I received a new computer for my birthday just a few weeks ago. As I do each time I setup a new computer, I like to give you an idea of things that I do in this setup to make my life easier.
Of course, I hope this makes your life easier as well.
We’re going to place this entire guide up on-line on a special podcast, a special YouTube, and I’ll even have it available for download. This is important stuff for anyone setting up a new computer to be thinking about. Some will be review, and some will be a different way of looking at things. Please stick around for the whole thing!
This is not the end-all-be-all list of things to do. Simply a good starting point.
Most of what I’m going to cover here will apply across all computer systems, as these are best practices… the right things to do all of the time with your computer.
Created the recovery media. We see this all of the time, and ignore it, but we shouldn’t. This is how we get our computer back into operating condition should the unthinkable happen.
A 16 Gig thumb drive did the trick nicely. I could have used a handful of DVDs and burned them, but that spoils all of the fun.
It takes some time, but do this first and get it out of the way. It’s your instant emergency repair tool if things go sideways.
That thumb drive will get stored inside of the computer for permanent safekeeping. That means that I won’t have to go on the ages old search across everything in the house for it. Tape it to the lid of the computer, or some other obvious place.
Price of one of these is less than $10 for a good brand, so don’t skimp on price. You want it to be good if you ever have to go back to it.
Upgrading the Hard Drive
I took the chance immediately to upgrade the hard drive from a 2 Terabyte standard hard drive, to a 500 Gigabyte SSD. Yes, that’s an upgrade… for the speed.
My boot time on Windows was about a minute. Nothing alarming, and it could have been shorter. That is from a cold system, through login, to the screen where you can start programs.
The Solid State Drive completely blew that away. Cold to runnable, with a short password, was less than 12 seconds. Most people can’t even imagine that.
Part of this was the choice in manufacturer, but also checking over the specs.
Remember that Recovery Media a moment ago? That’s how I did this… I simply installed the new SSD hard drive, and then started up the recovery tool.
Another Monitor Cable Change
My old system had a dedicated HDMI out. The new one uses the mostly compatible display port. No bother, other than getting a new cord.
For around 15 years, the standard VGA port was with us, and it served well. Between DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort, there appears to be a continuing battle, but fortunately, they all have convertors to correct to the desired port configuration.
Keyboard and Mouse remain
Some people may like the idea of a new keyboard. The old keyboard, from Cherry, was magnificent, and amongst the better keyboards that I’ve ever used.
A modern tank amongst keyboards, this wasn’t going anywhere. Neither was my mouse.
Perfectly fine and acceptable.
Safety is important. Now, before anything else goes wrong… protect yourself.
Anti-virus software is a must. You’ve heard me say this before, but the Big 3, who each sell far more than the rest, are Norton, McAfee, and TrendMicro. Pick one of them, and put it on your computer ASAP. If you don’t have one… ahem… you run the risk of repeating this chore again very soon. Anti-Malware, Anti-Virus, Internet Protection, whatever they call it, you want the one that will handle everything that the bad guys will throw at you. The expense is well worth it, as without one of these programs, you’ll be forking over twice that to the nerds when they remove the virus from your computer.
Need I ever remind anyone about this? Of course, it’s time to make sure that we’re all set for anything bad that might come our way that isn’t protected by antivirus.
Now that you’ve completed the first few steps, let’s start securing your computer down. Run Windows Update, and get all of the patches. Reboot. Repeat. Do this until there are no more patches to download. This step takes a matter of a couple of hours on some systems, so don’t get wild. Just work the process towards a safe recovery. These patches secure your computer from all of the bad stuff that gets thrown at it, but also improve some of the operation of the computer.
Check with your manufacturer, and the manufacturer of key components in your computer (if it’s a white box, or if you’ve made upgrades).
You want to be running the latest public versions of your video drivers, your DVD drivers, Ethernet card, and so forth. It’s something that takes a little while, but it may have your computer running even better than when you first bought it, so take the time to do this right.
These drivers work as the intermediary between your computer and software, and help keep things running smoothly. A driver update on your computer may make the difference between a program running halfway decent, and awesome. If you’re running the old drivers, then they lack the fixes and updates.
Remove Unwanted Programs
I currently have a license for Office 2013. That’s what I’m used to, and while 2016 is out, I’m not supporting anyone with it. So the trial version of that… gone.
Software packages for this, that, or the other thing, that I won’t be running… Zapped.
Office and other program installs
Microsoft Update is what you use for Microsoft Office, and it can be run at the same time with Windows Update, but I like to keep the tasks separate for this rebuild process. Nothing solid, just a suspicion that it works better. Update it all, check it out, and make sure it’s running clean.
I keep a copy of important software, or where a software is updated frequently, an empty directory as a reminder of software installed, each time that I setup a new computer for myself.
I leave a copy of the installation code in a text document in each directory, so that I never lose my installation keys.
Starting with Ninite.com, I grab the latest update file there, and set it up, loading my key software components.
I then refer back to the old directory for installs, and start installing from there.
As I load each of these new packages on, I move them to a new directory, so that I have a reference of what was installed, and what hasn’t been installed.
This also allows me to cycle through and leave off programs that I no longer need.
Patch again (and again, and again...)
Some of the software that I just installed, was installed from the Internet. I don’t need to check for updates on that. I do need to check for updates on older software packages that I installed from CD’s, or downloaded long ago.
Again, each software that we have on our system, has holes, bugs, or perhaps it’s missing new features that we could have for the cost of a little time.
Take this chance to make sure that you have the latest on your new computer. You’re adjusting, learning, and more with a new system, so as I do, I load everything as new as possible… OK, except for the Microsoft Office 2016…
Default Windows Items
Turn off Cortana
Turn off privacy invaders
Multiple monitor settings
Backgrounds and personalization
Secure the password
Naturally, I have a battery backup, even though I have fairly good power where I live. The concern for me is in the event of a major catastrophe, that my computer is safely shut down.
One surge can fry everything, but so can a brownout, or a blackout at the absolute worse time.
Murphy’s law really covers this… Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way… yep… battery backup.
There’s the other power settings as well, such as shutting down the monitor, and some people might wish to put their computer to sleep at a certain point.
What? Again? Of course… I just spent hours getting this computer to where I want it, but now I make a standard backup with the software.
It’s an image at a point in time where I know that all should be good and well.
Backups in general
I learned this the hard way a few years back, when my backup failed, and I took my time.
Make backups. Backups are your friend. Backups are the difference between a few hours of madness, and a few weeks of forking over money to other people. I was set back about $1000 overall, as well as 20-30 hours of time that I could have used elsewhere.
I’m making backups to a two different external hard drives, to make sure that nothing gets lost. Essentially, I’m making sure that multiple locations store the data that I need at hand at all times. You need to review the exact same thing, or you may be in the same boat that I was.
Not the data restore… my recovery scenario… that comes next…
So, I get my dropbox hooked back up… 10,000 files from there…
Next, email from my IMAP online folders… configured, and downloaded…
See, our backups today are from all over the place now, not one central location. And testing the restoration of that data from Dropbox, and online e-mail, ensure that everything works as I hope and intend.
Test Recovery Scenario
Since I’m upgrading, this is my chance to perform one more update, or delta backup, on the old system, and then test the access to all of my key files. This is a common best practice, to regularly test that you are able to restore anything that you’ve backed up.
Naturally, I restored only the important data, and not the entire hard drive.
I could disable User Account Control, but I don’t. I want to see the warnings, just as you see them if you don’t disable it.
I don’t do password managers… relying on my own memory may seem foolhardy, but I know my passwords.
This is not the end-all-be-all… I say that sometimes. The idea of telling you every intricate detail, in a manner that is foolproof, is impossible in a short period of time, over the radio. This is all guidance.
Think ahead… adjust as you needed.
If you have any questions… contact us!
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