Security 101

Tips: 8 essential things to do with your new computer

New Macbook

Almost every day we get emails asking for tips on what to do after installing Prey. So we figured, given that our software is usually installed on new devices, why not share a few other tips as well?

So here’s our list!

First of all, congrats on your new laptop! This doesn’t happen ever day, and picking the right one was probably a tough choice. What should you do now after you took the shiny new thing out of the box?

First of all, power

First and foremost, you should plug the device to power and fully charge its battery before turning it on. We know, it’s difficult to wait, but this is very important. Around 10 or 12 hours will be OK (hey, that’s only one night!). This way your computer will recognize the battery’s full potential, it will perform at top condition and will last as much as it was designed to do. Haste could prematurely ruin your battery life and we don’t want that.

If you live in an area where there are voltage spikes or power outages, please get a surge protector to prevent damage to the computer’s power supply and internals. That’s a very common reason why computers are sent to the graveyard, if not the most common one.

Everything in the right place

Take a look at the system specs to make sure that you got what your paid for. If you’re using Windows, download the free CPUID. If you’re on a Mac, Apple Icon > About this Mac > More Info on OS X will tell you exactly what’s installed on your new device. Linux users have a variety of options, but we like the console-based lshw.

Look carefully and make sure the installed processor model and speed are correct, that you got the same HDD your vendor offered, and — if you paid for dedicated graphics — make sure the card is really in there. Regarding memory, running Memtest86 is always recommended.

And last but not least, don’t forget to check your screen for dead pixels — remember, you can always return your computer and get a new one. Googling for “check for dead pixels” returns this site, which looks pretty useful.

Protecting from scratches

Also, get a scratch guard or something similar if you want to prevent the PC from getting new scratches. Over time, specially if you carry your laptop along, the keyboard leaves marks on your screen which are pretty annoying.

You can also use an optical cleaning cloth for this. You can buy a large piece at your local optician and cut it the size you need — just remember to put it over the keyboard every time you close your laptop.

For external scratches, sleeves or special bags are the best solutions.

Next, update your OS (and optionally re-partition)

It’s very likely many security holes were fixed since the OS was installed in your computer. All you need is an Internet connection and finding the right option on your OS. If the computer runs Windows, you can find Windows Update manager on Windows’ Control Panel. If you’re running Mac OS X, click on the little black apple and then on Software Update. If your weapon of choice is Linux, then you surely know how to do this. 😉

Now, if you’re up to it, you may consider re-partitioning your hard disk, so that your documents are stored in a different partition than the one where your operating system is. This will make the process of formatting much easier in the future, since you won’t need to backup your files when reinstalling the OS — just format the partition where the OS is and voilá!

To do this you’ll need to either reinstall the OS — and choose a two-partition scheme when prompted — or you can resize the partition “on the fly”. We recommend the first option but if you’re short on time you can go for number two. Just remember to backup any files you may have copied already, since resizing can result in the loss of data.

Most modern OS’s include partition editors (i.e. Disk Utility for OSX), but if you’re thinking of resizing we recommend you burn the ISO and boot the open source Gparted since there’s a much lower chance you’ll lose data in the process.

Time for security software

As soon as you turn on your new laptop —and depending on its operating system— get a antivirus and/or a firewall in order to keep your machine clean and safe from intruders. Old viruses like the Blaster worm affected a huge number of new computers surfing unprotected, ruining brand-new Windows installations.

Recommendations? If you’re using Windows, try AVG (or its free version). For OSX users, we don’t think you need an antivirus but you can get the Little Snitch firewall for extra security. Firestarter is an easy way of maintaining your firewall settings in Linux (iptables).

Of course, you might also want extra security from physical threats, like Prey. Antiviruses won’t help to deal with burglars, you know!

Install your favorite software

For office suites, there’s always Microsoft Office, but you can find free solutions such as LibreOffice (formerly, or, if you only need text editing, AbiWord is also a great option.

A new browser is also recommended. There’s Chrome, Opera, Firefox, and Safari. All of them offering a much safer passage through the tubes of the Internet than Explorer.

Also, you might want to get a nice media player like VLC, or a BitTorrent client like Transmission (not to be used for piracy eh?).

We’re mad about Unreal Tournament, but we’ll leave the games up to you. After all, that’s the reason you bought the new computer in the first place, right? Hehe.

To search for different software alternatives there’s an awesome site called Alternative.To. You might want to check that out too.

Choose a backup solution

Why of course! System crashes or accidentally deleting files shouldn’t take your precious data from you, so you should get a cloud backup solution. Dropbox is awesome and, if you haven’t, you can try the new Google Drive which will integrate with Google Docs as well.

External drives are also a good choice if you want to keep a second copy of bigger files, such as hi-res movies. That way you don’t keep hitting the storage limits of your cloud solution!

By the way, have you migrated your data from your former PC? If not, you can a) copy the files through your local network, b) use a external drive to copy files or c) our favorite, which is connecting both PCs directly via Firewire or a USB port. Macs lets you do this easily by hitting the T key while the source laptop is turned on, which is known as Transfer Disk Mode.

And finally, get rid of your old device

Unless you plan on doing something else with it, it’s time to get rid of your old laptop! So go to Ebay, Craigslist or hell, just post an ad on Facebook and see what happens. Try to be clear about its specs and whether it has any damage or not.

A good, deep physical cleaning is a good idea, as well as a fresh OS reinstallation if you know how to do it. Selling a dirty laptop would diminish its value and, besides, you don’t really want to give away your personal data with your old computer!

A final word: if you’re feeling generous (or if the likely selling price for your old computer is too low for you) and you don’t have younger siblings, you can donate it to NPOs around your area, like the National Cristina Foundation in the US. Even Dell does!

Photo: Djenan (cc)

About the author

Fabián Núñez

I love tech and Asian food. Headbanging since 2002. Overall badass.