Essential Software – The Basics

Whether you’re building a new computer for the first time, updating your old one or just doing some cleaning on your current one, there are some essential programs that can make your machine much more useful for the variety of tasks you may use it for. Here is a list of some of the most useful software I have found and still use to date.

If you are doing any overclocking at all or you just like to impress your friends with the fact that you have a real time temperature monitor always running then Core Temp is a great place to start. It will provide the temps of all your cores plus CPU usage, RAM usage, the current CPU clock with the voltage and display a graph so you can see all these statistics function as you switch to different programs or games. I’m sure there are even more choices you have if you’re willing to play around with it a bit more, but for now I’m happy with what it does. You can also look at CPUZ/CPUID for a similar tool that I believe will also identify your GPU and its current settings.

If you play with custom cooling and overclocking, Prime95 is a must. It’s a program that will push your RAM or CPU cores to the limit to make sure you are running a stable clock on your current voltage, and when I say push I mean to the edge. If you run the program for 12-24 hours, you’ll certainly be able to tell if your clocks are stable and have an idea of what your temps will be on full load. The software is also free, so take advantage of it while you can.

If you like to play around with your GPU or you just want to monitor its resource usage in anyway, PrecisionX by EVGA is a great place to start. It will allow you to change the voltage that goes to your card, the memory, the gpu clock, the desired temperature or the desired power use. You can have several different profiles if you really want to get into the testing, and the best part is it’s free. Keep in mind it is EVGA software, and may only work with Nvidia cards.

To prolong the life of your drives and overall health of the PC, it’s always a good idea to keep it as clean as possible. This can be a difficult task with some of the built in cleaners that Windows comes with, but CCleaner is a powerful tool that can find and delete some hard to reach files that somehow find their way into our PCs. CCleaner can take care of all the junk that gets thrown in your browsers and other applications and utilities on your computer. For example, mine cleans out my useless stuff in chrome, looks at audacity, adobe, powerdirector, quicktime, office and other applications that might have undesirable files hiding within them. It can also clean your registry, do FULL uninstalls of programs, change which programs and apps start with the computer, wipe old and unused drivers and provides an easy access to system restores. You can get a free version at the link above, but the professional version is pretty useful if you have some extra money to invest.

If you plan on gaming with others you’re going to need a way to communicate with them beyond the built in voip that some games today have. TeamSpeak and Mumble are great FREE ways to do so, and many clans, guilds and gaming communities have one or the other for their members’ use. I personally prefer TS3 to Mumble because I’ve used it longer so I’m more comfortable with it, but when I do have to use Mumble I find that it works just fine. Both have similar features but I’ve heard TS is easier on the administrator while Mumble provides more personalization for the user. If you need to host a server for your players, both offer pretty cheap entry level servers so you can take your game to the next level.

While there are other gaming platforms on PC like Origin by EA and Uplay by Ubisoft, Steam is no doubt the largest gaming platform to date. Steam is administered by Valve, the guys behind titles like Left 4 Dead 2 and Team Fortress, and is the premier gaming software for the PC platform. The community is massive, and boasts millions of players at all times, and those are just the people in game. If you don’t have Steam yet, I recommend looking into it as soon as possible if you plan to game on PC.

I know this will piss some people off, which is why I left it for last. Yes, I do use Norton as my virus software and as a tool to help keep my PC clean, yes I have a paid version (about $90 annually) and no I don’t trust free software to keep my five thousand dollar PC healthy. While there are plenty of alternatives out there, particularly AVG, which for the price of nothing provide a decent alternative, I’d rather pay the premium to have, what I consider, good protection. I’ve used Norton for years now on this PC and my laptop before it, and it has done a stunning job of keeping trojans, bots, phishing and other cyber criminal tools at bay. The annual cost of membership is a cheap alternative to a complete replacement of key components that people are getting better at attacking everyday. If you disagree with my views and think AVG or another free software does everything you need it to do and more, feel more than free to leave a comment below.

These are some essential programs that I think can improve the everyday tasks that most PCs undergo and if you don’t have these programs yet I highly suggest looking into them. If you feel that I left anything out that you find makes your life on PC easier please feel free to post below as I would love to check out said software and see if I too enjoy it. Thanks for reading!

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