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Posted at 1:36 PM ET, 12/23/2010

How to set up your new computer, 2010 edition (with video)

By Rob Pegoraro

One of the less significant signs of the holiday season is the reappearance of my annual "How to set up your new computer" column. This year's will appear in Sunday's Business section but is now online for your consideration.

This time around, I've also done a video outlining some of my suggested changes to Windows and Mac OS X settings and program installations and uninstallations, as you can see below.

(For earlier episodes, such as last week's inspection of Mobile DTV technology, see our video channel.)

This is the sixth version of this column, following editions I wrote in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The major items in the changelog for this year's release:

* I advise running Apple's Migration Assistant when prompted but saving Microsoft's Windows Easy Transfer until after a first round of updates (the former takes much less time, while with the latter you'll want to have updated security software on board in case you have any viruses lurking in your files).

* I address a common question from earlier columns by advising against Mac anti-virus software unless you're in the habit of typing in your admin password when strange downloads ask for it.

* I recommend uninstalling Java and Silverlight to lower your software-upkeep burden down the line (you can always install them back if a site important to you requires them, but I'm betting against that happening).

* For similar ease-of-maintenance reasons, I narrowly recommend Chrome over Firefox. Not having to worry about Flash and Adobe Reader updates is a major advantage for Google's browser.

* Google loses out in my advice for photo-editing apps on Windows, as I now prefer Microsoft's Windows Live Photo Gallery for its editing and, more important, picture-sharing options.

* I no longer advise installing iTunes in Windows. If you have an iPod, you'll install it anyway. If you don't, I've realized that in Windows 7, Windows Media Player is pretty good in its own right.

I expect many of you won't agree with this advice. For what it's worth, I wouldn't follow all of it on my own computer. But I'm not writing for me. I'm writing for the less-experienced home users who e-mail me for tech support every week. Their sometimes confused requests for help have taught me that many people will give up on what you might call liturgically correct computing advice: They get tired, they get lost, they get intimidated and sometimes they wind up worse off than if they'd done nothing. Considering that risk, I would rather offer advice that works, even if sub-optimally, for non-enthusiast types.

What changes would you recommend in the 2011 version of this column? Post your suggestions in the comments below.

By Rob Pegoraro  | December 23, 2010; 1:36 PM ET
Categories:  Computers, Mac, Security, Tips, Windows  
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Comments

1. Save money and system resources by uninstalling the trail AV software and go with a free Anti-Virus like Windows Security Essentials, AVG, etc. Both are user and system painless for the most part.

2. Install Malwarebytes and put a shortcut to it on your desktop. When scareware strikes this freeware (download.com) makes recovering pretty painless. And the latest scareware will lock you out of Task Mgr, most Antivirus applications, and their related software sites (and more) in the first minute or so. If you can get Malwarebytes running and do a "quick" scan 9 times out of 10 you will be good to go.

Posted by: tojo45 | December 23, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Another effective and free utility named HitMan Pro (also at download.com) was able to resolve the only malware problem that a Malwarebytes scan did not fix for me.

It provides full functionality for 30 days and after that will only identify the name and location of infected files. Most of the time you can then use Windows Explorer to locate and delete the offending file(s). May need to go to Tools > Folder Options > View and select "Show hidden files and folders."

So I suggest not installing it until you have a problem that Malwarebytes can't solve. Or you can buy it ;-)

Posted by: tojo45 | December 23, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

I recommend installing: Secunia PSI, Belarc Advisor, Caps Lock 1.4, CCleaner, Deadlink, Desktop OK, Folderico or Folder Marker, HDD Health, Key Scrambler, Sandboxie, TCP Optimizer, Unlocker, Web of Trust, Roboform, Google Earth, VLC Media Player, and DVD Videosoft. Most of these are available on Download.com for free.

Posted by: Ricardo3 | December 24, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Tojo45 is right, malware bytes is a great utility and free.(www.malwarebytes.org)

However, don't uninstall java or silverlight, many sites use either/both and you will have problems with many if you uninstall.Bad advice.

Posted by: citigreg | December 25, 2010 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Before Buying, Have extra Hard drives Installed.. Do that First, As After Purchase, Extra Hard Drives Violate Activation & Be Out Value of Windows, Hundreds of Dollars.

Then ask for Disc upon Purchase, Install 4 partitions per hard drive.install machine disc after first start up, so have that handy.probably mfg has website & RW dvd & disc will take just as well, better just download to DESKTOP. Once Partition fails due to malware or abuse, simply go to next partition, keep defunct partition, as often machine finds solution to problem in time, say year & NO data will be lost. Also, Data Can be pulled from Balky Partition from another partition.Go Slow on Adding partition, as rushing will cause real problems that stay problems, permanetly. learn to use delete partition on bad install & Learn to use System & Boot Restore in Windows disc, to keep boot up fresh, learn to default bios, available upon first startup

Probably Game Card Might be wise to install at some point, No violation of Activation on that, Home can do. Range of cpu from single core semperon in cheapo, then add own 3,4, or 6 core, All OK, No Risk, yet single core $30 semperon does do pretty good job. HOT Stuff runs to hundreds of dollars, 3 or 4 core under hundred might be best value. Have all memory slots filled with identical sticks of memory, 2 gb x 4 might be good, although more than most need.yet, also value point. if 2 1 gb sticks ddr3 in, add 2 more 1 gb, look for same model number memory.

Fancy lcd or led at 200$, High Defination, 1080P is good value. Should get about 24" & HDMI.

Buy Kodak 182 12 mp camera, about $70. Very Sharp & for money, extreme quality. atsc TV Tuner CARD is good, yet often way too expensive,usb stick are thin, look for A/V in Card, use about 40 Db boost for atsc antenae.webcam for $20 is good. Some have high pixel count, kodak182 do job,too.

Speakers, $7 Each, several.Windows Ready Boost Flash stick, might help.Even on Windows 7, 64 bit from there most of Other add ons are Not always that satisfying or Useful.

Telephone service for free might be wise, especiall if want to call webpages tel #. Remember FREE. Learning should be Free, yet mistakes often Break entire Mechanism. so GO SLOW & be very careful, don't stress or push computer, doing so forces unit to learn BAD Changes, then stuck for long time & partition failure as end result. for virus,malware & trogans, Lavasoft Free edition will save unit, if use scan at end of each session. Use Updates from Microsoft. Turn on Firewall. Check Media Center for starter & see quality possible.If Clean Registry, Do that Once Year or Strip too much out.

Well, thats MY two thousand words worth. Use same login ID & Password thru out to remember easier.Above only applies of x86 or x64 machines, Not so much apple. Skip Linux. Get Broadband. Use white fence for discount, $30 rcn = 10 Mb/s, 2 mb/s Is minimum, DSL IS WORSE.

Signed:PHYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART von DRASHEK M.D.

Posted by: thomasxstewart1 | December 25, 2010 1:56 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Rob for a very useful column. I'll keep your advice in mind when I finally get a new computer - I haven't got one yet. Right now I'll just slog along with my broken down laptop...;-).

Merry Christmas!

Posted by: darkasnight1234 | December 25, 2010 4:11 AM | Report abuse

Rob, this is a noble effort, but precisely because no computer user is "average", such a guide is inevitably incomplete, simplistic, and potentially misleading. The basic sequence of steps you identify is right, but the devil is in the details. Perhaps a better way of presenting a plan for setting up a new computer would be in a matrix which presents more customized options/suggestions.

Here are a few specific reactions (having just gone through this myself with a new Win7 x64 machine):

1. Consider downloading Decrapifier to remove junk-ware from the new computer -- it helped me (modestly).

2. In addition to the free MSE malware detector/remover (wholeheartedly agree), consider a third-party free firewall such as COMODO, which has several advantages over the built-in Windows firewall.

3. Consider downloading/installing the free Secunia PSI. Ricardo 3 above has a number of other good suggestions that I would second -- a few I'm not familiar with, but Belarc, CCleaner, Advanced SystemCare Free, AIM or Trillian IM, Unlocker, and Roboform (which does require a payment for few functionality), are well worthwhile in my view -- other programs like Google Earth are great free programs, but just a matter of taste.

4. With Secunia running in the background, performing periodic scans to identify insecure/end-of-life programs, you might reconsider Flash and Silverlight. What I discovered is that the problem with insecure out-of-date versions of Flash were mostly embedded in junk-ware games and the like that came with the machine and aren't automatically replaced when I download the latest version of Flash. Abandoning Flash for your browser won't solve that, and it might not matter if you uninstall the garbage games or never access them.

5. In general, if you installed data files associated with programs on your old machine in the default locations, when you transfer files using Windows Easy Transfer, the newly installed program will immediately find the needed data files on your new machine.

6. Stick with Picasa and Firefox if you're used to them and liked them on your old machine -- and have set up the plug-ins, add-ons you like (Chrome and Win Live Photo Gallery may be fine, even marginally better, but this is really a personal choice, and prior investments of time in mastery matter).

6. Take an inventory of your installed programs on your old machine. Easy Transfer will help by creating a list, I believe. Prioritize the ones you will need and cross off ones you can now live without. Install the most needed ones first, and spread the work over a few days to ease the burden, if that makes sense. It can take some time. Some purchased programs that require 64-bit drivers may not work on your new Win7 x64 machine, so you'll have to investigate alternatives -- wasn't a big problem for me, but I did encounter it.

Posted by: rboltuck | December 25, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Thanks man. Thanks for making the new computer experience simple, unlike all the pseudo computer experts.

Posted by: jws2346 | December 25, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Thanks man. Thanks for making the new computer experience simple, unlike all the pseudo computer experts.

Posted by: jws2346 | December 25, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Thanks man. Thanks for making the new computer experience simple, unlike all the pseudo computer experts.

Posted by: jws2346 | December 25, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

I'd say Microsoft Security Essentials is all you need on the malware front. Also, if buying a name-brand computer, get rid of the many trial programs that come with it.

Java? For me, both Web sites and some software I use require it. Silverlight? For some reason the latest Silverlight upgrade did something to make Windows 7 Ultimate bluescreen on me. Not good, so I pulled Silverlight.

Beyond that, I don't know. CCcleaner is a good idea. Most of the the other registry cleaners seem to me to be junk.

Oh - a basic Windows rule: "Programs on C Drive, data on the rest." USB drives are cheap, take no brains to install, don't violate warranties, and make it easy to take data with you. They also don't stress too-small power supplies on name-brand computers.

As a note - my new computer is a screaming i7 monster (if you don't know what an i7 is, you you don't need one) built out of NewEgg.com (geeky online computer parts vendor) for me by a gaming freak friend. Total cost, including 25" monitor, worked out to about $800, while a similar spec Alienware (Dell high-end brand) would run $1500 or so, plus monitor.

So I have a computer that will render a 3-minute video in less than 5 minutes even if it's full of sfx. Amazing. And it has 4 USB ports -- on the front panel, and another 8 in back. My fancy CyberPower USB Hub only has 7. Guess I won't need the hub any more, eh?

Should you have a computer like this? Sure, if you're into gaming or CAD or massive photo or video work. Otherwise it's pointless, and you probably don't have friends who say "ooh" over a window in your computer's side and over your many USB ports and 2+TB of internal SATA HDDs plus at least that much in USB external drives and -- saved this for last -- liquid CPU cooling.

Liquid cooling is the true mark of geek excess.

There are also things you may be tempted to get but don't really need. For example, when you slide over the edge into customland, you may be tempted to get a Cooler Master case with a giant super-quiet light-up cooling fan and a 650W power supply, and these look so cool that you HAVE to have a window so you can look at your computer's great-looking innards. W00t!

All right, maybe you DON'T really need a lit-up computer interior and a window to see it. But when your friends come over, it will impress hell out of them. (Well, *my* friends, anyway.)

And natch, if you have fancy cooling, you need a fancy way to monitor CPU temperature. I'm using RealTemp. Get it from http://techpowerup.com -- nice and easy to install, takes up hardly any mem. footprint.

Anything else? Skype or something like it, I guess. I use Gizmo5, which Google just bought, because it has a very nice integrated recording utility.

And speakers - I have so-so Logitechs since headphones are ALWAYS better than speakers for critical sound tasks like editing music videos, so I choose to put my money into good 'phones instead of speakers.

Posted by: roblimo | December 25, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Simple..How to set up your new computer. Ask your Son to do it and when he complains lay the old "Alter all I've done for you speach". Works

Posted by: eaglehawkaroundsince1937 | December 25, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Key Scrambler encrypts your keystrokes, protecting you from keyloggers, adding an extra layer of security.

Sandboxie allows you to browse the web securely, isolating any malware in a folder called the "Sandbox."

Caps Lock 1.4 disables your caps lock key and insert key. It can be enabled from an icon in the task bar.

Deadlink scans your Favorites for dead links, highlighting them in red. It also install Favicons, to make it easier to identify your links.

TCP Optimizer usually only needs to be run once, to optimize internet connections.

Web of Trust identifys how risky entering a website is by using green (OK), yellow (caution), and red (dangerous)circles.

VLC media player has the codecs to play almost any audio or video track.

DVD Videosoft is a very useful program for converting video files to any type of mobile device.

Folderico or Folder Marker allows you to add color to your document folders to classify them.

Lastly, a neat gadget called the Mitron Hard Drive Power Selector Switch, available from Sidewinder Computers for about $30 plus shipping, allows you to hook up hard drives in a variety of configurations. One purpose would be to have a backup hard drive, turned off, but always ready to use if your primary hard drive fails.

Posted by: Ricardo3 | December 25, 2010 11:50 PM | Report abuse

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