Nov 13 2010

The 3 most important things to do after a fresh Windows install

Béres Botond

… and how to do it quickly.

I always dread the prospect of installing (or reinstalling) Windows. Why? The problem is not about installing Windows itself, but reinstalling everything that you need for everyday use. This depends on the person of course, but even if you don’t use a lot of programs, there’s still a fairly consistent list of essential or very useful software that most PCs running Windows should have installed. I’ve never had this list written down somewhere, so I’d just end up getting them one by one when I wanted to use something and realized it’s not yet installed  -  ”oh I need this too… ah and this” – and waste a lot of time with it.

So it’s best to have a good basic todo list to be more efficient. We need to…

1. Install updates

Yeah I know, this is kinda obvious. The first step I always do after the basic installation is done is to go through with the installation of all important updates. This takes a while and might involve a few reboots, but should be a straightforward process. Windows 7 and Vista will probably offer you also optional updates with drivers for some of your hardware. It’s ok to install them if you want, but usually if you’d like the latest drivers you should check directly at the hardware manufacturer’s site. (see next step)

2. Install drivers

Ok, this is important! Even if you have the driver CDs at hand for your hardware, odds are those drivers are fairly out of date, and you’ll find newer ones on the web. First you need to check your motherboard manufacturer and exact model. If you don’t have the package or invoice at hand, there are various free system information tools that will show all necessary information about your hardware. I recommend Astra32.

Once you have the info you can search for the model on the manufacturer’s site (ex. Gigabyte.com) and download all the drivers/utilites you find there for your specific model. In most cases, besides chipset drivers you will also find sound/network/graphics drivers, depending on what is included on your motherboard.

For dedicated graphics you will probably either have Nvidia or Ati:

http://www.nvidia.co.uk/Download/index.aspx?lang=en-uk

http://support.amd.com/us/gpudownload/Pages/index.aspx

3. Install essential or useful programs

Usually quite a lot of time is spent with hunting down and installing useful apps one by one. However there is a cool online service that makes things much easier: http://ninite.com/. There you can find a collection of some of the most used and useful free Windows apps, it’s quite comprehensive. Just select all you need and install with a single installer.

For the lazy here is a pre-defined selection I’ve made: http://ninite.com/installer/f561fbceda0ef6518aa4a7e76d01c82df9b1bd33

If you have a commercial antivirus license, of course you can skip the free antiviruses from Ninite’s collection. But always install an antivirus. I highly recommend Ad-Aware besides an antivirus, I have it on all my computers and it’s proven to be effective in multiple instances.

Other useful programs not included in Ninite:

  • Daemon Tools:  excellent for working with virtual CDs/DVDs  (ex. .iso files)
  • MMD3 Winamp skin: THE best skin ever made for Winamp.
  • DAP: My favourite download manager.
  • Speedfan: A great tool for monitoring your system’s temperatures.

And now you have a PC that’s ready to be used for most tasks. Of course there are still a lot of useful programs to be installed eventually, as you need them. But this depends on each user’s needs. The above is a pretty good baseline to start with. I’ll probably add more to this list, if you have any good suggestions.