Buying a computer is just half the work done towards owning a brand-new Windows machine that you can proudly show to your friend. All computers, whether pre-loaded with operating system or not, require some effort to make it truly yours. Let's assume that we have a Windows-loaded computer that we want to customize for optimum performance and value for money. We will install free applications that will suffice the basic computing needs without having to compromise on quality.
1. Get a copy of WindowsIf your computer has come with Windows pre-loaded, it should have a windows installation CD along with all necessary drivers for the system. If not, your computer manufacturer must have provided the necessary instructions to create a copy of the operating system that can be used for reinstalling the operating system on the machine. Follow the instructions and burn an installation CD. Use a CD marker pen to label it and keep it safe.
2. Partition your hard diskIt's important for optimum performance and easy reinstallation in future that the operating system is installed on a separate partition on the hard disk. It will give the Windows more room for it's functioning. Also, when you need to reinstall the operating system on the computer, you won't lose any data as it will be located on a separate partition. So if your computer doesn't have Windows installed on a separate partition and your data on another, you should create them.
How to partition the hard disk? If you are going to install Windows on your system, you can partition the disk during the installation process. Create at least two partitions, one for the operating system and the other for your storage. The operating system partition should be at least 20GB for both Windows XP and Windows 7. If you will be running applications in Windows XP mode in Windows 7, keep the partition size 40GB.
3. Partitioning the hard disk without reinstalling WindowsIf you don't want to reinstall operating system, both Windows Vista and Windows 7 have built-in functionality in Disk Management to shrink or expand existing partitions on hard drives. But before that you should defragment the disk.
Open the Control Panel and type partition in the search box. You will get the link to the utility: Create and format hard disk partitions.
In the Disk Management window, right-click on the C: drive partition which we want to reduce, and select “Shrink Volume” from the menu. The Shrink dialogue box will appear and show you the total size of the partition and the amount by which it can be reduced. Enter the value in megabytes by which you want to reduce the partition. For example, if the partition is 160GB, or 160000MB, and you want to reduce its size to 40GB, type 120000 (or 120GB) in the box.
Now right-click on the resulting unpartitoned space and create new partitions as desired.
You can also use Partition Logic or GParted LIVE CD for partitioning the hard disk.
4. Install WindowsChoose a Windows operating system for your machine after checking its configuration. Install Windows 7 if your machine meets the minimum system requirements of 1GHz processor, 2-3GB RAM and DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver. Almost all new systems can run Windows 7. Else, go for the good old Windows XP.
Installing Windows 7 and Vista has become very easy and intuitive, thanks to the graphical interface. Just make sure that you create at least two partitions during installation and install it on the first one.
5. Remove unwanted applicationsComputer manufacturers often install unwanted applications on the systems, most of them trial software. Use PC Decrapifier to get rid of all unwanted applications.
6. AntivirusThere are plenty of free and effective antivirus applications. You can choose between Free AVG and Bit Defender Free Edition.
7. Firefox or Google ChromeFirefox and Google Chrome are better and faster Web browsers than Internet Explorer that ships with Windows. You can use Firefox add-ons or Chrome add-ons to extend their functionality.
If you choose Firefox, you should install Autopager add-on. It automatically loads the Next page in several websites, thus saving you from the pain of clicking the Next link over and over while searching on Google. A must if you search a lot. Echofon add-on will come handy for those who are active on Twitter. Install Web of Trust, or WOT, add-on for safer web browsing.
8. OpenOffice.org office suiteOpenOffice.org is a free and power-packed application for word processing, creating presentations, spreadsheets and drawings. It will allow you to save documents in Microsoft Word, Powerpoint or Excel formats as well as work on documents created in Microsoft Office.
9. VLC Media PlayerVLC is the undisputed leader of multimedia players. It can play almost every media file that any user will come across. Never say, this video doesn't play on my computer. It's also open source.
10. GIMP Image EditorGIMP is the most popular alternative of Adobe Photoshop. Resizing images, adjusting hues, adding effects, do it all with GIMP. There are plenty of free GIMP brushes available on the web for the more digitally inclined. This open source application is a must if you have a camera and/or work on images quite often.
11. PicasaIf you have a digital camera or a phone camera, you should also install Google Picasa for managing as well as editing your photos. Use it to easily fix your photos, tweak the colour or make collages. You can also upload the images to your blog or Picasa web account. It can also read RAW image files and save them as JPEGs.
12. CCleanerRun CCleaner as often as possible to declutter your computer and improve its performance. It will also remove the remnants of the last application that you uninstalled from your computer's registry. CCleaner also allows you to safely delete your cookies and trash (Recycle Bin) so that it can't be recovered.
13. RecuvaIf you accidentally deleted a file (and it's been deleted from the Recycle Bin or Trash as well), use Recuva for recovering it. Run this application as soon as possible to safely recover your images, documents, videos or mp3s that were deleted accidentally. It won't work if you have securely deleted the file using any application such as CCleaner with secure delete function enabled.
14. PidginPidgin is a chat application that allows you to integrate your various Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, AIM, Facebook and other accounts in one window. Chat with all your friend from just one window. No need to juggle between Web browser and GTalk and Yahoo Messenger.
15. Mozilla ThunderbirdThunderbird is an excellent email and RSS feed client. It can also be extended like Firefox via Thunderbird add-ons. Mozilla Thunderbird connects to your Gmail account on the fly. Just turn the IMAP function in your Gmail account before adding the account to Thunderbird via IMAP. This way your web mail stays in sync with Thunderbird email client. If you want POP3, that's also possible.
16. 7-Zip7-Zip is an open source file archiver that can create as well as unzip and extract all types of archives. Zip, .7z, .tar and .iso are just a few of the archive formats supported by 7-Zip.
17. Foxit PDF ReaderAdobe Acrobat is free, but it's huge and consumes a lot of resources of your computer. In comparison, Foxit PDF Reader is light-weight and starts quickly.
18. Revo UninstallerQuite often, when you uninstall an application, some files and folders are left on the computer. They also leave some entries on the computer's registry. All these can, over the time, slow your computer. Using Revo Unistaller for uninstalling applications will make sure that all related files and folders are also deleted. It will also remove the application's entries from the computer's registry.
That's it. Flaunt your new Windows PC.