Executive Summary:
You can make your Windows computers less resource-hungry by installing lite programs. Some recommended free lite programs include Foxit Reader 2.0, PDFCreator, 7-Zip, Media Player Classic, Real Alternative, and Microsoft Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel. You can use Group Policy to deploy many of these lite programs.

One of my favorite activities is finding ways to "lighten" my computer—that is, make it less resource-hungry. One way I do this is by replacing applications that I use regularly with "lite" programs that perform the same tasks or at least the most commonly used tasks. It's even better when these programs are free and have more capabilities than the original applications. Here are some free lite programs that I've found useful:

• Foxit Software's Foxit Reader 2.0 (http://www.foxitsoftware.com): This PDF reader is 1.67MB, needs about 5MB of RAM, and starts up almost instantly. An .msi file is available for download, so you can deploy this program through Group Policy.

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• PDFCreator (http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator): PDFCreator provides an easy way to create PDF files from any application. It creates a virtual printer named PDF creator. Whenever you want to create a PDF file from a document, you just send the document to this virtual printer. You can deploy this program through Group Policy.

• 7-Zip (http://www.7-zip.org): This program opens all popular compressed files (e.g., .zip, .iso, .rar, .arj). Plus, it provides a new compression format (7z) that, according to the Web site, provides a compression ratio that's up to 10 percent better than the ratio provided by PKWARE's PKZip and WinZip Computing's WinZip. One of my favorite features is that you can compress and decompress files in the background. You can deploy this multilingual program through Group Policy.

• Media Player Classic (http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_ id=82303&package_id=84358): Although Media Player Classic looks like Microsoft's Windows Media Player (WMP), Media Play Classic is faster and requires less memory than WMP. Media Player Classic is highly extensible.

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• Real Alternative (http://www.free-codecs.com/download/Real_Alternative.htm): Real Alternative plays RealMedia files (e.g., .rm, .ram, .rpx, .smi). It provides the same capabilities as Real Player but without all the annoying registration forms and advertisements. Plus, Real Alternative consumes fewer resources than Real Player.

• Microsoft Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel (http://download.microsoft.com/download/7/b/6/7b6abd84-7841-497896f5-bd58df02efa2/winxpvirtualcdcontrolpanel_21.exe): This unsupported Microsoft program lets you mount ISO images to your computer. It loads a Virtual CD-ROM device driver, which you can start and stop as desired.

One free lite program I don't recommend is QuickTime Alternative player (http://www.free-codecs.com/download/QuickTime_ Alternative.htm), which plays QuickTime files (e.g., .mov, .qt, .3gp). My experience with QuickTime Alternative has been less than optimal.