There are some essential steps to take after re-installing your computer applying the service packs and downloading essential updates (N.B. SP2 or later for WinXp includes the Windows Firewall – sufficient for most users so I wouldn’t bother with a 3rd party addition) . It pays to get Windows up to date immediately before installing anything else and the sooner you have this completed you can stop using IE and get your Firefox on.
There are drivers to be installed and settings to be tweaked. Desktop backgrounds to be set and colour schemes to fiddle with. Once you’ve got your start menu cleaned up of all the Micro$oft default rubbish it is time to start repopulating it.
If you are sick of the look of XP why not try the Vista Transformation Pack – get the look of Vista without the headaches!
I have compiled this list of the ‘essentials’ as I install them:
(updated May 2008 – added some new entries and updated all links)
- Firefox is always top on the list
- AVG Antivirus is the best of the free Anti Virus solutions
- Getright download manager combines with Flashgot
- Azureus BitTorrent client (click here for intro to downloading with azureus – part one)
- I use VLC as my default video media player
- For managing my music collection and general audio player I use Media Monkey with one of the themes for vesrion 3. I usually choose a nice dark theme either Zune or Eclipse and then use a Greyscale background to replace the default
- Install the Flickr uploader for speedy uploading of photos. I recommend continuing ot use the 2.5 version as the client is slimmer and has faster response times. If you do a lot of batch processing the tagging and description is better in version 3
- If you want a nicer toolbar than the standard one I use ObjectDock. Try a theme like Wirefreme or Eminence. Extract them to the C:\Program Files\ObjectDock\Backgrounds folder
- I use Xplorer2 to replace default Windoze explorer, it has tabs, bookmarks, hotkeys, etc
- I use TeraCopy (right click “Save Target As” for this one, then double click the exe to install) to replace default Windoze file copy. It is faster, supports Queues and pause/resume
- I use Nero for burning CD/DVD’s
- I like to use WinRar for my unzipper
- I use Photoshop for all my graphic art
- I love the small size and simplicity of Irfanview for photo browsing and batch editing or resizing
- I usually update both Shockwave and Flash while I am at it (right click “Save Target As” for these, then double click the exe to install)
- Office 2007 for all the office goodness
- Magic ISO for ISO viewing and Magic Disc (right click “Save Target As” for this one, then double click the exe to install) mounting. Daemon Tools is a good alternative (actually I install and use both)
- Snagit for easy screen grabs
- Hamachi for Virtual Private Networking (VPN)
- UltraVNC for remote control over Hamachi for when Windoze remote control just doesn’t cut it.
And you’re just about done for the day. I know I am.
The best thing you can do once you have completed this is to then tweak all your services to disable any that you don’t really REALLY need (and this can be a lot!). Check out this post I’ve written for full details on how to Script Disable all you Services. Final task should be to use some disk Imaging tools to clone your good working fully loaded WinXP installation so that any time in the future you can resort to a clean build in 30 minutes!