December 17th, 2014
There are a million blog posts out there telling you what to do now you have a new PC or laptop. They all have one thing in common:
They are sooo boring!
Security this, firewall that, registry clean the other.
You’ve got a new computer for Santa’s sake! It’s faster, whizzier, and more shiny than the one before. It’s got so much… potential! I really hope you didn’t spend Christmas Day spending Actual Money on upgrading your trial antivirus to a full version, or sitting there while Windows updates, restarts, updates, restarts…
There’s a whole encyclopaedia out there to read for free, you know!
The Good, not the Bad or the Boring
Deep breath, calm down. Sip your Buck’s Fizz.
There are of course many a useful thing you can do to a new computer. A lot of them are indeed best done when it’s new. But before you get into the… administration of your machine (what are you, an IT department?), here are a few things you can play around with first to keep your laptopping interesting.
- Install one of your favourite games. If you’re a gamer, try running one of those titles your last workhorse had a little trouble with in it’s latter years. Enjoy smooth gameplay. Outrun your friends with your newly-responsive keyboard wizardry. Take out that Christmas-period family anger in an arena-style deathmatch with Dad and Grandma.
- Transfer your photos and really show them off. You’ve might have a ream of shots from your drunken antics in Magaluf, or shaky video of that eagle on the 12th at Augusta. Maybe you’ve got both. Well, with your new laptop you’ll have a fingersmear-free screen, with punchier colours and a higher resolution. Make sure all the family are there as you show off your mad skillz!
- Try an old computer. What?! I hear you yell? There are two truths in the PC world: Firstly, that the best thing a powerful new PC is good at is emulating several older models. Secondly, all the good PC software came out years ago. So grab yourself an emulator and take yourself back to MS-DOS games or a full working edition of Windows 98 (because, why not?).
- Get rich by mining bitcoins. OK, I don’t really know how to do this, because if it was worthwhile then everyone would be doing it. Still, if you have an ultra-powerful PC ticking over then you could give bitcoin mining a go. For something more useful, try using your PC to help in the search for aliens or a cure for cancer.
- Try a different operating system. Like emulating old games, modern PCs and laptops are great at running other systems within a window on their desktop. If you’ve ever wondered what the fuss is about Ubuntu (or FreeBSD, or the Windows-copying ReactOS for that matter) give VirtualBox a try.
Only then will I allow you to consider the dull stuff
Maybe you’ve tried all that, and you’re now thinking: “well, this is all well and good but I could lose the lot tomorrow… and can’t I eek a little more speed out from under all these free software trials I don’t need?”
You’re right. There are a few key tasks you should do early on in your new PC’s life, to make sure it’s running at it’s best. They’re no one’s idea of a fun night in, but here goes:
- Ditch that free 90 days trial of Norton or McAfee. It might make you feel a little safer, but it’s really just there to scare you into giving those companies money that they don’t deserve. Remove them using the Add/Remove Programs option in the Control Panel, and install something free and good like AVG Free or Avast. Then stop worrying about it.
- For extra strength security, add Malwarebytes Antimalware. It picks out a lot that antiviruses leave out, like tracking cookies and toolbars.
- If you really want to get into something tedious and dull, try to set up a backup system. Windows has backup built in, or you can simply make sure you copy all your files to an external hard drive, so that you have a spare copy should the worst happen. Though we know you won’t really do that regularly, don’t we?
- Update Windows. It seems a little tricksier in Windows 8.1 than it was in Windows 7, but if you’re patient then Windows should really update itself given time. It might be just a good idea to check it yourself though (via the Control Panel again) to make sure it’s set up to check for new updates.
- Remove anything you don’t need, then give the computer a quick clean. New computers come with all sorts of junk on them, in addition to the antivirus trials. You get media players, photo editors and duplicates of Window’s own built-in tools that are just there to flash the manufacturer’s name up more times than is necessary. Go into Add/Remove Programs again, and uninstall anything that you don’t think you’d use. Be careful though, and don’t remove anything if you’re not sure what it is. Some crucial drivers look far too much like proper programs, and shouldn’t be touched. Finally, give it the once-over with CCleaner. It’s free, and will remove any traces of those silly old programs.
OK, when I said that the above was not someone’s idea of a fun night in, I was missing out one crucial individual. You’re current author loves nothing more than firing up a doddery laptop and ditching the junk, the unnecessary, the superfluous, the excess, the redundant, the nonessential, the…
It’s a long-held habit, but one in which I’m increasingly called-upon to do for others. It’s almost, dare I say it, fun, and I’m building up a comprehensive knowledge of what can go, and what should stay. If you need help with any of the above, I can be that help.
Perhaps I can answer a question over the phone on speeding up your PC, or come and have a comprehensive look at what needs doing. I can also show you a few ways to do those important tasks in much easier, more comprehensive ways. How about automatic backups? Ultra-powerful antivirus? Media players which deal with any file?