This Acer took less time to setup Windows than most machines. Once it started (and I installed FastStone Capture so I could get all these screen shots), this is what I saw:
In the center of the screen is the "Welcome Center". It has some tours of new features that are worth taking when you have time, but there is absolutely no reason to have this pop-up every time you start your computer. I've seen people who have had their machine for a year or more and it still pops up every time the turn on the computer. I think most of us are afraid to turn things off, we're afraid we can't get them back or that our computer won't work right. Here you're going to see me turn off, hide and/or delete all kinds of things. Don't be afraid to do the same.
The first thing I'm going to do is stop the "Welcome Center" from appearing every time. Un-check the box (red arrow) in the bottom left corner, then close the Welcome Center by clicking on the X (green arrow) in top right corner.
This is actually the Welcome Center on my desktop machine, since my first screen shot didn't include the check box. As you can see it says you can get back to the Welcome Center any time from the Control Panel; you can also type the first few letters of the word "welcome" in the search box above the Start button:
and programs starting with those letters will appear at the top of the menu; click on "Welcome Center":
As soon as I closed the Welcome Center, I found this menu that was hiding under it:
Even if you want to take them up on their trial offer, it's too soon to register. You need to get your internet connection working first. I just said to remind me later and it went away. BTY, McAfee isn't a bad product, someone I recommend for building custom computers likes it enough to include licensed (one-year) copy on machines he builds. See my page on Safe Computing to see which product I really recommend (none of them).
When I installed the first program on this machine, I noticed that extensions where hidden (as they always are on new machines). I think it's very foolish to hide these extensions (someone probably thought it made computers look simpler, but actually hiding them makes things more confusing). Here's what the Toolkit folder on my Flash Drive looked like (I had programs I had previously downloaded when I had a high-speed internet connection stored here):
These files are all .EXE files, but as you can see the extensions are hidden and it's not obvious ... I know, you can look at "File" column, but who looks there and who knows what "Application" means? I fix this "problem" by going to Tools / Folder Options:
The menu looks like this:
I usually make two changes. I choose the radio button that says "Show hidden files and folders", and I un-check the box that says "Hide extensions for known file types". Some novice users don't want to see hidden files, but sooner or later you may need to, so you might as well get use to them ... if you don't, by the time you need to see them you'll have forgotten where this option is.
Next I installed FastStone Image Viewer (a free program I highly recommend) and got all the warning messages Vista has added. Since the stupid messages totally take over your screen, I can't even get a screen shot to show you what they look like. At first I thought they might be a good idea, but even if you turn them off you still get a warning when running a .EXE program. Leaving them on leads to two extra messages EVERY time you change anything: install a program, modify your menus, change your configuration. I now turn off User Account Control immediately and leave it off. Do this by going to the Control Panel. You can either click on "User Accounts and Family Safety", or I like the "Classic View" of the Control Panel:
In this view click on User Accounts:
You'll get this menu. Click on "Turn User Account Control on or off":
Next un-check the "Use User Account Control" box:
As I said this cuts down on a lot of stupid, annoying messages that Vista added. The only down-side is that now you'll a warning message (bottom right corner) most every time you turn your computer on saying something about not being properly protected. I think after closing this message without clicking on it about 15 times it will finally shut-up and stop warning you.
To control what appears on the right hand side of the menu that appears when you press the start button, either right-click on the Start button or in a blank place on the menu itself and choose Properties:
Which brings you to this menu. You'll notice that I choose not to display a list of recent files, but you may find this useful ... instead I use the list of recent files that most individual programs keep. Choose "Customize":
That brings you to this menu, scroll down and check all the settings. The ones displayed below are the ones I use, they are not the defaults:
And even though I don't have "Default Programs" checked above, you might as well, it's useful.
As you see, I display everything as a link which means that when you click on it a new menu appears. If you choose to display as a menu instead, a fly-out menu appears instead when you click on it.
By default, several of these items including Printers, Run, and System Administrative Tools are turned off. I find them all useful.
You'll also notice I un-check "Use large icons" ... this gives me room to display many more recently used programs on the left side of the start menu. The number displayed is controlled here (arrow):
However the number is also limited by your vertical screen resolution. Keep increasing the number above until the menu gets near the top of your screen (or as high as you want it).
The highlighted area above are where the (in this case 15) recently used programs are listed. As you pin more programs to the start menu, you may have to decrease this number to avoid a warning message that the menu doesn't fit. (Large icons on a low resolution screen can also lead to this warning).
Note: You can right-click on any program (or icon) in the list to pin it to the menu (place it above the line). By right-clicking you can also remove programs from the list or un-pin them.
I find this list (which was added in XP) really useful! 98% of the time you'll find the program you're looking for on the this list. When you don't either use the "Start Search" box just below it, or click on "All Programs".
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