The programs you should install on your new PC
Get a new desktop or gaming laptop? That brand new installation of Windows is lean and mean and lighting fast, but it’s lacking some of the must-have apps we use all the time as PC gamers. Some of these programs are pretty obvious, like Steam and Google Chrome, but there are plenty of other everyday apps that deserve to be on your system, and plenty others that are handy every so often.
First, we’re going to give a overview of the programs we suggest installing with Ninite. Then we’re going to list a few more of our go-to apps. Don’t let your new system live long without them and, if you need it, here’s our guide to the best antivirus for gaming PCs
Table of Contents
Ninite: Brilliant for the basics
Ninite builds a custom installer for you of the applications you want, then installs all of them in one go. It’s mercifully free of the annoying toolbars and free offers and other adware most installers try to sneak onto your PC. It’s simple, and it works perfectly. It also offers a lot of software you probably don’t need, so we picked out what we’d recommend for a new gaming rig.
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Here’s what we suggest
Google Chrome – The obvious choice, but you can choose Opera or Firefox.
Avira – Windows’ built-in tools do the job well these days, but if you want added security, this is what we consider the best free antivirus available.
Discord – The de facto gaming messaging client, and one we use every day. It also has a great mobile app. Join the PC Gamer Club and come chat with us!
7-Zip – Zip or unzip anything you throw at it. Free and lightweight and it’ll never bug you to pay for it.
VLC – VLC can play anything and is a reliable all-around media player, with no need for outside codecs. We have another media player recommendation below, too.
iTunes – (Optional) iTunes on Windows is an endless pain, but if you plan to manage your iPhone with your PC, it’s sadly your best choice.
Spotify – (Optional) If you’re a subscriber, might as well grab the desktop app now.
Audacity – (Optional) If you do any sort of audio recording or editing, Audacity is a great, free, powerful tool.
Java, .Net – Sooner or later you’ll probably need these. Might as well load them up now, or you’ll end up groaning when some program asks for one.
Maybe none? OneDrive likely came installed on your PC, but maybe you use Google Drive or Dropbox.
Notepad++ – (Optional) If you tend to dig through HTML files, game inis, and so on, Notepad++ is great for making that text readable and easy to edit.
GIMP – An eternal runner-up to Photoshop. We prefer Adobe’s software, but the GIMP is still a great freebie tool once you get used to its UI.
IrfanView – (Optional) You probably already know how to take screenshots on your PC or otherwise deal with images in bulk, but IrfanView can run automatically in the background taking shots at different intervals. It is also our favorite tool for mass resizing, cropping, conversion, and so on. Powerful automation tools, and good for just viewing images, too.
Windirstat – Right now your new PC is whistle-clean, but it won’t always be that way. Windirstat gives you a nice visual breakdown of how all your storage is allocated, making it easy to locate some big chunky files you might want to toss in the recyle bin.
TeamViewer – A very handy tool for accessing your PC remotely. A free, easy-to-use remote desktop program. Also a good way to help parents troubleshoot their computers, if you can walk them through installing it.
Foxit Reader – (Optional) If you only read PDFs and never have to muck with editing them, Foxit Reader is a good pick. Otherwise, grab the more bloated but more powerful Adobe Acrobat.
Steam – Obviously.
If you’re assembling your own installer, give each of the above programs a checkmark, then click “Get Your Ninite” to create an installer that bundles all of these programs together. Then run it, sit back, and watch your PC fill up with the utilities you’ll be using all the time.
Then it’s time to grab a few more important programs.
Other game launchers
You probably know exactly which launchers you need, but depending on what games you play, or where you like to hunt for deals, you should consider installing the following:
- Epic Games – Worth it for the free games every week, if nothing else.
- GOG Galaxy – Especially handy today, as GOG can pull in all your games into one handy interface.
- Ubisoft Connect
- EA Desktop app
- Bethesda Games Launcher
What sets MSI Afterburner apart is its incorporation of RivaTuner Statistics Server, a powerful tool that lets you enforce framerates on your games. Some games deliver frames at an uneven pace, making performance choppy, and their own framerate controls aren’t up to par. With RTSS, you can dial in that smoothness, as Durante explained in this Witcher 3 guide.
Oh yeah: it can capture screenshots, too
Free image editor Glimpse
Mouse driver software
Whatever gaming mouse you use, it’s got software to go with it that will let you bind your keys, adjust the DPI, and more. Download it to configure your mouse to your liking
Our favorite gifmaking tool. Gifcam is a free, very small program that lets you record an area of your screen, edit the gif frame-by-frame, add effects, and export at a nice compressed size. Or you can go high framerate and upload to a site like Gfycat for a nice smooth webm.
Interested in doing any streaming, or just recording your desktop or games on occasion? OBS is the free, open source software of choice. It’s highly customizable recording/streaming software that you can configure to suit your system. You can choose how it encodes video and at what quality level and framerate, so you won’t overtax your PC while gaming. OBS is as simple or powerful as you want it to be. You can set up loads of different “scenes” to swap between what you’re capturing, but you can also just set it to capture your desktop and click a button if that’s all you need.
If you bought one of the best gaming laptops, or prebuilt desktop, it probably already came with all the basic drivers you need for it to work–network adapter, sound, etc. But your motherboard probably has some utilities you could download that come in handy. They often make it easy to upgrade the BIOS from Windows, or overclock from your desktop without restarting and booting into the UEFI. And upgrading your BIOS will ensure that your system is running in tip-top shape. Whether you do that upgrade from Windows or the UEFI, having these tools at the ready will make your new system just a bit nicer and easier to use.