New PC? You MUST Take These Steps Now...

Category: Hardware , Software

Setting up a 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 PC requires some initial fine-tuning in order to optimize performance and avoid problems later on. Here is my list of things you should do to a new desktop or laptop PC as soon as it comes out of the box...

Optimize and Secure Your New PC

Years ago I saw a cartoon depicting a man driving home with his shiny new Intel 386 computer in the back seat. Behind him was a billboard advertising the Intel 486 model. I was not able to locate that old cartoon, so I asked Dall-E, an AI image generator, to create one similar. Even though the system unit ended up in the front seat, I was happy with the result. Check out the image below and let me know what you think.

If you've recently purchased a new PC, or you're planning to get a new computer this holiday season because yours is "obsolete", then you'll want to follow the steps below to get the most from your new computer.

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.

New PC Optimization Tips

Step Two: 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 3: Tune Up Your Startup - When your Windows computer is starting up, a variety of programs and scheduled tasks automatically get loaded before the desktop becomes visible. While many of these are crucial, some are optional, and a few could be potentially harmful. See Are Stealth Programs Slowing Your PC? to discover how to customize your "autoruns" for enhanced performance and security.

Step 4: 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 5: 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 6: 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 7: 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.

Some Optional Setup and Tuning Steps

Step 8: Update Drivers - If you find that any of your peripheral devices are not working correctly after connecting them to your new computer, you may need to install or update the drivers for the hardware, such as a mouse, printer, external drive, graphics card, or network adapter. Look for these drivers on the manufacturer's website, along with instructions to download and install.

You may encounter popups or emails warnings that 'Your drivers are out of date.' Ignore those scammy ads. Don't run off and update your drivers unless you're sure there is a problem. See my article Is it Time to Update Your Drivers? for the scoop on device drivers, what they are, what they do, when (and when not) to update them...

Step 9: Personalize System Settings

I like to customize my desktop background, arrange the icons, configure the screen saver with a timeout to lock the screen, and fiddle with the system fonts and type sizes. If you have a laptop that's mobile, you may also want to adjust power settings to conserve battery power.

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. With that in mind, I encourage you to read these 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 "New PC? You MUST Take These Steps Now..."

Posted by:

28 Nov 2023

Bob - you are spot on about immediately uninstalling those resource hogging anti virus trial versions with their never ending pop up nags to subscribe this very instant to the expensive "full" version or suffer untold horrors. Get rid of them right away; you don't need them. As you said, plenty of high quality free programs out there that do the job just fine.

Also, it's usually part of the new computer setup, but it's really important to download and install all the Windows updates before you start using your new toy. Downloading and installing all those updates can sometimes be a time consuming pain in the neck requiring multiple restarts, but those updates contain a lot of important security features that you need.

And, unfortunately, you'll have to use Edge to download your favorite web browser. After you've done that, hide all the Edge links as you'll never again need them. (I don't believe Edge can be uninstalled).

Now, enjoy your new computer! And thanks for another informative article.

Posted by:

28 Nov 2023

I thought my best friend and I were the only ones who said "swell foop"! Now there are at least 3 in the club. :)

Posted by:

28 Nov 2023

Before even turning it on, I look up the key for the machine's Boot Menu. (It's F12 for Dells, ESC for HPs, etc.) Then, on first start-up, tell it to boot from my image backup program DVD or Flash drive.

I then make an image of the storage device in its pre-boot condition. That way I can always go back to that state and start all over.

After that, establish accounts, clean-out the junk, configure as wanted, minimal program install, and then take a second image backup.

Backups are good. (grin) They can save you from nearly everything that can happen.

Posted by:

28 Nov 2023

A new PC? I haven't bought a new PC with Microsoft Windows in years.The last new system I bought was a computer with XP and that was 2008.

I started using Ubuntu Linux in 2007 as a trial and I loved it.I had the Linux OS dual booted with XP and made the decision to get rid of XP after a few months.I haven't looked back.

Some of Bob's suggestions in this article are ones I do as well as they apply to Linux.Don't forget to set up a firewall.Good luck with your new installs.

Posted by:

28 Nov 2023

I agree with bb - make a disk image (including bloatware), then a second image after things are set up and stable.

One question, do you have a recommended app or procedure for transferring settings, documents, etc. from an existing PC to its soon to be replacement?

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr. (Oldster)
29 Nov 2023

I like most everything Bob has to say here. I use the built-in Windows Security suite for anti-malware protection. Not only is it free, it's one of the most highly rated anti-malware suites available. I like LibreOffice as my office suite and I use a small app to monitor my CPU's temperature, named Core-temp ( It's a free utility that displays the current CPU temperature (and other information if you want) as one or more notification tray icon(s). It can be configured to start with Windows, close to the notification area, and do a few other things. If you get it, look over the configuration settings to see what you can set it up to do.

I use a software system named Ventoy ( which I install on a USB stick/drive to simplify setting up bootable media. During installation, the software creates two partitions, a small one for it's tiny 'operating system' and the second (occupying the remainder of the available storage space) for my data (the ISO image(s) I need to install Windows, and any other OS's I choose). Rather than having to use some app like rufus, et-al to 'burn' the image to a USB stick, with Ventoy installed on a fairly large capacity 'stick', all I have to do (after downloading the installation ISO image I'll use) is to simply copy it to the Ventoy data partition, then when I'm ready to install an OS, I simply boot up the new computer to the Ventoy drive and choose the installer I want to boot with. In y opinion, Ventoy is easy to install, and even easier to use.

I build my own desktop PCs, and I dual-boot Windows with Solus Linux on my desktop and primary laptop PCs. I also like to experiment a lot, so I am frequently changing out my GNU/Linux distribution of choice for something else. When I do that, I first generate a full system image of my Solus installation (stored on an external drive) using Macrium Reflect (I keep the rescue image on my Ventoy drive). When I'm ready to 'go back' to my Solus installation, all I have to do is boot from the rescue image on my Ventoy stick and restore the backup I made before embarking on my latest adventure.

Rather than struggling with keeping the apps I install on my computers up to date, I use a rather aged-looking app named Patch My PC. I have it scheduled to run every day at 6:00 AM to check for application updates. When it finds an available update, it silently downloads and installs it (I set this behavior up while configuring it's schedule). Patch My PC also has a very large list of apps it can install for me (all I have to do is choose which apps I want installed and it does the rest), so when I want to do a start from scratch re-installation of Windows on any of my computers, all I have to do is get my list of installed apps from OneDrive after the reset and install Patch My PC so I can let it do all the work for me (I do have to select the apps I want installed from my list - about eight apps at present).

My use-case is very different from the average, but I strongly recommend that you set up a system backup regimen, keep your system up to date with Windows Update, and get an update installer like Patch My PC or something similar to keep your installed apps up to date too. These steps accompanied by a healthy dose of skepticism (Very Important!) regarding anything from the Internet will go a long way to insuring a safe and secure experience when using your computer.


Ernie (Oldster)

Posted by:

Clive McCloughan
29 Nov 2023

Bob, can you please help me. Try as I might I cannot retrieve all of my records that Microsoft have considerately removed form my computer. Try as I might I do not seem to be getting anywhere and then when and if I can get them all back how do I completely disassociate myself from Microsoft's cloud.

If any backups are required I'll do them!

Again, please can you help and I must warn you I am a pretty basic computer user.

Posted by:

Rien snijder
29 Nov 2023

Very useful information. About anti virus: I have always used the built in windows defender without any problems

Posted by:

29 Nov 2023

PLEASE, make copies of your Bitlocker Key!
Windows Home uses disk encryption although it does not call it Bitlocker. Those who have tried to recover key from Microsoft account in the cloud have found it does not work for Windows Home. You can print out the key and / or copy it to a file on removeable media. Some experts recommend decrypting drive and stopping Bitlocker unless it is really needed. -Greg

Posted by:

Lisa g
30 Nov 2023

Thank you, Bob - I always enjoy your articles. I like to check myself and my practices to confirm I am doing a good job. You are one of my respected resources. Thanks!

Posted by:

lisa g
30 Nov 2023

Also, I do like the AI image that was generated for an old cartoon you once saw years ago. It's kinda funny. :)

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