My System, What I Use, And Why

mindblower-imageWhat I Use

Due to undue and unfair pressure imposed upon me by one of our frequent commenters on DCT, I am forced to write this “What I Use” article. Mindblower is his name.

He mentioned that I seem to have a few software gems in my pocket and that it would be an interesting post to let people know which programs I use. I will show you what my computer is made up of, which programs I use on a daily basis, and why it ended up the way it did.

My Computer

I have built many computers over the course of my lifetime and the one I’m using now is an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer (me)). Here are the current specs:

  • Motherboard – ASRock 990FX Killer P1.60 UEFI BIOS
  • CPU – AMD FX-8350 8-core Vishera AM3+ running at 4000MHz
  • GPU – RX580 8GB VRAM by PowerColor
  • RAM – 32GB DDR3 1600MHz


  • SAMSUNG SSD 830 Series (SSD) 240 GB used for the OS and Programs
  • Hitachi HDS5C3030ALA630 3TB (spinner); this is divided into five partitions each allocated for specific purposes
  • ADATA SP550 (SSD) 240GB used solely for games
  • INTEL SSDSA2M080G2GC (SSD) 80GB used for cache purposes (Level 2 PrimoCache)
  • External 1TB backup drive
  • OneDrive – used as an off-site backup for various files to the “Cloud”


  • Keyboard – CMStorm Quickfire Pro Cherry MX (brown)
  • Mouse – Logitech MX 500 Series
  • Web Cam – Logitech
  • Monitors – 3x Hanns-G 23″ 1080p

The above specifications are more than enough to run everything I do without breaking a sweat– it doesn’t even snort. I don’t play intense first-person shooters. I tend more towards cerebral turn-based 4x games like Galactic Civilizations III and Sid Meieir’s Civilization, unlike our more intense friend Marc Thomas, who seems to love the fast reaction times needed to play his preferred genres– racing and shoot-em-ups.

My Software

Software is what makes Windows a proper workplace. Obviously, I don’t have the same needs as the casual user. I write and edit so I need software that is specialized towards those goals. The programs I use are not demanding on a computer system but I like to play some games, too, so I need a little “snap” to make that happen.

Here is a short-list of the software I use (in no particular order):

  • Clipboard ManagerArsClip because it’s free and it provides the added benefit of storing often-typed text which can be accessed with the use of a Keyboard Shortcut
  • Password ManagerLastPass because it’s free and even LastPass doesn’t have access to my passwords
  • Backup SoftwareAcronis True Image because it provides trusted backups on a schedule
  • BrowserWaterfox (64-bit) because it’s free I can use legacy add-ons no longer allowed in the newer versions of Firefox (and the ever-present Bookmarks sidebar which is not available in any other major browser no matter how many “tickets” are written)
  • Office ApplicationLibreOffice because it’s free and provides all the features I need in this type of software
  • File ManagerExplorer++ because it’s free and it remembers previous settings, allows for tabs, allows setting programmable buttons, allows setting programmable directories, and the list goes on and on (File Explorer is, and has always been, a piece of junk, IMHO)
  • AntivirusWindows Defender because it’s free and it works. It might not be at the top of the list where AV software is considered, but it is good enough and updated each and every day. It also includes a software firewall.
  • AntiMalwareMalwareBytes AntiMalware (MBAM) because it’s free and I can run manual scans of the system or individual files as I choose
  • Heimdal Security – An added layer of protection
  • Acronis Active Protection – Helps to protect the file system
  • SyncBack Free – because it’s free and I use this to make copies of various folders to an external drive on a weekly basis. This is by no means a backup, but yet another copy of something
  • OneDrive – because it’s free and I use this to make weekly backups of various files to the “Cloud” for offsite protection. “You can never have enough backups.” — this is a paraphrased quote from our eponymous “Dave”)
  • Virtual MachineVirtualBox because it’s free and it works great when I have to test out a new piece of software with none of the potentially dire consequences
  • SnagIt 13 – I use this for all the screen shots you see in our articles
  • Portable UtilitiesDNSBench (checks current DNS speeds), DNS Jumper (an easy way to change the current DNS settings), Rufus (to make bootable USB drives), and a few others

I have provided links to all the above-mentioned programs in case you are interested in trying them out for yourself. Most are free, some are not. All I can say is that I’m happy with them all at the moment. Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed a recurring theme in that I like “Free”. It’s an on-going tendency which I don’t expect to change any time soon.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated in any way, shape, or form with the aforementioned products, so purchasing one of them will not get me (or DCT) one slim dime of recompense. If you would like to help, however, please consider donating a dollar or two via the PayPal link provided in the side panel. (Another dollar or two for the developers wouldn’t hurt, either.) You can’t imagine how beneficial it can be to those who contribute their time and effort. Every bit helps and Google advertising certainly doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.

People are using Ad Blockers everywhere these days– even on sites they like and find useful. And then they wonder why “Paywalls” are becoming more prevalent. Think about it…

And Me

I live in a rural area in northwestern Wisconsin. This is not an ideal location if you want top-notch internet connectivity. In fact, I get a 10Mbps connection on good days and a 25Mbps connection is the best we are offered at the moment. Of course, we would have to pay quite a bit more for that privilege. All I can say is, Netflix works just fine at the moment, thank you very much.

The main reason I use the software I do is that it simply happened over the course of time…. a lot of time. I’m on the wrong side of sixty and many years have passed since I first became addicted to computers. As the years gave way I learned a lot about what I needed in terms of programs and what was available, and so, the software adjusted itself. The above examples merely mirror the requirements met as things progressed.

Dave (yes, our “Dave”) rang me up one late night several years ago and asked me if I’d be interested in writing an article for DCT. I said, “Yes”, and the rest is history. I am thankful for that late-night phone call to this day. It has been a pleasant ride. I can only hope that I am doing a good job of it and wish nothing but the best for Dave’s Computer Tips in the future.

Final Thoughts

In all fairness to Mindblower, he did not pressure me into writing this article. Thank you Mindblower, for Impetus.

I hope this list helps you in some way, dear readers. It was fun to put together and it gave me the freedom to express myself in a not-so-limited fashion by allowing me to deviate from my normal “how-to” doldrums.


My friend and co-writer, Marc Thomas, has also “bared his soul” and offered us a peek at his wonderful computer set up. You can read all about it at this My Systems, What I Use, And Why page.


15 thoughts on “My System, What I Use, And Why”

  1. Thank you Richard for sharing. Actually thought you had more software to share, but it was an interesting read nevertheless. As some are aware, I too listed my picks on the Forum and try keeping it updated.

    Can live with the knowledge of being remembered as “a force that moves something along”, Mindblower! 🙂

  2. This is good stuff. Thanks to you both.

    PS – Richard, we’re practically neighbors…sort of. I live just a couple of states away.

  3. Supplement to my previous post…

    I don’t consider myself a tech guru by any stretch of the imagination. But I know enough to be a little dangerous and built my own computer from scratch a couple of years ago. Loved doing it. Stayed up all night finishing it (OCD kicked in with full fury). The computer purrs like a kitten.

    Richard, like you, I use Defender and MBAM for protection, along with Sandboxie which I fell in love with years and years ago. And to image my system just in case, Macrium Reflect has been very reliable (i.e. the free version). I set it up to image to a back up drive every other day.

    I’ve tried VirtualBox several times but just can’t seem to get a good handle on it. I’d love to be able to master it.

    1. Richard Pedersen

      Hi Midwest Guy,

      I know what you mean. I don’t think I could ever buy an off-the-shelf computer again. I’m hooked.

      VirtualBox can be a bit daunting at first sight, but as with most things, once you understand the jargon, it’s not that difficult.
      There are many good walkthroughs to be found on YouTube for installing various Linux Distros. Grab a Linux ISO, find a good tutorial, and have fun.
      (I set up a separate partition just for Virtual Machines. There’s really no reason to back those up unless you have the time, the itch, and the disk space.)


  4. Your machine has some very interesting specs. Your machine is AMD based and mine is Intel.
    Mine is running a Intel i5 3570 3.40Ghz Ivy Bridge CPU,mated to a Asus P8Z77-V LX motherboard, socket LGA1155, with 8GB DDR3 Kingston ram, AMD Radeon R7 360 Series GPU.
    W10 is installed on a 223GB SanDisk which is the boot drive. I have W732 bit and WXP installed on a WD 1TB drive with 2 partitions and room for one more. I also run a Seagate 1TB for Data files.
    I use the free VMware Player for my virtual machines and will only run Super Anti Spyware for adware removal. Like you I also use Windows Defender.
    I also run CD Burner XP, Libreoffice, Speccy, Easeus Partition Master, Macroit Partition Expert (Free), Easeus Todo Backup and Acronis True Image backup. All this is housed away in a CM Stryker case with a 1000watt PSU. Just can’t beat a home built PC.

  5. 32GB of RAM!! My first computer in 2008 had 1GB. I’m typing this now on a newer one with 8GB. Guess I hardly belong in this conversation, but I’m impressed.

    1. Richard Pedersen

      Hi Tony,

      I’m a bit of a nut case when it comes to RAM. I could get by with 16GB, but I really like having that extra space for cache purposes
      I have PrimoCache set up to use 12GB right off the top (that leaves 20GB for Windows), so ~90% of what would normally be reads off the drive come straight from memory.

      It makes things pretty speedy,

    1. Richard Pedersen

      Mostly not… although, we’re willing to learn new things 😉

      1. Allan Pendlebury

        Well I’m not a Linux fanatic, but just find it suits my needs for the most part. I boot Windows 10 every week-end just to keep it updated and I have Chessmaster game I like to play on it occasionally. My Mint Linux does a cold boot in u 12 seconds. I’m on laptop now, but also have PC I built; have built my own for many years; not that often though as I try to get ten years out of them. Ny current build was done in May of this year.
        PS= EVGA 550 B3
        MB= Gigabyte B360
        Processor= Intel 8th Gen Core 15-8400
        Mem= G.SKILL 16GB (2 x 8) Aegis DDR4 PC4-24000 3000MHz

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