A fresh installation of Windows offers users a chance to get things clean and tidy from the beginning, but it also means a lot of work reinstalling applications you may have had on an older build.
If you've planned ahead, you can go out and download all the installers you think you'll need, then put them on a thumb drive or a disc. Or you can skip all that work and use Ninite (formerly Volery), a very simple tool for Windows that will go out and download all the latest versions of the software you pick from its directory, then combine all of those installers into one self-running .exe file.
The best part is that you don't have to touch a thing, as it installs each application. Every installer is already set with the least intrusive configuration, which means that it's installed to the application's default folder and comes without any superfluous add-ons, such as browser toolbars, companion software, or language packs. And when it's done running, you just delete Ninite's .exe file.
In my test run, I only had one problem with the installation, and it wasn't Ninite's fault--it was Windows'. I was letting Ninite do its thing, and Windows rebooted my computer to install its own updates. The nice thing is, you can relaunch the .exe file, if something goes wrong, and it will determine which programs it's already installed and skip both the download and the install. That's definitely something I'd feel safe sending to a tech-challenged friend or family member (note: most Web mail services won't let you send an .exe file. You can, however, use many online storage services like Box.net, Dropbox, and MobileMe to get it done)
Of course, one of the biggest drawbacks with Ninite's system is that you're limited to its selection of software picks. And if you're a control freak, you can't go in and make small tweaks to each installation while it's happening. Otherwise, it's an utterly fantastic way to get a quick start on a new machine, or offer up application recommendations to friends and family who just got a new machine with Windows 7 on it.
(via Download Squad)