Clean out the crap
With your defenses up, it's time to start shoveling the crap out of your PC.
You can skip this step if you built your own Windows PC--including installation of the operating system--or bought a "Signature Edition" computer from a Microsoft store. Straight Windows installations don't come with excess junk cluttering up your hard drive. But boxed PCs from big-name PC makers are inevitably brimming with bloatware.
Fortunately, there's PC Decrapifier, a straightforwardly named tool that scans your PC for known bloatware, then allows you to wipe it all away in one fell swoop. It's far faster than hunting through the Control Panel, eradicating crapware piece by piece. Better yet, it's free.
If you have Windows 8, PC Decrapifier won't touch any bloatware that comes in the form of Metro apps--the colorful tiles that appear on the new-style Start screen. Those won't start when your computer boots, however, so they shouldn't suck up your system resources aside from some storage space. If you still want them off your machine just right-click on an unwanted app and select Uninstall.
Fill 'er up
Why'd we scrape all that junk out? To make room for your own stuff, silly. New hardware just begs for software to match!
Outfitting your rig is an intensely personal affair, but if you're looking for suggestions, PCWorld has a guide to free programs that are so helpful, so handy, so downright useful that they'd be welcome on pretty much any PC. Once you're done perusing that, also consider checking out PCWorld's guide to 20 obscure, yet insanely useful programs that can help ease your daily tasks. They're all free too, though they're a bit more niche.
Head towards Ninite when it comes time to actually install all that software. Ninite is sort of like an anti-PC Decrapifier--it lets you install numerous free applications of your choice all at once, even going so far as to automatically disable the bundled crapware that many free programs try to sneak in as part of the installation process. It's a wonderfully handy tool that takes the pain out of loading up a new PC.
Made in your own image
After all that, your PC is finally ready to rock: It's safe, up to date, scrubbed free of junk, and full of software fine-tuned to meet your specific needs. The end is in sight! But we're not done juuuuuust yet.
Now that your PC's in fighting shape it's an ideal time to create a clone or image of your primary hard drive--the one Windows boots from--and save it to another hard drive. A clone or image creates a snapshot replica of your drive, which you can use to boot up Windows if your primary drive gives up the ghost. Having an image of your system in its current updated, bloatware free, customized state prevents you from having to do all that legwork over again if you ever have to reinstall Windows for any reason.
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