Re-Building a Better PC
Published on June 27, 2010 By Larry Kuperman In Internet

It has been a while since I have written one of these articles combining two of my favorite topics: Software and Free Things. In the past, they have turned collaborative, with members of the community adding their favorite programs and often teaching me. I hope that this time is no different.

I recently played with a couple of Linux distros, starting off with Live CDs (and Live USB installs) and then decided to install Ubuntu on a partition. Ran it quite happily for a while alongside Windows and then during an upgrade, Linux did a "bad thing" to my MBR. Now I don't want to get into a discussion about Super Grub disks (which I tried) on how real men edit Grub manually...I just want to set the stage. I decided that it was time for a clean re-install of Windows. I used to dread re-installations, always dreading that I was going to forget something, but this time I had a clean and painless re-installation using free software products, except for my OS.

I started with Partition Wizard, which I find the most user-friendly and easiest to use partition management software. The Home Edition is freeware (http://www.partitionwizard.com/) and I downloaded and burnt the bootable CD. That let me arrange my drive as I wanted and I could have used that to recover any files that I needed, but in this case, I didn't need anything. More about that later.

Having the drive as I wanted, I could now proceed to a clean install. My preference. I inserted my Windows 7 disk and let it do it's thing. Windows 7 seems to install much faster than any previous version of Windows even thought this wasn't on the fastest PC.

OS installed, I was now ready to add on my programs. I opened a link to Ninite Easy PC Setup, http://ninite.com/ (Thanks to Stardock's own "Shirley" for pointing that site out to me.) I went down the list creating an Uber installer that would basically get me back to where I wanted to be. Moving down the list, I installed:

Chrome

Pidgin

iTunes and Hulu

Irfanview

OpenOffice, Adobe Acrobat and CutePDF

Microsoft Security Essentials

Flash, Java, .Net and Silverlight

Dropbox

CCleaner, Auslogics Defrag, CDBurnerXP

7Zip

Now all of these programs are also available as individual downloads from their own websites or from Download.com or similar sites, but because I used Ninite, I could let them all install and go out to the pool, knowing that I was going to get the latest versions and NO TOOLBARS! The installs could not be easier and are unattended, leaving me free time to bask in the sun. Ninite offers you choices, so if you prefer Firefox to Chrome, you'll find it there. I am truly thankful for this site.

The only two programs that I needed to complete my install that are not on Ninite are LastPass (http://lastpass.com/) which I use to manage my passwords and, ironically, Impulse. They are not one Ninite and I wrote to the Ninite folks to ask why they aren't when competitor programs. Within one day of my inquiry, I received a very polite response from Sascha Kuzins, Co-Founder of Ninite, "We add titles to the site mainly based on the number of requests we get from users through our request form and by email." So, if you are like me and use LastPass for passwords and Impulse for games and Stardock products, let the folks at Ninite know and maybe they will add them in. Anyway, at this time, you will need to add these programs on manually.

I mentioned Dropbox, one of the many solutions that allows you to store your files in the Cloud. I have been saving all of my documents, spreadsheets, presentations and PDFs on Dropbox for a while. Again, there are several similar solutions, but I find Dropbox the easiest to use. You can set up Private and Public locations, it defaults to a virtual folder in your Documents folder...again, trivially easy to use. I installed Dropbox, logged in and voila! Everything was back as it should be.

I have only recently switched to OpenOffice for home use. It has gotten so good, for what I need, i just can't justify the expense of an MS Office license. I do find that Microsoft Security Essentials is the lightest and fastest AV and anti-malware solution. I am coming to love Chrome as the browser of choice although I still have Firefox on two of my other PCs. Auslogic is the fastest defrag solution that I have found and again, a very small footprint. I don't do much which images, so Irfanview, which I have used for years, is just fine.

I mentioned that I have three PCs at home. (And I live alone, it is NOT an addiction, I can stop anytime I want...) A great program for controlling multiple PCs not in the same room (for that I would use Multiplicity, of course) is Teamviewer. See http://www.teamviewer.com/index.aspx It is also a superb solution if you are trying to help someone remote. Again, free for personal use.

 That's it for now. What are you favorites and what might I have missed?

 

 

 


Comments
on Jun 27, 2010

I should also add Device Doctor (http://www.devicedoctor.com/) a nice utility for finding missing drivers.

on Jun 27, 2010

What are you favorites and what might I have missed?

i just can't justify the expense of an MS Office license.

Technet, Larry...

on Jun 27, 2010

Acronis (not free)

Directory Opus (not free)

Snagit or Jing

on Jun 27, 2010

Ooooooooo let's see: 

 

Greenshot - Lightweight screenshot app.  It kicks absolute ass.  Light weight, effective, comes with just enough bang to be useful without going over the top. 

Notepad++ - awesome text editor. It does everything.    A short list:  syntax highlighting for like a zillion languages, execute stuff right to the command line, a ridiculously powerful find/replace feature, and a ton of text manipulation functionality.  

Launchy - Keystroke application launcher.

Fences!  - (duh)

Virtuawin - My favorite of the windows virtual desktop things. 

 

on Jun 27, 2010

Koop.  I thought Koop was dead.

Huh.

Go figure.


Foxit reader.

Picassa

Jing

Paint.net


 

on Jun 28, 2010

Ditto Picasa.  GDS isn't half bad either. 

 

 

on Jun 28, 2010

I think Koop is dead - Surgeon General awhile back, wasn't he?

Anyway, Hello again Kupe.  Good to see you.  Stop by more often.

Oh, and good list of very useful free stuff.  Thanks.

on Jun 28, 2010

Here are some of my favorite freebies:

  • Gimp
    It's not the Photoshop replacement they want it to be, but it's got a lot more "oomph" than nearly every other free/cheap Paint program.
  • Foxit Reader
    Lighter than Adobe's Acrobat Reader.  I think the small banner ad in the Foxit Reader's upper right corner is a small price to pay for a PDF reader that doesn't install itself all over your operating system.
  • Firefox
    I still prefer Firefox over all other browsers.  Sure, it's "heavier" than it used to be, but it's also faster and more standards-compliant.
  • WinDirStat
    This is the tool to use if you've ever asked "Where'd all my free harddrive space go?"  You can scan a drive (or multiple drives, or a specific folder), and it will return a list of your folders/files in biggest-to-smallest order.  It also displays a graphical representation of your file system.  See that large block?  That's a large file.  See all those yellow blocks?  Those are all your MP3 (or whatever) files.
  • FileZilla
    Sometimes I gotta FTP
  • ImgBurn
    Simple and clean way to copy CD's or DVD's, or create new ones.  Designed for creating data discs, not video.
  • VLC
    The Swiss Army Knife of media players.  I prefer Windows Media Player for music, but VLC is my go-to for video.  Avoid "codec hell" - use VLC
  • Thunderbird
    Much better than Outlook Express, although it can't connect to Hotmail/LiveMail accounts
  • 7-Zip
    I prefer the extra control I get with 7zip over Windows's built-in zip program
  • Notepad++
    An excellent (and powerful!) text editor.  I do a lot of Ruby on Rails programming, and Notepad++ is my editor of choice.  (Yes, I'd rather be use Windows/Notepad++ than OSX/TextMate for RoR development.)
  • Fences
    I got a lot of icons on my desktop, and Fences keeps them organized.  Fences Pro for $10 (on sale) was a no-brainer purchase.

As an added bonus, all of the programs (except Fences) in this list can be installed as portable applications!  I keep copies of all these (again, except Fences) on my keychain USB flash drive.  It's handy that, regardless of which computer I use, I've got most of my favorite programs ready to go!

 

Except for two items on the list (Fences and

on Jun 28, 2010

I have a couple of forum threads at skinnalicious.net (pinchecl's web site) specializing in free software; one is called NEAT, FREE SOFTWARE; the other is called NEAT, FREE, GRAPHICS SOFTWARE. There are more than 200 listed in both threads.

NEAT, FREE SOFTWARE:

http://www.skinnalicious.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?start=0&topic_id=13&viewmode=flat&order=ASC&type=&mode=0

 

NEAT, FREE, GRAPHICS SOFTWARE:

http://www.skinnalicious.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?start=0&topic_id=14&viewmode=flat&order=ASC&type=&mode=0

on Jun 29, 2010

Thank you all for your replies. Daiwa, your greeting was particularly warm and appreciated. I will try to post more often.

I sort of avoided promoting Stardock products myself, but nice to see how much people love Fences.

Something new that I have found since yesterday. I am going to guess that everyone is familiar with the folks at Piriform? Developers of CCleaner, Defraggler and Recuva? Check out Speccy, http://www.piriform.com/speccy

"Speccy is an advanced System Information tool for your PC. We're always improving it, but have just published a Final Release version for you to download!"

on Jul 01, 2010

Really good and instructive article, Larry, thanks for sharing you experiences, I just installed Microsoft Security Essentials today to give it a try and the article is encouraging.

on Jul 01, 2010

KOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!

 

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