Set up and customize your new computer
You did your research and purchased the perfect PC. Now it’s home, and you’re eager to start emailing, sharing photos, surfing the web, and downloading music and movies.
You could just ask someone else to set it up for you, plug it in, and begin. But taking a moment to familiarize yourself with computer basics, set up your PC properly, and personalize your PC will save you time in the long run and make using this essential tool far easier and more enjoyable. It’s simpler and faster than you think—in spite of all the cords and instructions. Just follow these steps:
Get to know your new tool
You can save yourself a lot of time and frustration by getting to know your way around your new PC before you hit that power button, especially if your experience with computers is limited. To learn the basics or refresh your knowledge:
When you’re familiar with the basics parts and terms, you can get started setting up your computer.
Set up your computer
Choose a good location
Before you unpack the computer, take a minute to select the best location for your PC. Moving your system to another spot later is not fun and risks damaging your components. To select a good spot for a desktop computer, make sure that:
The spot is within easy reach of an outlet or extension cord, as a power source for your system.
There is space for the cable that connects the monitor to the computer box.
You’ll be comfortable and healthy in the spot. For example, choose a spot where you can place your monitor away from light sources that produce glare or one that has window blinds to control light levels. Also, choose a spot where you can position your monitor about an arm's length away from you when you are seated comfortably in front of it. Read more tips in our guide to ergonomics.
Unpack your PC
After you take everything out of the box, go through your PC manufacturer’s list of included items, and double-check that you have every cord, cable, and other part you need. That way, if something is missing, you can be back in the store or on the phone with them right away.
Next, unwrap all the parts.
Arrange the components in the desk area you plan to use.
For laptops and netbooks:
Following your manufacturer’s instructions, plug the battery cable into the laptop.
Following your manufacturer’s instructions, assemble the CPU, monitor, and other components, and connect the cables.
It looks a lot harder than it is. Take one step at a time and you’ll be done in no time.
Now you’re ready to plug in your system and connect it to the Internet. Make sure that you plug your computer into a power strip with a surge protector, which helps prevent damage from voltage spikes during electrical storms or after power interruptions.
Surge protectors don’t protect against lightning strikes, so unplug your computer during severe storms and whenever you leave your home for long periods of time.
Fire it up, name your profile, and get connected
Push the power button on the computer box, also known as the CPU (central processing unit), to turn your system on.
Do not use the power button to turn off your PC or unplug the whole system to shut it down. Instead, to protect your system and data, always turn your PC off properly. To turn your PC off properly, click the Start menu or button, which is almost always in the lower left corner of your screen Look for the Shut down options. If you rest your mouse pointer over the Shut down arrow, you will see a list of options, which usually include Sleep, Hibernate, and Restart.
When you turn your PC on for the first time, you’ll probably see a few welcome screens, and one of the screens may ask you to name your profile or user account. Go ahead and use your own name for your profile. You can add other names later, if friends or other family members want their own profiles. You can also transfer files and settings from your old computer, to your new PC.
You might also see a screen that prompts you for information required to connect to the Internet. If no screen appears, you can set up your Internet connection by starting the Connect to the Internet wizard yourself. Here’s how:
You can connect to the Internet in several ways: dial-up, broadband, and wireless. Find out what you need to connect to the Internet and how to choose a connection. If you set up a wireless connection, your computer will automatically detect it. However, if you want to view the wireless connection manually, click the Start button or menu, and then click Control Panel. You can click Internet properties and add a wireless device if you choose. Read 10 tips for improving your wireless network for more information.
Control Panel is a helpful place to familiarize yourself with, because you can control many of your PC’s features from here.
After you have set up your Internet connection, you can set up your email accounts. Read about getting started with email.
Your PC probably came with basic software already installed. If you want to add software, install or download it now.
If you bought other software that came separately on disks, use the manufacturer’s diagram of your new PC to locate the DVD drive, and follow the installation instructions.
If you want to download free or other software, navigate to the software company’s website, and download it to your PC. A wizard will walk you through installation and setup.
Windows Live Essentials offers free software that can make it easy and fun to stay connected, preserve memories, and share photos. The free Windows Live Essential software includes:
Messenger—Send and receive instant message, play games, share photos, and more.
Mail—Combine multiple email accounts, get event reminders, and share calendars.
Writer—Share your photos and videos on any blog service.
Movie Maker—Create movies and slide shows from your photos.
Photo Gallery—Easily transfer photos from your camera to your PC, then edit and share them.
New to Microsoft Office? Get tips and tools for finding commands, using new features, and customizing the Ribbon.
Change or add hardware
Small and inexpensive changes to your system can make using your computer easier and more enjoyable.
For greater mobility and less muscle strain, consider adding a wireless mouse or a trackball mouse.
An ergonomic keyboard is well worth the expense to alleviate shoulder, neck, and hand strain. Have a laptop or netbook? You can always plug an external keyboard, ergonomic or traditional, into a laptop for greater ease of use.
Do you have speakers with good sound quality? You’ll want them if you talk over your computer, listen to music, or watch videos.
Because we now save our files and memories digitally, consider adding an external hard drive. That way, if you spill something on your computer or lose data, you’ll still have access to what’s most important—and you can save many more photos, music, and other files with the extra storage.
If you have a laptop or netbook, consider buying a good quality sleeve or case to protect it from bumps and moisture when in transit or when you’re not using it. If you travel a lot, you may also want to consider buying a laptop security cable. It’s one of the cheapest ways to keep your computer secure in hotel rooms or any unlocked room.
After you’ve used your computer awhile, you may want to add more memory (RAM) to speed it up or to optimize new software you’ve added. Though adding memory sounds daunting, it’s not. No need to hire someone to do it for you. In many cases you can buy a memory card and use your computer manufacturer’s instructions to easily insert it yourself, saving a trip to the shop and lots of money.
Connect your home computers
If you have more than one PC, you may want to wirelessly connect all the computers in your home. Read how to set up a home network.
Customize your PC
This is the fun part! You’re up and running, but are you completely at home with your PC yet? Don’t be a slave to default settings and features. A few simple tweaks can turn your efficient PC into an indispensible tool that’s tailored to fit you, right down to your favorite color.
Personalize your display and other settings
In Control Panel, you can change a variety of Windows settings to make your experience easier and more enjoyable. You can change your profile or the desktop background, customize the Start menu and taskbar, and much more.
For more in-depth help on specific ways to adjust your system for your needs, read these articles:
Visualize it: 5 ways to make your PC easier to see
Who took my mouse pointer? 3 ways to keep it in plain sight
5 ways to make your keyboard easier to use
Enlarge text on websites to read more easily
To make web pages on the Internet display in larger text for easier reading, in Internet Explorer, on the View menu, point to Zoom, and then select the degree of magnification you want.
Create a Downloads folder that’s easy to access
Knowing where to find the list of programs or files you downloaded is essential. If your computer malfunctions, you may want to consult this list, for example, and downloaded programs are often hard to find. To make sure you can find what you want fast, locate your computer’s Downloads folder, and make sure to save everything you download to this location. To find the location of your Downloads folder, click Start, and in the Search box, type Downloads. Click the folder to see its location. If the location of this folder is not obvious or convenient, create a Desktop shortcut for this folder, so you’ll always know where to find it. Or, you can cut the folder from its existing location and paste it directly on your Desktop. To do this, just right-click the folder, click Cut, go to your Desktop, and then click Paste.
Use the Favorites section of your web browser
Add the sites you visit most often in Internet Explorer to your Favorites for quick access. Whether you play games online, follow blogs of family members or friends, research vacations and family visits, or shop for bargains, the Favorites list in Internet Explorer 8 will save lots of time.
Enjoy using your made-just-for-you computer system in good health!
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