Windows Computer Setup and Configuration Tasks Checklist for Rebuilding or Setting up New Computers

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Update

Click here for a revised version of the setup checklist.

Overview

When a computer is purchased new from the store, or if one is being rebuilt by having Windows reinstalled, there are some standard tasks that generally get performed. This page provides suggested guidelines for setting up a computer from the point of reinstalling Windows on a fresh hard drive, or when setting up a refurbished or new computer for the first time.

Time and Cost Required

This process takes about 3 hours of time cumulatively (of actual hands-on), but could span over several days if a person is doing other things while they wait for updates and other processes to complete.

  • For example, working on a computer 10 minutes in one sitting, then 20 minutes sometime later in the day, then 30 minutes later that day, etc. Perhaps 18 of these little sessions could add up to 3 hours total.
  • If data transferring is required, this will take additional waiting time for files to copy.
  • Additional time will be needed for installing software such as Microsoft Office, or office management software (financial, medical, etc.).

Preparation

These initial steps below assume an installation (upgrade) on an old computer that needs to be wiped off and setup again.

  • If Using Existing Drive. If you plan to erase a computer’s existing hard drive and perform a fresh installation of Windows, backup all data first and then install Microsoft Windows 7 [Buy] or Windows 8.1 operating systems. Choose to format the drive for a clean installation.
    • When to Choose This Option. This process is sometimes necessary if a system has become corrupted or infected with a virus.
  • If Replacing Hard Drive. If performing a hard drive replacement, perhaps due to a hard drive crash, remove the old drive and install new drive. If the old drive has crashed, it could be sent to a data recovery center if files need to be recovered.
    • When to Choose This Option. This process is sometimes necessary if your system is messed up and you’d like to take the opportunity to upgrade the drive while installing everything fresh. If your old drive is readable (but perhaps not bootable), you could use an external drive dock or drive enclosure to read files from it.
  • If Working on a New Computer. If you are beginning with a new or refurbished computer, create an image backup using a bootable CD copy of Acronis True Image. This will allow you to restore the computer to like-new condition in the event of a hard drive crash, virus infection, or other system malfunction.
    • Note: Some new computers allow you to create recovery media. If you have this option, then you might ignore the image backup with Acronis at the beginning of this process. However, it may still be useful to make an image backup after you’ve configured your computer and installed all the software described below. That way, a recovery would include all of this work.

Run or Save

When installing downloaded software, you’ll  have an option to Run or Save (and then Run). Saving the software first can be helpful because it’s a record of what’s been installed and it also makes it easier next time if you need to install the software again — or copy it for someone else to use (since these are free programs).

Setup Process

  1. Network Connection. Ideally you’ll want to connect to a fast Ethernet wired Internet connection since there are quite a few large downloads and updates. If that’s not available, then use a wireless connection. When Windows detects a new network connection has been established, it will ask you to define it as public, work, or home. Choose Work in most circumstances, even if you’re on a home network. The Home setting assumes you’d like to share files and printers.
    • Network Adapter Note: If you’re setting up an older refurbished computer using the reinstallation CD, it may be necessary to cross reference the computer serial number to obtain the original system configuration information as well as the network card drivers. Alternatively, if you have a USB to Ethernet adapter with software on CD, you can use that to get connected, and then use the manufacturer’s system information scanner to determine the current configuration.
    • Video Adapter Note: After installing the network card drivers, the next software download needed is the specialized video card drivers if available. This will help the video card run faster and provide you with greater control over video. You can obtain this from the manufacturer’s website.
  2. Shortcut to This Page. Since you’ll be returning to this list repeatedly, it would be helpful to have a shortcut on the desktop to this page.
  3. Make, Model, and Serial Number. It’s important to make a record of the computer serial number because this helps in uniquely identifying the system and looking up pertinent support documents online if needed.
  4. Computer Name. Change the computer name by right clicking on Computer and going to Properties. Typically the default computer name will be something the manufacturer configured.
  5. Remote Access. Install the full version of Teamviewer and configure it for remote access. This allows for the remote management and monitoring during lengthy updates and software installation. When you’re completely done setting up the computer, remove the full version and setup TeamViewer QS (Quick Start) for any future support needs.
  6. Power Options. Change power options for maximum performance and turn off automatic sleep. This ensures ongoing access when remotely checking on lengthy software installations and updates. Once setup is complete, power management can be set to a more energy efficient configuration.
  7. Start to Desktop. Windows 8.1 includes the option to start to the desktop. Right click on the task bar and on the Navigation tab choose/click the option, “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start.”
  8. Recovery Media. Dell and other manufacturers offer an option to create recovery media. A USB flash drive is smaller and faster for this purpose, although DVDs may be less expensive. Since the recovery media is something hopefully you’ll never need, you may not want to spend $15 to $20 on a USB flash drive for this purpose.
    • It’s helpful to have a Lightscribe drive and compatible media for labeling these disks. A Lightscribe system can use the laser to etch text and graphics onto a disc. This is preferred to printing to a disc surface. Otherwise, a sharpie marker and regular media will do.
  9. Windows 8 Start Screen. If you’re working with Windows 8 it will be helpful to organized the Start Menu. You can do this by clicking and dragging icon/tiles as well as right click to resizing them and see customize options. You can right click and then using Control+Left Click, select many tiles, then reduce their size all at one time. Some people may find it helpful to have the Desktop tile/icon set to the maximum size and placed in the top left position for easy access.
    • Depending on the brand of computer, there may be a variety of vendor specific apps included with the computer. These, as well as the Windows 8 specific apps, are probably not going to be used frequently. Until a decision is made about whether to keep them on the Start Menu or not, it’s possible to reduce their tile/icon size and group them.
    • For most users, it’s useful to have programs grouped into at least two categories: Windows 8 Apps and Windows Apps. The difference is that Windows 8 Apps fill the screen and have a minimalist interface — typically no familiar text drop-down menu at the top of the screen and no familiar window sizing options in the upper right. This is because they are designed to be optimized for tablet and smartphone where screen real-estate is a premium and multiple windows aren’t practical. Some people may want to avoid these altogether and only use the desktop-optimized Windows apps that are familiar.
  10. Maintenance User Account. Create a local Maintenance account for system administration tasks. This is helpful for troubleshooting or if the user’s primary account becomes corrupted for some reason.
  11. Visitor User Account. Create a local Visitor account with standard access for limited use. This can significantly reduce future service calls if younger people, friends, family, and other visitors use an account with “Standard” access rights. It restricts what the account can do and also helps put a firewall around the account if a virus tries to launch or install.
  12. Other User Accounts. Create user accounts for each user of the computer or a shared account, depending on user preference.
    • Separate Accounts. Separate user accounts are nice for computers being used by several individuals where each person may want their own Internet bookmarks/favorites, personalized organization of folders, and other customizations. Windows is increasingly becoming custom tailored for each user who has logged in. This will import contacts, calendar, email, files, and settings from the web.
    • Shared Account. For people who are sharing the same files, email account, Internet bookmarks/favorites, and may want to collaborate on projects, having a shared account is okay and it doesn’t require a logout and login before using the computer (if changing from one user to another).
    • Default Account. This is a good time to remove any default user account that came with your computer. For example, some refurbished computers may come with an account called User or User1.
  13. Remove Unnecessary Software. If applicable (for new computers from retail stores), remove any unnecessary demo or trial versions of software. Extra programs can slow down the computer. If you’re working on a refurbished computer, it may only have Windows installed and a minimal set of hardware drivers. This is actually an advantage.
  14. Mozilla Firefox. Install the Mozilla Firefox browser. It’s important to have alternative browsers available as a backup in case the primary browser fails, doesn’t perform properly, or becomes infected.
  15. Google. Make Google the default search engine and startup for Internet Explorer. MSN with Bing is the default. Using MSN as a startup page takes longer to load because of all the images and ads.
  16. Google Chrome. Install the Google Chrome browser. It’s important to have alternative browsers available as a backup in case the primary browser fails, doesn’t perform properly, or becomes infected.
  17. AntiVirus. Install Microsoft Security Essentials if you have Windows 7. This is already included with Windows 8.
  18. Windows Live Essentials. Install the Windows Live Essentials software bundle which includes programs for video editing, photo editing, email, and more. This is already included with Windows 8.1.
    • When the installation is complete, click the Done button.
    • After a short while, the Microsoft Service Agreement will show up. Click Accept.
    • Next, the “Have we met before?” login window will show up. Close the window by clicking the “X” in the upper right corner. When asked, “Are you sure you want to cancel?” click the Yes button.
    • Next, the “Sign in to Windows Live Messenger” window should appear. Click on the blue “Options” text link. Under Sign-in, General, remove the check mark next to “Start Messenger when I log on to my computer.” Click Okay. Close the window by clicking the “X” in the top right corner.
    • If you see a browser message at the bottom of your browser window about the “Windows Live ID Sign-in Helper” add-on from Microsoft…” click the Enable button.
  19. Adobe Flash. Install Adobe Flash. This is already included with Windows 8. When installing Adobe Flash, you can remove the check mark next to “Yes, install Google Chrome as my default browser…”
  20. Adobe Reader. Install Adobe Reader. If you need to display asian and extended language fonts, click here for instructions. When installing Adobe Reader, you can remove the check mark next to “Yes, install Google Chrome as my default browser…”
  21. Microsoft Silverlight. Install Microsoft Silverlight for viewing animation, videos, and other web-based programs.
  22. Windows Updates. Install any needed Windows updates. You’ll find Windows Update under the Start Menu – not listed under any folders, but listed in the top list of programs. It may be necessary to run Windows Update again, and keep checking Windows updates repeatedly until all updates are installed. Be sure to updates for all Microsoft products. This requires clicking on the appropriate link in the update window.
    • Bing Desktop. Choosing to install updates for all Microsoft products will include Bing Bar and Bing Desktop. Install these and then once they are installed, disable them. During the Bing Desktop installation, remove all checkmarks for the various Bing options.
    • Bing Bar. Once Bing Bar is installed, click the settings gear icon, and choose to not run Bing Bar when Windows starts. Then exit Bing Bar by right clicking the program icon in the bottom of the screen and choosing Exit.
    • Skype. Be default, Skype will be listed among the standard Widows updates. Right click and choose to ignore this unless the person needs Skype.
  23. Avast AntiVirus. Install Avast AntiVirus software or another top rated antivirus and Internet security program. It’s important to have a program that also helps prevent attacks through phishing or malicious websites. So, a more comprehensive paid program is probably worth is. Avast offers a paid version, as do the other programs out there.
  24. Product Support Shortcut. Most manufacturers have a method for obtaining detailed support, software, downloads, and documentation for your specific computer. The Dell Support Page, for example, lets you enter the Service Tag or Express Service Code for a computer, and then provides a web page (with the serial number in the address) showing your product configuration and support materials. You can save a link to this page on the desktop for easy access in the future. Putting this on the desktop in the Maintenance user account is best.
  25. Remove TeamViewer and Install TeamViewerQS. The most recent versions of TeamViewer are persistent (they run when Windows starts) and by necessity they retain the password for unattended access (if that is configured). While this is secure, a more secure practice is to remove the full version of TeamViewer and replace it with the QuickStart version found on the download page under the heading, “For the instant customer: TeamViewer QuickSupport.” This will allow the computer owner to request support whenever needed, but the password will be randomly generated.

Additional Optional Setup

The following options are less critical and will likely be unique to each user’s preference and needs.

  1. Apple QuickTime. Install the Apple Quick Time Player software. Choose QuickTime 7.7.5 for Windows (or later).
  2. Apple iTunes. Install iTunes if you would like to have the Apple iTunes store and software for purchasing and playing music, reading books, watching movies, etc. You may want to use this if you have an iPod, iPhone, or iPad.
  3. Google Picasa. Install Google Picasa photo editing software.
  4. VLC Video Player. Install the VLC Player for playing a variety of video formats.
  5. Audacity. Install Audacity if audio recording and editing are desired.
  6. Libre Office. Install Libre Office if you’d like a free alternative to Microsoft Office.
  7. Microsoft Office. Purchase Office 365 for a cost of $100 a year for up to five computers. This isn’t required, but may be necessary if you absolutely need to use Microsoft Office software products.
  8. Additional Software. Install software for printers, scanners, and other peripherals.

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