free software that you should be using to get the most out of your new system. I am going to give you some useful tips on Windows maintenance and finally you’ll learn how to create a full computer backup. Also don’t forget to check the first part on getting started with your brand new Windows PC, that talks about how to remove unwanted software from your computer, free antivirus options, why you should be using Windows Update, and how to create system recovery discs in Windows 7. Let’s continue.
14 essential software and services that you should be using
Almost of everything we do on our computers today is through the web browser, so because you are going to spend the majority of time there, choosing the right one should be a big deal. Internet Explorer is the most widely used web browser, it comes built-in in the operating system, it is good and is very secure, but there are other platforms that are becoming more relevant, this is the case of Firefox (to learn more check our Firefox section) and now Google Chrome (to learn more check our Google Chrome section), which I personally prefer because it is super fast and also very secure, it has many features, and you can install tons of web apps from the Chrome Web Store to extend its functionality.
If you don’t want to use Internet Explorer, you cannot uninstall it but you can disable it, check out this article — How to uninstall Internet Explorer 9 from Windows, sort of.
- SkyDrive is the FREE storage service from Microsoft and it offers an amazing 25GB of space to store all of your documents and soon the service will allow users to store unlimited photos and documents. To learn more about this service and how you can get it visit SkyDrive soon to allow unlimited storage for photos and documents – Say what?
- Do you like FREE music? Well, then you are going to love Spotify, this is a new Free music service that works by just creating an account and downloading their desktop application, which allows you to listen thousands of songs at no cost and you even combine your music library with the service to get the most out of your favorites tracks. And of course, if you want additional features (e.g. musing on your mobile phone) there are subscription plans as well.
Miscellaneous but useful
- PDF reader: Do not install extra software when you don’t have to. If you opted to use Google Chrome here is a trick to view your PDF files in the web browser and avoid installing Adobe PDF reader, that we all know that is not that great.
- WinCDEmu: Don’t you hate sometimes when you download a piece of software that you know you are going to use once, and because it is in an ISO file format you need to waste a CD/DVD and time to burn it. Did you know that you can mount that ISO file into a virtual drive in your computer and access the content like if it was a real CD-Drive? If you like the idea, you should check out WinCDEmu is free, lightweight, and an awesome image mounting CD/DVD software for Windows.
- CCleaner: This is a great freeware that will help on the day-to-day Windows maintenance, it is easy to use and among many other features you can: securely erase personal information, clean up your computer and gain more space in your system, and fix Windows registry. To learn more and get the download link, check New CCleaner: Adds secure wipe, 64-bit, Windows 7 integration and more.
- Spybot — Search & Destroy is one of the best anti-spyware software out there today. This freeware is able to detect and remove spyware from your Windows PC that even most antivirus may not yet be able to detect. Visit the following link to Learn how to use Spybot – Search & Destroy to keep your PC free of spyware, and also get A walk through the Spybot – Search & Destroy Advanced features.
- VLC Player: As good as Windows Media Player got over the years with support of many video formats, it still sometimes unable to play certain video file types. VLC Player is the alternative. This FREE open source application is capable of playing almost every piece of media you can think of, e.g., CD, DVD, VCD, Blue-Ray and more. It also plays most codes without the need of any extra codec pack: MPEG-2, H.264, DivX, MPEG-4, WebM, WMV and more. Learn more about VLC and get the download link.
- Peazip: Windows does come with a built-in tool to archive and compress files, but it is very limited. PeaZip is a great alternative utility to compress and decompress files and is packed with many features — Better ZIP with PeaZip and forget archival file formats [Download].
- NOOKstudy: This is a Barnes & Nobles’ special version of the NOOK eReader software. This is an eBook reader easy to use; it can manage and organize really well all your digital books — in my opinion this is better than just opening books with any PDF reader –. NOOKstudy supports PDF, ePub and many more file formats. It also features text-to-speech, bookmarks, you can add quick notes and much more — Get back to reading again with NOOK e-Reader by Barnes and Noble.
Work and personal productivity
I already talked about many great products that are going to help you on the day-to-day tasks, from maintenance to productivity, but what about office products? If you are in luck, you might have scored a good deal on your new Windows PC and it came with a full version Microsoft Office 2010, which is great for everything you’ll need to create great and professional documents. In the case that this is trial version, you are going to need to think on buying a license to unlock the full product, or look for alternatives. If this is your case you could opt for some great free alternative products: for starters, Microsoft now offers a light version of Office 2010 called Office Web Apps and with this service you will be able to create, save, share and collaborate on Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents — just remember that is a free service, so functionality is limited. To learn more visit Microsoft Office Web Apps page.
Next is Google Docs, this is another great free Cloud based office product in which you can create and share your work online and access your documents from anywhere. You can manage documents, spreadsheets, presentations, surveys, and more all in one easy to use productivity suite. To learn more you can visit Google Docs page.
These two are free Cloud based services and they only required that you create an account. If you already have a Live/Hotmail or Gmail account you are ready to start creating documents.
Last but not least, you could try LibreOffice, this is a free open source personal productivity suite for Windows, Linux and Mac, that comes with 6 (Writer, Impress, Calc, Draw, Math and Base) feature-rich applications for all your documents needs. And it is compatible with all major software vendor file formats, so you know that you can open, edit and save Microsoft Word, Excel, and other file formats without any problems.
Once everything is set up and configured the way you want, it is time to reclaim some space back in your hard drive from temporary and leftover files; you can do this by using the Windows Disk Cleanup tool.
1. Disk Cleanup is pretty simple, just go to Computer, select and right-click the drive you want to clean, choose Properties, hit the Disk Cleanup button.
2. Then wait for Windows to calculate the data that can be deleted. Then check what you want to delete, click OK and click Delete Files to complete the operation.
Organize bits together and improve Windows performance by defragmenting
Fragmentation makes the computer’s hard drive work harder and that will slow down your system. Disk Defragmenter will help to organize all the bits in the hard drive, while improving performance. And this is one thing that many people overlook in Windows maintenance. In this case after all the installing, uninstalling and deleting, and before backing up, using the Windows Disk Defragmenter tool is a good idea to rearrange fragmented bits, that way your hard drive can work more efficiently. To do this follow these easy steps on Disk Defragmenter: Simple way to improve Windows performance.
How to create a full computer backup in Windows 7
To wrap up this useful guide on getting started with your new Windows PC, the last thing you should do after the Disk Claenup tool is to protect all the time and hard work you have put up removing unwanted software, adding an antivirus, anti-spyware, and installing all application you are going to need. You will not only protect Windows and applications, but also your personal data from hard drive failure, system error, virus, data lost, etc., by creating a full computer backup.
Remember that there is a difference from the system recovery discs and creating a full Windows backup. The system recovery discs can only be created once and it will only reset your computer to factory defaults. In the other hand by creating a full computer backup you are not only going to protect the operating system and applications, but also all the work that you have done today by configuring Windows exactly the way you want it and your data as well. Also a full computer backup should be done periodically. If you don’t know how to create a full computer backup, don’t worry, we got you cover, just visit the following article: How to create and restore a system image (full backup) in Windows 7.
I hope this guide to get started with your brand new Windows PC is useful for many of you, if you need more help like, for example, moving your documents and setting from your old PC to the new one, or you have helpful that you would like to suggest for this guide, please let us know in the comments below.