So, you just got a new PC! Good for you! For a variety of reasons however, there are a few things you might want to do with your new computer to make sure that you get the best possible experience when using it. Don’t worry though, we’re here with some tips that will help to make sure things run smoothly and efficiently. One quick word of warning however, any time you install and uninstall programs, or make other changes to a computer, there is a risk of creating problems, so proceed with caution, and if there is anything you don’t feel comfortable with, get help before trying it out. And while this advice should work for most Windows 10 users, due to variations from one machine to another, it is possible that parts may not work for you.
UPDATE YOUR PC
It may seem counterintuitive to have to update your brand new computer, but since you probably don’t know how long it’s been since it left the factory, it’s best to check and make sure it hasn’t missed any vital updates before doing anything else. To do this, you will first have to click on the Start button, which looks like the Windows logo and is found in the lower left corner of the screen. Alternately you can click on the key on your keyboard that contains the same logo. This will open the Start Menu. Along the left of the menu you will see several icons, the 2nd from the bottom should look like a gear. Click on that to open the Settings Menu. Once you are in there, look for the category marked Update & Security, and open it. By default, you should be in the Windows Update section. You will see a button there marked Check for updates. Click that and let the computer see what it finds. If you need a lot of updates, or a particularly major one, it could take a while to finish, and it may require the PC to restart several times. Also, some updates can’t install until previous ones have completed, so you should repeat the process until checking for updates doesn’t turn up any more results. Going forward, updates should happen automatically, so you most likely won’t have to do this again, but it doesn’t hurt to check every couple months or so just to be sure.
BACK-UP YOUR PC
At one time, computers came with an installation disk, so if things went really wrong, you could use that to reinstall Windows and start anew. Those days have passed however, and the only way to truly ensure you have this option available to you is to create a recovery drive. Luckily, Windows 10 makes this pretty easy to do. Firstly, you will need to purchase a flash drive. The size you require can vary greatly, but since they are generally inexpensive, we would recommend going for at least a 16 GB drive. You almost certainly won’t need nearly that much space, but it’s better to buy one that’s too big than to find yourself having to run back to the store because you didn’t have enough room. If you do have a smaller drive sitting around however, feel free to give it a try first, but be aware that anything already on it will be erased.
Now that you have a drive, you can begin the process. To begin, click in the field in the Taskbar (near the bottom left of the screen) that is labelled Type here to search, and then type in: create a recovery drive. The top result should also say, Create a recovery drive, so go ahead and click on it. If you are asked to enter an admin password, go ahead and do so, and if it asks if you want to allow this app to make changes to your device select Yes. The program will now open in a new window.
The checkbox labelled, Back up system files to the recovery drive, should be checked by default, but if it isn’t make sure to do so, and then hit Next. If you haven’t already, you can go ahead and plug your flash drive into your PC, select it from the list, then hit Next and then Create. Now you just wait as the computer does its thing, luckily you can feel free to use other functions on the computer while you wait. When it’s done, you may be presented with a link to Delete the recovery partition from your PC. If you are in urgent need of more space, you can go ahead and do this, but otherwise we would recommend leaving it, as it provides you with one more way to repair things in the event of a problem. If you decide to leave it, click Finish, and then you’re done!
This only creates a back-up copy of Windows however, you will still need to back-up your personal files. We recommend using a cloud storage service for this purpose, such as OneDrive or Dropbox. OneDrive comes built into Windows 10 and accessed via File Explorer. Dropbox can be installed directly onto your PC and used the same way. Both offer a limited amount of free storage and payment plans for more, but you may already be entitled to 1 TB of storage from OneDrive if you subscribe to Office 365.
Most computers these days come with a lot of unnecessary software pre-installed. Companies pay to have their products or games included on your PC, and the manufacturers use that money to help keep the cost you pay lower, even if only a little bit. Of course, you don’t have to keep these programs forever, and probably should get rid of at least a few of them. Before we go any further however, be aware that you should be very careful about what you uninstall, as removing some programs can negatively affect your ability to use your machine. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, get some help from someone you trust.
If you do feel confident enough to remove some programs, you should follow the previous instructions to open up Settings, and then look for the section called Apps. This will open a list of all of the programs installed on your computer. There shouldn’t be too many installed on your PC yet, so the list ought to be relatively short. As a general rule, the apps that are safe to uninstall will be games, or contain the word “game” somewhere in their names. You will want to avoid removing anything with the word “driver” in it, anything made by Microsoft, anything made by your PC’s manufacturer (HP, Toshiba, Lenovo, etc…), or anything by one of the manufacturers of the parts inside the PC (Intel, AMD, Nvidia, Realtek, etc…). There are cases in which it is safe to uninstall some of these things, but if you aren’t sure, it is best to leave them alone. You can also find information about any programs you might see in the list on Google or specialized websites like Should I Remove It? to help you determine if they are safe to remove or not. Once you are sure that you want to get rid of a program, click on it in the list, and then select Uninstall.
Your computer very likely already came with antivirus software by either McAfee or Norton preinstalled. What most people don’t realize however, is that Windows 10 comes with Windows Defender built in, and that program has improved so much over the years, that currently it should provide more than adequate protection for most users and has the added benefit of being free. That being said, Norton does score better on most tests, so it is the better paid option. If you do decide to go with Windows Defender, just uninstall the antivirus software already on your PC the same way we uninstalled programs above, restart your computer, and it should start running on its own.
Remember though, that no matter how good it is, no antivirus software is 100% accurate all the time. As such you will probably want to have a few other tools available should you need them. The best of these right now is Malwarebytes. This program has an excellent track record of finding and removing malicious programs from your computer after it has already been infected. It is so good that some malware will actually prevent you from downloading or installing it, so it is best to have it on your machine in the first place. They do offer a paid version with active monitoring, but the free version which only runs when you open it will be more than enough for most people.
Of course, the best line of defense is to avoid getting your PC infected in the first place, and Web of Trust is a great way to do so. It is a completely free browser plug-in, that you install on any browsers you use to surf the internet. It displays a colored circle to the right of any links you come across via search or in social media sites like Facebook to let you know how safe other web users think a site is. The color coding is pretty straightforward; using green for safe, yellow for suspicious, red for unsafe, and gray when there aren’t enough ratings yet. Because the safety of each site is determined by users, it isn’t totally foolproof, but it will mostly help to steer you away from sites that might cause harm to your computer or engage in other shady practices.
While your computer does come with most of what you need to get by pre-installed, you will very likely want or need to install a couple of extra pieces of software to get the most out of it. Luckily, rather than having to hunt all over the internet for what you want, Ninite allows you to download and automatically install many of the best free programs available all at once. You simply check the box next to the software you want, scroll down and click Get Your Ninite, and then follow the instructions. We have highlighted a few of the best programs available through Ninite below.
Windows 10 comes with Internet Explorer and Microsoft’s new Edge browser installed, but many users prefer using Chrome or Firefox, both of which are available here.
If you use iTunes or Spotify, you can download both as part of your Ninite package. Additionally, if you plan on playing DVDs or Blu-rays on your PC, you will need to download the VLC player found here, as Windows no longer natively supports playback.
If you only really use your computer to surf the web and check email, you may not need these, but many programs require Java or Air to run, so if you think you might need them you should go ahead and get them while you’re here. Just remember that these programs are notorious targets for hackers, so make sure you update them when they ask you to do so in the future.
You can get the aforementioned Malwarebytes here, if you haven’t done so already. Likewise, if you want something more robust than Windows Defender but don’t feel like paying for Norton, there are good, free options available here like the highly rated Avast.
If you already use Dropbox you can download that here as well. If you plan on using Microsoft’s OneDrive it is already built-in on Windows 10, so there is no need to get it here.
Windows 10 can already unpack zipped files, but 7-Zip offers some more options while doing so and can also open more formats, so it might be worth getting if you deal with a lot of them.
If you don’t want to pay for Microsoft Office, but want something more full-featured than Google Docs, you can find the most popular free alternatives here in LibreOffice and OpenOffice. You might also want to pick up some PDF software from this section if you work with them often.
There are a lot of options here for different situations, but if you want a free alternative to Photoshop that is fairly easy to use, you might want to grab Paint.NET.
No other PC gaming platform can rival the popularity of Steam, so if you plan on playing games on your new computer, it makes sense to download it while you’re here.
And that’s basically it! Like we said before, you’ll want to exercise caution whenever making major changes to your PC, so don’t do anything on your own if you feel truly uncomfortable doing it. This is especially true when it comes to uninstalling programs. Whenever you add a new program or update an existing one, make sure to read the steps as it walks you through them and especially keep an eye on any pre-marked checkboxes to make sure you aren’t inadvertently installing extra software that you didn’t want. Of course, if you have any further questions or need a little help, feel free to call the library at 609-967-7155 to make an appointment with our tech department.