Your computer is a fragile ecosystem, and like any ecosystem it can be easily shifted off balance by outside interference. And just like an ecosystem you need a proper balance of different programs to make sure that it lives up to its fullest potential. A good selection of software ensures that you can use your computer risk free at all times and make the most of it. That is why we have compiled this list of ‘Must-Have’ software. While the concept might seem exaggerated you should take it at face value. Most if not all of the software on our list is free or has a free alternative and all of it is required for you to be able to fully ue your computer for all the things it is generally used for.
10. Recovery Partition
While this isn’t technically ‘software’, a recovery partition is essential for your computer. After all, you don’t want to lose all your data all at once because something happened to your computer and your main partition had to be formatted. Any IT specialist can set you up with a partition or you can use some of the software solutions provided in-built by some computer manufacturers like HP or Apple. Progressive back-up programs like Apple’s Time Machine or HP’s Recovery Partition save your system sequentially, at certain points so you won’t lose a year’s worth of data just because you forgot to back it up.
9. A Good Browser
A good browser is a browser that offers you good browsing security, is configurable with outside plug-ins, has solid performance without slowdowns and helps mitigate the risks of browsing unsecured sites. Typically Chrome and Firefox are the most popular choices with Opera and Safari as strong contenders and the latest version of Internet Explorer also quite good. The main issue with browsers nowadays is not which one you are using (as most modern browsers are good or great) but which version. Using an old version of Internet Explorer in 2012 is not a good idea.
8. Zip Utility
Regardless of your OS of choice a zip utility is something you need. Whether you prefer rar, zip or some other format, somebody will send you an archive at some point and you will have to get software to use it. The most important thing to know is that you should avoid heavily advertised software utilities and use one you know or one that Google ranks high when you search for it online.
7. Open Office
While Microsoft’s Office suite is incredible and offers you the most tools for properly managing your files it can get incredibly expensive. That’s why a lot of people around the world are using Open Office increasingly. If you can afford Microsoft Office, good for you! If you can’t you are much better off with OpenOffice than with some bootleg version of MS Office that can be trojan infested.
6. VLC Player/ UMP Player
VLC Player has been the gold standard in simple, problem free media players for quite a while now. The free, cross platform marvel plays just about anything that you can throw at it from DVDs to MKVs. It is so good that it’s even been ported to the iOS, a platform notorious for not handling any type of media except its preferred formats. Now, however there is an alternative for traditional computers, the UMP player, a one-stop media player that has the codecs to play almost anything.
5. Spyware Tool
Spyware is a type of malware whose soul goal is to deliver your browsing habits, passwords and login info and, if possible, your bank account numbers to people that can put it to ‘better use’. Spyware can lead to your Facebook profile spamming advertisements for herbal sexual enhancers, or to maxed out credit cards within days. This is why you need a good spyware protection tool. It is also important that your spyware tool is also good at removing spyware completely as these programs are notorious for their ability to escape deletion.
Yes, the old ‘you need antivirus’ cliché still stands. Decades after the first viruses crashed the first computers there are still people out there who get their kicks out of crashing computers. And don’t smile if you work on a Mac: as the Apple market share increases, there are more and more cross-system viruses that affect your system of choice as well. So, yes, you need antivirus software. Fortunately, the price of antivirus has gone down consistently and most antivirus suites now also offer spyware and ad-ware protection so you can get more for your money.
Dubbing itself ‘anti-frustration software’ Soluto is a free tool for your PC that helps you see what applications are crashing most often, slowing down your computer and generally mucking things up. It can also help you install and modify software on a friend or loved one’s computer remotely, configure your most used apps and much more. Soluto is great and you need it.
Prey is a software solution for a very much ‘hardware’ problem: somebody stole your computer. Prey is a program that helps you track a stolen laptop or other device, lock it remotely, send messages through it or even take ‘covert’ pictures through its webcam. You can get the people who stole your computer in no-time using this handy tool. Plus, it’s getting good reviews and it’s free!
1. Dropbox/ Google Drive/ MS Skydrive/ iCloud
Regardless of your provider of choice, you need some sort of cloud-based multi-platform data sharing utility. These four tools are by no means the only ones, just the most popular ones and here’s how the work. The data you have is stored remotely and synchronized across your devices. When you edit or delete a file on one device it gets edited/deleted on all the others. This way your data is available off-line and securely stored in multiple copies on-line. This solution combines the portability of a document with the general availability of a webpage. It’s the best of both worlds!