You’ve pulled that shiny new laptop or desktop running Windows 8 out of the box. Now what?
Windows usually comes festooned with what we lovingly call “shovel-ware”—a load of extra software shoveled onto the drives either by the PC manufacturer to help you, or worse, paid-for-placement programs you’ll never, ever use. The very first thing you should do is download and run The PC Decrapifier or SlimComputer Free; they’ll remove most of what you don’t need.
Then, immediately install some antivirus software. You can see our recommendation in the list, but here’s a hint: it rhymes with “Morton” and ends with “Antivirus.”
Next install 12 more must-have products. We’ve covered the gamut in this list, including your new browser, modern communications, high-security tools, performance-enhancing utilities, entertainment necessities, an image editor, a tech-support helper, and of course, a full office suite to get you through the work day. Without a doubt, these are the products a new Windows system requires first and foremost. Even if you’ve become a fan of fancy Web apps that perform many of the same functions, you should install these right onto your hard (or solid-state) drive.
Some of these apps have Windows 8 equivalents. You’ll find them in the Microsoft Store, which is itself an app on the Windows 8 startup screen. You can run some of these programs like Chrome, Evernote, and TeamViewer without entering the Windows 8 desktop, but for full functionality, get the desktop versions. (One item you won’t find an equivalent for: Microsoft Office.)
Now let’s find out what software we must have on Windows PC.
Browser: Google Chrome
The joke is that on a new Windows-based PC, the Internet Explorer browser gets used once: to download another browser. IE has been getting better and better, but for now we still recommend you grab Google Chrome. The current build is still our Editors’ Choice for its speed and standards support. Chrome offers a Windows 8 mode to fit in with the Metro-style interface.
Video Player: VLC media player
Windows Media Player has been around for more than two decades and it can do a lot, but when it comes to playing video from a file or DVD, the open-source, small, multi-platform VLC Media Player reigns supreme, playing anything and everything. It won’t help you build playlists or organize music, but when you want to play back some obscure video file, VLC has got you covered.
This online streaming music service has a Web interface and plenty of online versions, but the slick desktop version is a free download that makes it that much easier to play just about any song or album you desire. There are also curated “radio” stations with unlimited skips. For a $9.99 monthly subscription fee you can ditch the intrusive audio advertising and take all your music on the go with the mobile app.
Now owned by Microsoft, Skype has become synonymous with video chat since its debut a decade ago. But it’s a lot more than that. A Skype account coupled with the desktop software gives you a full voice communication center, letting you call around the world cheaply (pricing varies) and receive calls from any phone. The Windows 8 app edition(pictured) is a little more limited, but still offers great call quality in a simple interface.
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