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My well loved, well used laptop died last week. I purchase a new one and as I was getting it back to a usable state, I opened a list of software I install after purchasing a new PC for my friends and family. After getting everything back to a usable state, I thought that it was pretty good list to share. So, here is my list of five essential downloads to get. The best part, they are all free.

  • Picasa - Transfer, find, organize, edit, print and share all from this easy to use product. Picasa will automatically organize all your pictures into albums by date. Even if your photos are in multiple locations on your PC, Picasa finds and organizes them. Having all your photos in one place means no more time wasted searching for folders or files. The program works with JPEG, GIF, BMP, PSD, and movie files. Editing tools include cropping, removal of red-eye, and color enhancing. E-mail photos with Picasa's built-in client. You can also make instant backups to CD (or to other hard drives) of your photo collections. Picasa is available at
  • avast Anti-Virus - I was a Norton fan for many years. I still believe that Norton 360 is the best product for the "set it and forget it" set of users. I found avast when I was using the Vista Beta's with Office 2007 and there was no virus software available. I found avast and was hooked. avast! Home Edition is a complete anti-virus package, that is free for registered home users. It contains an on-demand scanner, an on-access scanner with Standard Shield (which protects against execution and opening malware programs) and an embedded e-mail scanner. You will download a 60 day demo, if you would like to continue free usage beyond that time, you`ll need to register from the home page to obtain a free activation key by email. avast uses few system resources and does not bog down your PC while providing excellent virus protection. avast is available at
  • iTunes - Simply the best music player, organizer and purchasing tool out there. iTunes has set the standard in digital media and has blazed the trail for many services that followed. The iTunes Music Store has more music titles and genres available than any other music service. Even if you don't have an iPod, iTunes is an easy to use tool for music lovers. The iTunes software is free. Songs are available for $.99 per song or complete albums beginning at $9.99 and up. iTunes is available at
  • SynchToy 2.0 - There are a ton of backup and synchronization tools but none as easy or reliable as SynchToy. This easy to use, application helps you copy, move, rename and delete files between folders, drives and computers. SynchToy is a very clean, simple and effective tool that allows you to backup and synch your key folders (Music, Documents, Photos, etc). SynchToy gives you 5 different options, like a two folder sync, or a one folder copy, subscription method or contribution (no delete) mode.  The application will only update what has changed (handles file renames as well), so it's efficient. The application can be setup to run as a scheduled task in Windows, so you can make it a "Set it and forget it" tool. SynchToy is available for download here.
  • Skype - By now, most people are familiar with Skype. If you’re not, Skype is a little piece of technology can connect anyone with a computer to another person — no matter if that other person uses Skype, a landline or a mobile phone. Skype to Skype calls are free. All other calls, including local, long distance and international calls to phones and cell phones, are charged a nominal fee. Users can send video, download video, send and receive text messages, and can use Skype for call forwarding. Skype is free and requires a high speed (DSL or Cable connection) to make calls. Sound quality is always excellent and you can purchase a package of unlimited calls to phones or cell phones for less than $30.00 per year. Skype is available at