The downside to a new computer is getting everything back the way you want it, all your applications, settings and so on. Here’s the order of what I installed and why I consider some things to be essential.
Acronis True Image: I’ve learned that in two or three years, the computer I’m using now is going to be donated to some organization (such as our local preschool) or to a friend or relative that could use one. But you don’t want to hand over your computer unless you know it’s fully cleansed of all your data. Plus, you ought to remove any apps that you aren’t giving away and so on.
My old method was to reformat and reinstall the basics of everything. What a pain! Now I use Acronis True Image to take a snapshot of my “clean” system before I do anything with it. That gets written to a DVD. Then down the line, I have that image to restore, saving me a ton of time. Well, that’s the plan. I’ve yet to try and ever restore a computer I’ve saved this way. I’ve only been doing it the mirror technique for the past year!
Firefox: I never liked the idea of tabbed browsing before shifting over to it, didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Now I feel it’s essential and couldn’t bear to going back to opening independent windows. Plus, Firefox is fast, full of great plug-ins. Haven’t missed IE since I made the shift ages ago.
Ultramon: I run three monitors, as I’ll explain more in a future post. How anyone does this without Ultramon, I don’t know. I can move windows from one screen to the other easily and have my own taskbar for each window. It fills a big gap in what Windows itself should provide.
Microsoft Office: I bought a full version of Office 2003 mainly to save the hassle of having to reinstall Office 2002, which involves getting out my Office 2000 CD for verification. I love how Acronis simply lets me enter a previous version’s serial number to save that hassle. Why not save money getting the upgrade version and taking a little extra hassle. There was no difference in price. Hey, thanks for rewarding my loyalty, Microsoft.
Google Toolbar: While I can use Groowe, I still want this as well.
PowerToys For Windows XP: Who wants all their shortcuts to say “Shortcut to…” on them? PowerToys prefaces on everything. This lets you shut them off, plus make Windows save things into any place you want, rather than default folders (in other words, My Music, My Photos can be in root level folder rather than buried in some dark depths of your computer, if you prefer. It’s really the TweakUI tool that lets you do this. I do miss the Explore From Here tool PowerToys used to give you in Windows 98, however. It was nice to explore from one particular folder.
ClearType Tuner: Link is to the online version, or there’s a PowerToy version that makes text on your screen a lot easier to read.
ZoneAlarm. Yes, Windows has a built-in firewall. I feel ZoneAlarm is worth the expense. I like that I can cloak my referral data and that it has antivirus checking built in. I used to use Norton AntiVirus, but after many bugs with it, I was finally driven away from it. I haven’t looked back.
FrontPage: It still works for me, since I’m not trying to do any fancy designing. I’m still with FrontPage 2002. I might try 2003 at some point, if I have a chance to try it out.
MailWasher: I get something like 500 to 1,000 pieces of email per day. Upwards to 90 percent of that is spam. All my mail goes through SpamCop which tends to catch about 80 percent of the spam. Then I use MailWasher to ping my SpamCop account. It catches probably another 10 percent automatically and makes it easy for me to manually flag and kill the rest. By the way, anything that comes to me also goes to my Gmail account. I use that as sort of an ultimate backup in case I delete a message an need it later. I’ve had an account since it first launched and currently have 1.6 GB stored over there.
Aside from the program above, it’s also worth mentioning my Install folder. I keep this on my external hard drive and store many of my programs in it, stuff that’s for my Pocket PC, programs I regularly use and may need to reinstall and so on.
Before I had broadband, a handy collection of big programs I had downloaded was essential. Now with broadband, it’s becoming less crucial. I am much more inclined to just download a file in a few seconds. Still, saving is handy if you can’t get connected quickly for some reason.
More important is my spreadsheet of registration codes. I make a habit of noting each software item I’ve purchased, when I got it, serial and other registration info. It makes getting new things up to speed so much faster.