Undoubtedly, some of my friends will wake up on Christmas day and find a new, shiny Windows-based computer under the tree. Or, maybe you have a computer that’s not that old and wants to eliminate the junk software. What do you do with it now that you have it, and where is the best place to start? The PC manufacturers want you to unpack it, fire it up, and get busy, leaving all their crappy little software applications alone. I advise that once you have it powered up and running, back away from the keyboard slowly to think for a moment. This article includes some facts and info for you to consider. I am not asking you to remove the case and disassemble it. I suggest a few tweaks to the software before you dive in and start using it.
Let’s start where, hopefully, your computer has already started for you automatically. Understand that the PC manufacturers keep the versions of their software somewhat current, but the first thing that should happen when you start a new computer is a Windows Update. The Windows Update goes out to the big Microsoft Server in the sky and updates the operating system. This update goes out and grabs entire new versions, version updates, and patches to the operating system. When a new virus or security hole in the operating system appears that needs fixing, sometimes the only way to improve it is with an upgrade or a patch to the software. That is where Windows Update comes in. Your new system should be set up to run a Windows Update straight out of the box when it detects a network connection. That Windows Update will run on a schedule and will go out and keep your machine current. If it doesn’t automatically, click the Windows Control Panel’s “Windows Update” link and let it do its work.
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The next thing you will possibly see is a prompt from an internet Security program bundled into the software that came with your computer. The anti-virus developers play on your emotions to make you think you will have problems if you don’t use their software. They give the software to you free for 30, 60, or 90 days, and then you are hooked. You have to sign up and provide them with a credit card for 12 months’ worth of their valuable service. I suggest uninstalling their software ASAP and downloading and installing Microsoft Security Essentials. It is free, comes from Microsoft, integrates well with their Operating System, and does a better job than the ones you have to pay for. You can search for Microsoft Security Essentials or do a search and download. So, my first suggestion is to dump the included anti-virus that comes with your PC; it will save you money and a lot of headaches. To uninstall and then delete a program like an anti-virus that came with your new PC loaded with Windows 7, here is how you do that. Go to your Control Panel and click the “Programs and Features” link. Scroll down in the list until you find the program you want to delete, and click the Uninstall button at the top of the box.
Keeping two anti-virus programs running simultaneously is not a good idea. They may conflict, so I would delete the one that came with the PC first, then download and install Microsoft Security Essentials. The next step is to update what are called plug-ins on your system. The most important plug-in is Adobe’s Flash plug-in. Flash plays most web videos and other website content requiring user interaction. The latest version should be downloaded here. The next plug-in that needs installation is Adobe Reader X, and it can be installed by downloading here. The Adobe Reader is used to read any PDF Files that might be emailed or sent to you. The next PDF-related plug-in is needed if you have installed Microsoft Office 2007 or Microsoft Word 2007. That MS plug-in is the “Microsoft Save as PDF” plug-in for Word. It can be found here. It doesn’t hurt to install Oracle’s Java update, but most home users don’t use it much, and it is required more in a business setting than for home use. Here is the location to download and install if needed.
The next step is to install a backup system. You must create backup copies on an external disk for any backup system to work. That means either an external USB hard disk drive or an external USB RDX drive for most users. The RDX drive is a rugged hard drive in a protective case and is the more expensive option of the two, but they both allow you to unplug the disk and plug a new disk, allowing you to create more than one backup copy. The RDX is possibly overkill for a typical home user, but I mention them here if you want to go that route. You can find links on the web to look at RDX drive technology; I suggest looking for a Tandberg RDX drive to see what one looks like and what I am talking about here. Most users will make backups to an external hard drive attached to their computer by plugging it into an available USB port. Once it is plugged in and the drivers are loaded, you treat it like any other hard drive in the system. When you are done, you can leave it plugged in or unplug it for safekeeping. If your data is highly critical, I suggest unplugging it, storing it, and plugging it back in when you need to back up.
A software developer in Longmont, CO, creates a very well-featured software product, and for the money ($99.00), you can’t buy a better backup product for a laptop or desktop computer. The product you want to look into is the Datastore Pro Desktop version. Go online and search for their website for a demo of the product. Another no-cost option is always to use the backup software included inside Windows. The big differences are in utility, and the Pro Desktop software from the data store contains data de-duplication, which is a great disk-saving feature and is an ace product for a home user to use. Download an evaluation and use it. If you like it, you can buy it online with a credit card after evaluating it. To set up the free backup application with Windows, start by going to Backup in the control panel or click Start and type Backup in the search field. You will see the Backup application pop-up in the window or Windows 7; you can click the little red flag in the bottom right corner of your screen. That little flag is Windows 7’s reminder that there are items that need attention. With Windows backup, you can back up a CD, DVD, or an external flash or hard drive. I recommend always backing your data to an external hard drive because it is quicker, easiest to use, and provides the most capacity to store your data. If you don’t own one, ensure you get one next time you purchase tech.
Now that we have addressed system security with Microsoft Security Essentials and discussed the need for a good backup of your system data using Datastores’ Pro Desktop product, let’s look at all the many icons on the desktop and clean that up. Shall we? Any unused icons on the desktop can be deleted or thrown into the recycle bin. When you delete the desktop icon, you are not deleting the application, only the icon that starts it. Uninstall any trial software using the uninstaller we discussed earlier in this article. To remove unwanted toolbars, drag your mouse to the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Find an empty spot and right-click. Up comes a menu, and you want to click toolbars. Next, a small window will open with all the installed toolbars listed. The ones with checkmarks are active, and you see them on the screen. If you uncheck one of them, the toolbars will disappear until you repeat the procedure and re-check the box next to it. When you have the toolbars the way you like them, on the way out, click the link that says “lock the toolbars.” Next time you want to make adjustments, unlock them, make changes, and lock the toolbars back to your desktop.
There is a program I will mention here that might help you with your PC cleanup process. It is dangerous, so use it carefully! The program is the PC Decrapifier and can be downloaded here. The PC Decrapifier is free for personal use. However, if you find it helpful and would like to show your appreciation, you can donate to the purchase tab. I wouldn’t say I greatly appreciate the Windows browser and Internet Explorer included. I prefer to use Mozilla’s Firefox browser. I find the Firefox Browser to be more intuitive and faster. Firefox can be downloaded here. Another option is Google’s Chrome browser; it is faster and automatically updates its Adobe Flash and PDF plug-ins. Chrome can be downloaded and installed here. As I have stated, your PC is probably the biggest tool in your toolbox, at your disposal while reinventing yourself.
This article hopefully will help you whip a new computer into shape as soon as possible. Besides, there is nothing better than a finely tuned computer, ready to go, and nothing worse than a poorly equipped and powered computer. As always, if you need help, ask for it. Only delete programs with the uninstaller included with Windows; think twice before you delete anything. Software is a lot easier to delete than it is to reinstall. Since you have a new computer, call tech support and tell them what you are doing. They most likely will be helpful. They are interested in keeping the anti-virus and the other software installed, so remember that and stand your ground if you want to uninstall it. I hope this all helps, and all my friends have a Prosperous New Year!