Set up family computer for Internet

One of my brothers got his Windows eaten by viruses (again). I got it (computer) into roughly working shape for starters and convinced him (brother) that Internet connection is really good and useful thing to have. At least for antivirus updates, if not anything else.

So I am preparing for second trip there tomorrow and going over list of software I must get on that computer so it he they don’t bug me too much.


Interesting question, since I spend most of my time hugging portable antivirus, liveCD antivirus, corporate antivirus… None on the list is exactly family thing.

I think I will go with Avast Home Edition. I hear decent feedback about that one and free ensures it won’t go dead because of neglected payment.


Don’t think there is enough order to get proper scheduled routine with Cobian Backup. Will consider Dropbox with “drop stuff here” (intended I guess) usage.


Opera obviously. And properly upgrading Internet Explorer to version 8, even if not used directly – there is plenty of software that makes use of IE engine. And latest Flash version.


CCLeaner, shortcut with automated cleanup, or maybe scheduled.


MyDefrag as screensaver.


Probably gmail – skips need for proper mail software. Heard new registrations require mobile phone activation now, might have to go with local co-branded version instead.

File sharing

Over my dead cold body.


None. As useful as Comodo Firewall is for me, installing it for home user is trouble unless I am willing to spend next week(s) educating. Am not.

Instant messaging

Local factor decides, so ICQ with one of fitting clients.

Remote access

Been looking for something lately, since Skype plugin I had used died. Mikogo is better fit for collaborative work than tech support.

Decided to try CrossLoop. Very streamlined and uses TightVNC with encryption on top.


Patches, patches, patches. Not all but every single security-related one.


Ouch, this is going to be some boring Friday. Think I missed something? What are your picks for installing on [remote] family PC?

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  • Brad Blogging.com - Personal Blog Tips And Blog Help #

    Nice software you got here. I'd suggest Mozilla Firefox over Opera due to the community plugins and mods that 3rd parties make for it. Any specific reason why you chose this browser? Oh! Auslogics Disk Defrag & Registry Defrag are excellent tools.. both free and they really work well to defrag the computer and registry. Until next time... :)
  • Seelenwahnsinn #

    Boring Friday? Playing with fresh Windows is wonderful! I personally love it :D. Put a nice music on, bring everything on your memory stick and enjoy the day. Here's my hint: Antivirus & Firewall: I'm not very found of Avast!, there are better security softwares on the market. COMODO Internet Security is a great and trusty product and won't bug him too much after you disable the Defense+ module. About the Firewall part, I don't think Comodo is too annoying. After you allow the primary things (browsers, IM client, dropbox, etc) it won't bother anymore. I've been instaling COMODO for several people; it's a matter of minutes for the user get along. Browser: Definitely upgrade the IE; there are a few pages that still won't render properly using Opera. And don't forget to install Flash player for BOTH browsers. Cleanup: Schedule it for him. Once per week would be a good value for the average computer user. Email: Why would someone possibly think of softwares for this? GMail all the way! (Just to be clear, I don't want to start a flamewar about this) Instant Messaging: Trillian or Digsby. They work really well even for the unexperienced user. Remote Access: I'm delaying a CrossLoop test for over one year, so I don't know if it works well. I would suggest TightVNC or even Ultr@VNC for the job. But for me it's better if you go for CrossLoop and write about it later :) Windows: Please, do NOT leave the Automatic Updates on automatic mode. Turn it off and don't think twice. Someday you'll thank me. Others: You didn't mention Office suites. It won't hurt to install OpenOffice (or Microsoft Office, if you can) and a good PDF Viewer, like FoxitReader or PDF-XChange (I'm a Foxit user but the later is damn good). @Brad Rarst chose Opera because he uses it and thinks Opera is superior than Firefox. And I agree with him.
  • Rarst #

    @Brad Who cares about mods and community at family computer? :) I choose Opera because that is what I use, love and recommend. @Seelenwahnsinn Comodo can (and must I should say :) be tweaked to be less annoying but it will still bug on software installs and such. It is slightly out of article scope but in this specific case it lacks localization as well, while Avast has one. On email - I mostly use gmail via IMAP in Opera M2, not huge fan of web apps as you know. :) IM as I said it is very geography-specific, we have different toys here. :) Remote - TightVNC lacks native encryption and it would be pain to setup and maintain it for family computer. I don't know type of Internet connection he got, may very well be behind NAT and reverse calls are confusing. Will see how CrossLoop fares and of course will write on it later. :) Automatic what? :) I only use package of pre-downloaded updates. Windows auto-update is bonkers. Office stuff is out of scope and whatever bro uses for university anyway, not my choice.
  • Marius #

    Antivirus Personal I prefer Avira over Avast. Backup For some years I use a tweak, I make a profile dir in second drive (partition) where i move appdata, my documents and desktop and i change registry to point them. Browser Opera obviously :) . Install also Flash, shockwave and jre Cleanup CCLeaner scheduled. Defragmentation MyDefrag as screensaver or IOBit Smart Defrag. Firewall Windows firewall is enough some times. Comodo is fine choice. Instant messaging Qip 2008 is fine for ICQ. Remote access CrossLoop is ok you can try LogMeIn too. Another in my WPI are : 7Zip, PDF-XChange Viewer, Cute PDF Writer, The KMplayer, Aimp2, OpenOffice, CDBurnerXP
  • Rarst #

    @Marius Considered Avira, another fine choice. Again - for this specific case Avast trumps with localized version. Yeah, profile folder in non-default location is excellent tweak. Not really backup but still worth doing. Shockwave recently came up in comments on frameworks post. My opinion is I had no need for it in years. I may be mistaken but it feels kinda abandoned by Internet. JRE is part of my work install but I think family computer might safely skip it, unless needed for desktop software. On LogMeIn - I think it has mandatory registration? Hadn't used it, but had used Hamachi before they bought it. What I liked in CrossLoop specs that it can work without account just fine. Agree on rest of stuff you named, fine choices. Still long-term survival is first priority with family computer, rest comes later. :)
  • Jonny #

    It's gotta be avira over avast for me and I've explained why before on my blog - Avira has always detected more. Firefox over opera - scratch that. OPERA for someone who won't be doing much tweaking and wants a great fast browser that isn't internet explorer. Unless of course you add a couple of addons to Firefox such as adblock and better google etc that are well worth installing for anyone. Firewall - another I have covered - comodo is too "talky." I have currently got PCtools with threatfire on one PC which is easy peasy to use and the newly freeware Privacyware Firewall on another which is also great (and 64 bit compatible). Both do well in Matousec tests and more to the point are easy for a non techie to use. Backup - Dropbox Chat - Digsby Cleanup - CCleaner - alternatives are not too great.
  • Rarst #

    @Jonny As above on Avira, no localization. On firewall - I doubt there is any firewall at all that home-class user can effectively use. Sooner or later there are decisions to make that firewall can't make for you. On CCLeaner alternatives - yeah, it's weird. People can't do straight clone of it properly, not even talking about viable alternatives.
  • Klemen #

    Hi. Interesting post, and I'd like to add a few of my favorites. It looks to me like you've completely forgot about media support. I ALWAYS put on media player classic and winamp (nothing fancy, just a basic version). I believe this is an important part for the home computer. AV for me is NOD32, although I will probably go with Avira on my new system, and I prefer the firewall on the router. I've used kerio (kpf) in the past, and heard good things about comodo, too. Other than that, foxit reader for pdf, acdsee for images, total commander for, well, everything, and ms office for doc/xls/ppt :)
  • Rarst #

    @Klemen See title - this list is more about keeping PC safe and maintained, than bells and whistles. :) MPC was already installed by me as part of K-Lite Codec Pack and for player I usually offer AIMP, good feedback on that one (I don't listen to music on PC myself).
  • Rick #

    Rarst, Sounds like this happens frequently... Install Windows SteadyState or Shadow Defender. I especially like Shadow Defender. Setup to boot into Shadow mode and when he screws it up, reboot and everything is restored back to normal. SteadyState works in a similar manner. Rick
  • Rarst #

    @Rick I hadn't played with freezing :) software much but I don't think it is good fit for family PC. It is good for complete lockdown, what if user wants game installed next week or something? Maybe tech progressed since I last tried, will read up on it.
  • George #

    You should also try SSuite Office for a free office suite. They have a whole range of office suites that are free for download. Their software also don't need to run on Java or .NET, like so many open source office suites, so it makes the software very small and efficient. You can try these links: http://www.ssuitesoft.com/index.htm
  • Rarst #

    @George As above - not really looking for office suite in this case. :) However I like lean apps, bookmarked to try it properly some time later. Thanks for suggestion!
  • B. Durant #

    For backup take a look at a program called syncback (http://www.2brightsparks.com/downloads.html#freeware) The free version works just fine. For a firewall throw up a linksys or netgear router. Software firewalls are nice for people who know how to use them, but like you said not worth the effort for those who don't. For remote access look at logmein.com The free version works fine. I support about 75 clients using it.
  • Rarst #

    @B. Durant With family computer it's more of matter which media to use for backup. No such geeky things as external drives and remote servers. And no commitment to regular backup on optical discs either. Router is nice option but cheap ones suck and decent home router (I use D-Link DIR-400 myself) costs enough that it's hard to justify with security benefit alone. Yep, need to try LogMeIn as well. Can you clear up on mandatory registration? Would I only need it myself or for "clients" :) as well?
  • Mrinal #

    Hi - I am one of the co-founders of CrossLoop. Let me know if you or any of your readers have any questions on it. I am usually available on Twitter so you can do an @mrinaldesai there or ask here - I am always available. We recently celebrated Sysadmin day with 95 year old Grandma Billie who gets help with CrossLoop and we hope you join the family too :) http://crossloop.typepad.com/bringing_people_closer/2009/07/celebrating-sysadmin-day-with-jim-and-96-year-old-grandma-billie.html Thanks Mrinal
  • Rarst #

    @Mrinal Thanks for dropping by! My brother hadn't done anything requiring me using CrossLoop so far. :) I'll give him some more time, or I'll just have to test it from my notebook.
  • Mrinal #

    Sounds good - you know where to get me anytime you have questions or just want to share your joy/excitement after using CrossLoop :)
  • Hengist_Ludd #

    Maybe free version of WinPatrol? http://www.winpatrol.com/
  • Rarst #

    @Hengist_Ludd Hmm, I remember trying some early version long time ago and didn't like it much. Need to revisit, thanks for suggestion. :)
  • Noah #

    http://usefulsoftwaregamesandknowledge.blogspot.com/2009/08/fixing-old-xp-laptop.html Here's what I did to my parent's old laptop. Fast as hell now.
  • Rarst #

    @Noah Nice cleanup guide, except that I usually advise to stay away from messing with native services. Performance gain is tiny (if any) and easy to break stuff.
  • Noah #

    Ah, I've often fiddled with them , it always helps a little turn off the junk like Media Player and whatever else Windows thinks you want.
  • Rarst #

    @Noah Yeah, there is some stuff that shouldn't even be a service and begs to be disabled. Especially 3rd party crap. But native system services are better left alone.
  • Noah #

    I suppose, but at least if you do damage the services, it's always pretty easy to fix. So sometimes having a play around with them can teach you a thing or two. Well, as long as nothing stupid happens like turning off the kernal...
  • Rarst #

    @Noah My main concern is that it can create wicked chain reactions. Turn off something and three months later you try to use software that uses service that uses service that uses service you had turned off... Total pain to deal with, easier to leave them alone. :)
  • Noah #

    Well, I've been doing it for years, haven't come across any problem so far ;)
  • Rarst #

    @Noah Lucky you. :)
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  • Jim #

    Whatever you out on it, install Macrium Reflect Free. Set up the PC the way you want, do a full disk image and store in a safe place. Whenever the PC gets infected, just reimage with backup.
  • Rarst #

    @Jim I am not a big fan of imaging for home computers. It is pretty much impossible to estabilsh proper scheduled routine to update it. Even if profile folders are moved out of the way users still tend to save data in most weird of places. And so on. In the end solving specific issue is usually more convenient (and fun) than nuking system partition every time.
  • Rush #

    Cool blog. Been a long time gHacks reader but not too much on change. Glad I checked it out, although probably should have picked another (new) post, but oh well. I have 6 kids and live in the wildly tech savvy state of Wv. Needless to say, I have to do this process a lot. I mean A LOT. I've tried a ton of different sets trying to find the right bunch of apps. CCleaner rocks, I like smart defrag by iobit, returnil is great for idiot proofing (serious cases) and I'll definitely have to check out CrossLoop. Been looking for a new remote choice. I was using UVNC but I haven't liked anything since 1.02 I have found for certain is that less is better, both in number of apps and complications with using them. One thing I'd add to all this (6 weeks later) is the first thing I do, right off the top, is re-partition the system drive down to no more than 25gb, create a new one and point the documents at the new partition. That way if I ever do have to go back, worst case and reformat, I dont have to spend 5 or 6 hours recovering that all important prom picture or tax return. I would say that in the last two years, that partition and Returnil have saved me two weeks or more of my life. Great blog, Rarst. Now I have a new daily stop.
  • Rarst #

    @Rush Welcome to blog. :) Martin always sends awesome readers my way. Will take a look at Returnil, new one to me. Never used sandboxing much so not proficient in the area.
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