Merry Christmas! You just found that new computer under your Christmas tree and now you want to set it up and optimize it. Well here are some tips to get you started and make your computing experience the best.
If you decided not to pay the outrageous $99 to have your computer “optimized” by in store technicians, the first thing you will want to do is run Windows Update. You will find Windows Update by clicking on the start menu (the Windows symbol). Once opened, hold your curser over “All Programs” and the list will pop up. Scroll down to Windows Update, click on it and then click on update. More than likely over 30 updates will be found both important and optional. Optional updates usually include updated drivers so I recommend including those in the updates. This process may take a while and will require one if not two restarts. I recommend running Windows Updates a second time. Some updates won’t show up until the first batch is completed.
Directions for setting up a wired and wireless home network can be found here. Once you have your home network set up, you’ll want to go online to download a better browser. Internet Explorer is slow, and clunky to use compared to other browsers on the market. Two of my favorites are Firefox which allows a lot of customization through various add-ons and extensions. My 88 year old father-in-law prefers using Firefox. I prefer Google’s Chrome browser because it is quick, simple and if one tab has problems, the whole browser doesn’t go down. Other options are Opera and Apple’s Safari.
There are two places on your computer where you can adjust visual settings. The first is under Control Panel, Ease of Use. You can turn on auditory features that can help you move around your computer and programs as well as changing some visual features. The second is under Control Panel, “Appearance and Personalization”. You can increase the size of icons and print. You can also change your desktop background and theme, as well as, change the look of your curser. Computers these days don’t need a screen saver to keep images from burning into your screen. Instead screen savers only use more energy and can be irritating. Set your screen saver to “None”.
Another setting you will want to review and possibly change are the power settings found under Control Panel, “Hardware and Sound”, “Power Options”. These tell your computer how energy efficient you want to be, when you want your computer to dim the screen or go into sleep mode. If you have large complicated programs like animation intense games or large spreadsheet/data base programs, you will want to use the power setting. Most people choose more of a balanced approach. Setting your computer to enter sleep mode after 20 minutes to an hour of being idle will help you conserve energy and reduce wear and tear on your computer.
You probably have shortcuts on your desktop for Ebay, various online game sites and other programs you may never use. This is known as crap ware or bloatware. Unless you plan on visiting those sites, I recommend deleting them. Most of the game sites require a subscription or other forms of payment. You can delete them by right clicking on the shortcut and choosing to delete it. Get rid of unwanted programs using “Uninstall Programs” in your control panel. Some of the games can be turned off through the Control Panel, “Programs”, “Turn Windows Features On and Off.” You can choose what games to keep and which to turn off. Remember this feature. Once you’ve grown tired of one of the games you can turn it off easily.
A trial version of Windows Office comes on most computers. You can uninstall it through the Control Panel or you can activate it using an activation code. Activation codes can be bought in most electronics stores or online from Microsoft here. If you purchased a full version on CD you can still use your code to activate the version already on your computer or you can uninstall the trial and install Windows Office using your disk. Don’t install a second version of Windows Office without removing the trial version. It will only confuse things and will probably cause problems later. Plus it takes up disk space you want to use for other programs and data.
Windows computers come with Windows Media Player which will allow you to play music and view pictures and videos you put on your computer. You can install iTunes and Quicktime from Apple which will give you more music and video options. You can use iTunes gift cards with your computer iTunes program as well as with your iPod or iPhone.
Most new laptops come with Skype, an online voice and video chat program. It is great for keeping in touch with relatives and friends for free. Go ahead and set it up. You will enjoy using it, especially if you have children and grandchildren. Best of all, you can use it for free if you are simply connecting between computers. There are other features that allow you to call phone numbers, or even get your own online phone number but those cost money. For desk computers you will need headphones and a computer video camera.
These are just a few tips for getting you started with your new computer. Have a wonderful time playing around.
Remember to eat the fruit in your stocking and not just the candy! It will keep your brain working well while you set things up.