Geeks advice for a new computer: part 1

April 19, 2006 at 10:10 pm (Links)

So, you bought a brand new PC. Now what?

If you're one of my regular non-paying clients, you bring it by my house and I give it back to you in a week or so. If you have free support, that's not a bad idea either.

But what goes on during that week? Until now, many have thought it involved dead chickens or magic smoke but the truth is too strange to believe. Continue if you dare, into the mystical world of geekdom. Tips that differentiate capital G Geeks from the rest of geekdom are in italics.


Step 1 – carefully read all directions warnings and notices that came with the machine – including those on the silica gel packets.

Just kidding – nobody ever reads that.

Seriously, get the docs out, you'll use them as a reference in a while.

Plug everything in and turn it on. Do NOT plug in the network/modem yet. Use this time to look for reinstall CDs, Driver discs, and OS install disks. Some machines come with them, others require you to burn them yourself. If you don't see CDs, check the index in the docs to see how to create them. If you have to create them, do it now – and make 2 copies. Otherwise make a copy of the ones that came with it. The 2nd copy you should put in a CD sleve and stick to the inside of the case – make sure not to cover any fans or vent holes.

Now that you have your restore disks and the emergency backup of them, reboot the machine and go into the configuration settings. On some machines you press <del> during POST, others it's <F-10> – you may need the docs for this also.

In the BIOS settings, you should turn off or disable anything that you will not be using. Don't have anything serial or paralell – turn those ports off. Have a wireless port that you don't need, turn it off.

You should also set the boot order to boot from the hard drive first. This can prevent the user from accidentally booting to a CD when they didn't intend to. (I only started doing this after a bad experience with DBAN)

Now that the hardware is set, reboot the machine normally and go into Add/Remove programs. (Start/Control Panel/Add or Remove Programs) This list will probably have all sorts of trial software that is installed. Remove all the trial versions of MS Office apps, Antivirus, firewall, AOL, toolbars, etc. Someone has created a removal tool if you buy a DELL that removes all the unnecessary apps that slow the machine to a crawl. If you have another brand, the apps will have to be selected manually. Contact your local geek with the list and they can tell you what to kill and what to keep. How important is removing the apps that won't be used? A friend recently had a P4 (2.8Ghz with 1Gb ram) that I looked at – and the 'user experience' on that machine was significantly worse that on one of my old PII 400's!

After all the bloat-ware has been removed, turn OFF system restore. We'll turn it back on later, but for patching a new machine it just adds extra time.

Next, you should patch windows. Connect the machine to the internet and run windows update. Or, batch install the patches required since the service pack of the windows installation from CD or thumb drive. The Geek way is safer, in that the computer doesn't need to be connected to the internet without firewall/antivirus, but determining what patches a machine needs is non-trivial.

After windows has updated and rebooted, run windows update again. It often takes more than one reboot and update to fully patch a machine. Continue to do this until windows update says that there are NO critical patches to install.

Finally, it's time to install the bare minimum software required for operating on the internet. Download, install, and update an Antivirus, Spyware/Adware, and Firewall. My recomendations for them are AVG, Spybot, and Kerio (limited functionality after the trial period, but adequate for most). Your geek may recommend something different. I'm right, they're wrong. That being said, go with what your geek recommends, because I'm not the one supporting you.

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