Thursday, October 05, 2006

Trim that Windows PC Belly: Programs to make a faster, secure PC in 7 easy steps

Are you tired of your PC? Are you looking to buy a new computer because your old one has become slower than 5 o'clock traffic? Have you been using the same old programs for the last 5 years? Here's some good news, start your PC off in a whole new direction next time you reformat. This is a guide to create a true fresh outlook on your PC.

The Story So Far

I recently purchased a Hard-Drive to replace my less than a year old MAXTOR (remember when they used to be a good company?). When I brought it home as I was reinstalling Windows, it came to my mind that I should redesign my desktop to have a fresh outlook on my PC. I've been using a Mac for the last 2 years and I wanted something new. My results - a lightning fast redux of my old desktop with new, sleaker, semi-gratis desktop. This is what I installed.

THE IMPORTANT STUFF

After installing Windows XP I downloaded and installed the following:
  1. If your PC brought a disk for drivers for your motherboard, I would suggest installing those drivers first (such as video, USB 2.0, soundcard, etc...).

  2. Download all the security updates including Service Pack 2 and Direct X. People buy the OS, you'll need to validate it to do this sort of stuff and in the end, you don't want a shady OS that has a bunch of patches and cracks.

  3. Download and install an Anti-Virus. DO NOT INSTALL NORTON ANTI-VIRUS OR MCAFEE SECURITY CENTER. Why? Well, why do you suppose some Mac users say that PC's are always said to be slower than Macs. The answer - an anti-virus will slow your PC down. Compare it to airport security, the more security, the slower the line will be. If you need to install an anti-virus, stick with slicker, smaller, less-resource intensive applications such as ClamWin, Avast or even AVG. Did I mention these are free?

  4. Download the Google Pack with the following programs: (You can download any of these by clicking on the link on the side of the page that says "Make your PC more useful. Get the free Google Pack." which grants me a referral fee. It's all I ask but you don't have to unless you want to. Thanks.)

    • Picassa - as your main Photo Organizer, viewer. It keeps your pictures organized for you and allows you to order prints with it.

    • Google Desktop - as your main file indexer. Find all/old emails, files, web history and more.
    • Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer - just in case you want to use IE in the future - you'll be protected.
    • Mozilla Firefox with Google Toolbar
    • Ad-Aware SE Personal - Install Ad-Aware (or Spy-bot) to defend your machine
      from spyware/malware. Immediately update the definitions once it asks you as
      soon as it finishes installing.

    While downloading the Google Pack, it would be a good idea to download the latest Google Earth as that program is really amazing and it provides hours of entertainment on your computer.

OFFICE-BASED SOFTWARE

Now for the programs that will really trim that PC Belly:
  1. Forget Microsoft Office. Most of us use MS Word and Excel. There is no need to install all of Microsoft Office for these 2 programs. Let's not even start on
    how much Microsoft Outlook sucks. Install Sun's OpenOffice. Free, powerful, has everything you would want from Microsoft Office and more without all the Active X nonsense which is what could lead your computer to being hijacked.

  2. Mozilla Thunderbird - a fantastic email software comparable to Microsoft Outlook. I'd be willing to say it's way better. Use Outlook in your actual work office because your company is going to force you to. At home, email should be fun, convenient, and most of all - safe. Download Thunderbird.

  3. Foxit Pro - You'll need a PDF reader on your PC. Foxit Pro is a PDF viewer that is less than 1/20th the size of Adobe Acrobat and did I mention it's free. It's so fast in comparison to Adobe Acrobat and it will not ask you to update each and every time you start it.

Make your PC work for you

Finally, do yourself the favor of turning on the System Scheduler on your PC and configure it to run your anti-virus to run a full system check, a spyware system check, an update to your Windows security updates all between the hours of 1:00am and 4:00am Sunday morning. Leave your system on throughout Saturday night and wake up Sunday to your newly inoculated PC sitting happy waiting for you. To learn how to do manage the Windows Scheduler, view my blog about that. (*Skip this step if you want but if you got some extra time this will save you updating time later.*)

I hope this helps out some PC users who've been having a hard time with their PCs and have been seeking a solution. Good luck and let me know how it turns out for you.

(As usual, with any advice, I don't take any responsability for any user downloading, installing or running this software. I don't work for any of the companies that produce any of this software. Nor am I a test of the following software - all of this is based on personal experience. Please download at your own risk. Honestly, nothing should happen - all of these applications are heavily tested and downloaded everyday by people on all types of machines. Enjoy.)

Good Tip: It would be a good idea to print this out if you're doing this step by step and don't want to be referring to this page while reinstalling all this original software. You can also download all the software directly from this page and save it to your desktop. Once you've downloaded all of them, take the time to burn them to a CD and once you reinstall Windows, slap in the disk with all this software and get crackin'.

If you want to continue this with more programs that might be worth your while, you may want to move on to the second installment (coming soon) of this post which is all EXTRA CREDIT. More advanced programs that will provide you a more complete PC exprience.

Until then, keep up the workout routine and let's get that machine back in shape. Cheers!

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