For me, my Acer P3-600MHz laptop is running Windows 2000 on just 256MB of RAM, but I upgraded the hard disk to a firesale 40G 54000 RPM drive since boot times on the old drive was over 4 minutes. Now it's less than 2 and everything is much better. It took some sleuthing to figure out that the old 11GB stock drive was ... a slug.
As to software, here's what I installed.
1. Windows 2000 SP4 and all patches prior to connecting to the internet. No firewall is needed since it's all patched up. Your choice on that matter.
2. Free AVG from http://www.grisoft.com for the Antivirus.
3. Open Office from http://www.openoffice.org since I didn't want to pay for another copy of Office. It's what I use.
4. Firefox for the web browser to sidestep the exploits we see in Internet Explorer. Read http://reviews.cnet.com/Mozilla_FireFox_10PR/4505-9241_7-31117280.html
5. If you want a firewall, Zonealarm is nice and the price is right.
6. Since I updated to Windows 2000 and my CDRW software no longer worked, I found my old copy of Clik'n'Burn and installed that so I have a way to...
7. A cheap 11 dollar wifi-b card was added and it's working fine on the wireless lan.
My company just upgraded my old laptop. They have a policy that any laptops over four years old can be purchased for $50. OF course they wiped off the company's licensed and proprietary software.
I decided to purchase the laptop for my wife. She is a teacher, and we thought it would be convenient for her to have some mobility.
The Laptop is a Dell Latitude with a Pentium III processor and 256 ram.
The company gave it to me with Windows Me, Outlook express and IE 5.5 and not much else.
I plan on upgarding the OS to Windows 2000, IE 6.0 and adding a firewall, Anti-virus and Microsoft office.
Can anyone recommend any other essentials that we may need?