Here is a list of programs & utilities (some free, some not) that I have installed on all my systems (desktop & laptop); use on a daily or weekly basis; and most highly recommend.  These ARE NOT listed in any priority order.

  1. Process Explorer (free, from Sysinternals. A ‘must have’ to see what processes are running on your system, and much, much more)
  2. Autoruns (free, from Sysinternals.  A ‘must have’ to see what programs are configured to run during system boot-up & much more)
  3. Xplorer2 (free lite version, $29.95 pro version. Powerful replacement for Windows File Explorer.  I use the Pro version, and can never go back to Windows File Explorer)
  4. Vopt (Best, fastest & most capable disk defragger I’ve ever used!  Even tho’ it costs $40, I like it so much I bought 2 licenses!  It has features not found on any other defrag program I’ve tried.  Try it out for 30 days & see if you don’t agree)
  5. Avira AntiVir Personal (Free.  I’ve been using this for the past several years & love it.  It’s highly rated, has a small footprint & utilizes few system resources)
  6. Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware (Free.  One of the best – if not the best – malware remover available)
  7. SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition (Make sure you download the free version)
  8. Sunbelt Kerio Personal Firewall (Free – I’ve been using this program for over 5 years.  It does exactly what a firewall is supposed to do, with a small footprint & without becoming “bloat-ware” that most all others have become.  I also use an older version of the free Comodo Firewall on a couple of my systems, but I noticed that it’s grown from a 7MB download to 45MB.  I don’t think I’d still recommend Comodo now, due to it’s apparent bloat).
  9. SyncEXP (Free, powerful file synchronization program. One of the best file/folder synchronizers I’ve ever used — great for synchronizing files/folders between PCs, laptops, and external HDDs.  Better get this one soon, because it’s transitioned to shareware (SyncEXPERT) & may soon disappear.  With this program, I could probably retire FolderMatch listed next.)
  10. FolderMatch ($35, Great folder comparison & synchronization software.  I’ve been using this software for over 6 years, altho’ SyncEXP can ‘almost’ replace it. I use it to synchronize data between all my systems (desktop & laptop) and backup to External HDDs.  It’s somewhat more powerful & definitely more friendly than SyncEXP, which is why I still use it & recently paid to upgrade)
  11. Foxit Reader (Free PDF viewer.  I haven’t used Adobe Acrobat Reader since it became so bloated several years ago… Version 6?  Anyways… this is a GREAT replacement!)
  12. CCleaner (Free.  I’ve been using this program for several years… despite some folks thinking you might destroy your system.  I usually defrag my drives weekly, and even though Vopt has a fine cleanup utility, I always run CCleaner before defragging my HDDs)
  13. Firefox (Free. Latest version v3.6.  Need I say more?  Be sure do download the “NoScript” extension.  It may be irritating at first, but believe me – it will protect you!!!)
  14. Notepad++ (Free source code editor & Notepad replacement.  Be sure to download & install the Spell Check program & dictionary)
  15. KeePass Password Safe (Free, open source password manager.  I’ve been using eWallet for many years & am slowly but surely transitioning to KeePass, primarily because it does not require installation & can run off of a USB stick, and it can import eWallet files.  Plus… it’s free, whereas eWallet costs $19.95)
  16. VLC Media Player (Free.  Absolutely the BEST open source video/multimedia player available, and comes with all codecs needed)
  17. Disk Cloning/Backup SoftwareI clone the system HDD of each of my systems on to a replacement HDD every 3-6 months.  In between, I use Acronis True Image Home ($49.99) to make full & incremental system disk backups on an external HDD.  There are now some free alternatives, but I have yet to try them.  They are:  Easeus Todo Backup; Easeus Partition Master; Easeus Disk Copy & DriveImage XML — to name a few.  As I stated, I haven’t tried these, but I believe Easeus has a good reputation & I’m going to try it out next.
  18. PDFCreator (Free.  I’ve been using this open source program for years, ever since it first appeared.  It creates a PDF file from any Windows program that can print.  It’s fantastic for saving web pages/articles.)
  19. TrueCrypt (Free.  IMHO, the best open source encryption software available.  I use it to create virtual encrypted disks of my sensitive data files/folders, that are then mounted as a real disk when I need to access them.  It can also be used to encrypt entire partitions, USB flash drives, or your entire HDD (including your system drive.)
  20. ImgBurn (Free, lightweight, powerful CD/DVD/HD DVD/Blu-ray burning application.  Although beginners might find it a bit difficult to master, it’s capabilities are awesome & I’ve yet to create a “coaster” with this app)
  21. Image Viewers/Editors.  These are all free & I have several of them installed, but I prefer Faststone Image Viewer for everyday viewing, minor editing, cropping, resizing & converting to other image formats.  The others I use are IrfanView (keeps getting more powerful each & every update); XnView; and GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). Some folks call Gimp the”poor man’s Photoshop.”  It’s extremely powerful, but intimidating for noobies.  Version 2.8 is slated for release around Dec 2010, and is sporting a new, more user-friendly interface.  For most of my hardcore photo editing, I use Jasc Paint Shop Pro v9 & it’s follow-on, Corel’s Paint Shop Pro X2.  I have to admit, I’ve been disappointed with Paint Shop Pro since Corel purchased it (not to mention it’s higher price tag) & usually stick with Jasc’s last version.  I know Google’s Picasa is highly rated, and probably the best bet for noobies.  I tried it out, but couldn’t tolerate it’s need to scour all my HDDs for images & build it’s own image catalog.  I manage all my images myself; I know exactly where they all are; and I don’t want software searching for every image, everywhere, on all my HDDs, just to build it’s OWN catalog.  I haven’t tried Picasa since. One more free product is Lightbox Image Editor.  I’ve never tried it myself, but it’s received positive reviews.

These just happen to be the first 21 items that come to mind.  There’s many more, such as music players (Winamp); FTP client (I like FileZilla); newsreaders; office suites; accounting software; tax prep software (I prefer TaxACT — it’s better & much cheaper than all the others, especially TurboTax); audio editors/recorders (Audacity); CD rippers (I prefer CDex & have been using it for many years); DVD rippers (DVDFab); etc., etc., etc.  It’s hard to quit, but I’ll end it here for now.