7 quick tips about setting up your new computer

by | Dec/24/2008

An executive asked me today for quick advice on setting up his new personal laptop. Below are 7 tips:

1) If you didn’t buy XP with the laptop, you may want to go buy a copy and install XP Pro instead of Vista but you may have some drive issues to deal with (or not). Again, an IT professional could do this part for you if you want. If you are doing “normal” tasks such as typing letters, browsing the Internet, and exchanging e-mail, you may be fine with Vista. If you are going to use your computer heavily for diverse tasks or use a lot of peripherals, many people have found staying with XP Professional is a better choice for now until Vista is more widely adopted and supported.

2) The executive writes, “I am considering Norton 360 for both security and “tune up” tools. Your thoughts?”

If you are going to connect to the office, let the IT department give you a client to the corporate anti-virus package. If the machine is strictly for your own personal use, one good choice is Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 for use on up to 3 PCs http://www.kaspersky.com/

Get the Internet Security Suite – not just anti-virus. I suggest going to buy the boxed version in the store rather than downloading the program. This is for security and also for ease of installation if you ever need to install again. Be sure to choose “update” before installing when prompted during the installation process since the CD will be older than the current version.

If you want to, during the installation turn off the anti-spam and the parental controls unless you need them.

You may need to edit settings for specific programs you “know are ok” if the firewall marks them as suspicious and restricts their activity. Just make sure you don’t accidentally enable a “bad” program to damage your computer.

Schedule automatic full system scans daily – or at least weekly. They can happen during the night if you don’t want the scan to slow your computer down.

Keep an eye on the automatic updates to be sure they are being applied as soon as they are released.

3) The executive writes, “Backup…I plan to continue using Norton Ghost (at your suggestion) with a Maxtor hard drive…still a good choice?”

Yes, Ghost is great. Image backup is the “way to go” for primary backups. Be sure to apply the updates regularly. There are other programs besides Ghost that work well such as True Image from www.acronis.com and ShadowProtect Desktop.

As with any backup software, it is important to enable encryption of the media. That way, if anyone ever gets your backup drive, they won’t be able to read any of the private information without your password.

After installing your image backup software on your new computer, always perform a backup and restore. This is “less dangerous to test” on a new computer since you do not have lots of your important data on the machine yet.

I like the “Lights out Restore” option that works with many computers so you don’t need the Ghost CD to boot if your computer crashes. Be sure to test Lights Out Restore before you actually need it since this feature does not always work with every computer.

You may have at least 2 backup drives and alternate using them each time you backup.

Additionally, you may also choose to augment Ghost with an online service such as www.sosonlinebackup.com in case you lose your laptop and your backup drives.

4) Lastly, he asks, “I need to erase my old hard drive before I give my old PC to a friend. Best way to do this?”

This is such a big answer, I’m saving it for next week’s blog. Stay tuned! Here are some more important tips:

5) I also strongly encourage you to enable the full disk encryption on the laptop – hopefully it comes with that capability – Most computers do these days. You may want the help of a qualified IT professional to help you configure this option.

6) Regularly go to www.Microsoft.com and choose “security and updates” and run “Microsoft Update” in “Express” Mode until there are no more patches.

Microsoft normally releases patches on the second Tuesday of every month – and sometimes during the middle of the month. Note that the “automatic updates” setting is not always reliable – so checking manually is a good idea.

Always have a good image backup before installing patches You always have a good backup anyway – right?

7) Computer manufacturers offer a way to get updates to their utilities and drivers too. The main computer manufacturer patches to get are the ones that say they are a “critical security update.”

Be sure to make backups before installing the patches – I’ve had manufacturer patches mess up my computer but was always able to restore back to where I was before.