Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
A few steps immediately after you get your new computer can save you a lot of time, effort and loss of data later. I'll review my recommendations.
Congratulations! You've received a new computer!
There are some things you'll want to do to it before you start using it.
These are things that, later, when all heck breaks lose and the machine dies, the software crashes or you get a massive malware infection, will save you lots and lots of grief.
Every day people lose data, precious memories and valuable time because they didn't take a few simple steps along the way to prepare.
And by far the best time to prepare is at the very beginning.
I know you've already connected; you just couldn't help yourself I'm sure.
I'm the same way.
But until we've made sure of a couple of safety items, let's pull off the road for a moment and prepare.
First, collect up all the CDs and DVDs that may have come with your machine, and put them in a safe place. If you don't, then someday, maybe years from now, you'll desperately need one and be unable to find it.
This is also a great time to ensure that you have installation disks, not just recovery disks. Installation disks contain a full copy of Windows that can be installed from scratch. Recovery disks do not, and often rely on information saved on the hard drive - which is fine until the hard drive itself dies and takes all that information with it.
If you don't have installation disks, now's the time to get in touch with the vendor and insist on them - even if they cost a little extra.
Using a tool like Macrium Reflect, DriveImageXML or similar, take an image backup, also sometimes called a full system backup, of your entire machine. Make sure that this is a backup tool that supports what's called a "bare metal" restore - the ability to restore to a machine that will not boot because the hard drive is empty. Usually this requires that you also create "bootable rescue media" to be used by that software.
This step is particularly important if you were not given actual installation media as I mentioned above, and can serve as an alternative should you not be able to get the installation media.
The reasoning here is simple: this backup is an image of your machine as you got it. Should you ever need to start over and reformat/reinstall the machine, this image backup can be restored to the machine instead to return it to the exact condition that it's in right now.
While you've got your backup software out, take the time now to set up a regularly scheduled backup.
Exactly what that looks like will depend on your needs and how you use your computer, but in general setting up something that backs up your machine daily is good practice.
Now that we've got our backup in case anything goes wrong, it's almost time to connect.
First, however, make sure that you have a firewall and that it's enabled.
In most cases if you're connecting through a router, you're done. That router acts as a perfectly adequate firewall and protects you from random things that would otherwise attack your machine the moment you connect to the internet.
If you don't have a router, simply make sure that the Windows Firewall is enabled. It should be, by default, but it's well worth checking.
Once you've confirmed a firewall of some sort - connect.
Your computer may well already have come with security software preinstalled, but you don't have to use it.
Quite often the pre-installed solutions aren't always the best. Sometimes they're just fine, other times not so much. Do a little research and decide.
Then either make sure that the preinstalled security software is configured and enabled properly, scanning and updating itself automatically, or download alternatives that you choose and set them up instead.
If you're unsure, I do have security software recommendations.
Take the time now to update Windows, in particular, and if appropriate any of the other applications and software installed on your machine.
For Windows, at a minimum make sure that Automatic Updates is enabled. A more complete solution, however, would be to visit Windows Update, and consider the offer to use "Microsoft Update" to update not only Windows but all Microsoft applications installed on your machine as well.
Keeping your software updated is an important part of keeping your machine safe from viruses, spyware and other malware that exploit vulnerabilities discovered in the software.
One more thing to save: the product keys or activation codes.
On the outside of your machine, or in or on the box that the software came in will be a product code that you may need to type in if you ever need to reinstall that software. It's just as important that you keep this code in a safe place as the discs you'd be using.
One approach to getting the product keys for most of the software that's preinstalled on your system is to download and run Belarc Advisor. This tool will generate a report of many aspects of your machine, including the Windows Product Key, and the product keys for many of the installed applications. You can print this and save it, or simply record the information elsewhere.
Just remember to keep it in a safe place that when you need to reinstall - perhaps a couple of years from now - you'll be able to find it.
Of course there's always more, but this is a good start putting in some basic protection and setting up some safety nets that'll help protect your investment, your data and your time.
Comments on this entry are closed.
If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.
If you don't find your answer, head out to http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.