The hard drive received a full format, Windows XP has finished installing, and now it's time to decide what to install next. Whatever you do, don't allow that PC to touch the Internet before finishing it off with the most important updates and applications.
Gather and Burn
Before you rebuild any PC, gather the latest (non-beta) drivers for your PC's hardware and burn them to CD. The most important driver (and the very first thing you should install) is the motherboard's chipset driver. Other important files to gather ahead of time include the drivers for the network adapter(s), sound card, and video card.
Besides drivers, there are several updates and applications I consider "must-have" items for a rebuild CD.
1. Windows XP Service Pack 2: Speed up the process of installing this massive update by doing it locally.
2. SpywareBlaster: An excellent spyware-prevention tool. SpywareBlaster does not repair/remove anything. Instead, it configures popular browsers so that spyware/malware can't install in the first place. Compatible with IE, Mozilla, and Firefox, this application is among the very first things I install on a clean PC.
3. AVG Free Edition: Good and free antivirus software that offers automatic updates and integrates into Outlook and Outlook Express.
4. Firefox: A great alternative browser, and it's less hacked/attacked than Internet Explorer.
5. Trillian: The ultimate all-in-one instant messenger/IRC client.
And the rest (in no particular order):
6. Winamp 5: The granddaddy of multimedia players offers thousands of streaming audio channels, great visualizations, and a good media manager.
7. OpenOffice: Why pirate MS's pricy office suite when you can enjoy the same functionality for free!
8. Spybot Search & Destroy and Ad-Aware SE Personal: Got spyware? If you need to rid your PC of unwanted guests, these two tools are considered the best.
9. GIMP for Windows: Why pirate Photoshop...
10. ZoneAlarm: A great software firewall program. If you feel SP2's firewall isn't good enough, give the Zone Labs folks a try.