Before I begin, I should mention that this guide is for the people who don’t want to format their laptop and install a fresh copy of Windows. You might want to preserve your legitimacy or something, I dunno. Whatever your reason, read on!
You’ve probably just got home from the store with your shiny laptop, and booted it up for the first time ever. To the untrained eye, the computer is all fresh and clean with a few bits of software on it which will help in some way. In fact, a surprising amount of that software your new laptop came with is absolute garbage – it’s gotta go. And that’s not just the only thing you should be doing with your new setup. Read through this guide and I’ll explain how to set up your new computer once it’s out of the box. Also, you may find that I’ve missed out certain bits of information such as how to create a restore point, etc. I’m not here to hold your hand, and you need to learn how to use Google properly to find out information for yourself. I don’t mean this in a bad way, I just generally think you will benefit from it in the end! Anyway, onto the guide.
We will be covering the following things;
- Creating a Restore Point
- Uninstalling Software + Windows Features
- Adjusting Performance Options
- Windows Update
- Installing software + Antivirus
- Using msconfig to speed up startup
- Cleaning up your desktop with a shortcuts folder
- Regular Maintenance
Here’s what my new laptop looks like before I started this guide;
Creating a Restore Point
Before we get to business, you’re going to create a restore point. This is in case anything goes wrong and you need to restore your computer to this exact point in time. It’s a very handy thing to do when you’ve got a fresh install of Windows, as you know that everything is working out of the box with no modifications at all.
Uninstalling Software + Windows Features
If you open up your Programs and Features list, you will notice that there is already a LOT of stuff on there already! You might not have installed anything yet, which just goes to show how much garbage companies pre-load their computers with. Have a flick through it and uninstall anything which you don’t need. This includes pointless games, third-party screensavers, software launchers, search bars, etc etc etc. I managed to trim my list of 49 programs down to about 10 or 15, just to give you an idea of how much you can remove.
Next, click in the left sidebar on the link which takes you to “Turn Windows Features on or off”. This will bring up a box which looks like this;
In here, you can uninstall all kinds of unnecessary stuff such as Windows Games (solitaire, hearts, etc) as well as other things like the Windows Sidebar or Tablet Support.
You might also wish to take this time to go through your documents, pictures and video folders to delete anything which might be sitting in there. Remove those pointless sample files as well!
Adjusting Performance Option
Right-click on “Computer” in the start menu, select “Properties” and click the “Advanced System Settings” link in the sidebar. You will be able to select performance options in there, and bring up a box which looks like this;
On your machine, every single box will be ticked because Windows wants to look as nice as it possibly can. Needless to say, this isn’t very good for performance – especially if you’re running a machine which isn’t very powerful. Make sure that you tick the same boxes I have done. There are two more which didn’t fit onto the screenshot which are ticked as well. This will allow your computer to look nice, and run a little faster.
You’ve got a legal copy of Windows, so why not use the updates properly! Keeping your system up to date will be great for security and performance, as updates contain latest patches and updates for software. Make sure you go through the update settings and check that everything is set up just how you want it.
Installing software + Antivirus
Now that you’ve gone and removed all that garbage software which was pre-loaded onto your computer, you should go onto the internet and download your own! The first thing I always download is my favorite Anti-Virus software and a good internet browser. Forget paying for security – free software is good enough.
Install anything else you might need. I recommend the following;
- Pidgin – Instant Messaging Client.
- WinAmp – Music Player, compatible with iPods.
- Media Player Classic – For playing literally any file out there.
- Dropbox – Backup and file sharing software.
- Steam – Gaming!
Using msconfig to Speed up Startup
Controlling which programs load when your computer starts up can not only speed up the boot process, but also reduces load on your system as these programs will not be running in the background when your PC is on. Open the Start menu and type in “msconfig” without the quotation marks. Hit enter, and you should be presented with a System Configuration window which looks like this one;
Click on the Startup tab like I have done. Here is a list of all the programs which are set to start when your computer boots, and it’s pretty obvious that you don’t need things like Adobe Acrobat booting when your computer does. Untick anything which you don’t need on boot. Next time you restart your computer, a popup will appear – simply tick the box and hit OK to it.
Cleaning up your desktop with a shortcuts folder
For the love of God, keep your desktop clean and well maintained. Nothing looks worse than someone having a desktop with no clear space. Besides, there’s no way in hell you know exactly where specific shortcuts are in that mess, so it’s not saving you any time at all. Get rid of shortcuts to things you don’t use regularly. Is it really that hard to use the taskbar and the start menu to find your programs?
You should now be left with your most used shortcuts, but that’s still not good enough! Create a folder on your desktop called “Shortcuts”, and stick all your shortcuts in there. Create another folder inside of that one called “Maintenance” as we’ll be using that in the next section.
All this hard work won’t pay off unless you take care of your computer properly. This includes running a disk defragmenter regularly (I suggest once a week), keeping everything up to date, organized and above all – crap free. Here’s my top 3 downloads I can recommend. Interestingly, they’re all made by the same company – Piriform.
CCleaner – Removes junk files from your system, cleans out temporary files, internet cache, and a whole load more.
Defraggler – Fantastic disk defragmenter, need I say more?
Speccy – The third and final installment from Piriform. It’s a system resource monitor, keeping checks on your system temperatures and many other things. Check it out!
I recommend running CCleaner and Defraggler at least once a week. Keep on top of removing your junk files as well as defragmenting afterwards, and the whole process won’t take very long at all. I love having a fresh system!
Finally, I’ll recommend learning how to take care of your computer’s hardware too. Make sure you get all the dust out of it once in a while, keep it clean and treat it well. If you take care of your computer, it will take care of you.
And that concludes my guide to properly setting up a computer with factory settings. I hope you enjoyed it, and found it interesting and as always – contact me if you need any help with anything. Either that, or ask on the Totse forum. Take care!