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How to protect and enhance your PC using free software

It's no secret that amongst my family and friends, I tend to be the "techiest" person most of them know.  When they plan to buy a new computer or device, my cell phone number ends up on the front lines for tech support as they work to figure out just exactly what their new device is capable of.   Unfortunately, it is all too common that when they buy a new PC, it comes with a ton of unnecessary "bloat" meant to make a few extra bucks for the manufacturer after the sale on things that you should rarely need to pay for.  With rare exception, this "value added" software just ends up takes up space on your hard drive, slows your computer down, and nags you to "upgrade" to a paid version.

This post is meant to guide you on how to automatically remove a most, if not all of the bloatware on your brand new PC, or even an older PC that has slowed down over time.  Read on and learn what you can do to both protect and enhance your Windows PC to keep it running smoothly, and keep it secure.

First, let's start with a free program that assists you in automatically detecting and removing crapware.

PC Decrapifier - Like the name implies, it does just that.  It guides you and automates crapware removal on your PC.

With the unwanted software removed, let's proceed with the free software that we do want:

Chrome Browser - This is Google's browser. With many extensions to add functionality, as well as awesome syncing options that let you continue your browsing between PC's, Macs, Androids, and iDevices,  this browser is a force to be reckoned with.  It even auto-updates itself to the latest version, and has Adobe flash built in.

Avast Antivirus (Free version) -  Like the name implies, this program helps keep your PC free of those nasty things that you may encounter online.  As a bonus, there is additional protection such as a firewall (but that costs money and they will nag you) that can be activated.

On Windows 8, you do have the built in Windows Defender which provides antivirus and spyware protection. On earlier versions of Windows you can also download Microsoft Security Essentials for free protection.

*My current recommendation is to go with Avast.*

Spywareblaster - This is like a software condom.  It keeps malware from getting into your system.

VLC Media Player - Don't want to spend the extra cash to play DVD's on your computer?  VLC plays just about anything that you can throw at it. - Photoshop is overkill for most people. This has a lot of Photoshop type of functionality for free.  Combined with Picasa most standard editing needs will be covered.

Picasa - Use this software to organize and fix/enhance photos.

7zip - The swiss army knife of compressed files.  It works with zip, rar, ace, etc.  I prefer it to Peazip, but everyone should form their own opinion.

Peazip - This software lets you compress or uncompress many of the different types of files that you will encounter online.

Libreoffice - If you need Microsoft Office compatibility but don't want to pay the Microsoft price then this software is for you.

Abiword - If your need is simply geared towards word processing or Microsoft Word compatibility then Abiword may be all that you need.

Pidgin - Connect to virtually every instant messaging service with this program.

Ccleaner - This cleans up junk files on your PC, as well as helps to remove obsolete registry objects.

With the assortment of software presented here, you should be well prepared to handle all the computing basics.  Always remember that the one thing that you cannot download is common sense!  There is no better protection.  If something seems fishy, then leave it alone until you can research it or ask someone who is an expert on the matter.


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