So you've got a new laptop, but apart from a few applications the manufacturer has installed, it's a blank canvas. Windows includes a few basic programs, but you'll quickly find they're not enough to do all the things you want to do. See also: Laptop advisor
What to install on a new laptop
A common mistake is to think that Microsoft Word is part of Windows. Unfortunately, that's not the case. It's actually part of Microsoft Office, which you have to buy separately.
There are plenty of other apps that you'll want to install straight away, such as some anti-virus software, Skype, a program that can open PDF files and a few utilities that make websites work properly.
All of this can be found for free and it's easy to download and install everything. There are free versions of most paid-for software, such as Office and anti-virus suites. On the whole, these look and work just like their more expensive counterparts, and are just as good.
Rather than trawling around the internet, downloading and installing everything separately, you can use a brilliant website called Ninite to choose what you want and install it all in a flash.
Launch Internet Explorer on your new laptop and type 'ninite.com' in the bar at the top, but without the quotes. Press Enter and you will see a page similar to the one below. All the programs here are regularly updated, so you know you'll be getting the latest version.
Of course, you can choose as many or as few programs as you like, but here are our top 10 must-haves:
1. Web browsers: Chrome. This is an alternative web browser to Internet Explorer and - in our opinion - is superior. It's fast and synchronises your bookmarks across several computers.
2. Messaging: Skype. Now includes Windows Live Messenger (or MSN Messenger as it used to be called). You can use it to chat via instant messages, or make voice or video calls to other Skype users - all for free.
3. Media: VLC. Not the prettiest media player, but supports just about any format you can throw at it, including both music and videos.
4. Runtimes: Flash. Usually, you'll need to install Flash to make some websites work properly. Certain kids' websites are entirely Flash, while other sites use it to play videos or other interactive elements.
5. Runtimes: Java. Like Flash, you'll probably find you need Java installed for some websites to work.
6. Imaging: Paint.NET. Windows has always has the basic Paint program, but it's extremely limited. Paint.NET is no Photoshop, but you can spruce up your digital photos, crop them and more with this great free app.
7. Documents: LibreOffice. Includes equivalents of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and can open Microsoft Office files, and save in formats that people who have Office can open.
8. Documents: Reader. One of the most popular formats for sending files is PDF. Installing Adobe Reader means you can open PDF files.
9. Security: AVG. Your laptop needs protection from malware and, short of paying for a full-blown Internet Security suite, this is one of the best free antivirus programs.
10. Compression: 7-Zip. Windows can open Zip files, but 7-Zip can handle many other types of compressed files as well.
When you've ticked all the applications you want, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the green Get Installer button.
This will download a small file. All you need to do is run it and the applications you've chosen will be automatically downloaded and installed without any further clicking on your part.