Free and beneficial programs to download

My daughter will be heading to college in the fall and I bought her a new laptop computer. She will get it next week for her birthday and I would like to install as many usefull programs as I can before I box it and wrap it up for her.
She is a bit of a “ditz” I mean this in the most loving way, she is very intelligent but she forgets things like logging off and does not see the importance of passwords.
Anything that would be almost foolproof for security would be a good thing.

I will make sure that she enters a admin password before she receives it on Easter.

The laptop has Vista with 2 GB of memory and a 160 GB hard drive so I’m not concerned about using too much space. The only program I have installed so far is ad block plus and I deleted Norton from the computer.

Here’s a great collection of freeware. But I’d recommend installing only what she really needs:

Maybe you should set up an admin account and password, and an account for her that already has a password? That doesn’t mean don’t let her know the admin password, but at least you’ll have another way in if she messes it up or gets locked out. Maybe give her account admin privileges so she isn’t tempted to use the admin account as her normal account. Maybe someone else could weigh in on if these are good suggestions? Because maybe I’m not a computer admin type (even though I play one at home), and maybe that’s why there are so many "maybe"s in this post.


After reading a review of it on Cnet, I downloaded a copy of Spyware Terminator. I am very happy with it. It seems to catch stuff that ad-aware misses. In addition, you can set it up on a schedule to do updates and scans.
download here

very helpful links all. Please keep them coming! I’m doing an all nighter so I have plenty of time. :slight_smile:

This is what I install on computers when I rebuild them for family members. I install all of this as Administrator (with a password):

  1. AVG Free or Avast!. I’ve done some research and I don’t have a preference. I set the AV program to update and scan regularly…at times when the user probably won’t be on the computer so they can’t stop it.
  2. All Windows updates, even the non-required ones because hard drive space is cheap and you never know when they might be needed.
  3. A copy of Office - which you probably do not have the license for yet. She can most likely get an extremely discounted copy when she gets a Student ID at school.
  4. Firefox - which I don’t require my “users” to use but it’s good to have for when they call me up and say “My IE isn’t working” I can have them test stuff in FF.
  5. Quicktime - which I configure to not start on startup and not check for updates. I also install iTunes with it if I think they’re gonna use it.
  6. Real Media Player - the free edition, which i also configure to not start at startup and not check for updates.
  7. The latest Java version.
  8. The latest version of Flash
  9. The latest Adobe Reader or Foxit Reader…both read PDFs and Foxit is lighter, but a really “clueless” user might insist on having Adobe Reader which is just fine. You can also set this not to auto-update or run on startup.
  10. Spybot Search & Destroy which I run once, step through (make backup, update, etc) and also run the immunizer. You might also want to turn on Tea Timer if it doesn’t bog down the computer too much.
  11. Ad-Aware Free which I also run once, update, etc.
  12. Hijack This! which I just download and put the EXE in its own folder in the Program Files folder, and don’t tell anyone about…but it can prove useful later if I need to use it.
  13. The Powertoys Calculator because I hate the regular Windows calculator. I’m not sure if it works on Vista or not.
  14. The instant messaging program of their choice, be it AIM, Yahoo Messenger or Windows Live Messenger…or all 3, or whatever they use. I configure these to not start at startup.

Once I have all of that installed, I add the new user(s) and I clean up/organize the Start menu items and Desktop to make sure it’s all optimized for what the user needs and doesn’t need. I also triple check the startup items (in XP go to Start - Run - msconfig - startup (tab), here’s the directions for Vista) and make sure there’s nothing needlessly starting up in there. Finally, I make a Restore Point and fiddle with the restore settings to make sure restore points are getting made and also the restore points folder doesn’t get too big.

If you install all of this stuff then your user SHOULD have a really seriously uninterrupted life of Web surfing and Emailing and Word Processing and shouldn’t need to bother with having an account that needs to install stuff.

If I were you, I’d make her an administrator account with a password (separate from the account named Administrator) and an account that doesn’t have admin rights with no password. then have her stay logged in as the non-administrator account until she really needs to install something.

Sorry if this post is rambling. I just realized how tired I was halfway through it.

ETA: By the way, people might come in and argue about how Quicktime and Real Player and all that stuff is crap and you shouldn’t use it blah blah blah blah…but the way I see it, my users are eventually going to need those sort of apps and if they end up installing them themselves, they don’t get configured right and shit starts popping up updates and bogging down the startup and running in the background and makes a total mess. So if you install and configure them properly at the beginning, they will not cause problems in the future. A sort of “if you can’t beat them, join them” sort of philosophy, if you will.