What are you thankful for? It’s such a cliché statement, especially given that we’re barely past the brief period of time where we’re all allowed to indulge ourselves in vast quantities of food—leftover or otherwise.

Of course, the Thanksgiving break—if you had one—provides for a perfect time to get some home cleaning done. But I’m not just talking about dusting off your action figure collection. No, of course, all fingers point to your PC. That poor, neglected piece of equipment does nothing but provide for you, day in and day out. It’s become bloated to excess and you, realizing that there’s no time like the present, have decided to wipe it clean and start anew.

So what, pray tell, do you install first? It’s a simple question and, indeed, one with nearly a thousand answers. Look, as far as I’m concerned, you’re still on vacation. Allow me to do the work for you. For I present to you a five-course meal of applications that we should all be thankful for on some level—game-changers that, really, deserve to be installed on any system you touch, period.

If you’ve already heard of them, excellent. You’re just that ahead of the game. If not, consider this your chance to get caught up to all that is awesome in the world of freeware and open-source software.



Why would you install this first on a brand-new PC? Simply put, it speeds up your file transfers. As well, it’s a far more feature-packed way to copy or move files around instead of the default, no-options and no-frills Windows Explorer. You can pause and resume transfers at your leisure, automatically retry files that screw up for whatever reason, and stack more and more copy and move requests in a virtual queue that Teracopy handles one at a time.

But, really, it speeds up your file transfers!

Download it here!



I used to freak out a lot whenever I had to wipe my primary hard drive and reinstall windows. Although it wasn’t so much the formatting process that got to me: I, of course, had previously backed up (most) critical files onto a separate hard drive. However, when it came time for these files to make their way back to their new home, I’d always get a little nervous. What if I was missing something? What if I neglected to copy over a particular directory and, poof, there went all my saved games or high school papers or something?

We could talk circles about how Dropbox, the awesome cloud-based storage utility, is a wonderful way to store information in a virtual environment. We could talk about all the different hacks and modifications that you can use to really supercharge Dropbox into a completely different experience. But at the end of the day, Dropbox is awesome because it helps you be less forgetful: Slap your super-important files into your Dropbox folder, and they’ll be right there waiting for you when you reinstall the app on a fresh Windows installation.

Download it here!


Anything that isn’t Internet Explorer

Let us not overlook the most important part of reinstalling windows: Dropping Internet Explorer like it was a bad joke. I’m not going to use this paragraph to promote one browser over another, however, because I know just how easy it is to latch onto a browser of choice as if it was a familiar seat on a couch. It’s yours. Nobody—and no recommendation—is going to take it from you.

So, be my guest. Use Firefox, Chrome, Opera, or Safari (yes, even Safari) if you want to stay with the mainstream. Or… you could get a little crazier and bust out the xB Browser, Sleipnir, Flock (yeep), SpaceTime, or Lunascape. So many choices exist that are each, themselves, better than Internet Explorer. Start investigating!



Simple. Easy. Efficient. I would have slapped AnyDVD onto my list, were that application free. But it is not. And, frankly, I kind of like the ability to directly rip full CDs down into nicely packaged .ISO files. Of course, that all goes out the window if you’re trying to do that to a copy-protected DVD—which you are not, of course.

Anyway, ImgBurn is a fast and excellent tool for either burning or ripping disc-based media. For the layperson, that’s CDs and DVDs. Create your own “playlist” of files, or create images files from the folders and files on your system that you can subsequently burn in a one-shot method within Imgburn. And, as I mentioned, it’s super-easy to rip optical media down to its own little packaged ISO file (or what-have-you). If you’re using the standard Windows burning tool to make CDs, well, you’re doing it wrong.

Download it here!


Revo Uninstaller

I don’t like the default uninstallation tools that come with most apps. One installation of Revo Uninstaller (that very phrase drips with irony) and you’ll soon see why yourself. For when you go to uninstall a program with this app, Revo usually runs the default uninstallation tool built into the program you’re trying to nuke. Simple, right?

Only, when said app’s routine is done, Revo then scans your drive and registry for any leftover information—an errant file here, an empty folder there, a billion registry keys left untouched, et cetera. Nine times out of ten—or, at least, a heck of a frequent amount—you’ll find a wealth of things that the default uninstallation tool didn’t manage to wipe.

Now, multiply this by the number of apps, games, and assorted software bits that you likely tinker around with over a given year… and you have quite a lot of drive/operating system bloat! Consider Revo Uninstaller your golden ticket to software sanity.

Download it here!


Funny you should mention it, for David Murphy reinstalled his entire system this Thanksgiving break.  Nothing says “day off” like “hey, your operating system is totally hosed.”  Sigh.