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New Computer Setup (Windows 8)

by Wren McMains
(8/15/2013)

Four years ago I decided to document my recommendations for setting up a new computer. Over the years I've referred to it myself when helping a friend setup a new computer or setting up a new laptop of my own. (I build my own desktop machines, so the process is a little different since there is nothing to remove.)
 
What's amazing is both how much the details have changed in 4 years, yet how much the theory is the same. This is a Windows 8 machine, click to compare with what it was like to setup a Vista machine.
 
 
Note: This page is really the table of contents to all the other pages. Each image below is represents another section, click on the image or the title below it to jump to that section.
 
 

I'm often asked what to do when someone gets a new computer. What "stuff" that will never be needed should be removed? What are the first programs I should add?

And although this is written from the perspective of setting up a new computer, there are many sections where you can find tips for improving the setup of your current computer.

Here we'll look at what I did to a new laptop before the owner ever started to use it. It happens to be an ASUS. This machine was picked because it was the best value I could find in a 17" laptop. Laptop manufacturers I would consider (this year) are HP, Toshiba, Lenovo, ASUS and Acer. When it comes to desktop computers, I usually recommend custom built unless you want a really basic machine. When buying an off-the-shelf laptop computer the things I look for (and what this one included for only $400 including shipping and tax):

When you first turn on the machine it asks a few questions and then often takes quite a while to install and setup Windows. With Windows 8 it wants you to create a Microsoft account as your user name; personally I don't do this and just create a local user name. This is easy to do if you're NOT connected to the internet during the initial setup. For a local user name I recommend using just your first name with an initial capitol letter. I'm probably missing all kinds of wonderful things by not having my machine instantly connect to Microsoft whenever I turn it on, but for me ignorance is bliss.

Tip: Laptops seem to come with lots of stickers saying how wonderful they are stuck to the surface in front of the keyboard (this surface is designed as to be a wrist rest). While you're waiting for Windows to finish its installation this is a good time to remove most of these stickers ... you'll find as the machine gets hot, as they do during normal use, the stickers will get baked on and become difficult to remove. There are two stickers that never seem to want to come off, so I leave them on: the Windows sticker and the computer chipset (Intel or AMD). All the other stickers come off easily if you take them off immediately. I find that my wrists are much happier on the smooth, slick surface than they are resting on labels which have started to wear.

The initial setup of Windows 8 seems to take longer than Windows 7 and involves more questions:

[The rest of this page is really a Table of Contents, each picture is a link to another page.]

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Initial Windows 8 Setup Process


Once Windows started (and I installed FastStone Capture so I could get all these screen shots), this is what I saw:

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Basic Settings: Folder Options and User Account Control


Very Important

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Creating Recovery Disks


Organizing "Programs" Menu (Optional)


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Removing Programs


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Setting up a Wireless Connection


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Task Bar


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Updating Windows


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Other Recommended Installations


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Personalize Your Computer


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Widgets, Gadgets and Goodies


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Limit Programs Running at Startup


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Moving Documents, Pictures, Music and Videos


One last (and very important) tip: Add at least one other user to your machine and be sure you give them Administrator privileges. I've seen often seen malware wipe out a machine which could only be recovered by logging in as another user and deleting the infected user (after saving all their data).

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