Windows 7 Software Guide
Below is a list of recommended software for Windows 7, and a few tips to help you make the most of your computer.
web browser: Chrome, Opera, Firefox
mail client: Thunderbird, Opera
instant message: Miranda, Pidgin, Skype
relay chat (IRC): mIRC, XChat, ChatZilla
FTP client: Filezilla, WinSCP
download manager: jDownloader
video player: MPC-HC
music player: foobar2000, Winamp
codecs: CoreAVC, CCCP*
image viewer: IrfanView, ACDSee Classic
image editor: Photoshop, GIMP, Paint.NET
video converter: Handbrake
audio converter: foobar2000
*Not necessary with MPC-HC, but adds additional codec support to players like Windows Media Player.
antivirus: Microsoft Security Essentials, Nod32
firewall: your router, Windows default
defragmenter: Defraggler, O&O Defrag
cleaner: CCleaner, Revo Uninstaller
file recovery: Recuva
specs: Speccy, CPU-Z, GPU-Z, HWMonitor
archiver: 7-zip, IZArc, WinRAR
drive encryption: TrueCrypt, BitLocker
office suite: Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org
PDF viewer: PDF-XChange, SumatraPDF
text editor: Notepad++, Notepad2, SciTE
You can download wallpapers, Windows themes, icons, and similar things at DeviantArt.com or Wallbase.net.
You should defragment your drives every couple of weeks and after large file transfers to keep them from slowing down. You can find the built-in utility at Start-> "defrag". Do not defrag SSDs!
You can disable unnecessary services for a very slight speed gain on old machines. Press Start and type "msconfig", go to "Services".
Open the options at View->Options.
To use DXVA video card acceleration (CoreAVC is better on NVidia cards), go to Playback-> Output and choose "EVR Custom Pres", then go Internal Filters and make sure "DXVA" and not "FFmpeg" is checked for H.264 and VC-1. This may not work with intermediate filters/codecs (DirectVobSub, ffdshow, CCCP, etc), and will only work with supported cards (Radeon HD series, GeForce 8800/GT100 or newer).
To use CoreAVC (once installed), choose "EVR Custom Pres" as above, then go to External Filters, click "Add Filter", and choose "CoreAVC Video Decoder". Check "prefer" If you're not using DXVA.
Choosing a Browser
Pros: Extremely fast; supports userscripts and extensions; simple UI that covers basic features; sandboxed for security.
Cons: very little configuration; limited featureset compared to others; less powerful extension system than Firefox (eg no real ad blocking, can only hide).
Pros: Very powerful extension system; best userscript engine (Greasemonkey); a lot of configuration via about: config.
Cons: The slowest of the "big 3", UI is only a few steps up from IE by default.
Pros: Tons of user configuration and built-in features; userscript support; very fast (sometimes close to Chrome).
Cons: No extensions; some pages render poorly or not at all.