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Advice for a clean start on a brand-new computer

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / September 7, 2007 3:50 AM PDT

I'm really excited. After years of dealing with my old half-functioning Windows Me machine, I finally jumped and bought myself a brand-new Dell desktop PC with Vista Home premium loaded on it. Now the questions I have for you, is where do I start with a new machine in order to maintain a good running computer for the long run. I have had all sorts of headaches with my older computer and I want to start off this one on a clean slate. I know an antivirus utility is critical, so I have that installed already. This might be a tall order to ask of you, but please, I could really use some pointers for maintenance hardware and software wise, as this PC will be in use for a long time. I'm not computer savvy like many of you here, but I'm a good listener and follow instruction well. Any list of recommendations and tips will be extremely helpful to me. I look forward to reading all of your suggested guidance. Thank you.

--Submitted by Maria R.

Answer voted most helpful by our community newsletter readers

Just a Little Loving Care

Congratulations for being able to last this long with Windows ME. Most users gave up long ago trying to keep it running. I obviously don?t know the exact type of problems you have had in the past, but I am willing to bet that most of the responsibility lies with the operating system rather than something you were or were not doing.

I am often accused of giving out way too much information filled with over complicated instructions so I have decided to offer both the short and long version. I have always felt that if someone takes the time to ask a question of this forum and is willing to wait a week or two to get all the answers, then they deserve as much information as possible.

You should be able to enjoy your computer and keep it in good working order for many years by following these 5 simple steps:
1. PROTECTION - Install a good full featured Internet Security Software Package that includes a minimum of Antivirus, Antispyware and Firewall. Always keep an eye on it to make sure it is still working, up-to-date and NEVER let it expire.
2. MAINTENANCE - Once every few months run Disk Clean to clear your computer of unwanted temporary files, install Windows Updates and vacuum or blow out all the dust from the back of your computer once a year.
3. CAUTION - Be very cautious about where you surf, what you download and opening email attachments.
4. SHARING - Do not let anyone else use your computer. This includes family members and especially children and teenagers. Just kidding? Ah, Not really.
5. BACKUP - Come up with some kind of backup strategy that meets your specific needs for preserving your data in case something goes wrong.

For those of you who don?t mind getting your hands a little dirty and want to go that extra mile to improve your odds of achieving years of trouble free computing at the maximum performance level.

1. INITIAL CLEANING ? Depending on the exact make and model, your new computer probably came with tons of pre-installed trial, free and junk software. All of this stuff can slow down even the fastest computer as well as take up room on your hard drive . Take your time and go through every program that is listed in ALL PROGRAMS and determine what you want and don?t want. Uninstall everything that you do not need. Leave anything that you are not absolutely sure about. Better still, next time consider purchasing a business class computer from someone like Dell Small Business, Fujutsu, Lenovo (IBM) or some other dealer that specializes in selling to the business user. True Business computers do not come with all of the extra junk pre-installed.

2. INITIAL SETUP ? The next thing you need to do is decide how and who will be using your new computer. You may want to setup User accounts and passwords, if needed, for everyone that will be using your computer. It is best to setup all children with their own accounts with NON-administrative rights. This way they will be less likely to make changes or install things that might affect the operation of your computer. I you are a forward thinker and like to plan ahead for potential disasters, I might even recommend repartitioning your hard drive to keep data and operating system separated from each other (details for another time). This is also a good time to decide how and who may need to share files and folders as well as make any internet security or privacy settings changes to each account. For example you may want to restrict internet access or filter internet content for children?s accounts. I also normally recommend setting Windows Updates so that I have a choice as to when updates get installed instead of automatically.

3. PROTECTION ? You absolutely need some form of security software installed on your computer to protect you from viruses, spyware and other nasties that linger out in cyberspace or come attached to your emails. At the very least you will need a good Antivirus program, however I highly recommend having 1 antivirus, 1 firewall and 3 antispyware programs installed. If you like you can purchase an all-in-one package that includes many levels of protection in one package such as McAfee Total Protection, Norton 360 or even Microsoft Windows Live OneCare. Keep in mind that installing any of these all-in-one packages can really slow down your computer, especially on a slightly older or entry level computers. Chances are that your computer came packaged with some trial version of Norton or McAfee Internet Security. These will normally expire in about 30 days or so and must be renewed to continue protecting your computer. Before you actually fork out any money, check out all the possibilities that may be available to you. Many internet service providers will offer free security software to you just for the asking. Comcast, for example, offers free McAfee to its users. AOL has a free offering as well. Many colleges offer free protection software to their students and many companies offer security software to their employees. Be careful some providers like Verizon may make it sound like they are offering it for free but will charge you a monthly fee tacked on to your bill. If you don?t mind digging in and working a little there are many ways to get free security software as well. You can put together a great security net with Free Programs like Avast, AVG, SpyBot, Microsoft Defender, ZoneAlarm and AdAware. No matter which way you decide to go, the most important thing is to always check to make sure your security software is working, updated and has not expired. Beware of security contracts that will automatically charge your credit card every year for renewal even if you are no longer using their software.

4. MAINTENANCE ? You do not need to get totally carried away but a little maintenance can go a long way toward keeping your computer in good working order.

a. Running Disk Cleanup once a month or so.
b. Check Disk with Error Checking every few months.
c. Run Disk Defragmenter about every 6 months.
d. Update and Run any manual spyware scanners each month.
e. Run Windows Update if it is not set to Automatic.
f. Check for other updates for your computer every few months.
g. Clean the dust out of all cooling vents at least once per year.
h. If you plan to keep your computer, I will often recommend replacing the hard drive every 3 or 4 years whether it needs it or not. A new hard drive costs about $100 (that comes out to less than $30 per year). Being one of the few moving parts in a modern computer, it WILL fail at some point. Replacing it while it is still in working condition is much easier than waiting for it to fail. You can Recycle the old drive if you really want by purchasing a USB enclosure for about $29 and using it as a spare backup drive.

5. CAUTION ? Always exercise extreme caution when surfing the internet, clicking on links or opening email. All of these have the potential of not only infecting your computer with viruses and spyware but could also result in handing over your personal information to less than desirable people. Take note of any changes to your computer and don?t just automatically click on allow, ok or continue when Windows or your security software is warning you about a system change.

6. SHARING ? I know we were all taught to share while growing up, but if you want your computer to stay in tip top shape, DO NOT SHARE YOUR COMPUTER with anyone.

7. BACKUP ? I know everyone is sick of hearing about the importance of backing up your data. I you have information on your computer that you don?t want to lose, then back it up. There are so many ways available now to backup, there is simply no excuse anymore for getting caught when a hard drive decides to quit. Enough said!

In briefing through some of the other threads, I notice that I totally forgot to mention the importance of the Surge protector. I guess since you were upgrading from a previous computer, I assumed you already had one. Surge Protectors can go bad over time from repeated surges and should be tested or replaced. But better still is the UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). A UPS is probably one of the best investments you can make for a computer. It contains a surge protector and a battery backup that will take over in the event of a power failure or brownout and continue to power your computer for several minutes or even hours if you purchase a really large one. If your power does not return within a predetermined period of time you can program it to shut down your computer in an orderly fashion thus preventing a possible major disaster. A single event such as loss of power or a lightning strike can cause irreparable damage and data loss if it occurs at just the right time or I should say at just the wrong time. Power surges can have the potential to not only cause immediate damage but can become accumulative and cause what is know as latent failures. This is where each surge stresses some of the components within the computer, weakening them and eventually causing them to fail at a later date. The price of UPS units has fallen over the years and you can get a small one for about $50 that will power your computer and LCD monitor for 10-15 minutes. If you live in an area where power outages are more common, you might want to go for one of the higher end models.

Enjoy your new computer!

Wayland Computer

Submitted by CNET member waytron

If you have any additional advice for Maria, let's hear them! Click on the "Reply" link to post. Please be detailed as possible in your answer. Thanks!
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Thoughts for Maria and keeping her new computer "new"
by Timothy Brooks / September 7, 2007 11:38 AM PDT

1. Do not install anything that is not needed. "Trial" or "Freeware" is free for a reason.

2. Delete programs fully using Windows Add/Remove or a program designed to follow installs and delete programs completely.

3. Every new program wants real estate on your tool bar. If it does not need to run in the background then don't choose the option that allows it to put an icon on the tool bar. Certain programs like antivirus and Active Sync need to be there but you don't need your screensaver on the tool bar.

All these thoughts follow the same trend and that is to be very selective about what you install and how you install it.

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Hi Maria, keeping your computer safe
by nightrome2004 / September 14, 2007 2:35 PM PDT

Hi Maria, seen you just took a jump from windows me to a new operationing system Vista, just took out windows me out of one of my computers myself. My advice probably won't be what you are use to hearing. I have several computers, work on them alot some people have giving me, saying it was no good. So get them running and run them. Put different operating systems on them at different times. But in all cases, no matter the operating system always run one program , first one installed, called winpatrol, site Don't run any anti-virus programs find them useless, they are after the fact. You need to know when something is trying to get into your computer before it happens not after. Win patrol monitors my registry which is the main part of the computer funtionability, it notifies me of any changing to be made to my registry. I configure it to monitor cookie activities and let me know if any new ones enters then I can check them. I also don't keep any cookies or history of any kind for couple reasons one takes up space on hard drive, and lot of useless cookies you don't need. Only drawback to that is anytime you want to log back into programs you use regularly the cookies will be gone, but I use other programs for that. I also run a firewall like comodo firewall pro which is free, all programs I use are free , can be found on
I also clean my computer with couple free registry cleaner, one called regseeker can be found on site webattack. under registry tools. Other registry program is free window repair registry whih is easy to use just scan. I also use hijack this which lists anything attached to your browser, if other things don't catch what I am looking for, you see not just one program can stop or fix things getting into your computer. So basicly while I am running only run winpatrol, and comodo firewall pro, used others before but like these the best. One note here thou, have a new computer with vista installed and can say at the moment don't like it. Simply reason being , won't let you delete useless registry entries, which are always collecting, so in time going to eat up space on your hard drive, example only used it short time and already have over 11,000 registry entries need deleting and vista won't allow it. Probably could bypass it checks in time but not looking into it at the moment. So at the moment running older computer with xp just installed. Like it better. So maybe this info isn't useful to you but thought send the advice anyway. Oh one word of advice messing with the registry, is dangerous so have to learn it before attempting to change it , but then again vista won't allow it anyway. Al

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Tool Bar vs. System Tray
by PJWomble / September 16, 2007 10:46 PM PDT

Just because an application wants to put an icon in the toolbar, it doesn't mean that it wants to "run in the background". It's important not to confuse the toolbar with the "System Tray". The System Tray is the area on the extreme right of the toolbar where the clock sits, and does contain applications which are loaded on startup. The Windows toolbar (the bit of the bottom of the screen which is NOT the system tray!) simply contains shortcuts to your programs and/or data, just like the desktop does.

If you're worried about having too many processes running at startup, then you can stop most startup apps by using the Services application (that's in XP, anyhow!) by selecting Services (Start > Run > Services.msc > enter). Be careful when using this tool that you don't get rid of anything which Windows needs to run itself, though!!!

Hope that helps.

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Anti-Parasite Suite
by Alan Copeland / September 7, 2007 12:25 PM PDT
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New Windows machine
by 19joker45 / September 7, 2007 12:41 PM PDT

I'm not 100% sure if all this works for Vista as well as for XP.
Make sure your fire wall is up and running, I'm using the free Zone alarm, make sure the anti virus program is up, running and updated, I'm using the free AVG (yes I'm cheap *smile*)get a few anti spy programs like Ad aware and spybot search and destroy, both are free). Do not install things you will not use. Make sure you got a restore point bevore you install programs. If you install and remove a lot of programs run the defrag, would not hurt if you do it any way. Get a program like registry mechanic, run it frequently. Run your Disk clean utility (comes with windows). Use either freeware or buy your programs, pirated programs might cost you more, in the long run. Troubles with the machine and troubles with the law.
I hope you got enough memory and your HD. is big enough. I love my second HD, I download every thing to it and back up every thing, really importand things go to a CD ROM or DVD as well.
Good luck and lots enjoyment with the new machine.

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Windows Maintenance
by pspuser411 / September 7, 2007 1:04 PM PDT

A big part of maintaining windows is the software part. NEVER goto any sites that sound fishy,seem sketchy or are just plain wierd. Also if your used to seeing adds on websites you goto,thats a bad thing. Software you install is also critical. Dont install from someone you either havnt researched on or cant research on. Nero is trusty, anything open source, which anything that is will make sure you know that it is, is very trusty. Firefox for example is open source AND comes from Mozilla,who dependably makes software. Apple is also trusty for software,although they take performance hits since they are "porting" it from a completely different system. iTunes is a great example. Also if possible try to stay away from the "general" internet for help. The only safe places I would recommend are places like cnet forums, where everyone can be trusted and Cnet can be trusted,and a few IRC channels,or internet relay chat channels,which is as basic as you can get for instant chat. Thats about hte best I can give you about Maintaining Windows.

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Aloha Maria
by thinkingmanDotCom / September 7, 2007 1:05 PM PDT

I'm going to say this as positively as I can but... look out! My partner bought a Dell and it was absolutely the worst experience he'd ever suffered through. Poor quality parts which kept breaking, support personnel who could not understand what he was saying, days and days of lost work data, expensive repairs, etc., etc!

Our best move was my purchasing a (used) Mac PowerBook (now "MacBook") for a very good price. He ended up tossing his Dell into the recycling bin before he'd finished making all of the payments on it. The PowerBook is now three years old and is still worth what we bought it for, and that model of Inspiron is so valueless you couldn't give it away.

The interesting thing for me is that his computer runs the latest Mac OS 10.4.10 just fine - and that Dell he'd purchased brand new would have been totally incapable of running Vista - as are most of the applications he now uses on a daily basis.

I would strongly, for your own sake, recommend your returning that machine and purchasing a MacBook which would run Windows for you as well, and will retain its value for many years to come, unlike a Dell.

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by waytron / September 9, 2007 2:57 AM PDT
In reply to: Aloha Maria

You friend may have had one bad experience with a single machine. It is unfortunite but any company can have a lemon. There is not a manufacturer out there that has not produced a defective item at some time or another. But this is just plain bunk. I install hundreds of Dell computers per year and I have not had a single defective computer from them yet. The worst problem I have had in 4 years is I had a computer that I ordered with a second hard drive and they forgot to connect the cable to the second drive. It happens... Apple makes a fine product and can be the right choice for some people as long as you don't mind spending a little more money, can live with the limited selection of software titles and the higher price for accessories. parts and repairs.

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Everything fails
by winsleuth / September 16, 2007 3:40 AM PDT
In reply to: Bunk

I didnt read all the answers but was reading some guy say that any compnay can have a lemon then next thing is saying that Dell's in his experience never fail. Dell hardware is pretty good in my experience too, it is their customer service that I hear continual compaints about. As far as hardware goes, "everything has a failure rate". It may be a low percentage but it is there. That is why their are insurance plans and why companies run tests to find the MTBF, mean time between failure. Back when all this technology was really expensive I had a $900 HP printer fail just outside of warranty and a $950 Microtek Scanner fail as well. Not just failures but a certain percentage of things will fail the first time they are plugged in, that is why companies like to "BurnIn" computers overnight. Like a light bulb, electronic parts usually go when current first begines flowing thru the thousands of soldered connnections and other weak spots on a circuit. I have seen hard drives last ten years and otehrs fail on the first day so get the best price you can then get a warranty that has fine print you understand. Good luck.

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What a crock!
by bucca / September 23, 2007 8:23 AM PDT
In reply to: Aloha Maria

Return it and get a refund because his partner got a lemon????
As written so eloquently in an earlier post, any company can deliver a lemon, but to fly off and claim anything Dell is crap and all that is Mac is marvellous is just hysterical twaddle.
More to the point, it was of no value as an answer to the original post and surely could only dampen a new, excited owner's enthusiasm.
"thinkingmanDotCom" should change his rather self-inflated username.

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by dave32264 / September 23, 2007 10:42 AM PDT
In reply to: What a crock!

hate to say it but, yup Dell does suck. Hence the reason they are losing out to HP. Their boards are low end on most of the dimension and inspiron series. Can't tell you how many I have had to replace for unwitting customers over the years. Getting a lemon from Dell is no big surprise. You are better off getting a custom system from your local computer tech. If your local tech is any good you will get better quality parts and better support.

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Dell Sucks
by randysvh / September 23, 2007 3:26 PM PDT
In reply to: Dell

Dave is correct, and i would agree with him too as a computer consultant and technician. HP is better than Dell, but the best choice is a customized machine, from a good local computer supplier. This way you get first rate parts, as opposed to third rate parts found in most name brand machines.


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I don't think I agree
by waytron / September 23, 2007 8:07 PM PDT
In reply to: Dell Sucks

I would have agreed with you back in the days when Dell was using all proprietary components. Not any more. Over the past 4 years I have installed hundreds of new DEll computers both laptops and Desktops as well as Dimension, Inspiron and Optiplex models. I have not had a single defective unit. During the same period of time I have had many problems with new HP computers, not to mention all the extra junk that HP preloads on their retail computers. With the amount of junkware that HP gives you, you would almost be better off purchasing a used computer on ebay. I agree that HP probably has the best phone support of anyone, but I think I would rather have a computer that does not need support.

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by dave32264 / September 24, 2007 3:40 AM PDT
In reply to: I don't think I agree

Getting a computer that doesn't need support is like wanting a car that doesnt need a mechanic. At some point you will need it no matter how good the machine is. I am a tech who sees Dells come through my shop all too frequently. As I stated in my post the dimension series and inspirons use rather low end motherboards and are more likely to crap out than an Asus in a custom box. HP may load a bunch of trialware crap but uninstalling it, while being a PITA to do, is relatively simple. I will note that Dell, to its credit, has started selling Linux machines which will make for more stable software and boost their bottom line

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Agree to Disagree
by waytron / September 24, 2007 8:23 PM PDT
In reply to: support

Dell may or may not be using the highest end motherboards, but I am just not seeing or have had ANY of the failures that you are reporting. Must be a demographical or geological anomaly? Maybe your area has high line voltage? Now take emachines and that is a different story. I do see defective boards with them. Now I know you are going to jump all over me on me on this, but I would never recommend, as a general rule, for anyone to purchase a computer built by a local computer shop. You have no idea what you are getting, I have seen all kinds of problems ranging from incompatible components to illegal software. Obviously it depends on the individual shop, but how does the general consumer know which shop to trust?

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by dave32264 / September 25, 2007 4:12 AM PDT
In reply to: Agree to Disagree

I doubt that. I saw pretty much the same thing in Georgia as I see here in NJ. Again, poor product is exactly why HP is overtaking Dell in the marketplace. They are currently working to correct this I'm sur e, but until they do, as a reputable tech, I sure won't recommend them. You are correct, however on the E-Machines (they are Gateways, nuff said Wink ).

"but I would never recommend, as a general rule, for anyone to purchase a computer built by a local computer shop. You have no idea what you are getting, I have seen all kinds of problems ranging from incompatible components to illegal software."

First, if the tech is legit they would never ever put illegal software on any system, common sense ya know. Also, most people I know have the common sense (there's that phrase again) to actually do comparative shopping before buying a computer. If they are not sure about it, they ask questions. Then there is word of mouth advertising and I have to say this is probably the most important. Many if not all small businesses live and die because of it. I average 3 - 5 new builds per month and 95% of my business is word of mouth advertising and I'm busy 7 days a week. As I posted earlier, any decent tech is going to give the best parts in their machines as it is their reputations on the line for each one that goes out the door. Yup, you may pay a little bit more for the better computer, but in the long run it's worth it.

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Not an Ideal World
by waytron / September 25, 2007 8:27 PM PDT
In reply to: demographics?

I think HP?s market share increase has more to do with the Compaq deal finally paying off rather anything to do with the quality of their products. In an ideal world, all service companies would run their business as you stated, but unfortunately we don?t live in that world. There are plenty of Plumbers, Contractors, Electricians, Car mechanics and Computer service people that rely on word of mouth advertising and still prey on the general public. They replace parts that don?t need to be replaced, sell 2nd rate equipment and rip off customers whenever the opportunity arises. All you have to do is watch 20/20. I am sure you personally build great computers, but as a general rule, I do not recommend having one built by a local shop. When Microsoft first started performing the check for Genuine Windows, I quickly found out how many local Computer Guys were not so honest with there custom built computers. I was receiving calls from new customers left and right. Well, at least we agree on Gateway and emachines, so I will leave it at that. By the way, I also do not generally recommend that people have a car built by their local garage either.

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by dave32264 / September 25, 2007 11:49 PM PDT
In reply to: Not an Ideal World

Compuke has little to do with it. Those boxes were trash and still are. Little if anything has changed with them. I know Dell and HP machines very well. I have been in this business over 24 years and have some idea as to what I'm talking about. I have seen the rise and fall of Packard Bell, NEC, Gateway, Compuke etc. and am quite familiar with their business practices, so-called customer support and the hardware they use. Gateway itself has been sued for using used parts in new machines so that argument of local techs doing it, while sometime valid, is for the most part bogus. There are many reputable and legit techs out there and many people who are very happy with both their initial work and their customer service. Yes, sadly there are a few bad apples out there and it seems to me you have had the unfortunate displeasure of dealing with them. I have seen one or two myself. Thats why they are my customers now Wink There are many many more of us out there that actually take pride in our work, after all, if we rip our customers off, repeat customers and referrals would be non existent. I don't know about you but I like being able to pay my bills and eat. As I said my business is 95% word of mouth and have a customer base in several states and there are many more out there like me who would consider your comments as an insult to both their intelligence and their work. However, it is your money and if you are happy with these companies, then more power to you. When you need tech support then have fun dealing with the out-sourced non-english speaking person who reads from a script. And no, I would not buy a vehicle built by a mechanic either. But that's a huge huge difference from a custom computer. If you read my earlier post, I said getting a computer (from a local tech or major manufacturer) that doesn't need support is like wanting a car that won't need a mechanic. So your statement is just a bit over the top.

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Be thorough but keep it simple
by drmojo / September 7, 2007 1:06 PM PDT

Maria, I'm one who opts for thoroughness but simplicity when setting up a new computer or an old computer with a re-imaged aka reformatted hard drive with new operating system. In my mind, it's all those extra programs one installs that starts to bog down the computer.
The first thing I'd do is make sure that all required Updates from Windows get installed by either turning on Automatic Updates in your system or going to the Microsoft site and checking for updates. Then I install some free but effective software for security purposes; 1) Ad-Aware; 2) Spy-bot Search and Destroy; 3) Spywareblaster. The reviews on these programs have been high and they're also free. They will do a good job of protecting your system from trojans, spyware, and other bad stuff. I also install Google Toolbar b/c I've found that it does a great job of blocking pop-up ads that are annoying.
And since you're using Vista, I recommend that before you plug in any hardware to your computer (printers, scanners, etc), go to the manufacturer's site to make sure you have drivers/software that will allow you to run those pieces of hardware with your new Vista OS. Sometimes the older software that comes with those hardware are for XP or older.
Lastly, if you're installing something like MS Office (Word, Excel, etc), make sure you run the update check to make sure that all patches and updates are installed.
Anyway those are the basics for me...simple but I feel thorough enough to protect even a beginner computer user from the headaches of the internet. (the software I mentioned above can be found using a Google search...MAKE SURE YOU'RE DOWNLOADING THE SOFTWARE FROM THE ACTUAL SITE of the software company, not someone's independent site which may contain a doctored version of the software).

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RAM is Key
by Web Hero / September 7, 2007 1:20 PM PDT

Congrats on your transition. Your new Dell should handle Vista great, except, just like Windows XP, you'll want RAM. They probably gave you 1gig in your PC, but if you do 2gigs, you'll be set with Vista. I use a few years old Compaq Laptop, and it didn't like Vista much, but then I put 2gigs of RAM in and it runs Vista great, for a totally different and positive experience.

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To keep your pc clean
by mrobinsonjr / September 7, 2007 1:21 PM PDT

i use a program called CCleaner. you can download it from CNET or go to to clean your computer; double click on the program to open it. find and click analyze. after it is done click run cleaner. after that click issues, it is located over to the left. click scan for issues. after that is done click fix selected issues it will ask you if you want to create a backup click yes. save the file. after that click fix all selected issues if a dialog box comes up click yes. it will fix the problems. after you have done the issue and cleaning you are all done. doing this bi daily (every 2 days) your computer will run at top speed.

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Maria, You will do fine!
by PerryCollective / September 7, 2007 1:25 PM PDT

As a software developer, while I know how most of this stuff works, it is hard for all of us to keep everything on our computers.

If you have managed - even with some struggles - to keep a Windows Me machine running for 5 years, you have superpowers most computer ninjas couldn't even dream of!

Seriously, though, it's just a fact of life that the more stuff you put on your computer, the more potential you have for incompatibilities, slowdowns, etc.

The driver certification process for Windows Vista is more stringent, but there are still some things to watch out for.

Your best bet is to take it slow, and only install things that have been rated or reviewed highly by people you trust. Even that is no guarantee, but in my experience, that is the best way. Larger companies still create some flaky software. I have a new Dell with Vista, and a new HP printer that is Vista compatible. Well, the Dell support update utility hangs every other update, and the HP software, which is otherwise excellent, messes up the first print when I change from either portrait to landscape, or vice versa.

Best of luck to you, and try to stay sane! If you have problems, don't feel like you're the only one - it happens to all of us from time to time! (And maybe it's a sign you need to get some fresh air and step away from the computer)

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keeping new computer clean
by Vicks1 / September 7, 2007 1:32 PM PDT

I would suggest that you put on zone alarm firewall, spybot search&destory, lavasoft's ad-aware...these are each free at or Also set a schedule to update each of these ( and your anti virus) and run each. I try to do it weekly on both of our computers. Have for several years, and they both stay clean (oldest one is a laptop still running WIN 98 SE).
Good luck

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Back up files?
by MrBigFish6 / September 21, 2007 11:28 AM PDT

I have been reading about many different ways to protect my PC. I have a new Compaq Presario Notebook and intend to do everything I can to keep it functioning for a long time.
But I also keep reading I need to "back up my files"
What does this mean? What files? And how and where do I back them up?
Do I purchase a DVD or CD and copy all my important 'things' on my desktop PC to a hard copy? Do i find an external HD and copy everything to that?
I am in the process of copying all my photos to Kodak so my pictures are safe.
What else can I do?
And please be specific and no tech talk. I am Pc Illiterate.

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BACK UP files - Importance
by randysvh / September 21, 2007 4:24 PM PDT
In reply to: Back up files?

Backing up your system is important. What is important though is relative to you. Here is what i consider important, everything in My Documents, any data or files that you may have elsewhere that you personally may have saved outside of the My Documents. Any programs that have data files for instance Quicken, which saves the data to its own special files. Quicken has a backup process, but where those files go depends on the setup. You need to collect and backup these kinds of files as well. Other files to consider are Favorites, Bookmarks, Application Data, Application Data under Local Files, and downloaded files that you want to save. Note be aware, of any kinds of data that you know that you keep on your system. If any one can think of other sources of personal files or data that might be worth saving please feel free to add.

The other type of backup would be a full backup or image backup, which gathers everything on your HD and makes restoration in emergencies much easier.

The next part is finding a backup method that suites your style or needs and capabilities to perform the backup. What i mean what will you back up your files to, or the destination. A HD, CDs, or tape are the usual options. If you use a HD it should be a secondary or external HD large enough to retain all of your files. If you use CDs, it might be best to use the largest capacity CD blanks that your CD writer will handle. For instance, if you have a double layer DVD writer, than using DL DVD blanks may be appropriate to make more complete backups of your system. If your system only has a CD writer, than blank CDs are the appropriate ones to use as you will have to write out multiple CDs to complete a backup of your system. If you are fortunate enough to have a newer tape system, it is one of the very best ways to make a backup and keep them especially in business situations.

The program to use can vary alot. If you buy an external HD, it might come complete with a Backup program. Tape backups, almost always have programs included with the hardware device. Buying a complete Backup program is worth every penny that meets up with the hardware and the needs you have for backing up your data.

i hope this helps and answers your questions.


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In reply to Answer for Maria R.
by Vann / September 7, 2007 1:39 PM PDT

well first of all congratulations on getting a brand new PC and hopefully you can get it nice and running in the long run.

usually for desktop PCs I normally do a routine cleaning service every 2 weeks or so, for both hardware and software.

Software/System maintenance

I normally use the Windows Live OneCare scanner for a free PC scan which will scan your machine for Protection Issues, Speed Issues and Storage Space issues. You can choose to run any specific one or run all of them at once. Protection scanner will clean up potentially unwanted programs but be sure to remember that this utility DOES NOT replace your anti-virus.. make sure you have anti-virus protection 24/7 especially when you are connected to the internet.

Clean Up scanner will scan your hard drive for unused temporary files or missing registry indexes that will eventually build up and use up your storage space and thus will result in a "cluttered hard drive full of crap "and will greatly affect performance in the long run.

Then last... but not least, the Tune Up utility.. this scans your hard drive and determines how fragmented it is... the more fragmented your hard drive, the slower your computer will "read" files from your hard drive and so I'll recommend you run this every once in a month to ensure maximum performance.

This online scanner can be accessed at

Hardware maintenance

I'm not sure if you should do this to a new PC.. but I normally do this every 2 months. I unscrew the case, disassemble all components and clean the insides of the PC using a non static brush to brush off the dust off the motherboard, RAM and all other components. If you are doing this, make sure you clean your hands and NEVER EVER attempt to disassemle right after it is switched off and unplugged as remaining charges on the power supply CAN KILL if you are not careful.. leave it be for a few minutes and ensure you have rubber gloves or any non conducting material on you at all times. I normally do this to prevent dust or other debris blocking the cooling fan or just to clean up dust accumulating at the components so there are no risk of a short circuit or over heating.

Apart from that, you should do a normal cleanup e.g dusting, wiping vaccuuming etc. on your keyboard, speakers monitor etc. well there's no point showing off a great machine to someone else when it's dusty is there??

Other tips

Know your system information. You can see this by pressing WINKEY+R and typing 'dxdiag' (Without inverted commas) Here, you can see all sorts of graphics information and other system information here.

Once you know this, you can install any programs which has minimum recommended system requirements that matches your machine's system requirements. And make sure that you look for "WINDOWS VISTA CAPABLE/COMPATIBLE" or "FOR WINDOWS VISTA" logo or text in any new hardware/software that you are interested in installing.

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Answer for Maria
by Partsguy19 / September 7, 2007 2:42 PM PDT

A few things.. MAKE SURE any software you purchase is compatible with Vista!! Only install software you know your going to use and install software you know works. Either by reading about it here, hearing about from friends, or known software companies. Vista is great!! But don't try to run some of the old ME software on it. Could cause some major grief.

Good luck!

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Answer for Maria
by arri_rc / September 15, 2007 2:55 AM PDT
In reply to: Answer for Maria

I learned from scratch so here are my suggestions:

1. Defragment your hard drives on a regular basis.

2. Install an AntiVirus like Avast, AVG (free) or NOD32, Kaspersky (paid)

3. Install a Firewall...Comodo Firewall Pro is the best either in Free or Paid category.

4. Install other security programs like AVG Antispyware. Spybot S&D and AdAware SE, McAfee Site Advisor (all free). Update these and scan your PC on regular basis.

5. <b>Use Firefox, Use Firefox, Use Firefox, Use Firefox, Use Firefox</b>
In case you can't live without IE, then go for AVANT, it uses the same IE engine but far more secured.

6. Stay away from installing themes.

There are great freeware tools available which can do almost everything...check out the free software directory from time to time. But stay away from sharewares.

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New Computer with Vista
by HPJOHN / September 15, 2007 3:40 AM PDT
In reply to: Answer for Maria

Congradulations! First, got to Control Panel and go to user Accounts. click on it. . Onthe left side you will see Create a password for your Account. Go down to the last item. Turn User Account Control on or off. Make sure it is turned off. This is a nusience that causes a dialog box to come up almost every time you try to do something! as they said before clean out all the Trial Ware and any programss you don't need. This is done by going to Control Panel, go to Program and features and uninstall everything you don't want. Go to Computer (probably C) right click on it and left click on propertires. Ther is the clean that was mentioned before. If yo defrag with the one windows give you it takes a long time, mine took six hours. Better go Diskeeker and get the home edition. I t is not expensive. Mine took five to ten minutes to defrag the whole disk. This automatically defragments in the backround every hour. I would continue to use Internet Explorer 7.0. The others mentioned allowed a great deal of spyware on my computer. Next go to www.registry and download the free download. This program does two things. One it get rid of registry entry of deleted programs that are left behind. Second, it corrects incorrect registry entries of the program on your computer. On mine I had 207 incorrect entries from MIcrosoft. If you purchase this all future download of updates are free. This does not touch other programs as Registry Mechanic deled part of Windows. Cclean may do the same. Registry fix has benn rated #1 by PC Magazine. I is made in Germany. Another program I would recommend and everyone I have told about it has thanked me. This program is Trendmicro PC-cillion. It has several things. A wonderful firewall, Virus protection, spyware Incoming, outgoin and web mail protection. It also protects againt these things with a chat monitor protector. I also protects against theft of your files and programs. It updates automatically and comes from England. You must unsinstall Norton or any other programs first This is done by following what I said before. Your computer will work like a clock. Perfectly. These are the basics. I hope this helps you.

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Some Simple Stuff
by jjbrain / September 7, 2007 2:50 PM PDT

Congratulations on your new computer acquisition. I am not the world's savviest computer person but I do have a few ideas for you.
1. Keep your tower physically clean. Inside and out. Dust and pet hair are really bad for computer parts. Learn how to take the cover off your tower and clean the interior parts with compressed air (Dust Off is what I use). Have someone who knows how to do this teach you to do it. Better yet take a class in computer maintainance if you can find one.

2. Make sure that there is plenty of air circulation around your tower. Excessive heat is also very bad for sensitive computer parts so don't locate the tower in an area that is closed off from the free flow of air. Make sure that your cooling fan outlet or outlets (if you have more than one) are not blocked. I had extra fans installed in my computer.

3. Make sure that your power cords are plugged into a good surge protected power strip equipped with it's own circuit breaker. A good one can save your computer if your residence is hit by a power surge.

4. Make sure you have a good firewall installed. I personally like Zone Alarm but there are a number of other good free firewalls available to you. You may need to do a little internet research to find the one that is right for you.

5. Install at least one Anti Spyware program as well as the anti virus software. I have Spybot (free) installed on my computer along with SpySweeper and Adaware. I like Spybot the best. Make sure to run it at least once a week if you surf the internet a lot and keep it current by checking for updates. These programs only work if you keep them updated and you use them. A word of caution about SpySweeper - if you run Zone Alarm's full security suite don't let SpySweeper run automatically. The two programs don't like each other and the war between them can freeze your computer. I run SpySweeper about once a month and only after I have shut down Zone Alarm.

6. Install CCleaner. It is free and it works great. It cleans up temporary internet files among other things. It has a nice tutorial and is easy to use.

7. Consider installing a tiny application called Autoruns. It is free and it one of the best programs I have running on my computer. When opened it allows you to see exactly what is running on your computer. It has a logon tab that shows you what programs startup when you turn on your computer. That can be a real eye opening experience. It is amazing how many programs startup and run each time you turn on your computer. These programs suck up your RAM and slow everything down. The Autoruns logon window allows you stop selected programs from turning on automatically each time you start your machine. If you turn something off and then decide that you want to turn it back on simply go into the logon window and reactivate it.

8. Defragment your hard drive regularly. This is really important as a fragmented hard drive can really make your computer run poorly. I actually bought the full version of Diskeeper to do this automatically. It is one of the few programs that I allow to run constantly. I find it to be efficient, unobtrusive, and it uses very little RAM.

9. Consider using Firefox as your default internet browser. No offense to Microsoft but Internet Explorer has security problems that Firefox doesn't.

10. Try using McAfee Site Advisor with your internet browser. It is free and it will let you know whether or not a given website is considered safe.

11. Make sure that your email program has really good security features and that you activate them. I use Mozilla's Thunderbird and I have yet to have any problems with email viruses or spam.

12. Go through your programs list occasionally -settings -control panel - add and remove programs -
and remove programs that you no longer want or use.

Computers are like houses or cars or anything else that requires maintainance in that they will perform well if they are properly maintained. The above list is certainly not complete and does not address anything REALLY technical as I am not qualified to speak on those matters. It simply reflects the things I do to keep my computer running smoothly.
Good luck with your new computer.

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