New Laptop?

young woman in front of macbook Pro, image from ShutterstockNew Laptop for Christmas, what should you do? Here’s a quick hit-list of setup and configuration tasks that will help you enjoy a long and happy relationship with your new laptop. I’ll cover Microsoft Windows PC first, followed by Apple Macintosh.

Microsoft Windows PC:

  1. As you turn on the computer for the first time, be sure to patiently read through each of the screens to get your user account setup correctly. The important point here is to create two user accounts, and both need to have a password. The first is an administrator account, and the second is a standard account for your day-to-day use.
  2. Once you’ve got your (standard) user account up and running, you want to run Windows Update, upgrade that to Microsoft Update (so you get updates to other Microsoft programs besides Windows). You may have to restart the computer several times. Be sure to keep restarting and running Microsoft update until there are no more updates available.
  3. Next you want to add a computer security suite, either our top-rated Bitdefender Internet Security (see our write-up here). Quite frankly, running a Microsoft Windows computer without a paid-for internet security suite is a recipe for eventual disaster, so we won’t provide a free security program recommendation. If you want to maximize your protection, we also recommend you buy Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware (the Premium version) – you can safely run both of these programs at the same time.
  4. Next you want to adjust your power options. I do everything possible to avoid sleep mode and to avoid letting the hard drive spin down (if the computer doesn’t have a solid-state hard drive). If it’s a laptop, I set the close lid option to hibernate when on battery power and do nothing when plugged in.
  5. Now you can start to add programs. I recommend a better web browser, like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. You probably also want Adobe Reader, and possibly Adobe Flash Player. If you are in the Apple world, you’ll probably want iTunes. For cloud-based storage, you may want Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive. Maybe Microsoft Office along with whatever other programs you own and use. You can also setup some bookmarks/favorites to websites you visit often, along with your email account.
  6. Now you can add printers and other external devices. You can just plug them in to get the basic functionality, or run the installation disk to get enhanced features.
  7. Finally, you can tweak to our heart’s content to get toolbars, ribbons, taskbars and start menus exactly the way you want them. If you have Windows 8/8.1, hate the Metro Start Screen and pine for the old Windows 7 Start button, you can get StartIsBack.com. You should set your notification area to show all icons, and you may want to personalize your desktop with some nice themes (right-click the desktop, select Personalize, and click the link ‘Get more themes online’).

Apple Mac (Macbook, iMac, Mac Pro):

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  1. As you turn on the computer for the first time, be sure to patiently read through each of the screens to get your user account setup correctly. The important point here is to create two user accounts, and both need to have a password. The first is an administrator account, and the second is a standard account for your day-to-day use.
  2. Now you want to open the App Store to the Updates section, and be sure to apply any updates that are available. If your new Mac doesn’t already have the latest version of OS X (currently Yosemite 10.10.x), then you will most likely want to upgrade (it’s free).
  3. Next you want to visit System Preferences and log into your iCloud account and set any special configurations (such as turning off letting your iPhone calls ring on your Mac). You may also want to enable iCloud Drive on all your Apple stuff (Mac & iOS) so you can share files easily. And turn on the Firewall (in Security & Privacy).
  4. Now you can install any other programs you want. Hints: You don’t need Adobe Reader to view and print PDFs, only if you want to use online form-fillable PDFs. You also probably won’t need an internet security suite. You can look through the Mac App Store for new programs, install any you already own, or get 3rd party programs (like MS Office 2011 for Mac). You can add alternative web browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox and also setup bookmarks or favorites, and your email, calendar and addressbook. If you want something other or more than iCloud Drive for cloud-based storage, you may want Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive.
  5. Now install your printers in the System Preferences > Printers & Scanners, add using the plus button.
  6. Finally, you can do any special tweaking of the desktop, Dock or Launchpad to customize your new Mac so you can find and use your programs easily.

Regardless of Windows or Mac, you should practice safe computing, we have a great guide here.

If you’ve got any specific questions about any of the above, feel free to leave me a comment below or ask me a question. Enjoy your new computer!

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