Essential Windows XP Tools

windows_xp_logo_2Living in Korea and working with a lot of different people from different backgrounds and cultures gives me access to a lot of different things.  However, in all these differences, one of the biggest commonalities I’ve found is that most people run Windows XP on their computers and end up with the same set of problems and issues. Therefore, I present my list of the most essential and helpful tools for Windows XP.

**Note: This list is only the MOST essential tools I need (including Internet browsers, virus scanners, ad/spyware scanners, video codecs, and Windows updates). For a more complete list of ALL the software I like to use for Windows, click this link. Alternately, this site provides a solid list of other open-source Windows apps.

Internet Browsers

Undeniably, the #1 reason people use computers these days is to get on the Internet.  Therefore, it is imperative to have a good, safe, standards compliant (and updated -> goodbye IE 6) Internet browser.

1. Firefox – Without a doubt the most popular open source browser (with 21.73% of the market share according to Wikipedia).

2. Google Chrome – A very slick, simple, and fast browser, Chrome is great for quick browsing and Google searches for queries directly input into the address bar.

Virus Scanners

Getting on the Internet (especially if your machine isn’t updated) is a sure-fire way to invite a virus. Therefore, a good virus catcher is needed.  The following are two that I’ve been using and recommending to people for years.

1. AVG Free – This is the first FREE antivirus program I ran across way back in 2002.  It seems to still be working well and keeping people protected.

2. Trend Micro House Call This Internet based scanner is probably the most friendly of all virus scanners.  It works with Firefox on multiple Windows versions, Mac, Linux (with libc6), and Solaris 2.6.  It scans your computer from the Internet without needed to install a full program on the computer (of course as such it also doesn’t provide the same real-time virus protection that full programs do, but it’s great in a pinch).

Ad Scanners

Adware and spyware are the little data-mining and pop-up brothers of viruses.  Make sure you’re protected (and cleaned) of them.

1. Adaware – This gem has been around for years and does a great job of removing tons of ad-programs.

2. Spybot – This program takes care of spyware programs and any other pests Adaware missed. It also allows users to immunize their computers against known threats and provides real-time Internet Explorer protection (Tea Timer).

Video Codecs

Besides the Internet, most people enjoy watching movies on their computers and with the vast array of video compressors and decompressors (codecs) out there, it can be a pain to try to find the right one.

1. K-Lite Mega Codec Pack – Contains everything you need to play all the popular video file formats.  Even comes with a nice “Media Player Classic” to play them in.

2. Miro Player – Miro is a great tool that has tons of HD videos, all popular video codecs, a BitTorrent client, and Internet TV all inside.

Please Update!

Finally, let’s not forget possibly the MOST important thing Windows (and all other OS users for that matter) can do to insure their computers remain fast, clean, and friendly: update.  I’ve noticed that most people turn OFF automatic updates, or don’t install updates when Windows prompts them to after it automatically downloads them.  Therefore I’ve run across Windows XP computers that still don’t have even Service Pack 2 installed, which emphasizes security and contains multiple updates (this Wikipedia post tells more).  Please update, and save both yourselves and service professionals a bigger headache should you ever need to fix something.

1. Microsoft Windows Update – As the official updating tool for Windows, this scans your system and informs you of the most essential updates for Windows.

2. WinXP Service Pack 3Wikipedia says that “A total of 1,174 fixes have been included in SP3” and this is also an essential requirement for any users wishing to change their Windows XP default and install language.

What about you?

What do you think? Are there any other essential Windows XP tools I didn’t mention here? Anything you couldn’t imagine running Windows without? Or anything you have to install on other people’s computers to fix their problems? Leave me a comment, I’d love to learn about other tools we could all benefit from.

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