7 Tips About a New Computer: Windows or Mac

by | Nov/25/2011

So many executives are purchasing Mac instead of Windows. Some of you are facing resistance from your IT Professionals if you want to connect your Mac, or iPhone, or iPad to your network. Stay tuned – I’m saving that for a future post. All of these 7 recommendations apply to Macs as well.

Note that, these first two tips aren’t necessarily things to look for in a new computer; however they are two of the most important things you can possibly do for your new computer – even when it is brand new!

1) Hackers find ways to attack computers, and patches can be your best defense. Application patches are as, if not more, important than patching your Operating System – but patch both! Even Apple computers are not necessarily immune.

Be sure to make backups before installing the patches. – I’ve had patches cause problems on my computer but was always able to restore to the original configuration. You always have a good backup anyway – right? Too many users decide, “patches messed up my computer” and choose to install their patches “tomorrow.” Only, every day, they decide “tomorrow.” Sounds like meetings for your local procrastinators club – they’ve not had their first meeting yet. Install patches ASAP – right after your backup – ASAP. The process of making backups is addressed below. If you are concerned that you won’t find an issue until days later, then start using a different drive for backup – and only backup onto that drive once a week. That way you can go back if you need to.

It is unusual these days to have any serious problems after installing a patch. In fact, you will probably notice that bugs go away and new features are available.

Really. I mean it. Adobe Acrobat, Flash, Java, iTunes, and Microsoft Office are some of the most important – though patching all applications are important.

And, NEVER click on a link in an email message – you know that already. Even if the email looks like it is from a valid source, such as Adobe. Always delete that email message and open your application itself and ask it to check for updates. The “check for updates” may take some searching the first time and it is often under the “Help” heading in the application’s toolbar. For Mac users, the process is often much easier.

As described in step two below, using Windows update and Mac update will generally patch all of that organization’s applications as well as the operating systems.

Executives, skip on to the next step unless you are still saying to yourself, “I’m not going to install those stinkin’ patches!”

I dare you to post a valid reason not to install patches. I’ll fire right back, gently, at you unless you are using a compensating control such as never, ever, plugging your computer into a network cable and never ever connecting to wireless networking of any kind. Fine, then you don’t need patches, or e-mail, or an internet browser – you are an island. Not a useful situation in most cases.

Other compensating controls, and you may need to talk to your IT Professional about these, would be to use a product such as Faronics Deep Freeze on your machine – and yes there is a Mac version of this product too. As of today, the link for personal version is www.faronics.com/solutions/small-office-home-office/ Another compensating control is to only use e-mail and browsing in a virtual machine that you “open fresh” each time you start the virtual machine, etc. A common tool for virtualization is the VMware player for Windows and VMware Fusion for Macs. For more plain English “executive level” tips about using your computer this way, sometimes called Kiosk mode, please see

2) Regularly click on your “start button” which is now round on the left of your task bar, and type “check for updates” in the open field at the bottom of your menu. On a Mac, click on the apple icon on your task bar. Keep using “check for updates” and install the patches – until there are no more patches. The main patches are the “important” patches, though you may want to install the “optional” patches as well. Even if, after installing patches, your system says “no (important) patches available,” go click the option to check for updates again. You’ll eventually see why – there may be more patches that show up that need to be installed.

Apple tends to release patches anytime during the month. Microsoft normally releases patches on the second Tuesday of every month – and sometimes during the middle of the month if the patch is very important. Note that the “automatic updates” setting is not always reliable – so checking manually is a good idea.

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

3) If you didn’t buy Windows 7 – 64bit with the laptop, you may want to go buy a copy and install Windows 7 instead. Keep in mind that Windows 7 requires faster hardware than your old XP machine.

4) Whichever Anti-Virus program you are accustomed to is likely the best one for you. Most of the tools today are similar. As of today, if you don’t have anything, consider Norton Anti-virus Suite. Be sure to 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.

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

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. The reason is that, when a virus comes into your computer, your anti-virus may not recognize the program as a virus. Some viruses are so new that the anti-virus won’t recognize them. Then, as you perform the daily full scan, you may find that viruses are detected that the original “live scan” did not recognize when the file entered your computer.

5) Ghost is still an image backup tool. 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. Personally, I’ve moved to ShadowProtect. It is not as intuitive to use for beginners; however if you feel comfortable with your machine, there are some useful features – especially if you are using desktop virtualization on your personal machine using, for example, the VMware player for Windows and Fusion for the Mac. Virtualization is another one of those technologies you’ll likely want to have your IT Professional configure for you.

For my Mac, I use Carbon Copy Cloner. Be sure to donate.

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. Shadow protect always, for full drive restores, defaults to this mode.

You should have at least 2 backup external hard drives and alternate using them each time you backup. Look for USB 3.0 drives – they are significantly faster than USB 2.0 – and make sure your new computer has at least one USB 3.0 port. The USB ports can be added as expansion cards to computers without.

Important: When performing a “lights out restore” or a “full restore” of some kind, you may find that the USB hard drive you need to restore from needs to plug into one of your USB 2.0 ports. It is still fine to use a USB 3.0 drive for fast backups, and to restore using USB 3.0 as well. If you find, during your test, that your USB 3.0 drives do not work for the restore, just plug the USB 3.0 drive into one of your USB 2.0 ports. This problem, if you even experience it, will be resolved as time goes on. This is just another reason why you “test” your backup and restore process during your initial installation.

Additionally, you may also choose to augment your image backups, backed up to your hard drives, with an online backup service. Many of these services now offer a plethora of additional features – such as allowing you to access files from any device anywhere.

6) You still need to destroy the data on any media that you decide to “give away.” There is an explanation at www.fosterinstitute.com/blog/erase-hard-drive/

7) I also strongly encourage you to enable the full disk encryption on your computer – hopefully it comes with that capability – Most computers do these days. Even Macs. You may want the help of a qualified IT professional to help you configure this option. Some versions of Windows 7 – such as Ultimate – even come with this feature built in. Macs offer this feature as well.

Please post your comments on this blog.