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New Windows 7 PC, please help me get started on the right track

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / June 17, 2011 9:03 AM PDT
Question: New Windows 7 PC, please help me get started on the right track

I'm happy to say that I am a proud owner of a brand-new HP Pavilion
Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit desktop. It's fully loaded with all the
hardware bells and whistles--Intel i7-970 six-core CPU, 1.5 TB hard
drive, 12GB of RAM, Blu-ray player with DVD-R, 1GB ATI Radeon video
card, and more. Before I begin to really start using this workhorse,
I want to start it off on the right track. I know there are a lot of tips
and tricks scattered out there on how to properly maintain a PC, but I
really want to nail down a solid list of routine tasks and procedures
(software and hardware) to maintain it regularly to keep this baby
running in tip-top shape for years to come. This computer took me a
long time to save up for and I want to get the most out of my hard-earned
money and make it last. Can you please help me out with that?
All advice, recommendations, and coaching are welcome. I'm taking
notes now. Thanks to all who can help out.

--Submitted by: Eric C.

Here are some member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

Some basic ideas --Submitted by: MightyDrakeC
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-21563_102-5150441.html

Set up a few Automated Windows Tasks, and a few programs --Submitted by: Anysia
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-21563_102-5150463.html

Getting an HP started right. --Submitted by: thekid1949
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-21563_102-5150473.html

Think Defensively --Submitted by: tkainz
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-21563_102-5151281.html

Eric some additional information --Submitted by: Lee
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-21563_102-5154422.html

Thanks to all who contributed!


If you any additional advice or recommendations for Eric please click on Answer link below and submit away. If you are providing a listed for him, please give specific details along with each item so that it can understood by all. The more details you can provide the better. Thanks!
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All Answers

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Answer
New Windows owner
by Nymyth / June 17, 2011 11:44 AM PDT

Congrats on the new system. The first thing and most important, be sure to make bootable discs for back-up. That being said, next find a good Anti-virus/malware program. There are many out there, many free or trial ones can be picked up right here at CNET. Lastly - as a start - compare all driver dates/versions on your computer to what is newest. Many pre-mades are made well in advance of current drivers and this would be the time to install/update so that those new programs and games run like a dream once you start using your system on a regular basis. Many others will have some other advice - in addition to this - read and follow what you feel comfortable with.

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Drivers.
by P K Pal / July 2, 2011 1:05 AM PDT
In reply to: New Windows owner

Agree to your suggestions given. However on the 'driver' front, a word of caution - as it goes 'dont fix anything that aint broken'. If the user still need to do, please back up the old drivers should user needs to reinstall. Sometimes, new drvers can play havoc with the system running smoothly by interfering with the other drivers in place. Always rely more on your equipment manufacturer's drivers over the 3rd party's one. Rest is on the user's comfort level whether he/she are a pro or an amatuer. Wink

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Driver Sanity
by gpc111 / July 2, 2011 2:49 AM PDT
In reply to: Drivers.

It's nice to read some common sense advice about drivers. if your system does what you want with current drivers why risk your system health with potentially harmful updates? If you have just gone through a hard ware upgrade, by all means update the driver. Otherwise don't update your drivers just for the sake of updating.

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place an order
by sensibility / August 12, 2011 3:28 PM PDT
In reply to: New Windows owner

ok i have made backup copies of the o.s on several hp machines just to find out the discs never burned correctly so just place an order to hp and for about $24 you will have a set of master discs in a few days.
as for the device drivers LEAVE THEM ALONE i see many people update drivers just to open a new can of worms ESPECIALLY with a 64 bit o.s.

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Answer
Some basic ideas

First, make sure you have some sort of anti-virus on there. Windows Defender works. I use Avast. A lot of people like AVG. Let it update itself automatically.

Set up Windows Update to update automatically.

If you're on cable modem or DSL then spend the $20 and get a router between your computer and the cable/DSL modem. That provides protection that's worth the small expense.

Obviously, some sort of backup. Unless you're going to be downloading a lot of movies, then a 16 gig thumb drive will probably be all you need. I would recommend at least two, and cycle between them. Because, if you only have one, and things go bad in the middle of a backup, then you've lost both the original material and the unfinished backup at the same time.

Next, if the place where you keep your computer is at all dusty (you have kids or pets?) then you need to open the case and use canned air to blow out the dust occasionally. I let mine go for over a year one time, and when I finally did open it up, the heat sink on my CPU was completely clogged. I have cats, and I'm not the best housekeeper, so I now have a reminder pop up once a month to tell me to clean it. I don't do it *every* month, but I do try to get two it every two or three months. Even if you keep your place pretty clean it's a good idea to check it at least a couple of times a year.

You might want to set up a reminder for yourself on the backups, too. Choose your own interval. Your choice should be based on how painful it would be to find or recreate any data you've lost. If you're creating new content regularly then probably at least weekly, and maybe even more often. Otherwise, monthly might be enough. As above, missing one time might not be a big deal. But stay in the habit. Or, save up for an external hard drive and back up to it automatically every day.

Whenever you install a new program or device, always go to the manufacturer's site and download the latest updates and drivers. I can't remember the last time I used the CD that came with a new device. I always download the latest from the website.

Similarly, I'm a gamer, so I'm regularly installing new games. It's surprising how often a new game will exercise a section of driver code that had never been touched before, and cause a crash or some other problem. If you're a gamer and you have trouble with a new game then one of the first things to look at is getting the latest video drivers for your graphics card.

Those are the basics that come to me off the top of my head. Enjoy your new toy Happy

Drake

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How does router provide protection?
by franciemr / June 18, 2011 6:03 AM PDT
In reply to: Some basic ideas

MightDrakeC, I'm curious about your statement that a router between PC & DSL connection will provide security. I do have a router, simply because I wanted wireless for the house. But your statement caught my attention because I have not heard this before. Can you explain for those of us who are less tech savy? Thanks! Fran

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Modems and Routers
by netsiu / June 18, 2011 1:25 PM PDT

francie, mightydrake may have a better explanation but here goes. A modem is basicly a two way bridge from PC to Internet. No firewall. A router has a passcoded firewall that controls traffic in and out. It identefies computers on your side and the computer on the other side.
The router can be set so only those computers allowed by administrator (Recomended for wireles) can access the internet.
That said. The firewall helps but if some one is trying to hack in it will only slow them down.

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Router protection
by MightyDrakeC / June 18, 2011 3:01 PM PDT

A router/NAT/firewall is not foolproof protection, but it does protect against some classes of attacks.

The short version is that the router does not let outside computers see your computers, directly. Therefore, worm attacks (programs that go out and try known exploits on other IP addresses) will hit your router, which is not a Windows machine, and be stymied.

Windows is much more secure since leaving the Win 9x days. It used to be that a Win 9x machine exposed on the Internet would be infected within 15 minutes. I always have a router between me and the 'Net these days, so I haven't been keeping up on whether any unpatched XP or later versions suffer from this sort of thing.

One place it can really save you is if you ever have to reinstall Windows. Since unpatched Windows can be exploited so quickly, without the router you can become infected before you have time to download and install the patches and Service Packs.

So, a router is a Good Thing, and at today's prices, well worth the money. Some cable and phone companies do now provide a router built into the modem. At my mom's, Verizon did that. (Albeit, their router only provided WEP on the Wi-Fi, so I went ahead and put in my own router for her, anyway.)

I even carry a router when I travel and want to use the hotel network. It doesn't take a bad guy staying in the same hotel to cause a problem. Someone else' infected computer could be searching for vulnerable computers on the hotel's side of the hotel's firewall. I don't use public Wi-Fi hotspots for the same reason.

Having said all that, there are many types of intrusions that routers do nothing to prevent. If the user gets an attachment in their email and clicks on it to download it, the router has no way to know whether it's safe or not. It's just data that the user requested. If the user visits a website that has a browser exploit, the router neither knows nor cares. If the user downloads freeware that has spyware in it, the router just lets it on through. Basically, any interactions that the user initiates are not checked by the router, and therefore you need other tools to protect yourself. Like anti-virus software. And your brain.

Drake

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How does a router protect you?
by tumbleweed_biff / June 21, 2011 6:19 AM PDT

Franciemr,
the easiest way to think of it is to think of the router as a company telephone switchboard. When calling in, you have to tell the switchboard where to send the call. If you don't, it either hangs up on you or drops you into a general delivery mailbox. That is what a router does.

When a computer inside the company "calls" an external site, a session ID is created that the router knows to associate with a particular computer inside of its control. When an external site then sends information back, the router uses the session ID to know where to direct the "call back". If there is no session ID, the router doesn't know what to do with it and just drops it. Sometimes you will have what is called Port Forwarding turned on, where any traffic on a particular port hits the router, it then forwards that to a particular internal IP address. A webserver might be a good example of this.

Mike

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"wireless" routers are convenient, they are not secure.
by net2j / July 1, 2011 3:49 PM PDT
In reply to: Some basic ideas

If you want real security from a router, change the password,
and use the hard wired (CAT 5e with RJ-45 jacks) option.

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WPA and WPA2 are secure
by MightyDrakeC / July 3, 2011 8:42 AM PDT

For practical purposes, both WPA and WPA2 are secure. WEP can be cracked by a random wardriver with his laptop in minutes. This is not true for WPA nor WPA2.

Any Wi-Fi network is vulnerable if you choose a weak password. Make sure your password is at least 9 characters and contains both numbers and letters. These guidelines are applicable for all passwords you use.

Technically, WPA has been cracked. But it was done by a group who spent months with a system that's only available in a few labs in the world.

Drake

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Backups
by Ferretkeeper / July 1, 2011 5:03 PM PDT
In reply to: Some basic ideas

Rather than an external hard drive and performing backups, why not get another internal drive and set up a RAID 1 array ( mirrored / duplicated ). It is best to use a drive of not only the same capacity, but of the exact specifications of the original drive; i.e. , Manufacturer, cache, spin speed, firmware version. I have 4 x 2TB drives set up in 2x RAID 1 arrays. Array 1 partitions:- C: 200GB, D: 800GB, E: 1000GB and Array 2 partitions:- H: 1000GB, I: 1000GB. ( These numbers are representative, the actual available capacity being slightly less due to formatting). Those are mounted in a hot swap bay, and I have a further 2x 2TB drives of same specs. on the shelf as replacements in the event of drive failure ( sadly inevitable ). Hopefully this will last me for a few years.
If you are not confident with setting up RAID Arrays, you should be able to find a nearby PC specialist. Avoid any of the in-store counter type, and look for an independent with a good reputation; although it is preferable to learn how to do it yourself. These things are not as difficult/complicated as they may seem at first.
Hope you have fun with your new rig.
Gil

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RAID has pros and cons
by MightyDrakeC / July 3, 2011 8:55 AM PDT
In reply to: Backups

RAID 1 is nice. It can protect against single-drive failure.

But I like having my backups on a separate device. If something messes with the OS then there's slightly less chance of it affecting your backup media

I actually prefer a Network Access Storage box (NAS). I just set my mom up with one last week. They're a little more expensive than just a USB drive enclosure, currently ranging from about $80-$150 for low-end devices. But since it's essentially a separate computer, any problems with your main machine shouldn't carry over to the NAS. After all, you want your backup to be secure when your main machine goes down.

A NAS has the added benefit of being the backup destination for more than one machine.

One thing to always state specifically when advocating RAID is to avoid RAID 0. Raid 0 takes a bunch of drives and treats them as one large volume. That's convenient to use, because you don't have to worry about running out of room on one drive while you still have room available on another. But, if *any* of the drives fail then you lose *all* the data on *all* the drives. Making them less reliable than the drives on their own.

Drake

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Explain router between your computer and the cable/DSL modem
by batya7 / July 2, 2011 1:05 PM PDT
In reply to: Some basic ideas

You wrote:
"If you're on cable modem or DSL then spend the $20 and get a router
between your computer and the cable/DSL modem. That provides protection
that's worth the small expense."

I am noobish enough to ask: Please explain. Why and what does this do?

I just moved and have a cable modem. Will my old DSL Westell 6100 modem router work?
I have a wireless router so the laptops in the house will work. Is that the same?
How do I hook it up and configure it?

Thanks,
B

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Your wireless router is what we're talking about

Your wireless router provides the firewall protection we're talking about here. Depending on how you have it hooked up.

The short version is: The coax cable goes from the wall into your modem. A CAT5 network cable goes from the modem to the router. From there, you hook up other computers or hubs/switches. Wi-Fi automatically is protected by the firewall.

As I posted in a reply above, make sure you set up your router to use WPA or WPA2 encryption. Make sure your password is at least 9 characters long.

It would take a while for me to type up a full tutorial here, and I don't have
diagrams that I can post. You should look for a "How to set up a home
network" tutorial on the 'Net. I'm sure CNet has at least one posted.


Drake

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Answer
SOME GOOD AND TRIED CLEANERS

I would immediately install the latest Ccleaner (serch on the Web), and learn how to use AUTORUN (also free).
Then I would get friendly with IObits software (many are for free).
Some great defragmentation products are for free, IObits and Auslogics are my old favourites.
I have 4 machines running W7, all clean and slick. Two have NOD32 and two have free AVAST antispyware.
No problems since I adopted Win7 when it started.
AUTORUN is a jewel to get rid of junk startups if you play around a lot with programs.
Also, please install PROCESS EXPLORER (free) so you can see what is happening inside the machine.
Good luck and enjoy....!
(I hope some of you guys out there agree on this.......).
Peace

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There are better programs
by Luc_Mainguy / June 18, 2011 5:59 AM PDT

I would spend money on the Tuneup Utilities 2011 program. It has kept my computer running great for years (use it instead of IObit's software, I used it for a while and it actually slowed down my PC.)! Also, there is a great collection of tweaks on this site, they make your computer truly BLAZING fast: http://www.computingunleashed.com/speed-up-windows-7-ultimate-guide-to.html

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Tuneup Utilities is OK!
by TheLostTruckDriver / July 1, 2011 10:55 PM PDT

Why all the thumbs down? Tuneup is pretty good, has a turbo mode to help run things without conflict, etc. The link posted has a good WOT score. There are a ton of programs that slow down and crash PCs and Tuneup Utilities 2011 has been pretty good. It was defragging and cleaning up while I was vacuuming a few minutes ago too.

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Answer
more tips

Two more things come to my mind:

1. Make sure Windows is fully updated
2. Download the latest version of Ccleaner from Cnet and run frequently.

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Answer
Set up a few Automated Windows Tasks, and a few programs
by Anysia / June 17, 2011 12:41 PM PDT

When you first start up your new machine, you should get something about making "Factory Default Discs". You can skip this for now and do it later, but best bet is to get it done and out of the way so you don't forget about it later. Label Discs with Machine name and date, and put them in a secure place.

After you have set things up, one thing I can't strongly enough recommend is making a full system disc image. A small external hard drive is perfect for this. You can set the machine up to automatically make/update your disc image once a week (or whatever amount of time you choose). This came in handy for me when I had sent my computer in for a minor repair, and the techs wiped my hd without informing me they would be doing this. I had a back up that had been updated just 6 days before, so was able to restore my system.

Software/Security: Many people will offer you different programs, and they are all good. It comes down to personal preferences. I use System Mechanic Pro 10, but I also use CCleaner as I find SMP's clutter remover slow by comparison. I have used AVG ,AVAST, free versions, and they do work. I ditched the OEM preinstalled McAfee asap, as it wrongly identified some older programs as 'viruses' and deleted the exe files before I could stop it. No user control.

Planning ahead: I have a text file, with all my serial, license and registration information for software. I upload this to my gmail account (you can use a different web account), and whenever I get new software, I update the list, and email it to myself. This has really helped speed up installing programs from previous computer to the new one. Just download the list, or view it in your webbrowser.

Back up your registry: many Security/Safety programs have the option to make a back up of your registry, but you can do it from the regedit command. Label it with the date you made it. This back up can help if by some chance your registry gets corrupted. You can import it back in.

All the above have helped me get a fresh out of the box replacement computer to complete up and running in a single work day when I had a hard drive unexpectedly fail, and will help keep your computer safe, up to date, and easy to restore if necessary.

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Software license management
by URTido / July 2, 2011 1:56 AM PDT

You may want to consider a product like LastPass or 1Password for password and software license management. E-mailing yourself a text file is better than nothing, but it isn't a secure searchable database. By e-mailing it to yourself all of this information is only as secure as your e-mail password.

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Answer
Getting an HP started right.

First, do burn the restore DVDs and verify they do work. If they don't, give HP a call, explain what you did and why it failed, and they may send a complete set while your machine is still in warranty. But if your first burn works, make a backup copy of your restore DVDs. This ISN'T overkill. Put your restore DVD's in a secure and protected place. It amazes me how I can pull them out 6 months later, and they are blemished without anyone touching them. :).

Next, do get a router to have a hardware firewall between you and the internet. And immediately, if not before you get on the internet, put on virus and malware protection. Microsoft Security Essentials is what I use. If you're happy with what came on the HP, then activate it. But most times, to keep what comes on your machine updated, you have to pay a subscription price. MS Essentials has handled everything that has tried to mess with mine. Malwarebyte is a good one for malware, and is kept updated.

Now it's time to use your HP Advisor, and make sure you are caught up with the updates that HP says you need for your machine. If you're not familiar with drivers, bios updates, version numbers and the like, find a geek that is. For a few mountain dews, get your machine caught up, and note what one's you've done. Not all updates need to be done, necessarily, but if you have to do a restore, you start over again, excepting for firmware and bios updates.

From here it's time to remove bloatware. If you're not going to use it, remove it. Use CCleaner to clean up the remaining traces left behind. Do this before doing Microsoft updates, as you will often get rid of unneccesary updating. Somewhere in here with everything going on, defragging the harddrive is a good idea. Defraggler has done a good job for me. Even after updating from Microsoft, defragging helps your machine run more effeciently and prepares it for the next step.

Now get a program to partiton the harddrive. Partition Wizard works fine. Give yourself enough room to use Microsoft's Backup to backup your c-drive, after doing all of this, on your new partiton. In most cases, if your system gets hosed, you can use Microsoft's Restore to bring your system back to this stage. You can add applications and the like you know you'll ALWAYS use before the backup, and it will be loaded also on a restore. You can give yourself some extra room on the partition for other backups of documents, downloads, etc., but remember, if the harddrive fries, you've lost it all. A good external drive can be used instead of making a partition, but they can be fragile when it comes to life expectancy.

Plan your backup scheduling of your system, and you should be good to go.

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Partition
by dangnad1 / July 1, 2011 9:45 AM PDT

I agree with everything here but I would make the number one task partitioning my hard drive. Make the C: partition about 50% larger than Windows' basic requirements (60-80gb). Then set up some data partitions then you're ready to rock with all the other things.

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Another internal hard drive
by aussietexan48 / July 1, 2011 12:35 PM PDT

I would never backup my system on a partition of my main disk drive. The primary use of a total system backup is to restore your complete system in the event of a head crash on your main disk drive. All partitions will be gone if that is the case. if your PC tower has room for another internal hard drive then put another hard drive in. they are cheaper and more robust than an external drive. I have two 1TB drives in my machine and backup on a regular schedule.
I use Avast as a free anti-virus, Windows Security Essentials for free malware protection, CCleaner for free cleanup of junk files and registry. CCleaner backs up the registry before making any changes.

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@the kid1949; Highly Agree EXCEPT...
by tomdham / July 1, 2011 3:31 PM PDT

I agree 100% with everything you said except the following:

1) NEVER backup to your internal HDD. For one thing it is just wasting space. (AND as you stated: "if the harddrive fries, you've lost it all").
2) I don't think W7 will allow you to backup to the main HDD anyway.
3) It is not recommended to use partitioning software unless you know what you are doing. It is a new computer, IMHO you shouldn't need to partition for any reason unless doing a dual boot (Linux, Ubuntu etc.).
4) Always use an external backup, either a USB HD, DVD, SSD, or even a Cloud server.

Thanks,
Tom

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Bloatware
by gilliebg / July 2, 2011 5:52 AM PDT

Hi, I have a new HP and a newly recon,Toshiba laptop; both have stuff I am sure I don't need, but I am afraid to delete anything in case it is something important. How do i find out? Gillie

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Re: how to find out.
by Kees_B Forum moderator / July 2, 2011 5:56 AM PDT
In reply to: Bloatware

Two options:
1. Tell us what stuff it is, hoping that you get some good answers.
2. Google it to learn more and then decide yourself


Kees

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I would always be cautious
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / July 2, 2011 5:58 AM PDT
In reply to: Bloatware

And in fact I tend to leave my new systems pretty much as they are, but if you are determined, then have a look at CNET's own video on how to get rid of bloatware here;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUDPgcuzdYk

Mark

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Getting an HP started right.
by Bindlestiff / July 2, 2011 6:40 AM PDT

Dear CNET and LEE KOO:

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Answer
New Windows 7 PC, please help me get started

Make sure that you do all of the basic stuff like back-up disks, etc., and then, RESEARCH. Thoroughly check out any software or hardware before you invest. CNET reviews are a great place to start and most times you don't have to go any further than that.

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