Windows

The first five apps I install on a new Windows desktop

When you set up a new Windows installation for yourself, which apps do you turn to first? Scott Lowe shares his work-oriented list of essential apps.
This post was originally published in December 2011. With the pending release of Windows 8, is it time to change the first five apps?

Every so often, I need to provision a new Windows desktop for myself. I occasionally replace my primary desktop computer or create a working Windows 7 virtual machine to use long-term (e.g., on my MacBook Air). Or I may need to reinstall Windows to my Windows laptop. In this article, I'm going to outline the first five tools I install on new Windows installations. (I'm not going to cover things like Microsoft Office, which is generally a given.)

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: ISO image mounter/Virtual optical drive (Daemon Tools)

Given the amount of software testing I do, I download software all the time. A lot of what I need comes in the form of ISO files. So one of the first tools I install on my new Windows systems is an ISO image mounter called Daemon Tools Lite. Although Daemon Tools can do a bunch of other stuff, I use it just to mount ISO images on virtual CD/DVD drives that the software creates. This allows me to load an ISO as if I were inserting a disc into a CD drive.

In Figure A, note that Daemon Tools installs itself to the system tray and provides a shortcut menu that allows you to manage the virtual media that's mounted on the managed virtual optical drives. In Figure B, you get a look at the Daemon Tools interface.

Figure A

The Daemon Tools tray icon provides a shortcut to common functions.

Figure B

The Daemon Tools Lite interface

2: Antivirus (Microsoft Security Essentials)

In a recent article, I wrote about the latest beta for Microsoft Security Essentials. I've been a big fan of MSE (Figure C) for quite a while. It's free, it's lightweight, and it does a great job. It's also one of the first five tools I install on every new Windows machine.

There's not a lot to say about MSE. It's an anti-malware application that gets the job done at the right price.

Figure C

Microsoft Security Essentials

3: Screen capture tool (HyperSnap)

You may know that I tend to write. A lot. And much of my work includes screenshots. For a number of years, I've been using a tool called HyperSnap (Figure D) from a company called Hyperionics. Over the years, the company has improved HyperSnap, but it's always been a robust screen capture tool. It has become almost second nature for me to hit Ctrl + Shift + R to capture a region of the screen; I just do it without thinking.

Up until version 7, which came out recently, I've had nothing but great things to say about each new release of the product. Version 7, however, feels like a small step backward to me. It's still a great tool, but some of the ease of use has gone away. Older versions made it really easy to, for example, cut a vertical or horizontal strip out of a captured image. But version 7 has rearranged the interface and "hid" some of the great stuff under layers.

That said, I'm still a huge fan of the product, and as long as they keep making it, I'll keep upgrading! It's inexpensive and extremely easy to use, and it lets me quickly adjust captured screenshots to suit my needs.

Figure D

HyperSnap

4: Blogging tool (Windows Live Writer)

Again... I write a lot and I use a variety of tools to do so. I do a lot of my work in Word, but I also publish a lot of items directly to Wordpress-based blogs. I can use Word for that as well, but I actually like Microsoft's free Windows Live Writer tool (Figure E) much better. Writer does an admirable job of getting formatting right and dealing with images. Images can be a pain in the neck sometimes in WordPress, but Writer handles them with ease. So I can focus on creating content as opposed to having to mess around with the mechanics.

Setting up Writer is really easy, too. Simply point it at your blog and provide credentials and Writer does the rest of the setup.

Figure E

Add a new blog account to Windows Live Writer.

5: Hypervisor (VMware Workstation)

I test everything under the sun. I have a great lab set up that runs Hyper-V, but I also use VMware Workstation on my desktop (Figure F). VMware continually blows me away with every new release. The primary reason I moved to Workstation 8, for example, was because of its ability to pass VT/AMD-v hardware virtualization extensions through to virtual machines. This makes it possible to test in a virtual environment software that depends on these extensions being present.

I've been a Workstation user from the very beginning. I've tried everything else as well, including VirtualBox and Virtual PC. I've always returned to Workstation, though. It's extremely feature rich and, while it's not free like the others, the features have outweighed the cost.

Figure F

VMware Workstation 8 is the king of desktop hypervisors at present.

What are your first five?

Does your list of must-have apps overlap with this one? What other tools do you install first on new Windows systems?

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

144 comments
mlevault
mlevault

1. Microsoft Security Essentials, 2. Malwarebytes, 3. CCleaner, 4. Adope Flash player, 5. FoxIt Software PDF Reader, 6. Firefox, 7. VLC Media player, 8. If needed Open Office.

Tom Funke
Tom Funke

1. All system updates 2. MSSE (antivirus) 3. Totalcmd 4. Firefox 5. Libre Office

j-mccurdy
j-mccurdy

They're programs, the apps go on your iPhone.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

None of these items are apps. They perform useful functions and have proper interfaces, therefore they are programs. ;) My list (8): - (Free) Mozilla Firefox - (Free) CCleaner - (Free) Notepad++ - (Free) IZArc - (Free) Foxit Reader - (Free) IrfanView - (Free) Macrium Reflect - (Free) K-Lite Codec Pack

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

1. Classic shell and any other desktop customizers for the particular garbage WinX GUI. For instance I hate the login screens on most systems and I use login screen changer software to rip out this junk. The person who came up with the Win 7 login screen should be consigned to some institution for help. 2. disk toggler or I build my own toggler using Nirsoft tools 3. Mouse jiggler 4. Get Right Pro 5. ImgBurn 6. Wubi 7. Linux 8. Disk imager i.e. acronis, driveImageXML etc. 9. Any one of a number of desktop organizers like stardock, objectdock, nexus etc. 10. Virtual CD-DVD tool 11. Tools i.e. BIOS tools, boot strap tools, partition tools thumbdrive suites, crapware removal tools etc. I run several OSes i.e. damn small Linux and Puppy Linux off external drives and thumb drives. 12. Virtual PC tools for Win X, Linux and Mac so I can run any system on or from within any OS on my computer i.e. parallels, xp mode etc. Think ahead get a BIG thumb drive and download all this "Stuff" once. I use the image tools to image the OEM disk, rip out all the junk, install my stuff and image this as a base starting point and then I build my custom system with slotted partitions for each OS I want to boot to each with a different purpose i.e. partition one WinX i.e. Win 7 Home Premium with an office suite, downloader, music stuff etc. partition two with Win 7 pro with dev and network tools, remote login tools etc, one partition open for the latest win-junk testing right now its Win8 Metro and the back partition I use to load several linux versions (for training, I am going to dump Windows as soon as I get up and running on Linux without training wheels), right now its Ubuntu and Mint both of which I use to "pitch in" and help. My last contribution was helping with a WUBI script that was failing on UUID detection.

Cicuta2011
Cicuta2011

I am an all UNIX guy and for me Windows is for the home and "probably" for the Real State people. When it comes to big corporations I think that "probably" a Windows intelligent remote terminal is OK with Putty installed to access UNIX Servers and secretaries of course. However, for a Windows PC there are two applications which are a must: An Anti-virus program (I use Norton) and a 7-Zip to unzip files and that is it!

James-SantaBarbara
James-SantaBarbara

I know the point of your article was 5 apps but could you give me a link to a better explanation of using Live Writer to update blogs. I have added my Wordpress blogs to Live Writer but am having trouble using to edit/update blogs? Help and support for Live Writer is minimal at Microsoft sites. I use MSE, Foxit Reader, Notepad++, AutoRuns, Process Explorer, 7zip, ccleaner, ImgBurn, and File Renamer primarily. Thanks

bill
bill

1. AVG anti-virus 2. CCleaner 3. Advanced System Care 4. FireFox 5. Auslogics Disk Defrag

wladisov
wladisov

vlc sumatara pdf irfanview metapad infrarecord alas, five apps are not quite enough to fill the gaping holes that ms windows leaves in terms of base applications. Not to worry, adding a few additional software packages will provide a secure foundation for your basic desktop needs. Libre Office qbittorrent GIMP for windows mozilla firefox webroot spysweeper, malware and virus protection

jdaughtry
jdaughtry

Free --AVG AntiVirus -- Greenshot screen shot software -- IMGburn --7-Zip --VLC --7-Zip --FreePDF --PDF-Xchange Viewer Not Free --Softmaker Office (I guess that's more than five isn't it ;-)

don.howard
don.howard

Chrome browser with the Google snooping cut out. (Got tired of FireFox hanging on me). Other than that, my list would be a mishmash of things previously mentioned.

grayknight-22253692004129760887070084760051
grayknight-22253692004129760887070084760051

Free: MSE Pismo FIle Mount or Virtual Clone Drive 7-zip Foxit PDF Reader Paint.NET Windows Live (Mesh, Messenger, Photo Gallery) Paid: EditPad Pro MS Office Pro (One Note is the best) Visual Studio Pro Expression Studio Ultimate

streamcap
streamcap

1. MSE - don't go out in the rain without a raincoat. 2. Virtual CloneDrive - tops Daemon all day long in my book. 3. Chrome - for advanced hang-ten surfing. 4. Firefox with Adblock and NoScript (since I want to be able to sneak around the less lit up corners of teh Interwebz sometimes). 5. Spotify, for the killer tunes. 6. Live Mesh and Live Messenger - Mesh to sync documents, messenger to sync buddies ;) 7. 7-Zip, rather than the nagware WinRAR. 8. FoxIt PDF Reader, I avoid the Adobe version if I can. 9. Adobe Flash, if I absolutely have to (EDIT: Wasn't top 7...)

hondafrank
hondafrank

I prefer Greenshot for screen captures. Amazing program and still free.

nomad1848
nomad1848

One of my favorite screenshot tools is GreenShot, a completely free tool that also allows for region capture and post capture editing. Definitely worth taking a look at.

david.dionys
david.dionys

Great lists, won't bore you with mine, as it is a mashup of the rest. I use zipgenius for zip purposes, contextual menu and like it much better than winrar. Underwrite gadwin printscreen, think it's great and can be configured to do exactly what you want in no time!

bobc4012
bobc4012

Good list Pemath. While I haven't used Comodo Firewall, I have used the others. RevoUninstaller is one of the best (maybe the best) uninstaller on the market. I use it whenever needed adn I select the "deep" uninstall. I have found more often than not, trial ware and other freebie apps leave a lot of crapola in the registry with their uninstallers. Revo Uninstaller catches it on a "deep" uninstall - even MS uninstaller does not catch these "orphans". I'd also add Glary Utilities and Advanced System Care. After cleaning the registry with CClean, I run the other two as each seems to find other stuff. They also have other features which are very useful. Defraggler is another good package - you can defrag individual files.

GSG
GSG

Of course, I install the usual firewalls, MSE, etc... but the first thing I install after that is PuTTy, PSPad, VNC, and Dameware, then all of my specific tools for my VPN, etc... PSPad, in particular, has been a really good tool for me when navigating through the files on my Unix server. It just makes it a bit faster to find and edit some of the configurations.

ccuguns
ccuguns

My Apps: OpenOffice, FireFox, Thunderbird,

tiedmyhands67
tiedmyhands67

Combofix!!! Saves soooooo much time, specially when there's so much you gotta do on the fly! Avg has immense problems with virus's that lock your flash drive... At least I have never seen it clean my external or any of my flash's properly. I don't think any AV is particularly good. The only good anti virus is a well trained professional who has spent countless hours/years, researching all the bugs and nasties and understands all the important services required to run a windows machine... Without that knowledge it's like poking at the dark... You can see it's there just never quite find it!! Nothing worse than having to clean up the mess of a rambo gone wrong!!!!!

aaron
aaron

1. anti-virus - AVG (or Avast or Avira) 2. anti-spyware - Malwarebytes (and/or Spybot AND Ad-Aware) 3. Firefox (!) 4. cleaners - CCleaner and Revo Uninstaller 5. all Adobe free apps (Reader, Flash, Shockwave, ARM) After those essentials, the next preferred 5 ,,, 6. VLC and assorted codecs 7. MS Office or Open Office 8. Paint.NET 9. RealPlayer Downloader 10. Chromium (leaner and faster than Chrome) I teach a basic computers class at a trade school, and I see a LOT of viruses and spyware get through MSSE because people think it works all by itself. I prefer something a little more automated.

kharbeck
kharbeck

1. MSE 2. Sumatra - pdf reader 3. VLC 4. Superantispyware 5. 7zip

mantariz
mantariz

AVG or Avast Chrome 7-zip AusLogics DiskDefrag Macrium Reflect Team Viewer

sh10453
sh10453

This is what I would do after Windows is installed: These are arranged in their priority (you can tell I'm securing it first before anything else is added). 1- AVG antivirus (you may like something else, that's OK) 2- Comodo firewall (or ZoneAlarm) 3- WinPatrol 4- Ad-Aware 5- PeerGuardian After that, there are too many tools to list that I would add. I have been burned by CCleaner, so it has no place on my machine any more. There are alternatives. Regarding the screen capture program, I have found FastStone to be the best, and the most capable. You can change the default key sequences in the settings. For example, I use Alt+F3 to capture a window. FastStone allows you to capture a full screen, an active window, a rectangular area, an object, a free-hand region (zigzagged, star-shaped, etc.), and automatically opens in its own editor mode upon capturing. You can then crop, cut, paste, draw, or whatever you want to do with the captured image. It's also available in a portable version. As for CD-DVD utilities, there are too many free ones out there, and it's a matter of choice. After the security software above is installed, essential software can be loaded (office package, multimedia, Chrome, PaintShop Pro, MatLab, Schematic program, analysis software,..., you know the rest). Just my preference.

wompai
wompai

-Chrome (fast browsing) -CPU-Z / GPU-Z / Speccy (To see what I'm dealing with) -Antivirus (AVG, Avast!) -Winrar (Obviously) -Steam (What can I say, I'm a gamer...)

wdtaulbee
wdtaulbee

1 - MVPS HOSTS file (set DNS client service to disabled) 2 - Microsoft Security Essentials 3 - CCleaner 4 - Google Chrome 5 - WinRar

walfud
walfud

WinRar, QQ, Fetion, Thunder, Google Pinyin, Office, Vs 20xx. MSDN, Chrome, Ultra ISO, that's all

doctordawg
doctordawg

Panda Cloud AV Firefox (with AdBlock Plus) Thunderbird LIbreOffice VLC

wilson.1381
wilson.1381

1. MSE then patches 2. Browser (Firefox, Chrome) 3. Maricum Reflect 4. Glary Utilities. (I've found that my systems STAY running smoothly if I run this weekly) 5. Team Viewer (that way I can do much of my other installation remotely) 5. (yes I know that I said 5 twice.) As for screen caps, I too write (and screen capture to explain) a lot. After trying many, I prefer Gadwin Print Screen. It FLIES thru screen cap process. It is fully configurable, uses that otherwise wasted button, can grab high rez tif (and many others), cropped as I want them, to whatever folder I assign, as fast as I can move. Most others require extra keystrokes, etc with each shot.

mfskanpur
mfskanpur

The article is very informative and useful. In fact we people need urgently such type of articles.

cybershooters
cybershooters

I agree with a lot of what other people have said, MSE, Adobe Reader, Flash Player, etc. however I'm surprised only one person has mentioned Firefox and the adblock plus plug-in. Or maybe you all use the Chrome version, but I prefer Firefox to Chrome. Also I can't see anyone who has mentioned Google Earth. I should mention I put these things on my PCs, I don't put them on computers for others, they usually are in environments where they have a web filter and AV setup. I think Windows 7 has killed a lot of the little apps off, I like the snipping tool in Vista and 7 and one of the advantages 7 has over Vista is that they sorted out the backup program. However you always need something like 7-zip. And I notice that everyone is artfully avoiding the subject of bittorrent clients... pretty much everyone has one of those. I use the SolarWinds system tools a fair bit as well and also the Microsoft sysinterals. As well as more obvious stuff like Wireshark, netmon, resource kit and support kit tools and so forth. However absolutely #1 is RSAT.

ahmadrw
ahmadrw

1. CloneDrive 2. MSE 3. Office OneNote Capturing tool (Win+S) 4. N/A 5. VirtualBox 6. Fast Stone Image Viewer

blackmonoffive
blackmonoffive

I use Kaspersky suite and that goes on first. (I use freeware AV as a supplement.) Second goes the updates. Next, which may not count as a install; i create a basic user and change the admin to a different name. After that goes what I fill that unit/box is going to be used for. (Data, Email, Games, Music, so on and so on). I care a tool kit of revo-uninstall, winstat, Malwarebytes, ClamAv, ClamwinAV, Chrome, Firefox, Portable apps, Secunia PSI, just to name a few. If friends or family need something I try to have it. I just don't have any favorites rather needs and wants.

A. Silva Ledesma
A. Silva Ledesma

no matter the user or use 7zip (free) CCleaner (free) Firefox (free) with extensions (adblock, pdfdownload, FoxTab, dictionary, flash, shockwave, air, silverlight, etc.) Irfanview (free) Adobe reader (free) but I always end up installing other app. such as: Daemon Tools (free) Sysinternals (free) Comodo Firewall (free) Bullzip PDF printer (free) Skype (free) VLC (free) Spybot (free)

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

first six apps: office 2010 Avast free (sometimes AVG) mxone dropbox vlc media player logmein additional ones (required!) chrome winrar adobe professional or reader cutepdf optional: teracopy rocketdock nero 9 clonedvd anydvd daemon tools handbrake jasc paint shop pro blackberry desktop manager malwarebytes antimalware ultraiso

bobmatch
bobmatch

1, An antivirus is top before hooking anything to the outside world in any way! I've been told about 2 years ago that Norton was best, and about 9 monthes ago the only way to really keep virus off your computer is to leave it off! However, Microsoft essential seems to work well and, has a lower demand on resources (a key on inexpensive slower machines). And it's Free! 2, Microsoft web site to install updates and fixes. If everything is working well; at this point everything should be backed up in case things blowup on the desktop later on! 3, The latest Adobe reader. 4, MS office. The free stuff if fine but there isn't still a 100% replacement. (Let the arguments commence!) 5, IM software such as Microsoft live, which is good for sync a laptop with your desktop on the fly. 6..., The programs specific to your needs. IE... C++ if you program for a living.

elimarcus
elimarcus

1.Comodo Firewall and Anti Virus (free versions) 2. Edit Plus 3 (bought a license many years ago) 3. WinRar (bought a license many years ago) 4. Gadwin PrintScreen (free) 5. Firefox (6.) - Email client not on desktop anymore - Thunderbird Portable application on an 8 GB flash drive

finny
finny

Add Crapcleaner (CCleaner) Only pgm I know that allows deletion of specific System Restores. 25 Clips (Stores 25 "clips" for clip and paste). Great help.

finny
finny

Wordweb (dictionary) Anti-Virus program, (I use TrendMicro) Snag-It (don't leave home without it) Keyboard Express (macro program)

gak
gak

1. Total Commander. There are things to be done, right? 2. Microsoft Security Essentials. Let that Windows stop screaming there is no antivirus. 3. WikidPad, "an IDE for your thoughts". The wonderful Microsoft defaults to get rid of, the exact locations of the installers, passwords - all is stored there, so I have to install it early. About 40 other portable apps are also installed as a side effect. 4. Opera. I like to have all the Internet and Mail junk in one place. 5. Alcohol 52% for virtual drives. It used to be Daemon Tools, but Alcohol was the first to provide good Windows 7 compatibility and never failed me ever since... Now I am capable to install the apps necessary to do some work, but the space in the top list is already exhausted. Thus I also use VirtualBox instead of VMware.

TK182
TK182

MSE MediaMonkey Chrome WinRAR Office OneNote/Office Suite

bullgtor
bullgtor

For me it includes RoboForm. Login and form fill time saved is worth the cost.

ClapHammer
ClapHammer

Great tips here but I didn't see TotalCommander. The best File manager available. In my humble opinion at least. Thanks for the HyperSnap tip.

rsaustin
rsaustin

MS Security Essentials Firefox Irfanview LibreOffice Seagate Manager for my USB HDD

evan.summers
evan.summers

i add opensource apps to make it more like Linux box Firefox Thunderbird OpenOffice Gimp and putty, to access real Linux servers from this toy desktop ;)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

years before phones. Speaking of years, you dug up a year-old discussion. That's great way to get the last word, but don't expect many responses to a zombie topic.

SKDTech
SKDTech

qbittorrent is currently the best torrent program in my opinion. Used to use utorrent until they tried to be more than a torrent client and merely bringing it up would cause intermittent freezes on my PC. Used Vuze before utorrent and dropped it for the same reason. I shouldn't have to fight my PC just download Linux discs and legally purchased music and games.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

Years ago it did mean "full-featured" software. Now it is applied to "widgets". :( IMO, tech writers should know (and highlight) the difference.

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