Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

If you don't want to spend a lot of time tweaking an elaborate setup, I present a basic, simpler, and quicker set of instructions to setup your computer.

I read your seven part series on how you set up your own computer, but quite frankly ... I got lost. I'm not a computer geek. All I want to do have my computer set up for email, internet and maybe a little word processing. How should I set up my computer for my simple needs?

I didn't really plan for How should I set up my computer?, to turn into a seven part series. And while it's full of geeky goodness meant to give people lots of reminders and ideas, it's overkill for many.

The good news is that computers in our house follow a "trickle down" theory. After my new laptop was up and running, it was time to rebuild my old one, a Dell Inspiron 2100, for my wife.

In this case I started from scratch. Rather than relying on the pre-installed operating system, the intent was to start over and install everything, including Windows.

Step one was to install Windows XP Pro itself. In this case I booted from the CD-ROM, and let it walk me through the setup process. In most every case I selected the default settings. The one thing to note, however, is that I did instruct Windows setup to perform a clean install so that it would format and overwrite everything on the hard disk.

I have a copy of SP2 on CD-ROM as well, so that was the next installation.

Making sure to leave the Windows firewall on, I then installed my wireless network card. Windows did its auto-detect magic, installed the appropriate drivers, and notified me that there were wireless networks available. I connected to my home network.

Once on my local network, I installed my anti-virus software, updated its database, and ran a full scan.

As with my own machine, my next stop was Windows Update where I took a couple of updates that had been released after SP2.

Since this was a new install of Windows XP, I walked through the wizard to activate this copy of Windows. (In the future it sounds like this may be required before visiting Windows Update.)

Installing Microsoft Office was next. Again, in almost all cases I simply accepted the default settings.

As I mentioned in the previous series, I have a directory structure containing several tools, scripts, and templates that I use on all my machines as well as some environment settings and an installation of the Perl scripting language. My wife actually doesn't need any of this, but it's a vital part of how I maintain and backup all my machines. One side effect is that these items include our Outlook .pst files. The result is that this step copied my wife's email folders onto this new machine.

This was followed by a few minutes configuring Outlook to access the correct PST file instead of the default and configuring my wife's email account. This was perhaps the most complicated portion of the entire setup, and is generally similar to the items I discussed in How should I setup Outlook?.

Finally I downloaded and installed the latest MSN Messenger as well as installing software specific to my wife's business, and it was done.

Besides the sheer amount of software installed, the biggest difference between this much shorter setup and my own is the amount of customization. My wife, like most average Windows users, runs with default settings for almost everything. I, on the other hand, am very deliberate in how I set up my machine and care very much about some of the details. I spend much more time on my machine than my wife does, so it makes sense that I would invest more time and energy into getting it exactly the way I want it.

But, clearly, it doesn't have to be like that for most users, and rather than a seven article (and accompanying multi-hour) process, setting up your computer for basic email, web, and word processing can be fairly straightforward affair.

The Setting Up Series:

Article C2272 - January 30, 2005 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

September 2, 2005 12:03 AM

how do i read e-mails (as pst files) on c drive without using outlook program

September 2, 2005 8:21 AM

Outlook is required. You could use outlook to save the messages as text, and then read the text files as anything you like.

January 3, 2006 1:26 AM

i had xp i want learn how to formate my pc & re instol.where to go first when problem in computer

September 24, 2007 5:08 AM

How can I make my D:\ hard drive into my default hard drive. The thing is I have two drives, but the one my pc uses is drive C:\ and it only has 16.00GB most of it is cluttered. I cant even defragment because I only have 1% free space. My other hard drive is drive D:\ and it has 69.00GB and its 98% clear. How can I transfer my files over to this hard drive? I had to buy a laptop to because my pc is really slow, please help Leo.
Thank You.

s whitehead
October 31, 2007 2:34 PM

i dont know how to set up to recieve and send emails

April 24, 2008 9:02 PM

what are the best bios setings for the Viper MSNV-939 ATX Socket 939 i use it for gameing

Michelle Castro
July 15, 2008 9:06 PM

I don't know if this is the correct avenue to go with my question but here it is...
My documents that I would like to save go automatically to the server, and to access my documents they go their instead of being saved onto my computer. Can you tell me how to go about changing the defaults so that my information is saved onto my computer instead of automatically being saved on the server? I saw something similar regarding moving information from one drive to another but I don't know it will help my problem.
Thank you

lee martin
September 30, 2008 2:11 AM

i have reinstalled windows Xp from the I362 winex.32 and in the process a few files were missing, this has made my computer very basic and as a result i cant access internet, itunes etc. how do i do a system restall and get the pc like it was when i first bought it

, thank you

November 2, 2008 3:52 AM

i have just brought an acer aspire one notebook and havnt a clue where to start. what router do i have to buy to get online.please can you help

barack hammond
January 5, 2009 11:00 AM

How can I tell I have "word" on my computer? I want to set it up, I have micosoft XP windowns
I need this to upload resumes to employeers

Look for Microsoft Office in your Start menu. Word is part of Office and does not come with Windows - it's a separate program. You can purchase it, or download OpenOffice for free, and use Open Office Writer, saving to Word format.
- Leo

Gwendolyn Wright
August 13, 2009 3:22 PM

i have this same problem.
How can I make my D:\ hard drive into my default hard drive. The thing is I have two drives, but the one my pc uses is drive C:\ and it only has 16.00GB most of it is cluttered. I cant even defragment because I only have 1% free space. My other hard drive is drive D:\ and it has 69.00GB and its 98% clear. How can I transfer my files over to this hard drive?
Will you give me step by step instructions? I really need help. Thank you so much

Thotshang Layam
October 21, 2011 1:52 AM

i have set my laptop win7 64bit as offline and i could not brows internet how to i set it to online again?
plz help

Windows itself has no "offline" setting, so I'd have to know what offline setting you used. A guess: try the File Menu in Internet Explorer - look for "work online".

December 3, 2011 11:15 AM

maybe you should spend less time on the COMPUTER and more with your WIFE before she decides to leave you................

May 30, 2012 11:32 AM

Okay, so i know a lot about computers and Internet but idk a thing about setting it up from when I first get it. Which cd do I need to install to be able to get on the Internet? Btw, thanks for the advice. Your like a wizard or something.

May 30, 2012 12:21 PM

All you really need to get on the internet is an internet connection. Usually the folks who set you up with that offer support to get you online. You'll probably get either a wireless modem (which you'll connect to through the internet connection button already on your computer), or you'll plug in with a line... and that will (should) just work.

Most computers, these days, come internet ready with nothing else to install.

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