Cheat sheets for setting up a new PC or Mac
I don't know how many of you will have new computers under your trees this year, given the continued crumminess of the economy, but I am pretty sure that those of you who do will have questions about how to set them up right. And so once again, I've set aside a column to walk people through that process.
This year's cheat sheet features the usual range of issues -- security, backup, getting rid of bundled applications you don't need, installing software you do need -- as in earlier versions of this column. But it covers two new operating systems, Microsoft's Windows 7 and Apple's Mac OS X Snow Leopard.
One, security has become less a matter of what programs you use to protect your PC (Mac users don't have to worry about that, owing to the lack of viruses for the Mac and Mac OS X's built-in defenses) than of what sort of skepticism you bring to the Internet. In this year's advice, I'm actually suggesting that people get rid of some third-party security software for simpler, free tools either built into Windows or available free from Microsoft.
Two, PC manufacturers still can't recognize how much they hurt their own cause by treating Windows' Start menu and desktop as billboard space to sell off to whatever software publisher or Web site will buy a shortcut or link there. Today's column would be at least a third shorter if these computer vendors would stop tarting up their machines with third-party junk that so many users ignore or resent. And don't even get me started on those useless stickers on the outside of the computer (memo to Intel: We've all figured out that you guys make processors by now).
Three, Microsoft's Windows 7 represents a genuine advance over Windows Vista, not to mention XP, if only for its inclusion of a decent backup tool, a system "tray" (the notification area at the bottom-right corner of the screen) that's finally clean of random third-party icons, and the ability to pin frequently-used programs to the taskbar.
Now I'd like to turn the discussion over to you all: What are the changes you make to a new Mac or PC? What settings do you change, what programs do you remove, and what applications do you add? Share your suggestions in the comments, then stop by my last Web chat of the year -- starting at noon today -- for one more round of tech troubleshooting and gadget guidance.
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