rebuilding your Windows machine

So, you’ve decided to reinstall, to rebuild, your entire machine. Congratulations! Get ready for a day and 1/2 of fun! ;-)
After the OS installs, with the multiple reboots, then all the drivers get loaded and rebooted, comes the Windows updates. That will require much patience as you keep getting your computer back into shape, only to find MORE and MORE updates each time you visit. (Try it with a Win2000 machine – SP4, IE 6, Media Player 9, and all the updates with those! Oh…! 8-\) Finally, finally, comes reloading all the various programs. Here’s a sample of some of the ones I use, and have burned onto a CD for safe keeping. You might have your own “required programs” CDs ready. (Of course, if you wait to long, you’ll have to upgrade all of these too! Oy vey! ;-))

Basics / Recommended

    AVG A/V / EzTrust (free through MS) — You need an Antivirus program, at least one. Paid ones such as Symantec or McAfee also highly recommended.
    MS Baseline – newest version (2.x) requires “genuine Microsoft” check. This free program shows where you need to tighten up you security within Windows.
    MS Antispyware / Spybot Search & Destroy – check for hidden adware/spyware. You need at least one, both are free. (Course, it’s interesting that none of the anti-virus, nor anti-spyware caught the “rootkit�? from Sony. Odd no one noticed that until sysinternals wrote about it… :( )
    CCleaner — crapcleaner – removes logs/cookies/stuff you don’t need – freeware.
    Firefox – Sure you can use IE (and have to at some sites �?�) but, for at least you can enjoy surfing more with Firefox – add some extentions: webdeveloper, sage (rss), adblock, download statusbar, bugmenot
    Ahead Nero – the Ultra edition can do just about everything, burn CD/DVD, copy, play tunes, etc ($)
    Picasa — if you have a digital camera, this is very nice. Makes web pages, and slideshow CDs also — free.
    Privoxy – helps filter out some ads, nasty javascript, and other unnecessary web stuff. *might cause some problems with some sites, so remember to turn it off if things go funky*
    Filezilla / WS-FTP – filezilla is free, WS-FTP was – Filezilla will also show you hidden files like .htaccess on *nix machines.
    Office 2003 / OpenOffice – OpenOffice is free, but if you work with most businesses you’ll probably need Office ($$)
    7-zip / WinRar – instead of WinZip, try 7-zip which truly is free, or pay for WinRar ($), both give you access to .rar compressed files and many other extensions.
    PowerDVD – Simple DVD viewer, comes with Dell systems
    Roboform – keep all your passwords for all website logins in this guy. Worth the price ($) of not remembering all those things for websites you visit or build – one master password encrypts the rest.
    ActivePorts – a check to see what might be communicating out of your computer
    Sygate Personal / Zone Alarm – a software firewall, both offer free ones for personal use
    Treesize — this is handy, when later, you start noticing that GBs are missing from your hard drive, shows you graphically where they went.
    PeerGuardian / Protowall – IP blockers, to help block spyware and ads, plus, to stop getting fake files if you use a P2P client, like Emule — free.
    FolderCloneYou should buy an external drive and back up to it. If you want, you can use this ($) program to mirror copies of specific folders to that backup drive.

Web building

    Adobe Photoshop — excellent photo editor – fun with layers – ($$) — a freware alternative for limited picture resizing is: Infanview
    Dreamweaver — it’s gotten really good in the past years for both designers and developers (buggy in parts: CSS, FTP). Get Studio if you also work with Flash and you can then use Fireworks (their “Photoshop) – ($$)
    MySQL – open source web database. (Or, Access which comes with some versions of Office.)
    PHP – free, open-source programming language — php.net
    Timestamp – know how much to charge clients/projects — donationware
    Jalbum – easily build photo websites – requires Java, both are free
    WinMerge (open source) / BeyondCompare ($)– compare files, important for checking what changes were made to code
    SiteC – automatically get notified if your websites are down or content changes
    IIS or Apache – both are free — IIS is part of Windows and does a good job, especially for development/testing
    If you develop with LAMP open-source applications, this is a very handy install to get MySQL, Apache, and PHP running quickly on Windows: EasyPHP.
    Filezilla — free, good FTP client. (Shows “hidden” files like .htaccess.)

Fun / Optional

    Winamp – Sure you can use MS MediaPlayer to listen to MP3s, but Winamp adds a lot more for the paid version ($); ripping MP3s, burning, radio… (Monkey and Flac are also handy for lossless copies of your albums – free.)
    AnyDVD – This will remove most/all of the copy-protection from CDs/DVDs, so that if your friend visits with a disk from Japan, you can easily play it on your computer in the states, without monkey around with any Country Codes – (use with the Sony rootkit problem also) – ($)
    DivX codex – lots of high quality movies are being encoded with the DivX codex – free for player
    AudibleManager – download new audio files of “books on tape�?, copy-protected, but you can burn a CD if you want to keep it for later – ($/month)
    Skype / Yahoo Messenger — some people can’t live without a chat program, especially if you can do VoIP/voice-type communications. Both are free.
    Virtual PC / VMWare Workstation — all your problems could have been saved, if, you had just made virtual machines inside your computer first to test out new software and development ideas. Then when you are done testing, blow away that virtual image, not a complete rebuild to the main machine.  If you haven’t tried a virtual machine (like having 2 machines running on your 1 computer), you are missing some cool stuff! ($$)
    iTunes – OK, if you have an iPod this is a given, but if you are interested in Podcasting, this also has some really nice features built in. Free.
    BBC Ticker – one of the last free news tickers, definite British slant, but that can be a good thing, given how poor mass media is here in the States.

Whew. Well, I’m sure that I forgot some great products, but, I wanted to hit on ones that I consider important. Think of this as a start to your own list… (and, yes, this just happened to me, hence this list!)

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