Add the Software You Need
Depending on the brand of computer you buy, you may initially spend more time focusing on the software you don’t need. That’s because many manufacturers get paid to add trial or full-release software to their new systems. Luckily, getting rid of “bloatware” can be as easy as running your PC’s built-in uninstaller. If you can’t cut the crap that way, services such as Best Buy’s Geek Squad will happily either remove or add programs at your request, albeit for a fee.
What about the software essentials you actually need? Well, let’s say you’re a family of four with a mom who works from home, a dad who spends a lot of time traveling, and two school-age kids who need to stay up on homework. Along with a Web browser (Safari, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox are all free and reputable), you’ll want a basic productivity suite, an antivirus program, and some sort of email/scheduler program. You may also want to install games or use your computer to play music and movies, but between online gaming sites (easily available through Google), iTunes (for Mac or PC) and Windows Media Player, you can cover your bases without spending a cent.
Microsoft Office offers a Home and Student Edition (for both PC and Mac) that covers everyday productivity, email and scheduling needs, as well as the ability to create presentations and take notes. However, you might also want to check into Google Docs or Open Office for free alternatives. While Mac owners laud their systems’ built-in virus resistance, PC owners can either purchase antivirus software (your new PC likely includes an unlockable trial version) or get free protection from sources such as Microsoft Security Essentials or AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition.