You don't have to spend much to make your computer a useful tool for simple data processing needs. There are free programs that you can download from the Internet.
Firewalls prevent Internet protocol packets entering your computer to be responded to by your operating system. They keep your computer safe from attacks intended to steal personal information or using your computer to perform attacks on other computers. If you're using the Microsoft Windows operating system, then you already have a firewall in your computer. Otherwise, you can search for and download a personal firewall from the Internet. Make sure that your firewall is always turned on.
You need an anti-virus program to monitor files in your computer and remove those that are suspected of carrying programs that can harm your computer. You can download a free anti-virus program that is regularly updated and does not interfere with your use of your computer. So there is really no reason why you should have no virus prevention software in your computer.
Online Messaging Program
If you need to communicate with anyone online in real time, then you need an online messaging program. These programs are unlike emails which are one shot deals. You can use them to make an online conversation with someone at the other end using the Internet infrastructure. Yahoo Messenger is an example of this program that you can download and install in your computer.
The PDF document format has become a standard Internet format and a lot of documents in the Internet are exchanged using this format. There are a lot of free PDF readers that you can download fromt the Internet. Adobe Systems Inc. is the originator of this format and you can download a version of the Adobe Reader from their website.
File Compression and Archiving
File compression programs make your files smaller and combine different files into just one file so that they can be more easily and safely transported in the Internet. In my opinion, 7-Zip is the best free file compression and archiving program available in cyberspace. It is so much practical to use this type of program when sending and receiving multiple files from someone. The beauty of 7-Zip is that it can uncompress files that were compressed using different file compression programs even those that are not free.
It is so much better to see talk with someone and actually see her while talking to you. You can very easily do this if you have a computer with broadband Internet connection. Skype is an example of a free program that enables you to do this. So if you have someone that is away and that you want to see and talk with, then just download your free Internet phone program and install it in your computer.
Bootable CD Maker
A bootable CD or DVD maker can create a CD or DVD disk that can run automatically when placed in your computer's DVD drive and your computer turned on. You will have to do this when you need to do something that you cannot perform when your operating system is running like when you cannot log on to your computer. For this purpose, I use the Free Easy CD DVD Burner and I am very much satisfied using it.
If you are into making videos, you might need a media converter for transforming your media files into formats that can be opened by most media players. For example when you make a video using Windows Movie Maker, your video output will be of a type that may be a proprietary format and may not be able to be viewed on other media players. You can use a media converter to transform your video file into a version that can be played on standard video players.
Read my other article on tips on how to stay safe in the Internet at: http://sites.google.com/site/thetechnicaljournal/tips-for-staying-safe-on-the-internet.
Read my other article on how you can turn your old desktop equipment into peripherals for your new laptop at: http://sites.google.com/site/thetechnicaljournal/turn-your-old-desktop-equipment-into-peripherals-for-your-laptop.
Read my other article on must-have free software for a writer's Windows computer at: http://sites.google.com/site/thetechnicaljournal/must-have-free-software-for-a-writer-s-windows-computer.
Read an article on how to create office documents without using Microsoft of open source software at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2011/12/how-to-create-office-documents-without.html.
Read an article on multi-platform web publishing using free software on your Vista computer at: http://publishtoweb.blogspot.com/2011/11/multi-platform-web-publishing-using.html.
Read an article on how to do some useful tasks with your Vista computer at: http://publishtoweb.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-to-do-some-useful-things-with-your.html.