Windows: An essential list of must-have software
While Windows itself is an amazing operating system, the addition of software programs make it a much more enjoyable experience. However, a few software programs are must-haves for any Windows PC user regardless of experience, and I have compiled a list as requested by a reader.
When installing Windows on a new machine, I always have the following programs on my PC. Not only are they free, fast and some open source, they also do their job well and are incredibly useful.
Note: I am in no way affiliated with the following programs and their publishers, and all image rights belong to their respective owners
Browser and Extensions
Chrome is not only one of the fastest browsers, it is backed by Google as well. As a Google product, you can rest assured that you will get world class browsing experience along with important plugins like Flash and PDF reader built in–this means you do not have to download Adobe flash and a separate PDF reader to view their respective files. Very handy!
In addition to pre-packaged goodies that come with chrome, you also get one of the fastest browsing experiences due to Chrome’s multi-core optimization. What this means is that, chrome will use 100% of the power available on your PC without causing slowness and in return you get the smoothest browsing experience.
While many prefer to use Firefox for browsing the web, I prefer using chrome even though it is not open source. The reason for me is simple: Firefox freezes occasionally, even on my monster of a gaming machine. It only uses one core out of the six I have left, and runs on a single process versus chrome that uses multiple cores and a new process for every tab.
Download Google Chrome from here: https://www.google.ca/chrome/browser/desktop/index.html
Extensions (for chrome only)
I use extensions very conservatively and only if they are actually useful. With that being said, the following extensions make browsing the web a breeze for me:
This is by far my favorite extension. As the name says, this extension blocks annoying ads that pop up all over the web. Not only does it work on YouTube as well, it makes whole websites easier to read because of the minimalistic view without ads.
Note: Some websites rely on ads to earn revenue and therefore serve you. You can easily turn off adblock in those websites, simply click on the adblock icon and then “Don’t run on pages on this domain” like shown below
Download AdBlock for Google Chrome from here: https://getadblock.com/
Have you ever used Safari on an Apple device and wondered why web browsing is so fluid on them? Well, there is no secret as to why they are so smooth–Safari has smooth scrolling implemented into the browser itself, which makes browsing very “smooth.” When scrolling pages up and down in chrome, you will notice that it is very “Sticky.” Since chrome does not have this built in, thankfully there is an extension called SmoothScroll that lets you enable smooth scrolling on chrome.
Download SmoothScroll for Google Chrome from here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/smoothscroll/nbokbjkabcmbfdlbddjidfmibcpneigj?hl=en
Junk files and Virus + Malware Cleaners
There is no other program that goes further to clean junk files other thank CCleaner. As the industry standard for cleaning up junk files and folders in your system, CCleaner makes your PC smoother (less junk files to index), and leaves a lot of otherwise wasted free space. By using it on a client PC that was 2 years old, it removed 5.51GB of junk files, most of which were temporary files used previously by program installers.
In addition to getting software from such a reputable company like Piriform, CCleaner also gets free updates every so often making an already awesome software awesomer (is that a word?).
Download CCleaner from here: https://www.piriform.com/ccleaner/download/standard
As an antivirus program, Avast! does its job incredibly well. From providing solutions to block network attacks all the way to in-depth file scanning, Avast! stands as the antivirus king of the hill. As a proud user for over eight years, Avast! has amazingly blocked many attacks that I otherwise would not have know was happening. In addition to the massive virus database Avast! has, free updates are provided on a timely manner so that nasty Virus does not get into your system.
Download Avast! Free from here: https://www.avast.com/en-eu/index
Before I start on what Malwarebytes is, here is an excellent article by PCMag on what the differences between a Virus, Spyware and Malware are.
Malwarebytes, as the name suggests, is an antimalware and antispyware program. What differentiates it from a Virus cleaner is that Malwarebytes takes care of things that take complete control of your system–things like Moneypak and Conficker. During the many times that friends had unknowingly installed malware onto their systems, Malwarebytes was the best friend.
Download Malwarebytes Free from here: https://www.malwarebytes.org/
Despite the extremely cheesy logo, SumatraPDF is a wonderful piece of software for reading PDFs and many eBook formats such as ePub, Mobi, etc. While there are alternatives like Adobe reader that most people use, SumatraPDF’s extremely small size and time to open sets it apart from others–SumatraPDF is a 4.3MB program, versus Adobe Reader, which does the exact same thing as SumatraPDF at 72.3MB. It took SumatraPDF 3 seconds to load a PDF document on my PC, while on Adobe Reader, it took me nearly 9 seconds on the same PC. I could go on and on as to why SumatraPDF is the best PDF and eBook reader, but that would take ages and bore you.
Download SumatraPDF from here: http://www.sumatrapdfreader.org/free-pdf-reader.html
VLC Media Player is pretty much the go-to video player for anyone of any technical ability, simply because of one reason: It plays anything.
There is really not much to say about this program other than its ease of use, versatility, and availability across platforms: it is available in Windows, Mac, Android, and many distributions of Linux.
Download VLC Media Player from here: https://www.videolan.org/vlc/
7-Zip is the de facto standard for archiving and extracting files. Like VLC, this program opens and extracts anything with no problems. As a Windows user with requirements for lots of archiving, 7-Zip is a great gift. WinRAR used to be the program everyone used back in the day, but 7-Zip has taken over with greater algorithms, better UI and by publishing itself as freeware.
Download 7-Zip from here: http://sourceforge.net/projects/sevenzip/files/7-Zip/9.20/7z920.exe/
Don’t you absolutely hate how you have to install programs one by one and do the same thing for different programs all over again? Ninite is here to save the day! Along with all the programs I mentioned in this Article, Ninite contains many other programs that you may find useful.
The process is very simple–you check off which programs you want, you download the installer, and open it to have all your programs installed by themselves, no additional clicking required. The Ninite UI looks like this:
Get Ninite from from here: https://ninite.com/