These are the programs you want to install on a new PC first. Visit PC World for download.
Chrome, which won PCWorld’s browser showdown
Ninite makes loading up a new computer a breeze. Simply head to the Ninite website, select which free software you’d like to install on your PC—it offers dozens of options, including many of the programs named here—and click Get Installer to receive a single, custom .exe file containing the installers for those programs. Run the executable, and Ninite installs all of them in turn, and it automatically declines the offers for bundled bloatware so many free apps try to sneak in.
AVG AntiVirus Free
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free
PC Decrapifier - Now that you’ve installed security software to protect your PC from invasion, it’s time to clean all the preinstalled junk off your computer. Most boxed PCs come chock-full of bloatware intended to make dough for the PC makers, and you probably don’t need (or want) most of it clogging up your system resources.
Benchmarking and stress-testing software
Unlocker - What if Windows refuses to uninstall some software and tosses up the dreaded ‘Program is in use’ message? Unlocker can neutralize pesky active processes, leaving programs open to slaughter. Simply right-click the software you want to uninstall, select Unlocker from the context menu, and then unlock or kill ’em all. Just be mindful during the installation process: Unlocker tries to install lots of bloatware on your PC
Recuva - What if you accidentally deleted a program or file that you desperately need to get back? Recuva’s deleted-file recovery skills can usually save your bacon as long as you wiped your data using standard means rather than a “file shredder”-style tool.
Secunia PSI - Programs that aren’t up-to-date are programs with gaping security holes and missing features. Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector automatically keeps your software patched, or—if it’s unable to update an app for some reason—notifying you when updates are available.
A Start-menu replacement
ModernMix - Many of Windows 8’s native programs are modern-style apps, which practically forces you to take a jaunt into the Start screen from time to time. That is, unless you have Stardock’s stellar ModernMix, a $5 utility that opens modern apps in desktop windows. A word of warning: As with Start menu replacement software, improvements in Windows 10 will render ModernMix useless.
VLC Media Player - Windows 8 has one other prickly problem: Unlike Windows 7, it’s incapable of playing DVDs out of the box. Your PC might have a DVD-playing program installed if you bought a boxed system, but if not, the simply wonderful VLC media player can play your flicks (and music, and podcats, and…) for free. It can even play (some) Blu-ray discs with a little fiddling.
Sumatra PDF - Adobe Reader is the go-to PDF reader, but it’s clunky, constantly updating, and frequently targeted by malware peddlers. If you need only basic functionality, go with Sumatra PDF instead.
CutePDF - Want to transform a doc or website or image or just about anything else into a PDF? Turn to CutePDF, a freebie that installs as a printer driver and lets you transmogrify things into PDFs via the standard File > Print interface.
Wizmouse - This small program fixes a major irritation in Windows. If you hover your mouse cursor over a window in Windows and try to use the scroll wheel, nothing happens if the program isn't the currently selected app. That's a headache if you're using several programs simultaneously in numerous smaller windows. Just install WizMouse and you'll be able to scroll through any inactive window you hover your mouse over.
iTunes or Spotify - The iTunes Windows client notoriously sucks, but it gets the job done—and that job includes giving you access to a vast universe of premium music downloads and keeping your iPhone’s music library synced with your PC. Spotify, meanwhile, is an all-you-can-eat streaming service with millions of top-tier tunes available, all for free if you don’t mind listening to a few ads.
A password manager
A productivity suite - few PCs ship with a productivity suite installed. Microsoft’s legendary Office is great but you don’t have to drop big dollars on Office. OpenOffice and LibreOffice (my personal choice) are free-and-open-source options.
Steam - Valve’s outstanding PC game marketplace, Steam, has an in-home streaming feature, which you can use to transform any PC into a gaming PC (as long as you have a true gaming PC in your house, that is).