Step 1: Internet
The other program i would like to mention is utorrent. **NOTE: I am not endorsing internet piracy. Torrents, as with all peer-to-peer transfers, have legitimat uses, many things are in public domain, or are open-source**. that being said, utorrent is the lightest torrent software out there (weighing in at ~200 kilobytes). While I do not have any experience with other torrent programs, utorrent has treated me well. the great advantage to using torrents over other peer-to-peer transfers is that you are far less likely to pick up a virus, especially if you screen your transfers well.
The third is Sygate Personal Firewall. It is far better than the crappy windows firewall, which i disabled after this was installed. this software will ask you about which software you want to access your network. Every time something attempts to access the network, sygate will give you a nice little popup asking whether this software should be allowed through, at which point you can press yes or no, with the optional check to remember the answer for that software. it will also perform checks when software changes, i.e. when you update, or a program is mutated into a virulent form. It will also allow you to turn access fully on or fully off, fully open network is necessary for windows file sharing.
Step 2: N3rdy/1337 H4x0rs!
Yahoo Widgets is quite useful for all sorts of things, if you can find the correct widget. It can be used for things like analog clocks, news tickers, little games, or more hardcore things like ram/cpu monitoring. It also has some pretty random things, like the mouse odometer i use.
There are several applications that will use your unused cpu cycles for distributed computing, including Folding@home, or Background Pi, which I use. Because your computer is not running on 100% of it's processing capacity 100% of the time, these programs will use the processing power that your other software is not, calculating things like pi or the folding of protiens. I have used both, I like both, but you may like folding@home because it produces pretty 3d pictures of the protiens if you look at the progress.
Daemon tools is a program that allows you to mount iso images from your hard drive as if they were actual cds. Basically, if you hate having to put discs in for your video games/etc, install this software, rip iso's of your discs, and mount them as cd's. (okay, so it has come to my attention that daemon tools has spy/adware attached to it, though it is simple to not install that part. here is a guide to installing it without the unwanted software, and here is a more detailed descritption of the software... sorry guys, but I simply unchecked those boxes because I did not want a search bar.... that was a long time ago... sorry again)
If you are paranoid like me, I would suggest TrueCrypt What it does, is produce an encrypted file (or device), which it mounts on your computer as if it were a physical disk. This means that the data is unreadable without the use of the password, which is a key to decode the data. It can encrypt your windows partition (your c drive) easily on-the-fly, however it will format any other partition that you want to encrypt, so back up your data before encrypting your d drive, flash drive, etc.
Step 3: N3rdy/1337 H4x0rs Cont.
Speaking of gumming, having small ram really sucks... but there is software to help. there are many ram optimizers out there, all of which do virtually the same thing. I am using BySoft FreeRAM. it will free up some ram, after a short pause. quite useful, actually.
Step 4: Other
on another note, VLC Media Player is an excellent media player, it can play virtually any media format you can find (even those crazy .mkv anime episodes you acquired through honest, legitimate means. It does not store media information like itunes, windows media player, winamp, etc, so you may want to keep those around for listening to mp3 albums.
SOME OTHER SOFTWARE THAT I DO NOT PERSONALLY USE, BUT MIGHT SUGGEST: i do not use these programs, mainly because my school provides the far more expensive programs they replace.
Gimp is an open-source image editing program, essentially replacing photoshop, fireworks, etc.
Open Office is an open-source alternative to microsoft office, with nearly all of the same features
magic iso is an alternative, if you do not want to use Daemon tools...
Step 5: Closing Thoughts
This is the end of my first instructable, I hope it wasn't utter crap. Goodbye, and remember, The cake is a lie.