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Jan 6, 2014

What to Install on a New Computer (Free Software)

So you just got a new computer and you're wondering what you need. Your first thoughts are for sure an antivirus program, preferably free, maybe a media player to play videos and music, and then the basics like an Internet browser and plugins that are necessary for popular sites like YouTube and Netflix.

It may sound overwhelming to gather all these programs, but I've done the work for you so you can grab the proper software and plugins necessary for a new computer right from this page without paying a dime.


Plugins are a requirement for playing video, audio, and interactive programs or games from inside an Internet browser.

  • Adobe Flash
    • Adobe Flash is the standard plugin for audio and video playback from an Internet browser. Without Adobe Flash installed, you'll be blocked from viewing lots of online content.
    • Download Adobe Flash
Side Note: You don't need Adobe Flash player if you use the Google Chrome browser you see below because Google Chrome has Adobe Flash built-in.

  • Adobe Shockwave Player
    • Shockwave Player is a necessary install to interact with many online applications and games. You may not need this upfront like the other plugins in this list, but I'd install it now so you don't have to worry about it later when you need it.
    • Download Shockwave Player
  • Java
    • Java is a little similar to the two previous plugins because it's necessary to do things like play online games, engage in some chat rooms, view images in 3D, and other things you may come across in the future.
    • Download Java
  • Microsoft Silverlight
    • Silverlight is another plugin like a couple of the above that is a requirement for some online content to be displayed. One in particular is streaming movies from Netflix. You must have Silverlight installed to view Netflix movies.
    • Download Silverlight

Internet Browsers

Installing a browser actually isn't necessary since every new Windows computer comes equipped with Internet Explorer, which is Microsoft's Internet browser. However, some people prefer to use a different browser.

  • Google Chrome
    • Google Chrome is a browser from Google. It's my personal favorite because of how user friendly and quick it is.
    • Download Google Chrome
  • Opera
    • Opera is a really nice browser that even has an email client built right into it. I've used it before, but I don't find it as good as Google Chrome.
    • Download Opera

  • Safari
    • Safari is a browser from Apple. If you're familiar with Apple mobile devices like an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, you'll recognize the name as the Internet browser on those devices.
    • Download Safari (Choose Safari x.x.x for Windows to get the Windows version of Safari)
  • Firefox
    • I enjoy Firefox and will sometimes use it alongside Google Chrome. There are some great addons and extensions you can install in Firefox to make the browser even more functional and beneficial. 
    • Download Firefox
You may find more in this list of free browsers.

File Viewers

A file viewer would be any program that can play media like movies and music or a document viewer that can read PDFs or DOCX files.

  • VLC Media Player
    • VLC Media Player is the program to play any video or audio file type. It supports a massive number of video and music files, so you can be sure any movie or music you have will be playable in VLC Media Player.
    • There's a mobile app for VLC player that lets you connect to your computer and use your iOS or Android device to remotely control playback and volume without leaving your seat. Read how to do this at TechNorms.
    • Download VLC Media Player

  • OpenOffice
    • OpenOffice, used for viewing document files like DOCX, is completely free and almost mimics the paid Microsoft Office suite. I highly recommend using this if you don't want to pay for Microsoft Office.
    • Download OpenOffice
  • Sumatra PDF
    • Sumatra PDF is a small program for viewing PDFs. I've never liked using the popular Adobe Reader for PDFs because it seems very bloated and slow. However, grab Adobe Reader for free if you wish.
    • Sumatra PDF can also view ePub, Mobi, XPS, DjVu, CHM, CBZ, and CBR files.
    • Download Sumatra PDF

Program Cleaners and Other Utilities

At some point in the future you'll for sure find need for a nice program that can clean out temporary Internet, system, and application files to boost performance and stability. There are plenty of free programs that can do this, but I'll just list my favorites.

  • CCleaner
    • CCleaner seems to be the pick for anyone who wants a reliable program for clearing up junk files. It's really easy to use, is updated quite often, and always works great.
    • You probably won't need to use CCleaner right away because it's more of a program that you'll find useful after you've used your computer for some time. But install it now so you have it.
    • Download CCleaner for free
    • Purchase CCleaner Professional
  • IObit Uninstaller
    • Again, you likely wont' need a program that uninstalls software right away, but IObit Uninstaller is the program to have when you need to.
    • IObit Uninstaller makes it super simple to remove programs you no longer want. It can scan the Windows registry and file system to ensure all files have been removed when you delete a program.
    • Download IObit Uninstaller
  • 7-Zip
    • 7-Zip is a file unzipper program that can extract files from archives. You'll want 7-Zip if you ever download a RAR, 7Z, or ZIP file, among many other file types.
    • Many times you'll find program installers or groups of files to be contained in a compressed folder, only to be extracted with a decompressor like 7-Zip.
    • Download 7-Zip or see my list of file unzippers


  • Baidu Antivirus
    • Baidu Antivirus is one of my favorite free antivirus scanners. The program is super light so it doesn't impact memory or disk space much at all.
    • This program does, however, require a constant Internet connection. This means if you need to scan your computer with Baidu Antivirus, you must be connected to the Internet.
    • Download Baidu Antivirus
  • Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware

Here are some free portable antivirus programs you can run from a device like a USB drive.

These programs should give you all that you need for when you start using your computer. Each of these programs work in the newest Windows operating systems that come with newer PCs.