Five Things You MUST Do On a New PC

Category: Software

A brand-new computer is something to get excited about. It’s tempting to plug it in and just start exploring. But a new computer requires some initial fine-tuning in order to optimize performance and avoid problems later on. Here are five things every user should do to a new desktop or laptop PC as soon as it comes out of the box...

Optimize Your New PC

Job One is security. Antivirus software is a must on any PC, but the trial versions of Norton or McAfee that come preinstalled on new PCs are overpriced resource hogs. In fact, you don't need to pay for anti-virus software at all! Download one of the many free and very capable antivirus packages I have described over the years.

See Free AntiVirus Software for a list of options and download links. Uninstall the trial antivirus that came with your PC, then install the free package.

I also recommend that you download a free utility program called MalwareBytes Anti-Malware, or MBAM for short. Run MBAM once a month or so, just in case your anti-virus program misses something. No security software is perfect, so a second look with an on-demand scanner like MBAM will help to keep you safe.

Five PC Optimization Tips

Next step: Getting rid of bloatware. Bloatware (sometimes called crapware) is not malicious software. Rather, it's the term for all those unnecessary utilities and trial software that computer vendors are paid to load onto each new PC they ship. Many of these nuisances load automatically at startup, slowing your PC and annoying you with reminders to try them out. Essentially, they’re just advertisements that you pay to be annoyed by.

PC Decrapifier is a free utility that scans your hard drive for hundreds of bloatware programs and uninstalls them automatically. Alternatively, Revo Uninstaller will remove any program that Windows’ Add/Remove Programs feature can’t handle. See How to Clean Up Your Hard Drive for links to these free utilities, and be sure to read the note on avoiding a potential snafu when downloading.

Keeping your operating system and application software up to date is also essential. Security patches are issued regularly by Microsoft, and these improvements are not really “optional.” Make sure Windows is set to download important updates automatically (it usually is on new PCs) and enable automatic updates on all application software that has such a feature.

You might be surprised to learn that some of the application software pre-loaded on your computer is outdated or needs critical security patches. See my article, The Missing Link in Computer Security for further discussion of automatic updates and other ways to keep your new PC secure.

Taking inventory of your PC’s hardware and software can help you diagnose problems, get better tech support, and possibly even save you untold grief and piles of money. Belarc Advisor and Speccy are two free utilities that scan your system and report everything you may need to know. My article What's Going On Inside My PC? gives you the scoop on where to find these programs, and details on how they can help.

Making regular backups of user data and system settings is a good habit that starts from day one. As soon as your PC is tweaked the way you want it, make a full image of your hard drive and store it in a safe place. Thereafter, automatic backups of critical data that changes over time can be set up on whatever schedule makes sense for you. Hard drive failure, viruses, fire, flood and human error can wipe out critical data, and if it happens to you a backup copy of your files will be a lifesaver. See my article, Hard Drives Are Not Forever for a discussion of backup strategies and options.

And don't forget that not all your data is stored on your computer's hard drive. Do you have a plan to back up and recover your online data, including webmail, cloud storage, Facebook, Twitter, online photos and other social media? What about the contacts and other data stored on your mobile phone or tablet? My ebook Everything You Need to Know About BACKUPS will show you how to protect yourself from any kind of data disaster.

That's my list of five things you should take care of when you get a new computer. But it's been said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. So a healthy dose of awareness and vigilance will go a long way toward keeping you and your computer free of trouble while interacting with the Internet. With that in mind, I encourage you to read these five articles next:

A few hours spent up front tweaking a new PC and preparing for the future, can save days of suffering when something goes wrong, as it inevitably will. Think of all this preventative maintenance as similar to a car’s breaking-in period. Do it with every new PC and you'll save yourself time and money.

Do you have other ideas about how to optimize a new PC? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Five Things You MUST Do On a New PC"

Posted by:

24 Dec 2013

What about a Kindle HDX Fire? What would be the right security to use on that? What about backups and other maintenance? Treat it the same as a laptop or are there differences?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kindle is Android-based, so for now all I recommend is downloading only from the approved app market. (ie: no third-party app stores)

Posted by:

24 Dec 2013

Bob ... Excellent article, again and timely.

While, I haven't purchased a brand, spanking new computer, since September 1996, when I got my first computer ... I know, that so much has been "added", since that time to new computers.

I love building my own computers!!! For me, it is fun and rewarding. I also, know exactly what I have within the computer case, as well. However, I know that Security is the FIRST item of concern and protection. It has always been the first thing, I have installed on any of my built computers or for those I have repaired, for family and friends. I would tell them, you can get excellent Anti-Virus Protection in several FREE program versions. I have always recommended either AVG or aVast!.

Since, my first computer, I have learned to also, utilize the following programs ... CCleaner Pro; Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware Pro; Revo Uninstaller Pro; Glary Utilities Pro and Glary's Disk Speed Up, a FREE program. These programs are for my computer's protection. I also, use a 3TB Seagate External Hard Drive, for my backups, now. I just haven't found a Cloud Service, that fits my needs and price, yet ... Still looking.

While, I am on the Internet, I use QFX Keyscrambler, the FREE version, Malwarebytes' Anti-Exploit Beta, a FREE version, Softperfect WiFi Guard, the FREE version, Malwarebytes' Anti-Rootkit BETA, the FREE version and PrivaZer!!! I am also, using Last Pass Premium ... Still on the learning curve, with Last Pass. It is getting more familiar, so, I am getting more comfortable with Last Pass. Heavens, the Premium cost is $12 for 1 year ... Not bad, in my book.

While, this may seem like overkill ... it's not. I have learned over the past 17 years, that in protecting my computer, I am protecting myself and my sensitive files.

Must add ... So many of the programs, that I am using today ... Are really due to Bob's recommendations or researches. Now, with my Pro version programs ... Almost all of my "scanning" is done by schedule and that keeps my computer running smoothly and Virus, Trojan Horse, Worm and Malware free. Should I get one ... I am immediately notified and I can take care of it.

Posted by:

Art Frailey
24 Dec 2013

Bob, You give us some great information, and I for one greatly am thankful for that. But sometimes, even we experts error. What I want to make you aware of is that PC Matic is not free. It will free download and look at the things wrong in your computer, and even tell you some of them. But It will not work to clean these out until you pay the piper. IT IS NOT FREE. From my own experience, it doesn't even do a good job of what you tell it you want done. Just thought you would like to know.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm confused... I didn't even mention PC Matic in this article. I just searched my whole site and found one mention of it, but I didn't say it was free.

Posted by:

24 Dec 2013

And for you Mac users, buy some USB disks, multiple if your wallet can handle it. For backups, use Time Machine. For Windows, I use Oops!Backup from Altaro (I don't work there nor do I own any stock), which is like Time Machine. Set and forget. At setup time, you can change it later if you prefer, you specify what you want backed up. The only thing is that Oops!Backup isn't free.

My Mac goes with me, so I have one at home, and a pair that I rotate daily between my office and my car (I have covered parking so it doesn't get hot). If I had a Windows laptop I would use Oops!Backup with the same regimen.

There are free anti-virus, and anti-malware software out there, you can look through Bob's list, a few have Mac versions as well. That's how i found my Mac's AV and AM software, thanks Bob!

One thing to remember, if you run Virtual Machiess on your PC or Mac, you need the same security software, that you would run on a native system. I have Windows 8 Pro 64 bit running in a VM in my Mac, so for that, I need the AV and AM software again. I don't need any backup for this since I've selected it in my regular Time Machine backups. The advanatage for VMs is that is also a disadvantage, you have to get a retail WIndows 8 or an OEM Windows 7. Which means there is no bloatware, but more expensive. I got my Windows 8 Pro licenses during the intro period, for $40 so I got three, because I knew it would go back to the regular $200 after Feb 1, 2013. I've upgraded to Windows 8.1.

Posted by:

Al. S
24 Dec 2013

I had PC Matic on several computers, never did like it. This particular Notebook kept crashing when it was installed. I had to force a shutdown to restart. I uninstalled it and no more crashes for over a year. I then did the same with my other computers and no longer us it. My Nortons pretty much along with CCCleaner does the sane thing and I am satisfied.
Super antispyware free does a great job weeding out spyware and viruses that may have been missed by Nortons. Once a month I run the full scan, which takes hours.

Posted by:

25 Dec 2013

For Macs, you really can start using out of the box right away. No virus software needed, but smart computing practices recommended... such is not hitting unknown internet links. Buy an Apple Time capsule, turn on Time Machine backups, and you're done. No bloatware on a Mac. No defrag or other maintenance needed either with flash drives. Also, since mavericks... No upgrade costs. Ieverything so simple and the way it should be. Just like turning on your television! :)

Posted by:

Michael Webb
01 Jan 2014

Bob, there's something I'd add as an absolute first thing for a new PC. That would be to make a disk image of the PC (preferably to an external hard drive, multiple flash drives or optical media like CD-R, DVD+/-R, or Blu-Ray depending on what burner you have) as-is, bloatware, crapware and all. Do that before you do anything to it. That gives a 100% opportunity to go back to the installed software as it came. Then make successive images as you clean out the crapware and install the software of your choice. That way, one can be sure that he/she can go back to a solid base to rebuild from (even multiple bases) if everything goes kaflooey.

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