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First things first! Advice for a new computer – part 3

Initial Actions – New Computer

Desktop Icons

I always clean up a new computer’s desktop – get all the extraneous/useless icons off your desktop. The OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers – Dell HP Toshiba Lenovo Fujitsu etc – Best Buy is guilty of infringing in this manner as well) use the computer you bought as a marketing platform for products and services.

See, in return for a small fee from various vendors the OEMs are able to compete on price with each other by offering these vendors premium placement of their respective icons on new computers’ desktops. So you’ll see icons for McAfee, Norton, NetZero, RealPlayer, Earthlink High Speed Internet, GeekSquad tech support, shortcuts to Game sites, etc etc – they all paid a little bit to get there. Consequently, you paid a little bit less for your computer. The resulting price point “might” have played a role in your decision making process to buy this particular computer.

But I believe you paid “your” money for that computer, and ALL of that computer should be used for YOU – to YOUR ends. Including your desktop. So, I wipe all that unnecessary crap off of there and hand you over a clean (and fast!) brandy-spankin’-new computer.

(Yes, its true… once in a looooong while I will find something worthwhile, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.)

windows 7 desktop icons











“Optimization” means simply to make the computer work for you rather than you work for it. Along with all the icons on the desktop, there are programs that come pre-loaded on your new computer that are told to run when the computer boots up. And yes, every program takes time to load. And every program that runs put that much more strain on the CPU while the computer is in operation. So part of my computer repair routine is to thin these apps out – trim away the fat as it were.

Windows 7 makes it really simple to do – just go to the start button and in the search bar type “system configuration” – the System Configuration icon will appear, click it and start editing the Startup tab.

system configuration












Then, I go in and un-click everything that isn’t necessary for the operation of your computer.

system configuration









Of course, the trick is… knowing what  you can turn off, and what you have to leave on!

That’s what I’m for!

Ha ha!



When I’m setting someone up with a new computer, I tell them its okay to unplug their laptop once a week or so and just let the battery discharge for a bit. (psst! its okay!)

See, batteries are like dogs in a way – you gotta let ‘em out! You can’t keep your dog couped up in your house – you gotta let’em run! Let your dog… BE A DOG!

I say this because I see laptops whose batteries won’t hold a charge. The laptop will be on and running, but when you pull the plug – it dies!

That’s because they never “flexed” the battery. It needs to discharge a bit and get charged back up again.

Now, its true – today’s lithium-Ion batteries do “well” with many small discharges and recharges. Their lifespans are counted in how many charging “cycles” they endure. Thus, its better to discharge them only a little at a time and then get them back on the charger – not unlike the way we keep cell phones plugged in most of the time anymore. But that’s why I say “once a week” its good to take the power chord out – not every day.

Take the power chord out, browse around the internet with the boob tube on in the background, and when you get the alarm that says something to the effect of “hey, you’re down to 10% charge on your battery – you better get plugged in” then go ahead and plug it back in. (psst! the percentage number you see will vary by manufacturer – and you can customize that to  your liking as well.)

By the way, Microsoft has a *great* piece detailing how much energy each component of your computer uses. Be sure to take a look.



One of the first things I do on a new computer is take off the anti-virus.

Wait! What?! Did he just say that??

Yep. I did.

Can anyone guess why I would do that?

Well, remember up above when I said the OEMs get a little “kick back” from the vendors? One of those vendors is typically an anti-virus company. They’ll set you up with 60- or 90-days of free a/v protection, at the end of which they’ll hit you up for a standard $40 for a year’s worth of service. Its pretty solidly ensconced in the public’s common knowledge that you “should” have anti-virus and also that it “should” cost about $4o/yr.

Well, I’ve got news for ya, folks. You’re wrong. The times, they have a-changed.

Nowadays we have FREE anti-virus!

There’s no more any need to “pay money” for a/v anymore. Plain and simple.

You actually have a lot of options available to you. The market leaders in chronological order are: AVG, Avast, Antivir Personal, and Microsoft’s Security Essentials. I’ve used all three. I feel best recommending the last two.

Something you’ll hear me say when I’m talking to a client about a/v is… there’s “pay a/v” and there’s “free a/v.” The “pay a/v” isn’t perfect and neither is the “free a/v” – so why pay?

There! Covered that topic!


Well, not so fast.

Now that a/v is free, what are you going to do with all that money laying around? I have an idea for you: Online backup!


External Hard Drive – cost: $100 (aka… “the best $100 you can spend!”)

Remember up there I just said The “pay a/v” isn’t perfect and neither is the “free a/v” – so why pay? Well, what happens when you’re “imperfect” a/v fails you (as it is wont to do!)?

Mmmmm… that’s a real zinger! And its caught a lot of people on the hop.

From my point of view, the question becomes… how do you operate – how do you function – how do you ‘prepare’… when you KNOW you cannot trust this box (the computer)?

And the answer is… we give up. We let the viruses win.

Another way to say that is… we “image” the hard drive. On a regular basis we copy the entire hard drive, bit-by-bit to another hard drive.

And when we get hit (as we inevitably will) it is a relatively simple procedure to roll back to a time when the system was virus free.


For businesses I have a better system. (For a price, mind you.) But it is affordable and I have several clients on this system and they’re working wonderfully. It images all the hard drives in the office (up to ten) every night.

On station.. on time….. ready for call for fire!


But for individuals the best most-cost-effective means to do this is to purchase a $100 external hard drive and set up (for FREE – no additional cost involved) the backup system that comes within Windows 7 operating system. Once you have the ext HD, setting up Backup and Restore in Windows 7 is just a few simple steps and soon you’re ready to go. Couldn’t be simpler!

We’ll set this system up on a schedule, but the kicker is… if you’re setting this up on a laptop, you have to have the ext HD plugged in when the bkp system is configured to run a bkp of the HD.

If you can’t guarantee that you will have that ext HD plugged into the computer when the backups are scheduled, we’ll have to do something else. We need to go one step further. We need to train you the user how to manually run a backup. Luckily, that’s just a couple steps. Yes, some will balk at that, but I’m not kidding, the skills required to send an email to a specific individual or download an attachment and open it in the app of your choice are actually more complex.


Power Configuration

I’ll typically modify a new computer’s power configuration appropriate the setting. If its a laptop, I have a way to set it (also, what to do when you close the lid) and if its a desktop, when to sleep it, when to go into screensaver mode.

Windows 7 is very “sleep friendly” – you should take advantage of that. Windows 7 is an enormous piece of software. Even with fast hard drives and even faster chips, it takes a long time to shut it down and a long time to start it up again. There’s no real advantage to shutting it down. But people have it in their minds that they “need” to turn it into the fully powered-down, fully “off” position when they’re done using their computer.

That’s not necessarily the case. I contend that sleep mode is better because, it “shuts down” far quicker (ie – the user “sees” the screen go black) and when the computer “turns on” again, it returns to the same state it was when you finished last time! All the windows

For sure, you’ll probably notice things hanging, pausing, higher memory use, etc if its been a while since you’ve done a full restart (I know I have!) so, once a week, give it the ole restart. Or as you’re turning in for the night, instead of putting it in sleep mode, just go ahead and select “Shut Down” from the power settings in the start button.

windows 7 shut down options

When I’m setting up a new computer for a client of my computer repair service, I set the default shut down option to “Sleep” for my clients as well as some other “sleep friendly” settings elsewhere in the power options etc.










Wow.. I’m actually quite surprised how long this got! I kid you not, I did NOT intend for this to get so long! All of this stuff is either rattling around in my cranium or otherwise informs my actions in the background while I’m on-site. When you put it down in legible form though, it gets quite verbose!

Your turn! What do you have to say??