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Top 25 Downloads For Your Computer

The first thing you should do when you get your new laptop or computer is uninstall all that free trial crap that gets loaded on by the manufacturer. Six Months of Earthlink, two weeks of Adobe Photoshop Elements, McAfee Anti-Virus, one month of MusicMatch... who needs it? Not you! (Besides eventually charging you money, a lot of these programs you didn't ask for can slow down your computer.)

Now that you've cleared out some room on that hard drive, start installing some of these free and useful applications, many of which are open source (meaning anyone can view and alter the code of the program to improve or customize it if they have the skill or desire). Here are 25 applications -- almost all of them free -- that will let you do almost anything you could need to on your computer, without you having to spend a dime.

(Windows XP and Vista)

One of the biggest annoyances and dangers online is the dearth of spyware, adware, and other random software that gets silently installed on your PC by thieves, hackers, and disreputable sites -- at best, it slows down your system; at worst, it spies on your computing activity and lets online scammers steal passwords and other sensitive information. Cleaning the malicious code that gets loaded on your PC is a hassle and a half, especially if you don't have a tool like Ad-Aware to do most of the heavy lifting for you. Ad-Aware searches the files and registry entries on your computer and matches them against a list of known malicious software. After it reports back its findings, it will either delete or quarantine the offending code, saving you the trouble of searching through the daunting Windows registry yourself. We've found Ad-Aware to be the easiest and least resource-heavy of these anti-ad-and-spy-ware tools.

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