Laptop Rebuild – Essential Apps

When we last saw our hero, he had fallen victim to an evil plot to disable his computer’s ability to boot up. After great efforts at recovery, eventually he was forced to concede defeat to Vista and reinstall everything from scratch. Let’s return now to see what’s in store in the next chapter of our story, already in progress…

So, day 2 after my issue with Vista and I’m now at least able to use my laptop again for real work. However, it still is missing dozens of little things that I find useful, so I thought I’d catalog those here in the spirit of Scott and Jesse’s posts on useful tools and utilities. In my case, this is a running list of things I’m installing, in order, along with some commentary. Feel free to comment on anything you think I’ve left out.

Day 1 Basics

  • Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 – Followed by about 40 immediate updates.
  • Visual Studio Team Suite 2008 SP1
  • Microsoft Office 2007 Ultimate SP1 – Followed by a bunch of updates, and switching from Windows Update to Microsoft Update so that Office automatically gets updated.
  • FireFox 3

Basic Utilities

The following tools just stay in my C:Util folder and get restored from my backup.

Social Software (IM and Twitter)

  • Pidgin – supports multiple IM clients and has some cool features like detecting when someone is writing an IM to you before they finish typing it.
  • TweetDeck – Current favorite Twitter app. Follow me at @ardalis.

More Apps

  • Foldershare – Awesome for sharing files between computers.
  • Adobe Reader (or Foxit Reader) – for PDFs. Foxit installs and opens documents MUCH faster but occasionally has compatibility issues with Adobe.
  • ClearContext – Makes filing things a breeze in Outlook.
  • Flickr Uploadr – Makes uploading photos a breeze w/Flickr.
  • Virtual CloneDrive – Trying this instead of Daemon Tools for ISO mounting. So far I like it.
  • SQL Server 2008 – Had 2005 before, but figure now’s as good a time as any to upgrade. We’ll see if I still need SQLPrompt with it.

I still have a lot more to go but this is where I am with reinstalling by day 3. I still need an FTP client (FileZilla) and a bunch of other apps. Debating whether to install Plaxo again. Outlook is actually quite fast now that I just had it start with a fresh PST file, and I’m hoping to keep it that way since previously it was the slowest thing on my machine. We’ll see.

  • Russ Nemhauser

    Wow. Sounds like it’s time for somebody to get a Mac and virtualize Windows so you don’t have to keep going through all this nonsense! :)

  • Chris Pietschmann

    One thing that I’m going to do the next time I rebuild is install Hyper-V and use virtualization extensively so I don’t have to worry about reinstalling absolutely everything when I need to fix/rebuild my machine. Virtualization and using a seperate VM for each role performed are the keys to this.

    I don’t see how getting a Mac is the magic answer.

  • Jeff Putz

    Getting a Mac isn’t the answer exactly, it just happens to be a lot of people’s first exposure to using a VM. It certainly was for me. I bought the first MacBook Pro back in 2006 at the start of the Intel transition, snagged Parallels, and I haven’t looked back. My desktop is a Mac Pro with ridiculous RAM and four cores, and it’s remarkable that I can run two VM’s and test deployment scenarios locally.

    But yeah, the biggest advantage is obviously that when something tanks (or you suffer from OS rot), you go back to the initial state saved somewhere on a network or USB drive, check out your code from SVN, and 15 minutes later it’s like a disaster never happened.

  • Steve Smith

    Don’t forget Office Save As PDF Plugin. Stupid that this doesn’t come pre-installed (Adobe’s fault, there).…/details.aspx

  • Steve Smith
  • Steve Smith
  • Steve Smith

    And don’t forget to install IIS (luckily you can do this without the Vista disc) if you’re going to try and use it during a talk (Cassini doesn’t work too well for showing off load testing). And likewise, install the Northwind and other sample DBs you may need.

  • Garyscardinia

    Is this post from 2007?