One of the most important things you can do to keep your Windows computer running smoothly is to be conservative about what gets installed on it. Do custom installs of all new software, look at all the choices, and turn down the ones that don’t fit your needs.

I ran across a good example of the kind of bloated software that slows down our computers and causes conflicts. A good friend asked for advice about installing Nero software for working with video and burning CDs and DVDs. The Nero suite is one of the best-known commercial products on the market for those tasks, sold at the big stores and marketed aggressively.

Let me emphasize that I’m using Nero as an example. It’s not much different than a lot of other software out there. The Nero suite is quirky – hoo, boy, is it quirky – but it does some things very well. I use it myself.

Still, it’s hard not to be frightened when you realize that turning the Nero installer loose would put all these programs on your computer:


Isn’t that extraordinary? Each one of those is a separate program with its own purpose and its own learning curve and its own quirks. Many of them overlap other programs on your computer; there’s a good chance the Nero programs will steal file associations and become the default program when you click on certain kinds of files, whether you want that or not.

The lesson is not to avoid the Nero suite. Rather, I want you to take responsibility for your computer. Learn something about software before you install it. Take it seriously and learn how to use what you install. Remember one of the central tenets of computing in 2009: if you install it, you have to update it. That’s what it means to stay secure.

Oh, and I’ll give you an idea of how I approach the Nero suite for my own purposes:

  • The core functions are: SmartStart; Express; Vision; Recode; Burning ROM; and ControlCenter.
  • The fairly useless ones are Live; Discspeed/Drivespeed; Rescue Agent; InfoTool; PhotoSnap; and BackItUp.
  • The one to actively avoid is: InCD.
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