Get a new desktop or gaming laptop for Christmas? That brand new installation of Windows is lean and mean and lighting fast, but it's lacking some of the must-have applications we use all the time as PC gamers. We're not talking about the incredibly obvious, like Steam and Google Chrome. You probably installed those within seconds of booting up your new computer.
Here are the programs we install every time we start with a clean Windows slate. Don't let your new system live long without them.
Like WinRar, but it never asks you to buy it. Windows' built-in archive tool get the job done when it comes to zipping and unzipping basic files, but for rars and 7zip archives, this is the way to go. We especially like the speed of the "Extract here" right-click menu integration.
Media Player Classic Homecinema
VLC and MPC-HC can both play just about any media file under the sun, thanks to a ton of built-in codecs. In the rare instance that one of them doesn't work, the other almost certainly will. We prefer MPC by a hair, mostly due to its menu layout and how quickly (instantly, really) it starts up. You can't go wrong with VLC, but MPC is our media player of choice for all of our ancient AVIs and newer Blu-ray rips.
You probably have a Dropbox account. And if you already have another computer, getting Dropbox onto your new one first thing is a simple way to copy some basic files over. If you play any games that don't support cloud saves, use Dropbox to copy your save files over and pick up on your new rig.
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.
This only goes if you have an Nvidia GPU, but PrecisionX is a powerful overclocking utility you can use to get some more oomph out of your graphics card. We've already written a guide to overclocking your graphics card, which covers how to use software like PrecisionX. It also covers how to overclock an AMD card using AMD's Catalyst software.
Fraps isn't our first choice for capturing video--its lossless recording is too punishing on the framerate--but it's a great utility for capturing game screenshots. Bind the screenshot key to one of your mouse buttons to take shots on a hair trigger. The built-in frame counter is also handy for seeing how well your games are performing on new hardware.
Yes, it makes your screen look orange and weird. But stick with f.lux for a few days, and you'll wonder how you ever stared at an eye-searing LCD at night without it. f.lux automatically color tints your monitor as the sun sets to mimic natural lighting. It kicks in towards the end of the work day, warming the typical LCD white-blue to something much easier on the eyes.
If you bought a laptop 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.
Skype or Mumble
Mumble is our go-to voice chat client for the old school online gaming experience: someone hosts a server, and a whole host of people can pile in to play a big match. Or you can host a team of five for a game of League of Legends. Either way, it's the modern successor to Ventrilo, delivering good sound quality at low bandwidth, and with a ton of tuning options to tweak background noise reduction and so on. Skype is our go-to for smaller groups or one-on-one chats.