New PC? NINE Things You MUST Do NOW
A shiny new computer is something to get excited about. It’s tempting to open the box, plug it in, start it up, and just begin exploring. But a new computer requires some initial fine-tuning in order to optimize performance and avoid problems later on. Here's my list of things you should do to a new desktop or laptop PC as soon as it comes out of the box, and also some tips on whipping a used, but new-to-you computer insto shape. Read on...
Optimize and Secure 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. Some popular free antivirus options are AVG and Avast, but my preference is PC Matic, because it uses a whitelist approach that allows only known, trusted programs to run on your computer. Uninstall the trial antivirus that came with your PC, then install your new security software.
Step 2: 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You might be surprised to learn that some of the application software pre-loaded on your computer is outdated or needs critical security patches.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, Here's Why You Must Keep Your Software Updated (and how to do it for free) for links to some free utilities that will help you keep your software updated and secure.
Step 3: 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 packages 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.
If you want to rid a brand-new system of all the unnecessary junk programs that came installed on it, try the free Bulk Crap Uninstaller utility. This program lets you see all the software installed on your system, so you can quickly select the ones you want to remove, and zap them in one swell foop, with minimal effort. It's a lot faster than the Windows "Add/Remove Software" option, which requires you to select each one and answer a lot of "do you really want to do this" questions.
Step 4: Install essential Software. Your new computer comes with an operating system, a web browser, and a basic text editor. Microsoft hopes you'll pull out your wallet and buy a copy of Office, or subscribe to Microsoft 365 (Office) for your word processor, spreadsheet and presentation needs. But you don't need to spend money to get a top-notch office suite. See my articles Seven Free Software Programs and Seven MORE Free Software Recommendations for links to the amazing free software that I install on every new computer.
Step 5: Optimize startup programs. When Windows starts up, there are a bunch of programs and scheduled tasks that automatically run, before the familiar desktop appears. Not all are essential, and some put a drag on boot time and overall system performance. See [SPEEDUP] Are Stealth Programs Slowing Your PC? for my advice on how to trim your startup sequence.
Step 6: 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 A Look INSIDE Your Computer (no tools required) gives you the scoop on where to find these programs, and details on how they can help.
Step 7: 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 "system 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.
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.
Step 8: Optimize your power settings. This step is most important for laptop users, but desktop users should take heed as well. Open the Power Options section in the Windows Control Panel to adjust your PC's power settings to balance performance and energy consumption. You can configure the screen brightness, when to turn off the display, or shut down the hard drive after a period of inactivity. (Mac OS X users can use the "Energy Saver" option found in System Preferences.)
Step 9: Perform a benchmark test to confirm that your new computer runs as fast as advertised, and save the results so you can see if it's still running well in six months, a year, or two. You can use a free benchmarking tool to test the CPU performance, the speed of your hard drive, RAM memory, video hardware, and other subsystems. You'll also have the option to compare your results to others with similar hardware. See my article How Fast Is Your CPU? Benchmark it! for links to some free benchmarking software.
What About a New, Used Computer?
If your computer is new to you, but still used, there are several steps I recommend to ensure it's good to go.
Inspect the hardware: Check under the hood for loose connectors, clean out any accumulated dust, and re-seat memory chips. Do this while the computer is powered off.
Consider Adding Memory: A used PC may benefit from additional RAM memory. See Adding Memory: A Silver Bullet for Your Computer? to learn how to assess the amount of memory that's installed, and see my recommendations for if, when, and how to add memory.
Wipe the drive? If you bought a used PC, and you're not certain that it was properly reconditioned by having the hard drive wiped and supplied with a fresh install of Windows, then you could be sitting on a malware landmine. To be sure there are no hazards lurking on the system, I recommend that you format the hard drive, re-install Windows, and run Windows Update (see above) to make sure you have the latest security patches.
Install or update drivers: This step is optional, and a tad geeky. If you've inherited a PC that's a few years old, or you have installed any new peripherals (printer, scanner, mouse graphics card, sound card) you may want to check for device driver updates from the manufacturers. My article Is it Time to Update Your Drivers? will guide you through the process, and warn you of some potential pitfalls.
That's my list of 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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 12 Oct 2023
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- New PC? NINE Things You MUST Do NOW (Posted: 12 Oct 2023)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved