Sunday, March 26, 2006

Must-have software for your Windows computer

Friends sometimes ask me what software they should install on their PC.

Below is a list of what I use to secure my computer (anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware), to add functionality (file-renamer, erasers...), and to feel like I'm with it (bitttorent, picture viewer, music tagger...).

I didn't add any video editing software suggestions yet. And I'm sure there are great free programs I didn't include. So, be sure to visit http://www.lifehacker.com/software/ for more suggestions.

Anyway, here is my list of must-have software. Most of it is free.


Anti-virus

There are some free anti-virus software around. But I use Norton Anti Virus Corporate Edition. It is lightweight and it's from Symantec, which is a leader in anti-virus stuff.


Firewall
Again, there probably some free ones around. But Zone Alarm is what I use. I got it because I read great reviews about its ease of use. If you use the Microsoft fireware included in XP, that's a good choice too. But that one only blocks attacks from the outside. Zone Alarm blocks information from leaving your computer. So, if you naively install (let into your computer) some evil software, the Microsoft firewall won't stop sensitive info on your computer from being sent back to the evil doers, for instance.



Free anti-spyware / malware

All the products listed in this category are free and they all work together nicely. Experts agree that no one anti-spyware program finds all problems. So, install all of these and do scans at least once a month. Or, if possible, let some of them run in the background to stop spyware before it does any damage.

Windows Defender (requires valid copy of Windows)
http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/default.mspx

Spybot Search & Destroy
http://www.safer-networking.org/en/download/index.html

Eweido Anti-Malware
http://www.ewido.net

Spyware Blaster
http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareblaster.html

Ad-Aware
http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware

Hijack This
http://hijackthis.de



Utilities
This software isn't required. But I like the ones listed below because they save time.

Eraser
- Delete files from your hard drive
- Installs to context menu
- Right-click file and select Erase
- Erases all free space on your hard drive
http://www.heidi.ie/eraser/download.php

Better File Rename
- Batch renames files in folder by date, etc.
http://www.publicspace.net/windows/BetterFileRename

Tree Size
- View how many megs are in your folders and all its sub-folders
http://www.download.com/3000-2248-10008952.html

WinRAR
- Faster way to unzip ZIP, RAR and a dozen other compressed formats
- Installs to context menu
- Simply right-click ZIP file and select "Extract to [foldername]"
http://www.download.com/3000-2248-10008952.html

ISO Buster
- Open ISO files
http://www.isobuster.com


Other useful free software
This software is really not vital. But I recommend these too.

Firefox
- Web browser

Picasa
- Photo directory and editor
- Free from Google
http://picasa.google.com/

ĀµTorrent
- Very lightweight bittorent software
- Doesn't hog system resources like others
http://www.utorrent.com

Exact Audio Copy
- Copy CD music to your hard drive
- Top-rated extractor
http://www.exactaudiocopy.de

Audacity
- Edit audio files
http://audacity.sourceforge.net

Music Brainz
- Automatically adds or fixes the meta tag information for your entire mp3 collection
http://musicbrainz.org


Those are my choices. For more choices, visit http://www.lifehacker.com/software/.

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