Freeware programs can extend the functionality of the Windows XP operating system by a mile and beyond. The operating system lacks a lot of features out of the box. It is not really that optimize for speed for example, and several of its settings may cause privacy concerns.
The following list is a set of programs that I install on every new Windows XP system that I setup, a must have of freeware applications so to speak.
I decided to keep the list small and divide it into two parts.The first part lists mostly security related tools that every Windows XP users should have available on the system. The second part, which I will publish in another article, lists tools and programs that help you a great deal in the operating system.
I always start with security related tools which is IMHO the best approach. Fix the security issues, add protection and concentrate on everything else afterwards. I start with AntiVir which is a great free anti virus tool that can be scheduled to update itself on a regular basis. Once Antivir is up and running I install XP Antispy which disables the phone home options that are built into Windows XP (next to many other settings that disable features no one really needs).
I do take a look at the services that are running and disable every service that is not needed. This is not part of the tutorial, I thought it would be still worth to mention this step.
I'm not using a firewall which may seem odd to some users here. It created a heated discussion about a year ago. As you can see, my PC is still up and running and I'm still not using a firewall. I don't really think there is a good free one out there. I do use a hardware firewall on the other hand.
Next on my list are Microsoft Powertoys for Windows XP, Tweak UI to be precise which gives you access to system settings.
Disk Cleaner is another excellent freeware that I install on the system, it is a one click get rid of all temporary files solution - able to remove cookies, temporary files and history from browsers such as Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera for instance.
I like to install Snadboys Revelation as well. I is a free and easy to use tool that can reveal passwords that are shown behind asterisks on the system. This can be very useful if you forget a password and see only ****** and nothing else in the password field.
Last but not least I install True Crypt on the system, either to use encrypted containers, using a finite amount of hard drive space, or to completely encrypt a partition of the drive. Both have advantages and I recommend to use at least one of the two for all important documents.
That is the minimum, I know that there are more tools that are nice and can be installed and I would like to hear about them from you. Which tools do you install on every XP system? Please note that I will write a second article about tools that are recommended but not security related like VLC, Firefox and Thunderbird.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.