Every once in a while you get a new computer and you need to go through the usual process of setting it up.
Here are my favorite bits of free software to install.
First of all, a new browser. Everyone seems to like Firefox, but I prefer Chrome and Opera. Make sure you install Gears for offline gmail, and flash, etc. too. You might want FileZilla for your FTP needs, and if you want an email client, Thunderbird is a good choice.
WinRAR, for all your unzipping needs. Archive file formats supported are ZIP, RAR, ACE, CAB, ARJ, LZH, TAR, GZ, BZ2, UUE, JAR, ISO, 7Z and Z.
Notepad++ and OpenOffice or StarOffice or of course MS Office (if your a student) for all that document and spreadsheet work you need to do.
Adobe Acrobat PDF reader, or FoxIt (great for mobile devices too!).
PDF Creator to print to PDF.
For your photo collection, Picasa and Paint.NET for image editing. Irfanview is a nice small powerful image utility.
If your not happy with windows media player (and who is?), try
VLC for all your media streaming needs, and MediaPlayer Classic, Mplayer, for a few more codecs. Finally, VirtualDub for video editing. foobar2000 is great as a lightweight video player that can also convert audio formats. (You might also want LAME).
To get all those video and audio goodies there is of course µTorrent, the lighterweight BitTornado and SoulSeek.
To stay safe, AVG antivirus, just because it happens once every three years, and then your happy you have it. (Also, install some data recovery software, for the same reason.) You can try Recuva, personally I use a commercial product.
Then there are those additional annoyances to deal with: Disabling IE7 auto-update and Disabling IE8. Tweak UI and CMD here powertoys. Tweak UI will let you change annoying default behavior, (like autoplay) and remove additional icons.
To remove additional annoyances, right click on the clock to customize notifications and remove some of those additional startup options, and right click properties on the start button to get the quick launch etc. Finally strip those additional start menus clean by going through your Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs
Finally, Synergy will help you work effectively with your old and new PC.
Obviously I'm not covering details for Vista, because why would anyone want to use that?