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At the moment I am setting up an old windows laptop to give to my mother (to replace an ancient desktop). It's been a few years since I seriously used windows, so I am not very knowledgeable about the current best practices. I have installed Avira anti-virus as it is what I use on Windows virtual machines, but suggestions for good free AV would also be welcome.

  1. What software would be considered indispensable on a Windows XP machine?

  2. Any recommendations for useful apps that might help a beginner get more out of the machine?

  3. Any settings that I should change before handing the machine over?

Thank you for your help!

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Have you asked her what she actually wants to do with it?

Personally I'd be inclined to remove stuff more than add it.

I'd consider:

  • A modern browser, configured to block popups
  • Office tools if she wants them
  • Some games (solitaire etc) if she wants them
  • Anti-virus, as you've mentioned

I'd say the way to help a beginner get more out of the machine would be not to overwhelm them. Talking to your mother will probably get you more useful information than talking to us :)

Whether you want to go into "here's an admin account to use when you have to, here's a non-admin account to use for the rest of the time" will depend on whether you think she will be able to take it all in.

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Great points! I just gave my mom a self-refurbished desktop. Went through the same points. This resonates. – nik Jul 16 '09 at 14:06
Hi Jon, I already asked and she gave me carte blanche to set it up: she considers herself a beginner and wants to use the machine to learn more about computers. The problem is I don't know that much about windows to set it up for a beginner! – redacted Jul 16 '09 at 14:08
Make sure you have some remote desktop software installed, to fix remotelly any problems that apear. – Mercer Traieste Jul 16 '09 at 16:13
  1. Microsoft Office, anti-virus software, spyware/malware/adware removal tools

  2. Outlook completely installed and configured

  3. Make a user account that is not an administrator for her to use.

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