So you’ve got a brand new Windows 7 PC or laptop/netbook for Christmas and want to know how best to set it up? The following is a guide I recommend to set up a new computer.
Before You Switch On – Laptop – insert the battery first then connect up the power lead. PC – connect up the mouse, keyboard, monitor, power lead and speaker lead (if applicable) – as a minimum, plug the power lead into a surge protected power strip.
For best protection against power surges and outages that can damage your PC or seriously corrupt Windows, plug it into an Uninterruptible Power Supply to provide emergency power whenever the utility mains electric power fails.
If you will be using an ethernet (network) cable to connect to the internet via a modem/router, insert it in the computer now. Do not connect other peripherals like printers, scanners and webcams yet – you will need to install them later on. Switch on everything then turn on the computer.
Initial Set Up – Major manufacturers often make you answer a series of questions as the computer starts up for the first time e.g. type in a user name and choose if you want to register their warranty etc. Just follow their steps until Windows starts.
Note: If you are asked how you want to partition the hard drive we recommend choosing 2 partitions – C: for Windows/Programs and a second partition (e.g. D:) for data like documents/pictures.
Windows Update – You are also likely to be asked if you want to configure Windows Update to ‘Update Automatically’ – it is highly recommended to choose ‘Yes’ to ensure that all appropriate updates for Windows 7 are installed for you.
Once Logged Into Windows – Even though your computer is brand new, the programs on it will usually be several months out of date (and therefore insecure) so make sure you are connected to the internet to be able to update them. If you intend to use wireless, now is the time to search for your wireless network and type in your wireless password to connect to it.
Antivirus Software: You may be asked to activate a trial version of antivirus software e.g. Norton or McAfee (usually a two month trial). If you want to use it – activate the trial and update it. Remember that when the trial period expires you must buy a license (or uninstall the trial and install a new antivirus program) or you will no longer be protected against viruses.
If you do not want to use the trial you must uninstall it before you install another antivirus program – see my reviews of paid antivirus programs or free antivirus programs to choose a good program. I also highly recommend installing the safe browsing software Web Of Trust (WOT) – whichever web browser you use.
Adobe Flash Player: Will almost certainly be pre-installed on your computer but equally likely to be well out of date – you should update it now.
Adobe Reader: Also likely to be pre-installed on your computer but probably well out of date – you should update it now.
Java: May be pre-installed on your computer – if it isn’t then don’t bother installing unless you really need it. If it is installed, it will likely be well out of date – you should uninstall it or update it now. See why I recommend uninstalling Java for better security.
Web Browser: Keeping your web browser up to date is vital for security, performance and compatibility because it is likely to be the software you use most often. The latest version of Internet Explorer (IE) for Windows 7 is IE9 – if your new W7 computer only comes with IE8 you should update it to IE9. Windows Update should install it for you automatically but you can also download/install it from Microsoft here.
Also, consider using a quicker web browser with more features and better security options such as Google Chrome or Firefox – see ‘Have Microsoft given up on IE‘ for comparison.
Other Software: Major manufacturers are often paid to preload some fairly useless programs onto their new computers – which slow it down. Have a good look through the list of installed programs and uninstall any that you are sure you do not want or need e.g. Bing bar, Yahoo Toolbar, Google Toolbar, free games/trials, Ebay/Amazon advertizing shortcuts etc.
Don’t uninstall other programs from Microsoft or your computer manufacturer – if in any doubt at all then leave it installed just in case.
External Hardware: Time to start installing any peripherals like printers, scanners, webcams etc. Install them one at a time and test that all is well before installing the next one. If a device is much more than 2 years old you should not try to use the installation CD that came with it. Windows 7 is only just over 2 years old so the CD software will likely not work as it will have been designed for Windows XP/Vista, not W7.
You can usually download the correct installation software to make a device work with W7 from the website of the hardware manufacturer e.g. if you have an older Epson printer, go to Epson’s website and look through the support/software section for the software (driver software) that applies to your particular model of printer.
Note: You must download the correct driver software for your version of Windows 7 – 32bit or 64bit (most are now 64bit). See how to find out which version of W7 you have. Most driver downloads are integrated with software that can automatically install the device for you – once downloaded you just run the installation program and it will install the driver and walk you through the installation process.
After Set Up Is Complete: You can now install any other programs you want on your new computer and copy files/documents from your old computer onto it if necessary (see best way to backup files from an old computer).
If you need to install Office software and don’t want to pay for Microsoft Office, consider downloading LibreOffice – the excellent free alternative to Microsoft Office.
Now would also be a good time to create a backup image of Windows – a clone/duplicate of your Windows partition that you could use to restore everything exactly as it is set up now in the event of major software issues e.g. Windows corrupted or massive virus attack.
If you intend to get rid of your old computer, see our article on what to do before disposing of it. Finally, even a shiny new computer will soon benefit from a regular service – see how to give your computer a regular health check and tune up.