Setting up a new computer can be a very exciting experience. It is like buying a car; all you want to do is test it and check its performance. But it can also be overwhelming; with so many programs and settings to navigate, it's easy to get lost in the process.
But do not rush—no need to install programs and applications like crazy. Through a series of preliminary steps and checks, you can learn how to set up your new computer and ensure it reaches maximum performance.
Almost every day, we get emails asking for tips on what to do after installing Prey. So, given that our software is usually installed on new devices, why not share a few other tips on what to do with a new computer?
Setting up a new computer
First of all, congrats on your new laptop! This doesn’t happen daily, and picking the right one was probably a tough choice. What should you do now after you take the shiny new thing out of the box?
So here’s our checklist:
First and foremost, you should plug the device into power and fully charge its battery before turning it on. We know it's difficult to wait, but this is very important. Around 10 or 12 hours will be OK (hey, that’s only one night!). This way, your computer will recognize the battery’s full potential, perform at top condition, and last as long as it was designed to do. Haste could prematurely ruin your battery life, and we don’t want that.
If you live in an area with voltage spikes or power outages, please get a surge protector to prevent damage to the computer’s power supply and internals. That’s a very common reason computers are sent to the graveyard, if not the most common.
2. Everything is in the right place
Take a look at the system specs to make sure that you got what you paid for. If you’re using Windows, download the free CPUID. If you’re on a Mac, Apple Icon > About this Mac > More Info on OS X will tell you exactly what’s installed on your new device. Linux users have a variety of options, but we like the console-based lshw.
Look carefully and ensure the installed processor model and speed are correct, that you got the same HDD your vendor offered, and — if you paid for dedicated graphics — make sure the card is in there. Regarding memory, running Memtest86 is always recommended.
And last but not least, don’t forget to check your screen for dead pixels — remember, you can always return your computer and get a new one. Googling “check for dead pixels” returns this site, which looks pretty useful.
3. Protecting from scratches
Also, get a scratch guard or something similar to prevent the PC from getting new scratches. Over time, especially if you carry your laptop, the keyboard leaves marks on your screen, which are annoying.
You can also use an optical cleaning cloth for this. You can buy a large piece at your local optician and cut it to the size you need — just remember to put it over the keyboard every time you close your laptop.
For external scratches, sleeves or special bags are the best solutions.
4. Next, update your OS (and optionally re-partition)
It’s very likely many security holes were fixed since the OS was installed on your computer. You only need an Internet connection and the right option on your OS. You can find Windows Update Manager on Windows’ Control Panel if the computer runs Windows. If you’re running Mac OS X, click on the little black apple and then on Software Update. If your weapon of choice is Linux, then you surely know how to do this. 😉
Now, if you’re up to it, you may consider re-partitioning your hard disk so that your documents are stored in a different partition than your operating system. This will make formatting much easier in the future since you won’t need to back up your files when reinstalling the OS — just format the partition where the OS is, and voilá!
To do this, you’ll need to either reinstall the OS — and choose a two-partition scheme when prompted — or you can resize the partition “on the fly.” We recommend the first option, but you can go for number two if you’re short on time. Just remember to back up any files you may have copied already since resizing can result in data loss.
Most modern OS includes partition editors (i.e., Disk Utility for OSX). Still, if you’re thinking of resizing, we recommend you burn the ISO and boot the open-source Gparted since there’s a much lower chance you’ll lose data in the process.
5. Time for security software
As soon as you turn on your new laptop —and depending on its operating system— get an antivirus or a firewall to keep your machine clean and safe from intruders. Old viruses like the Blaster worm affected a huge number of new computers surfing unprotected, ruining brand-new Windows installations.
Software recommendations? Try AVG (or its free version) if you're using Windows. For OSX users we don’t think you need an antivirus for OSX users, but you can get the Little Snitch firewall for extra security. Firestarter is an easy way of maintaining your firewall settings in Linux (iptables).
Of course, you might also want extra security from physical threats, like Prey. Antiviruses won’t help to deal with burglars, you know!
6. Install your favorite browser
Once you've taken steps to protect your new computer from viruses, one of the following things you can do is install your preferred web browser. Several popular options are available, such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Apple Safari, each with unique features and advantages.
To get started, visit the browser website you want to use and download the installer. Once the download is complete, run the installer and follow the instructions to complete the installation process.
Once the browser is installed, setting it as your default browser is important so that any links you click on will open in your preferred browser. You can do this through the browser settings or the operating system settings.
7. Make sure you install an antivirus
Before you start downloading things as if there was no tomorrow, it is advisable to take extreme security measures. It is essential to have antivirus and antimalware software activated.
Windows 10 natively incorporates a security solution that is of quality and already includes an antimalware module, so Windows Defender may be enough if you are an individual. Do not enter dubious websites or do crazy things like clicking on email links of strangers.
In the case of the company, or if you are one of those with "dark habits" when it comes to Internet browsing, there are security solutions at a great price.
Of course, NEVER use two antivirus programs simultaneously on your computer since conflicts will occur between them; in addition to negatively affecting your computer's performance, conflicts will occur between them.
8. Clean all the bloatware/crapware
When you purchase a new computer from retail vendors, it often comes with a lot of extra software already installed. This software is often called bloatware or crapware because much of it is useless and takes up valuable space on your system.
Fortunately, you can remove the unwanted software by using the built-in tools to uninstall Windows and MAC OS applications or reset the operating system to its basic factory settings. However, before you start deleting everything, it's important to understand what you're dealing with.
Take the time to identify any trialware or software that you may want to keep before getting rid of anything. This way, you can be sure you're only removing the unnecessary bloatware and not losing any useful programs.
9. Install your favorite software
For office suites, there’s always Microsoft Office, but you can find free solutions such as LibreOffice (formerly OpenOffice.org), or, if you only need text editing, AbiWord is also a great option.
A new browser is also recommended. There’s Chrome, Opera, Firefox, and Brave. Also, you might want to get a nice media player like VLC or a BitTorrent client like Transmission (not to be used for piracy, huh?).
We’re mad about Unreal Tournament, but we’ll leave the games up to you. After all, that’s the reason you bought the new computer in the first place, right? Hehe.
There’s an awesome site called AlternativeTo and it helps you to search for different software alternatives. You might want to check that out too.
10. Measure performance
You already have your PC optimized. Now is the time to check the performance. Even more important: that they have not sold you a pig for a hare. Logically, if the seller is trustworthy, there will be no problem, but with dozens of similar processors, graphics chips, memory chips, etc., you have to ensure that they have given us what they promised us.
Start by installing a utility that checks on your hardware and shows you the make, model, and speed of all the components. Take the invoice or the list of specifications of your new PC, and check that they match the utility's data. If any don't fit, tell the seller about it.
To measure performance, you can use numerous benchmarks, such as 3DMark Basic Edition, which measures the power of the graphics card, PCMark Basic Edition, which checks the generic performance, or UserBenchmark, which tests component by component.
These applications compare the performance of your computer with that of other users with the same hardware. So you can tell if it works slower (or faster) than normal.
11. Choose a backup solution
Why of course! System crashes or accidentally deleting files shouldn’t take your precious data from you, so you should get a cloud backup solution. Dropbox is awesome or, you can try the new Google Drive, which will also integrate with Google Docs.
External drives are also a good choice if you want to keep a second copy of bigger files, such as high-res movies. That way, you don’t keep hitting the storage limits of your cloud solution!
By the way, have you migrated your data from your former PC? If not, you can a) copy the files through your local network, b) use an external drive to copy files, or c) use our favorite, which is connecting both PCs directly via Firewire or a USB port. Mac computers let you do this easily by hitting the T key while the source laptop is turned on, which is known as Transfer Disk Mode.
12. And finally, get rid of your old device
Unless you plan on doing something else with it, it’s time to get rid of your old laptop! So go to Ebay, Craigslist, or hell, just post an ad on the Facebook marketplace and see what happens. Try to be clear about its specs and whether it has any damage.
A good, deep hardware cleanse is a good idea, as well as a fresh OS reinstallation if you know how to do it. Selling a dirty laptop would diminish its value, and besides, you don’t want to give away your personal data with your old computer!
A final word: if you’re feeling generous (or if the likely selling price for your old computer is too low for you) and you don’t have younger siblings, you can donate it to NPOs around your area, like the National Cristina Foundation in the US. Even Dell does!