Monday, October 16, 2006

software and tweaks for your new computer

I have several friends who just purchased new computers. Since I went through the set-up process not that long ago on my laptop (and since I spent all weekend fiddling with my desktop), I thought that I should share a list of tweaks and essential (free) software. My apologies to my Mac friends as this is Windows-centric.

So, you’ve unboxed that new computer. Obviously you need to plug it in and connect your peripherals (printer, scanner, etc.) but there is much more to making your machine lean and mean.

Step 0: Make sure that your machine is behind a firewall/router and running anti-virus software before connecting to the internet. Then, check for software updates from Microsoft Update and new drivers from your manufacturer’s support site.

Step 1: Uninstall the trialware and special offers your manufacturer likely dumped on your desktop. Additionally, MSN Messenger and Outlook Express are great candidates for removal.

Step 2: Get your Start Menu in order. For me that means enabling Classic view. To do this, right-click on the Start button, select Properties, and pick Classic Start menu on the Start Menu tab.

Bonus tip: While you are on the Start Menu tab, select Customize and check the boxes for Display Administrative Tools, Expand Control Panel and Expand My Documents. Also, unselect Use Personalized Menus

Step 3: Disable autorun on your CD/DVD. Trust me, this will make your life easier. Engadget has the

Step 4: Turn on ClearType, an essential move if you have an LCD and like crisp text. I have

Step 5: Install spyware defenses if they are not already on your machine. I love Lavasoft’s
Ad-Aware, and I have started using MSFT’s Windows Defender now that it is further along in Beta.

Step 6: Consider switching to
Firefox. Previously, I have mentioned at least one good reason why.

Step 7: Improve search. I recommend
Copernic for desktop search, and I can’t live without the Google Toolbar for internet search (IE, Firefox). Review Google’s privacy options carefully, though.

Step 8: Control what applications start with Windows (hint: too many). You can edit the registry directly or use a program like the Startup Inspector in

Step 9: Install TrueCrypt – the securest way to protect your sensitive files. A past post
explains more.

Step 10: Add in essential “productivity” programs like
iTunes, picasa and Skype. Once again, (at least) one cool thing is on the job with the details.

Finally, confirm that everything is working properly. Use ShieldsUP! to test your internet security, dsl reports to test the speed of your interenet connection, and benchmarking software like Sandra 2007 to check that your hardware is performing as expected.

Bonus link: more great freeware
Bonus site: lifehacker for more great tips


At 11:30 PM, Anonymous stuartb said...

Thanks Doc. For those of us who for complete lack of insight in the late 80s failed to go into tech, this is a VERY helpful post.


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