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Monday, November 10, 2008

You've got a new computer! ( what?)

Buying a new computer can be quite an experience!  What do I need? What should I have for storage?  Processing power? Software? Protection? that you have your computer...what's the best way to makeit run smoothly without getting caught up in all the "special offers"or "additional upsells".  Most manufacturers will "attach" trial versions or "click here" upsells to your computer software (especially if the computer comes pre-loaded with Windows)  The most common forms of "trialware" include anti-virus software and printer or camera software.  In most cases, these are NOT the best way for you to they often slow down your computer or pressure you into buying things you don't need.  Let's look at a better way to get your computer ready...

Shed the "crapware"

Many new computers come loaded with trial versions of software and games that you will probably NEVER falling into the trap of "well, I MIGHT want to use it someday".  Trust me, you NEVER will.  So, let's fire up the Control Panel and remove that stuff!

Steps (that I recommend)

  1. Download CCleaner (click here to visit the CCleaner site) BTW...CCleaner stands for "CrapCleaner" appropriate  ;-)
  2. Install this, but make sure you don't let it install Yahoo toolbar... no need for more crapware, even if it is ironic.
  3. Download Autoruns (click here to go to the Autoruns site)
  4. Install this by extracting it to a new folder in your Program Files folder.
  5. Don't worry...we'll be uninstalling some things a little further on, but we'll download and install the better alternatives when we get near the bottom OR in the "Alternatives" section.
  6. Now start up CCleaner. There will be several icons on the left. You can use all the features, but what we want to do is remove programs, so click on Tools...
  7. You will see a list of the programs installed on your computer. A great way to decide what to remove is to look for any branded software like AOL, Kodak or HP or VAIO. You can run these programs first to see if you like them, but for most of these there are shareware versions that you can get later if you really want that media program.
  8. Remove all Demo programs or Trial versions unless you plan on upgrading to the full version soon (like before the next version comes out in 4 months).  Again....TRUST probably will NOT use it!
    (You can always buy it and install it if you do)
  9. Remove whatever commercial virus scanning program is running... yeah I know that's dumb. We'll put another one on soon. Norton and McAfee virus scans are HUGE programs that can use half your processing power and lumberjack sized bites of your RAM. AVG or AVAST! are both free and
    much smaller and you won't have to pay yearly to keep it slowing your computer down.
  10. Remove anything else that looks suspicious. If you don't know what something is, don't remove it before you look it up online and see if it's essential.
  11. Lots of computers come with hobbled versions of burning software that also wants to take over all media and picture functioning of your computer. Sometimes these programs compete with other programs for control of your files. Keep this in mind: CHOOSE which program you use for each thing you do, don't let some company decide they are going to be your mp3 player or DVD player.
  12. If you don't like the software you have, you can easily downloadsome fantastic FREE and/or open source CD/DVD burning programs.  Here are some examples of great burning software for Windows computers...  InfraRecorder CDBurnerXP DeepBurner FREE! Burn4Free (I actually use InfraRecorder, but have tried and like many of the others)
  13. Think about what you'll be doing with the computer. Music, DVDs, burning stuff, uploading video to youtube, storing pictures, running the internet. then figure out which programs you want doing this. Delete the competitors.
  14. If you like music and want a program that will allow you to organize and play your MP3, WMA, and other audio well as allow you to sync your iPod...purchase music online from iTunes or Amazon and so forth....  Then I recommend you download and install iTunes.  It's free...fantastic...and there's simply no equal for much of what you'll want to do.  Go ahead and let iTunes play your music files.  Even if you don't own an iPod....most other mp3 players will work very well with iTunes.  Grab iTunes here (note:  you can uncheck the two boxes up near the "Download Now" button and avoid getting unsolicited email)
  15. Watch TV or something while you are doing this. Some of this stuff may take a little while as the computer churns away at a particular task.  It will seem taxing if you try to do it all at once, but if you set the computer up and then read or do something else while programs are uninstalling, it should be less frustrating.
  16. After you have deleted what you are comfortable deleting, restart the computer.
  17. Open CCleaner again and now click on the first option, cleaner. This will clean out a lot of now-dead references to the uninstalled programs along with other extraneous junk.
  18. You may not want to have it clean everything, but it should be safe.
  19. I also run it's registry cleaner, but this is optional.
  20. Next, run autoruns (remember where you extracted it to)
  21. After it is done scanning, click on Options in the menu bar then click on Hide Microsoft Entries. Then hit F5.
  22. The list it finds is all the programs that start when your computer does... this is what's left that is slowing down your computer. Look for "helpers" or "Quick Launch" or other such words. Adobe, Quicktime and a few other companies have programs that start up when your computer does. These just require start up time and system resources to run.
  23. Theoretically you can deselect all of them, but i've found that thismay make your mouse/trackpad quit as well as your sound and other functions. If you're gutsy, unselect everything and then deal with the consequences. The idea is either to unselect things and then restart the computer to check to see if it messed anything up, OR unselect everything and then go back and turn back on anything that was
    essential. Take your pick.  Be careful.
  24. This might take a few tries and some troubleshooting, but the process is simple. Turn things off that you don't recognize and then restart the computer. If something isn't working right you can always start in safe mode and turn it back on. I turned off everything but known necessary drivers like Touchpad and sound and currently used printers.
  25. Now, Download and install AVG antivirus or AVAST! 4 Home. While it doesn't have all the colorful screens that McAfee or Norton/Symantec has, it will protect your computer. It also runs on about 10% of the system resources.
  26. Download and install Comodo's BOClean Anti-Malware.
  27. Now, you will have a computer (mostly) free of bloatware.  In the "Alternative Software" section can download and install some replacements for the crapware or trialware that comes with your computer...AND/OR your digital camera.


  • This may make your computer useless and cost you tons of $$ in repairs. This is a guide not a walkthrough. Use at your own risk.
  • This is not designed for someone who has no fundamental knowledge of Windows operation. If you do not feel comfortable with these steps, do not try them.  Hire a professional like ME to help you out.
  • Check programs out before you uninstall them. A good way to do this is to use Ctrl-Alt-Del to run Windows Task Manager. Look at the Process Tab and then use Process Library ( to check on what each process is. Then uninstall these or keep them from starting up with Autoruns.
  • Use Safe Mode to turn back on anything critical you turned off with Autoruns.  (Hit F8 while booting your computer)

Alternative Software

Windows Users (go here for even more great Windows open source software)

Mac Users (go here for awesome Mac OS X open source software)

Imaging and Digital Cameras

Most digital cameras (and printers) come with a whole lotta' software you'll never need.  Most of them also do a poor job of organizing and managing your photo collection.  I'm going to recommend this:

NEVER install the software that comes with your new digital camera! and install Google's Picasa  (click here to grab it)
It's FREE....from Google (a very trusted name) and it does a FANTASTIC job of organizing photos...ordering prints online from a variety of vendors such as Kodak, WalMart, Walgreens, and several others.  You can post your photos online to your free Google PicasaWeb account to share with friends and well as do some pretty fancy editing.  I have yet to run into a digital camera that Picasa will not work with.

So...skip the crapware and grab the BEST program for the job...Picasa!



If you like music and want a program that will allow you to organize and play your MP3, WMA, and other audio well as allow you to sync your iPod...purchase music online from iTunes or Amazon and so forth....  Then I recommend you download and install iTunes.  It's free...fantastic...and there's simply no equal for much of what you'll want to do.  Go ahead and let iTunes play your music files.  Even if you don't own an iPod....most other mp3 players will work very well with iTunes.  Grab iTunes here (note:  you can uncheck the two boxes up near the "Download Now" button and avoid getting unsolicited email)


From Ventis Media:

MediaMonkey (click here to get it) is the music manager for serious music collectors and iPod users. It catalogs CDs, AAC, OGG, WMA, FLAC, MP3 and other audio files, including contemporary and classical music, audiobooks, podcasts, etc. It offers multiple tools for looking up and editing tags, and an automated
library organizer to organize files on the hard drive. It includes a CD ripper, CD/DVD Burner, and audio converter for saving music, and advanced playlisting for creating music mixes. Its player automatically
adjusts volume levels and supports a Party mode that locks the UI for use at public events. It syncs tracks, playlists, and podcasts to portable audio devices such as iPhones, iPods, MP3 Phones, and other devices, and supports hundreds of scripts, plug-ins and visualizations to extend its functionality further.

CD/DVD Burning Applications

Here are some examples of great burning software for Windows computers...  InfraRecorder CDBurnerXP DeepBurner FREE! Burn4Free (I actually use InfraRecorder, but have tried and like many of the others)

Instant Messaging Programs

Many IM programs such as AOL's AIM will come with lot's of spyware and bloat you may not want.  There are a multitude of IM programs out there such as Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, MSN Messenger, and so forth.  If you want one that will work with nearly ALL of them and doesn't come with all the crap...try Pidgin.  (I use it a lot!)


Pidgin (formerly known as Gaim) (get it here) is a multi-protocol instant messaging client for BSD and Windows. It is compatible with AIM (Oscar and TOC protocols), ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo, IRC, Jabber (GoogleTalk or GMail chat), Gadu-Gadu, and Zephyr networks. Pidgin users can log in to multiple accounts on multiple IM networks simultaneously. This means that you can be chatting with friends on AOL Instant Messenger, talking to a friend on Yahoo Messenger, and sitting in an IRC channel all at the same time. It also goes beyond that and provides many unique features. A few popular features are Buddy Pounces, which give the ability to notify you, send a message, play a sound, or run a program when a specific buddy goes away, signs online, or returns from idle; and plugins, consisting of text replacement, a buddy ticker, extended message notification, and iconify on away.

Office Suites (Word processors, Spreadsheets, and Presentation software)

Wanna' see the price of your new computer climb?  Simply add Microsoft Office to your purchase and see what happens!  Fortunately you have other choices that work just as well, if not better, and won't drive up the price of your computer and install many things you'llnever use.  Did your new computer come with Microsoft Works?  Ahh!  Thedreaded MS Works bug!  Unfortunately, MS Works is a consumer grade program that is virtually incompatible with anything else.  How do I know?  I'm a technology teacher/director at a public school and I have had many kids over the years who have saved documents in MS Works
(.wks) format and brought them in to school to print.  Unfortunately, schools and businesses have no use for MS Works...thus we cannot print it.  You can avoid all this by using a  REAL office suite!  Check themout below!

OpenOffice 3 (get it here) is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages (including MS Office). It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose. 3 is easy to learn, and if you're already using another office software package, you'll take to 3 straight away. Our world-wide native-language community means that 3 is probably available and supported in your own language. And if you already have files from another office package - 3 will probably read them with no difficulty.  Best of all, 3 can be downloaded and used entirely free of any licence fees. 3 is released under the LGPL licence. This means you may use it for any purpose - domestic, commercial, educational, public administration. You may install it on as many computers as you like. You may make copies and give them away to family, friends, students, employees - anyone you like.

Many schools (including my own) and businesses all over the world are using OpenOffice.  It's totally compatible with Microsoft if you use MS Office at work or worries...youcan use OpenOffice at home and still be compatible.

Google Docs

Create basic documents from scratch or start from a template.

You can easily do all the basics, including making bulleted lists, sorting by columns, adding tables, images, comments, formulas, changing fonts and more. And it's free.

Upload your existing files.

Google Docs accepts most popular file formats, including DOC, XLS, ODT, ODS, RTF, CSV, PPT, etc. So go ahead and upload your existing files.

Familiar desktop feel makes editing a breeze.

Just click the toolbar buttons to bold, underline, indent, change font or number format, change cell background color and so on.

Want to work offline?  Add Google Gears!

Web Browser

Your computer already comes with an Internet browser called Microsoft Internet Explorer.  Internet Explorer is a pretty good web browser, but often prone to virus and spyware attacks that many of the other browser are not.  If you'd like to try an alternative and jointhe legions of computer users who are switching to more
"standards-based" cross-platform web browsers...check out the alternatives below.  Are you also a Mac or Linux user?  Many of the browsers below work on all or at least Mac and Windows platforms. using a different browser such as can have a common experience amongst your machines.


Welcome to the Cutting Edge

The Web is all about innovation, and Firefox 3 (get it here) sets the pace with dozens of new features, including the smart location bar, one-click bookmarking and blindingly fast performance.


Experience the web, Apple style, with Safari (get it here): the fastest, easiest-to-use web browser in the world. With its simple, elegant interface, Safari gets out of your way and lets you enjoy the web — up to 1.9 times faster than Internet Explorer.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome (get it here) is a browser that combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier.  This is an EXCELLENT new browser...I'm truly impressed with it!

Email clients

Value your sanity?  DO NOT USE Outlook Express! Many of today's viruses are written to target Outlook Express.  Your best bet is to use an online email service such as GMail, Yahoo mail, or Windows Live Hotmail.
Why?  Many folks change their internet providers every few years as they move or upgrade from dial-up to cable or DSL.  Each time you do this...they change email providers which introduces the hassle ofnotifying everyone of the change and changing your address on all your services...etc.  By using a service like GMail (Google Mail) or one of the are no longer bound to your local can move across the country or even around the world and not have to worry about changing your email address!  :-)


Thunderbird is an awesome email client.  It's fast,extensible (cool extensions like Firefox) and easy to use.  You can also set it up to use your email from GMail!

“...the beauty of the open source Thunderbird email client is its extensibility. Sure we love our web-based email like Gmail, but Thunderbird is the ultimate open source desktop email app. Its pluggable interface lets developers freely build extensions to make it ever more useful. And ever more useful do a few key extensions make it." Gina Trapani, Lifehacker, Feb. 7, 2007


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