There are few more exciting moments in the life of a person than the hours after purchasing a new computer. It is like buying a car. All you want to do is test it, and check its performance.
But do not rush. No need to install programs and applications like crazy. Through a series of preliminary steps and checks, you can learn how to set up your new computer and ensure that it reaches maximum performance.
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 on what to do with a new computer?
First of all, congrats on your new laptop! This doesn’t happen every day, and picking the right one was probably a tough choice. What should you do now after you take the shiny new thing out of the box?
So here’s our list:
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 is in the right place
Take a look at the system specs to make sure that you got what you 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, especially 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
A new browser is also recommended. There’s Chrome, Opera, Firefox, and Safari. All of them offer a much safer passage through the tubes of the Internet than Explorer.
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.
Make sure you install an antivirus
Before you start downloading things as if there was no tomorrow, it is advisable to take extreme security measures. It is essential to have antivirus and antimalware software activated.
Windows 10 natively incorporates a security solution that is of quality and already includes an antimalware module, so Windows Defender may be enough if you are an individual and you do not enter dubious websites or do crazy things like clicking on email links of strangers.
In the case of the company, or if you are one of those with "dark habits" when it comes to Internet browsing, there are security solutions at a great price.
Of course, NEVER use two antivirus programs at the same time on your computer since, in addition to negatively affecting the performance of your computer, conflicts will occur between them.
You already have your PC optimized. Now is the time to check the performance. Even more important: that they have not sold you a pig for a hare. Logically, if the seller is trustworthy, there will be no problem, but with dozens of similar models of processors, graphics chips, memory chips, etc., you have to make sure that they have given us what they promised us.
Start by installing a utility, they do a check on your hardware and show you the make, model and speeds of all the components. Take the invoice or the list of specifications of your new PC, and check that they match the data that the utility gives you. If any don't fit, tell the seller about it.
To measure performance you can use numerous benchmarks, such as 3DMark Basic Edition, which measures the power of the graphics card or PCMark Basic Edition, which checks the generic performance, or UserBenchmark, which tests component by component.
These applications compare the performance of your computer with that of other users with the same hardware. So you can tell if it works slower (or faster) than normal.
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 an 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!