Langa Letter: Favorite Tools, Utilities, And Add-Ons - InformationWeek
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Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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Langa Letter: Favorite Tools, Utilities, And Add-Ons

What ''must have'' software do you install on your PC? Here's Fred Langa's list of his personal favorites.

I recently received this note from a reader; it got me thinking about a subject we haven't covered in quite a while:

Fred: Here's a question that I haven't seen answered . . . oh, I've seen parts of it answered here and there, because everyone touts his/her favorite utilities and "essential" apps. But it isn't addressed to my satisfaction.

Question: When, say, you're taking your system down to "bare metal," i.e., re-formatting and re-installing all your favorite apps (for whatever reason, whether you're having system troubles or you're just doing the ultimate clean-up) what utilities do you consider essential, that you would recommend to others?

Examples might be: software firewall, active virus-scanner, pop-up blocker, cookie handler.

Maybe I got the question wrong ... maybe it should be, "What's the sequence of things that you do, that you feel are essential, when you're setting up any system from SCRATCH?" For example, that might be: installing XP, getting online to Windows Update and updating XP, installing your favorite antivirus scanner, going over to and running Steve Gibson's great free utils, etc.

Thanks! Mark Crawford

Good questions, Mark.

Your first question--what are the most essential tools and utilities to add to a new Windows setup?--is where we'll spend most of our time. In looking back through past articles and newsletters, I see we haven't really touched on that subject since 2001--an eternity in computing. It's definitely time for an update.

But the answer to your second question--how best to set up a system from scratch--is one we've covered in some detail, so we can address that first, via the articles listed below. They're a great place to start whenever you're setting up a new PC, or doing a reinstall of the operating system on an in-use PC: This information will let you set up any system for long-lasting stability and ease of use, and provide a rock-solid foundation for just about any computing need:

Once your base system is set up properly, it's time to add your favorite tools, utilities, and add-ons. We last gathered a list of such software in "Cool Tools;" that list still contains some gems, and is a good place to begin.

In the next few pages, I'll list my favorite add-ons, utilities and tools--the ones I install on my personal-use PCs. But note that this isn't intended as a definitive list: My needs and preferences may be very different from yours, so your list could be quite unlike mine, yet be just as valid. I invite you and all readers to post your favorite tools, add-ins, and utilities in the discussion section that follows this article.

Note also that the following list isn't all the software I have on my PC--that would take a small book to list! Rather, it's the tools that I install for regular, frequent use. Many other tools remain at hand, but not necessarily installed at initial setup. Also, my tool choices change over time, so think of this as a snapshot rather than as something "writ in stone."

So, with those caveats and cautions in mind, let's look at the list:

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