This happens a lot. A family member or friend buys a new PC and says “Gee can you install all the software for me and set it up?” My dad finally bought a new PC, only his second since 2003, and the task fell on me to get it ready for everyday use.

And sure, we admit it, our inner nerd squeals with delight whenever we get our hands on a fresh computer, out of the box.

Depending on who the computer is for, you may have some business software and games to install, but if you’re the technologically-adept one in your family, make sure you don’t overlook these five programs that will make everyone’s life easier now and in the long run:

5. The PC Decrapifier

The PC Decrapifier is a magazine and tech-site favorite, and it is well-regarded as an essential tool for new computers.

What is boils down to is this: sometimes it’s not only about what you put into a computer, but what you take out of it that makes a difference.

When you buy a new computer, it’s loaded with software. Loaded. We call this “bloatware.” It’s fat. You don’t need all of it.

You want to remove trial software, search engine toolbars, Dell/Sony/etc. support software and anything else that you don’t need — and don’t need running in the background — on a new PC.

You can run ‘msconfig’ and then open up the Control Panel’s software add/remove tool to get this same task done, but the Decrapifier has online resources that will tell you which software should go and which software can stay. So it’s helpful.

4. Dropbox

With all this talk about cloud computing and online data storage, even your mom or dad should be able to take advantage. Enter Dropbox, an easy-to-use service that gives you 2GB of online storage for free or up to 100GB for $19.99 per month.

Dropbox is useful. You can store software installations, photos, videos, documents, website files and anything else you need to access later.

3. iTunes and/or VLC

iTunes has come a long way on the PC since I ranted about it in 2009.

And the fact is, your parents and aunts and uncles are using iPads and iPhones, so they need iTunes. Go ahead and install it for them, but then make sure you set up their iTunes account also. Old people get confused.

Beyond iTunes, there’s a bit of Gen-Y software magic that even dear-old-dad can enjoy. VideoLAN’s VLC Media Player is the best, open source, cross-platform media player that can play nearly every disc, video file and audio file available, including DVDs, DivX movies and MP3s, and it has no advertising or spyware

It’s software that we use, so they should use it too.

2. Chrome or Firebox

I still install Firefox on family computers. It’s faster, better and more secure than Internet Explorer. A growing number of people are plugging into the Google matrix, however, so Chrome may be the way to go.

Either way, you need to install a second browser and set it as the default.

Just make sure you tell your loved one to allow the updates to install when prompted. Keep that most recent version running.

1. Microsoft Security Essentials

Go back to the Decrapifier for a second. Now remove whatever trial version of Norton or McAfee came with the computer. Get rid of it. Your relative is never going to pay to renew it after it expires, and the constant prompts reminding then to upgrade will result in “I think I have a virus” phone calls that you don’t need.

So just uninstall the stupid trial editions.

Install Microsoft Security Essentials. It is the best piece of software that Microsoft never charged for. As long as you have a genuine version of Windows (and all new, out-of-the-box commercial PCs do) you can download and install Microsoft’s always up-to-date antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-malware security suite.

It integrates with the Windows Firewall (make sure that’s turned on, especially once you remove the Norton/McAfee software) and gives you real-time protection just like the expensive boxed products.

If you have some moral problem with Microsoft securing your computer, you could try avast! and the free version of its antivirus software. It’s a very good solution that keeps your computer secure.

Honorable mentions

You may also want to consider EASEUS Partition Master, if you’re really doing some hardcore configuring. If the PC has one big 2TB drive, it may be a good idea to break it up into a system drive and some workspaces.

Recuva is a good choice for file recovery. It helps you recover accidentally-deleted files. We’ve all been there. Another phone call-saving measure.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at guilfoil.j@blastmagazine.com. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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