Anti-Virus: An anti-virus is crucial as it allows your computer to run smoothly without crashing and burning. In this sense it is the anti-virus software that allows all other software to perform. Downloading a virus checker then should be your first port of call upon getting a new computer and you should also ensure to update it regularly. McAfee is an effective option.
Anti-Spyware: Spyware and adware are just as annoying as viruses and can cripple your PC's performance. Ad-Aware is a good option, though for Vista users there's one built in called 'Windows Defender'.
Firewall: A firewall prevents spyware, adware and viruses from attacking your computer in the first place making it possible the most important part of your three-point defence against malicious software. Again one comes free with Vista known as 'Windows Firewall'; for other users, ZoneAlarm is a great choice.
Gimp: If you enjoy making and editing pictures then Gimp makes a great free alternative to Paint Shop and includes almost the exact same features. This makes it a fantastic piece of software for budding artists, students or web developers, but also has its uses for anyone who fancies playing around with their photos to erase those irritating blemishes or add funky backgrounds.
Spotify: Spotify is one of the newest software fads to storm the internet and rightly so. Unlike other music players, Spotify enables you to search and stream songs directly from the internet with no need for downloads. This also means hundreds of songs available to listen to free and legally.
Windows Messenger: Possibly the king of instant messaging and a great way to stay in touch with friends.
Skype: Skype is another piece of software that offers great value for money, letting you speak to friends and colleagues across the globe free of charge. It's crucial for video conferencing and even allows you to call landlines at discounted rates. Who needs a phone?
Acrobat Reader: E-books, instructions, newsletters and more all come as PDF files so you'll need Acrobat Reader to view them (you may also want to check out DoPDF which allows you to save your word documents as PDF files).
Open Office: Open Office essentially provides you with Microsoft Office for free, allowing you to open and edit files from Word, Excel, PowerPoint and any other office format. Considering the significant price tag on Microsoft Office this is a more than prudent download.
Ask and Record Toolbar: This tool bar is one of the most useful programmes you can download and serves a variety of functions. While it's annoying that it works as a toolbar rather than a standalone programmes, its impressive array of easy-to-use features makes it one of the few that's more than worth it. The main function of this software is to record sound and videos as they're played from your computer. That means that if you see a video you like on YouTube you can then save it to your computer as a FLV file to watch at your leisure – or even just record the sound as an MP3 file. As though that wasn't enough however, this toolbar also acts as a file converter and can convert those FLVs and MP3s into almost any format you could want to use more easily and reliably than many programmes designed specifically for that purpose. And best of all it's free!
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Author works for Canberra Computer Shop and loves to help his Computer Shop customers choose basic software for their PC.
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