Most popular downloaded programs?

For an upcoming post, I’m putting together a list of the programs that someone is most likely to download and install after completing a clean installation of Windows.

Here are the programs that I come up with quickly:

  • Firefox
  • Picasa
  • Skype
  • iTunes + QuickTime
  • Windows Live Essentials
  • Adobe Reader
  • Flash
  • Java

Of course, I have more entries on my list of personal faves, and there are some essential categories where there isn’t a clear leader—antivirus and security programs, for example. There’s also a second tier of popular but not essential software, like file compression tools, disk utilities, and disk-burning software. But right now I’m looking for the ones that are really , where someone is very likely to want a quick download link.

Which programs did I forget?

53 thoughts on “Most popular downloaded programs?

  1. Some stuff that I consider essential on my PC:
    Zune software
    Digbsy (IM software)
    Vuze (Bittorrent client)

  2. Well, I’d say that Firefox and Picasa don’t belong on the list since, unlike Adobe Reader and Flash, the majority of Windows users are quite happy to go without downloading them.

    (If a program that’s only used by something like 20% of users qualifies you’re going to need a MUCH bigger list)

  3. the only one in your list i installed is acrobat reader 7. the later versions suck. and i do not use or refuse to use any others in the list.

  4. @Mike Galos
    I too question Picasa’s inclusion in the list but I thought I read recently that Firefox now has about a 31% marketshare worldwide and in Europe it is much higher.

    I might want to include the Windows Live suite since I believe it will get huge play once Windows 7 goes live.

  5. Winamp, Google talk, Google earth, Virtual PC 2007

    Not needed with Win7, but still useful on XP or Vista: IE8, Imgburn, Calculator Plus, Powershell, WDS 4.0, MS iFilterPack

    Seems like the list gets shorter with every new version of WIndows. =)

  6. Out of the list, I only use 3. And 1 if one day I’m unfortunately forced to communicate with my luser friends.
    I could probably make a decent list of apps for the cool kids, without the crapware and bloatware. But why spend much time helping the 12:00 flashers if they can’t figure it out? But just to clear a few things up: VLC, iTunes, Adobe Reader… suck. Better choices exist.
    If there’s one app that won’t likely be mentioned by anyone and needs to be made more popular, it’s Everything Search Engine, the one thing I miss dearly when I’m in Linux. Map it to a keyboard shortcut, and witness how goddamn lazy you can become. Seriously, GNU Locate, if you can only do one thing, do it like Everything.

  7. Why does Java make it to the ‘must have’ list?

    Paint.NET and FeedDemon are in my list of top apps.

  8. I second Carl for Irfanview – that is always one of my first to (re)install. I also can’t get along without Notepad++. And seem to download and install Google Earth soon thereafter.

  9. Firefox absolutely!

    I always download gtalk, Zune and a few other web developer tools that most people wouldn’t need: SmartFTP, WAMP among others.

  10. Only one I can think of that’s in my must-have list that isn’t here already is winrar, only reason of that over 7zip is that it handles multi-part rar files named file.r00 .. rNN properly.

    For me it’s firefox, flash,, free avg, thunderbird, putty, winrar, itunes, and utorrent that are the core install. After the hours long update, reboot, update, reboot dance that you do just to get windows updated, and the uninstall, reboot, uninstall, reboot dance to get all the pre-installed stuff off (if you get a pre-installed system of course).

  11. I don’t think it’s possible to compile such a list. Even in my own family, we all have our own list of “must have” programs and there isn’t much overlapping. My list certainly is far different from yours or the others that have been mentioned. No email program? No editor? No programs for actually getting work done? And why iTunes on Windows, which has many better programs for listening to music? Firefox is overrated. And so on, grumble, grumble.

  12. First of all, boo, iTunes and QuickTime! Now for my suggestions.

    Even though Windows 7 will probably save you from codec hell:
    Because everyone will need to do image manipulation at some point: Paint.NET.
    If you’re anywhere near being a power user: Sysinternals, Sysinternals, Sysinternals!

    That being said, Wataru Tenga makes a valid point.

  13. Just to be clear, the point here is not to create a list of “must-have” programs. Nor is it intended to be a list of obscure programs that one or more of my readers (or I) recommend. Rather, it is intended to be a list that someone starting with a new clean Windows install can use to quickly find popular applications they’re likely to want to install. That is all.

    Thanks for all the good input, even if some of it is a little off the topic. Some interesting suggestions there.

  14. Why would you take a nice fresh installation of Windows and immediately pollute it with Apple software?

  15. Again, this isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about popular. A lot of people own iPods. They want to use iTunes to sync their music collection with their iPod or iPhone. (My wife, for example, has an iPhone. She must use iTunes software to manage that device. When I set up Windows for her, I need to install iTunes.)

    I’m trying to create a helpful resource. I’ve made my feelings on iTunes very clear, but this is not the place to rehash that debate.

  16. Adobe Reader Lite ver. 9 (download from
    not an official Adobe release, its basically Adobe Reader minus all the plugins.
    Jarte – word processor – free, fast, no bloat, good features
    Nero 9 free version (best downloaded from somewhere like Softpedia to avoid having to provide email address at Nero site)
    Photoscape Image Editor
    Thunderbird or emailaya for email if not using web based email
    free versions of either Outpost or Online Armor firewall
    Locknote by Steganos for easy encryption/decryption of private data

  17. The first things I install on a home box are the latest builds of the ffdshow and AC3Filter codecs.

  18. I think even though it’s on an optional download in Windows Updates, I would include Silverlight in that group as well.

    You may also wish to include the office file viewers for those that don’t install Microsoft office.

  19. I know that, for a long time now, the ability to write to CD has been included with Windows. However, until Windows ships with the ability to COPY a CD, one of the first things that must be installed is burning software. That’s why almost every OEM computer (even basic enterprise level boxes) include some type of third party burning package. I prefer to install the lightweight CDBurnerXP when I do a clean install of Windows.

    Also, I agree with many of the previous posters that Picasa need not be included… especially since Windows Live Essentials includes Windows Live Photo Gallery.

  20. Someone doing a clean install is going to be a more or less technical user…your users have nailed it, but I’ll hit it once more with my thinking for my own PC’s:

    ClearType Tuner
    Firefox (with popular add-on Adblock + others)
    A PDF reader (I like Foxit)
    A image manipulator (
    A CD burner (IMG Burn)
    A music jukebox (iTunes)
    Dropbox (and HFS for quickie file sharing)
    Virus and Anti-malware
    Something for archived files (7-Zip)
    Activesync or the Blackberry desktop manager
    An Office Suite

    Personally, I use Rocketdock on all my machines too.

  21. Ocean, IMG burn is no longer needed with Windows 7 as it supports .iso buring natively. Although, on earlier builds I prefered infrarecorder.

  22. My list:
    – Windows Live Essentials (mail, photos, video, writer, messanger)
    – Foxit PDF reader
    – 7zip
    – Display Fusion (wallpaper span multiple desktops)
    – Two Finger Scroll (Mac-like multi-touch scrolling)
    – Steam (games)
    – Zune (music)
    – Live Mesh

    For you list Ed, I would highly suggest disabling the skype plugin for IE. That thing makes IE run dog slow.

  23. Most popular ones could be:
    1. 7-zip
    2. ImgBurn or CD Burner XP
    3. Flash Player (for both IE and non-IE browsers)
    4. VLC Media Player.
    5. Although I hate to admit it but most people also like to download AVG Antivirus. It is most popular with home users.

  24. Ed if you really want to decide which are the most popular/common applications a person is likely to install, why not refer to the “Most popular downloads” section on Download, Filehippo, MajorGeeks and Softpedia?

  25. Already been mentioned, but the first I install is usually
    * Firefox
    * Foxit PDF reader
    * 7-zip
    * WHS client connector

  26. Please god, not adobe acrobat reader. Make it Foxit.
    7zip file manager
    Revo Uninstaller
    JAM TreeSize
    Powertoys / Sysinternals
    GNUtools for Windows

  27. Ed,
    I think the list is a great idea, but it might be interesting to create (in addition to and below) a list of “less popular/mainstream” options. Foxit reader for example or Cute PDF.

    Also, don’t forget a list of IM clients.

  28. Ed:

    “… after completing a clean installation of Windows.”
    We’re assuming, I take it, that includes all Windows updates. Just not something to overlook. Likewise, all computer-vendor updates.

    A lot of great suggestions here I won’t repeat, but one I always install is IrfanView with the all-plug-ins separate download.

    Hotspot Shield, to encrypt wireless Internet connections

    K-Lite Codec Pack

    PDF Creator

    Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI)


    Tweak UI (if we’re talking XP)

    Instant messaging program of your choice

    — Tim

  29. Here’s my list:

    Firefox add-ons: Ad-Block, Flashblock, Xmarks, Sage
    Foxit PDF reader
    Zone Alarm
    Spybot Search & Destroy
    avast! antivirus
    Gimp photo editor
    Filezilla ftp
    DS clock
    Moneydance financial manager
    Juice podcast manager

  30. OT Side note.

    The new comments organizing seems weird. I have to go to the bottom of the page to see the newest comments. Then I click on “Older Comments” which naturally takes you to the top, where I must scroll to the bottom to start where I left off, just to scroll back up again. This is the “Memento” way of organizing comments: backwards through time, but with large chunks going forward through time.

    I would personally organize it in one of three ways.

    One page of comments and newest at the bottom (thereby scrolling down the time line of comments)
    If you must have multiple pages, have newest at the bottom but have the pages in reverse order (still going through the time line, but only scrolling once).
    If you must have multiple pages and wanted newest comments visible first, have them ordered top to bottom instead of bottom to top (reverse time line).

    Those would be my order of preference too. Just my opinion.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled blog…

  31. Here’s some I also add (all free):

    Iobit’s defrag and systemcare tools
    GOM Player

  32. I would start with this.,

    Google Talk
    DivX codecs
    Office 12
    Used to install Nero – but not from Windows 7 Anymore 🙂


  33. It’s columns like these that make me vow not to upgrade to Windows 7. Ed, who has the time/patience to do a clean install of all this? I’m not trying to be difficult, just realistic.

  34. It’s 12 must app for me and the first items that I download/install:

    Opera Browser
    MailWasher by
    Flash Player
    Windows Live Writer (standalone installer)
    EULAlyzer by Javacoolsoftware
    Windows SteadyState (if the system is Vista/XP because 7 is not supported ATM)
    Sun Java
    Diskeeper – I need this soon before I will install SteadyState
    Outpost Firewall Pro

  35. BTW, clean installs are for techies – not me.

    My computer came with Vista x64 preinstalled, and I plan on doing an in-place upgrade to Win7.

    In addition, some HP-preinstalled utilities are actually helpful. One recently detected the video card that I was using, and told me that it was recalled by HP/MSI as defective.

  36. I prefer the minimum of programs – less likely to bog down the system over time. That means nothing extra unless I absolutely need it.

    For me, that leaves me with…
    * Adobe Reader & Flash
    * Virtual CloneDrive
    * ImgBurn
    * Paint.NET
    * Live Mesh
    * Trillian

    For Developers…
    * Virtual PC
    * UltraEdit
    * WinMerge
    * Powershell, Silverlight, etc.

  37. I second most of these suggestions. I use my computer for a lot of different things (email, web browsing, desktop publishing, web authoring, software development), so I’m not a typical user. I always install the following:

    Firefox & Thunderbird
    Adobe Reader & Flash Player
    WinRAR or 7-Zip
    AVG Free
    Perl & Python
    Sun Java
    Office 2007 Addin: Save as PDF (If you have Office 2007) (if you don’t have Office)
    Paint.NET (if you don’t have Photoshop)
    Quicktime + iTunes
    Really Slick Screensavers

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