Setting up wife's new HP computer...

What should I do / get?

I’ve gotten rid of the Wild Tangent stuff already, and Rhapsody. I’ve installed our network printer. I’m installing and updating her favorite online game. Next, I’ll install OfficeXP. It comes with a long Norton subscription…I’m thinking of leaving that in place versus my normal suite of anti-virus/firewall/spyware software.

So, what are some other suggestions for software - with a bonus for free (legal) software?

Make priority 1 getting rid of Norton. It’s the single biggest POS that will suck the life out of your computer. Get AVG Free Antivirus, Spybot and Ad-Aware for spyware, and I generally use the default Windows firewall.

ETA: This link summarizes what most of us think of Norton.

I use AVG anti-virus and anti-spyware on other computers in the house. Very well acquainted with them. I was being lazy, but you are right - Norton should go in favor of better (and cheaper) products.

Firefox and/or Opera: browse without using crappy Internet Explorer

Thunderbird: good email client

Media Player Classic + FFDShow + RealAlternative + QuicktimeAlternative: will let you play just about any video you’re likely to find (including DVDs), and has a streamlined interface that is much better (IMO) than recent iterations of Windows Media Player. FFDShow is a Direct Show codec library that eliminates the need for downloading a whole bunch of different codecs for playing various file types. The last two pieces also allow you to avoid installing RealPlayer and Quicktime bloatware, and yet still view .rm and .mov files. I haven’t even opened WMP in years.

RocketDock: a copy of Apple’s program dock. Excellent for quick access to your most frequently used programs and folders. Far superior to the Windows Start menu, IMO, Especially for people like me who configure their Desktop and Start Menu in classic (non-XP) mode.

Copernic Desktop Search or Google Desktop: if you’re still on Windows XP, a good search app is a must. Personally, i prefer Copernic over Google by quite a margin. It uses slightly more system resources, but that shouldn’t be a problem for your new computer. My three-year-old desktop runs it just fine. I find the Copernic interface and results presentation far more intuitive and better organized than Google’s.

Everything listed above is FREE.

Most new computers nowdays seem to have pretty large hard drives. If that’s the case here, i would also recommend partitioning the hard drive, with a relatively small C: partition for Windows and your program files, and one or more other partitions for your files and folders.

The GPartEd CD is an excellent freeware tool for partitioning a drive that already has Windows installed on it.

Thanks mhendo, that partition program is the type of program I’m looking for. My wife now has to get used to Vista, which means headaches for me. And she doesn’t like Firefox (although I’ll install it on there for when I use her computer).

Is it possible to install iTunes without Quicktime?

Oops. I assumed your new PC was going to have XP, but on re-reading the OP is see you were talking about Office XP, not Windows XP.

In that case, you won’t need a search tool.

Not sure. I hate iTunes and refuse to have it on my computer. If you have an iPod, though, i don’t believe that you have much of a choice.

By the way, i’m not sure if you’ve partitioned a hard drive before that already has Windows installed, but it’s good to do a defrag first, although if it’s a brand new Windows installation it shouldn’t have fragmented much at all. Also, leave enough room on your C: drive for new programs, application data, etc.

My C: partition is 40GB, with about 25GB currently in use (Windows, various programs, application data, shared network files, search database, etc.).


Would you mind elaborating on this a bit?

I bought a Windows XP-running laptop in the summer of 2006, and it came pre-installed with Google Desktop Search. After a year of never using it, I deleted it, figuring it was just bloatware duplicating the Windows search function (which I’d never given much thought to one way or the other, but seems to work fine…?).

Possibly I’ve never used a really good search function and don’t realize what I’m missing?

The problem with the standard XP search function—the one you get when you go Start > Search > For Files or Folders) is that it has no proper indexing system, so every search is done pretty much from scratch. Not only that, the XP Search interface sucks, and its in-document text search capability has always been awful.

The difference with a proper desktop search tool like Copernic or Google is that it actually goes through your files when you first install it and creates an index. This index is created from words in the file names, as well as from words within documents (Word docs, PDFs, HTML pages, etc., etc.). The presence of a master index like this makes search functions much, much faster, because the search tool searches for your search terms in the index first. The index essentially tells the search tool which documents and files contain your search terms, and those documents and files are then displayed.

Also, the display interface used by Google and (especially, IMO) Copernic are far superior to the XP one, making it much easier to find exactly the document or file or folder you are looking for. Copernic makes it easy to sort your results by file type, date, folder, etc., etc., and i believe Google does the same. It’s just orders of magnitude better than the Windows XP search function.

Now, because these search functions create and use an index, they need to have a place to put the index on your computer. And because the index is a guide to basically every file on your computer (you can choose not to index certain folders, if you prefer) it can sometimes get reasonably large. My Copernic index is 1.4 GB. On most modern computers, though, that’s not large enough to cause any space or storage issues.

Also, because you want your new documents to be added to the index, the search tool should be left running (indexing) in the background on your computer. That way, whenever you create, modify, or delete a document, the search tool can make the appropriate changes to the index. I have my Copernic set to only index while i’m not actively using the computer (typing, browsing). That way, i don’t see any performance hit while i’m using the computer. If i leave the computer for dinner or something, Copernic will catch up on indexing while i’m away. It’s all really very easy to use.

The only thing you really have to wait for is the initial indexing. When you first install the program, it will scan and index your whole computer (or whatever drives, folders, etc. you want), and if you have a lot of files that can take a few hours. After that, though, it just runs in the background and makes searching much faster and easier.

Since i installed Copernic on our computers, my wife and i don’t know how we lived without it. And i have friends with Google desktop who say the same thing.

I believe Windows Vista has incorporated a proper, indexing search function that makes third-party utilities unnecessary, but i haven’t read any reports about how good it is.


I should add that, if you don’t have many files on your computer, or if you hardly ever need to search for anything, then a fully-functional search feature might not be necessary for you.

Thanks very much for that explanation! I wasn’t giving these things nearly enough credit - I’m now motivated to try them out.

I agree with the suggestion to ditch Norton.

Might I recommend installing Inkscape? - it’s a really nice vector-based drawing/design tool - a lot of the tutorials on the web for Adobe Illustrator can be done just as easily in Inkscape.