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Must have software

So I'm responsible for the computers and network in my house (4 wired desktop pcs, 1 wireless desktop pc, 3 wireless laptops, 2 wireless mac laptops), and one of the most common tasks I do is re-formatting of all the different computers. I have learned that no matter what you do, what programs you install or don't install, Windows XP has a finite life-span that averages something between 6 to 18 months, after which there is nothing you can do to speed up the computers except for a fresh installation of Windows XP.

Having done this task hundreds of times, I have come up with a pretty good system on how to do it, and there is always a set of programs that I install. I will share here with you the list of software and the order you should install these programs in the following order*:
  1. Windows XP - Pro is always better than Home, and at the end of the installation process, when Windows asks you if you want to be protected by "windows Security Center" and download all kinds of crap, you should choose the "NO / later" option. I don't recommend Windows Vista because it still has many bugs and hardware compatibility issues.
  2. Your motherboard drivers - Use the cd that came with your motherboard to install the USB, Network card, Multimedia and Video drivers. If you don't have the original cd's that came with your computer, try to search for the drivers here: - New: Get the original drivers from your computer using "Double Driver". Free download
  3. Install your favorite web browser (Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are my favorites.)
  4. Install the Windows Media Player Firefox plugin - So you can see active content (movies, audio, etc.) in your browser.
  5. Install the Adobe Flash Player - So you can see flash animations (many sites work with flash menus, movies or even the whole site may be programmed in Flash) in your browser.
  6. WinRar - Basic software to open .rar compressed files
  7. Nero burner, PowerISO, MagicISO, Alcohol or it's equivalent - Software for burning cd's and dvd's.
  8. Real Player - To be able to see streaming videos and listen to streaming audio.
  9. iTunes - Organize your music library, download songs, tv shows and movies, listen to your digital music, etc.
  10. VLC - The universal player. It doesn't get any better than this
  11. Winamp 2.7 - Although the current Winamp version is around the 10.0, I like to use Winamp 2.7 as my default mp3 player. It's as big as 840Kb and opens in a blink of an eye. - click here for older versions of Winamp
  12. Divx codecs - Although VLC plays almost any video without the need of any additional codecs, it can't hurt having the latest codecs installed on your computer, that way, you are sure you can play ANY video.
  13. DVD Region+css free - This program allows you to see dvd's from any region without having to change the region of your dvd drive. Remember that your drive will lock on whatever region you change to after the 4th switch of regions.
  14. Spybot Search & Destroy - Software against all kinds of Malware (trojans, spyware, etc.)
  15. Norton Internet Security, AVG Antivirus, AVAST Antivirus on any other antivirus of your choice. I like Norton the best, but everybody has a different opinion about which is the best antivirus, and you know what they say, opinions are like assholes... everybody's got one.
  16. Open Office or Microsoft Office 2003 or 2007
  17. Adobe Acrobat - To read and write pdf files
There are also a few other programs that I like to install, but you may not necessarily find them useful or want to install them. Here they are anyway:
  1. Locate32 - Replace the turtle-slow search in Windows with an instant searcher... it's awesome! - You have to disable the Windows "indexing service" to help your computer run faster.
  2. Stardock Object Dock Plus - A "Mac" style bar that allows you to put links on it or it can even replace the Windows taskbar.
  3. CCleaner - Keep your Windows registry clean and error-free. This will help your computer run faster.
  4. Lavasoft Adaware - Whatever Spybot and your antivirus miss, this one will catch.
  5. Lavalys Everest - Gives you important information about your system, including motherboard, videocard and hard drive temperatures, as well as drivers names and locations and many more useful information.
  6. Total Video Converter - Convert any audio or video files to any format... for free!
You should also check this website: for a lot of free and trial versions of the programs mentioned above and more. If you know how to use torrent file sharing, then you know what to do. Good luck!
*The reason why you should install these programs in this order has to do (mostly) with "file associations". 

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