You might not have realized it — what with all the excitement over “Magic Mike” and all — but we are rapidly approaching an exciting season: prime buying time for new Windows computers!
(I know, I know, settle down.)
The latest, super-fast Intel chips are now shipping in new machines; Samsung, Vizio, Asus, and Sony have all outed well-reviewed new models.
Windows 8, the transformative new operating system for Windows computers, will be released to the world in a few months — which either means an easy, $15 upgrade for your current machine, or that you should buy now if you think you’re going to hate Windows 8 and don’t want it pre-loaded on your shiny new PC).
So, what free programs should you download first for your Windows machine? Or, if you’ve already got a PC, what apps should you already be running daily? We think we’ve got 10 of the most essential, indispensable, must-have free programs for Windows. Dive in below, and tell us what we missed in the comments section.
If you’re unsure whether you need to be running a program on startup, Soluto also shows you, in a handy pie chart, what percentage of other Soluto users choose to disable that program from starting. Crowd-sourced computer wisdom! That’s my favorite use of Soluto, but there are several more on the Soluto.com dashboard. You can view your hard drive usage, change your default browser and homepage, manage applications on other computers, if family members need computer help (Hi, Mom!); and check for Windows and anti-virus updates.
In short, Soluto is a Swiss army knife you’ll want in your pack. You can download it for free here.
Don’t lose your photos and documents if your laptop suddenly crashes for some reason! A service like Dropbox — which can automatically upload your new photos, documents, and other essential files to the cloud for later access — can save you from a lot of hassle when you inevitably spill vodka all over your keyboard and destroy your computer. Store those essentials in an online cloud locker like Dropbox, Google Drive or SkyDrive. (PLUG: We have a mini-guide to determine which cloud-based storage service is right for you here).
You can download Dropbox (here) and set it up so that it automatically backs up certain folders (like Documents, Photos, My Music, whatever) whenever you add a new file. Don’t use your PC without it (and don’t drink straight vodka above the keyboard, either).
Enter Prey, an awesome program that allows you to do all that and more. You just download Prey and register your device for free on the Prey website. If the laptop ever goes missing, you can notify Prey online and use the Prey control panel to geo-locate it, set off an alarm to hear if it’s nearby, and lock down the device to prevent anyone else from using it.
Scumbag laptop thieves are out there. Be ready for them with Prey. Get started here.
No need to visit dozens of websites: It’s all right here, baby.
For $10, you can also get “Ninite Updater,” which scans your computer for apps and plug-ins that have updates available. A super useful utility, but obviously not free. At 10 bucks, there are worse ways to spend an Alexander Hamilton. Check out Ninite here.
Didn’t get the Microsoft Office software suite with Windows? No worries! OpenOffice is a free suite of productivity software with applications that can replace Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Access. OpenOffice allows you to view documents created with Word and PowerPoint and Excel and whatnot while also allowing you to create those documents, too. It’s everything you would want from Microsoft Office, for free.
Save some cash while getting productive with your bad self. Pick up OpenOffice here.