You just bought a new computer… Now what?
10 Important Steps For Your New Computer
by an IT guy who doesn’t want to fix your computer
This document is meant for my family and friends when they buy a new machine, but everyone on the intarwebs uses it. I won’t make any money from it but it has already saved me from donating time.
To make both of our lives easier, I’d like you to spend $100 now and $5 a month for as long as you own a computer. I’d like you to print this, put it on the fridge and check it off as you get things done or recognize you understand. Ask yourself if that is an acceptable cost? $100 for all your photos, data, social security number and credit history? Or $100 when you are in panic mode and think you lost all your data?
Did you answer yes? Here are the steps to get your new computer running the right way. Do you NEED to do this? No, just call your uncle Ted instead instead of me when your computer breaks. I know this document has bad grammar and terrible punctuation. I’m not interested in that. You can decipher it in minutes or I can spend an entire day unbreaking things with you breathing down my neck cracking your knuckles.
A computer is a big dollar purchase. Take care of it like a $2000 pet dog, it needs maintenance, feeding and care. I guess better than a dog because you can turn it off when it barks or poops. A good nerd makes things happen with as little work as possible. This is my magic recipie. Even with magic it takes some effort and this list is way less effort than the alternative of inaction.
Broken up into:
- Find or build a windows install disc now.
- Windows updates and Application updates
- driver and firmware updates
- unload crapware
- extra protection
- Standard free apps
- Who will support you
- Training yourself to be smart about the tech world
For help – If you don’t understand go to youtube and ask it a question. Someone already made a video to help you.
5/2015- Step 0 – before you start in on anything get yourself a password manager. I like lastpass and use it for every employeee and consultant who works at my company. Other good ones are Dashlane and Onepass.
1st thing you need to do right now-
A. Find your windows installation disc… found it? Try booting off it just to make sure. If it works and you know you have it, go to C.
B. Wait you probably didn’t get one. Today most manufacturers don’t give you an installation disc for many selfish stupid reasons. If you don’t have a windows install/recovery disc your first mission is to create your recovery disc set and put it in a safe place. Find the utility on your computer that builds the recovery disk. Find some blank cds and build it right now.
C. I want you to go to walmart/target and buy the cheap little $30 sentry fire safe. It is heavy, obnoxious, doesn’t look like any other box in your house. You are going to put your recovery disks and backups in there. When you need them you will know where they are. Don’t put it off. I NEED this when trying to fix your stuff. At the very least a box that is labeled and you can get to it.
D. Also please take a picture or photocopy the bottom/back of your computer and put it in the safe. If the windows serial number is on the bottom/side get that too. The windows serial is 5 series of 5 letters and numbers. (FXXH3-OIDFS-38239-JF221-JKKDI) for example. Put this in your computer backup safe. One of the people who reads this will have your house burn down. So humor me and everyone spend $30 for the fire safe. (side note, take 15 minutes and shoot video of every closet, drawer and cabinet in your house, put it in the safe. Your digital camera/phone does videos remember?)
Task 2 – set up backups
Please do this now. Nobody comes back and does the backup step, that is why I have a job. You need 2 backup strategies. This is going to take the rest of your $100. You aren’t allowed to touch your shiny new computer until this is done. The two backup strategies are your A. external hard drive backup and B. mozy offsite backup. You must have Task 1 and 2 completed in order to have an easy time once your computer dies and you have to buy the next one.
A. You need to order a little cheap external hard drive. At least the same size as your internal hard drive. Click that link for a $60 toshiba 320GB that i use. (now there are bigger ones) This drive is going to be for your windows backup. Get usb3 if you can.
Format the drive when you get it, don’t worry about the backup software on it. Plug in your drive, hit start> type in “backup” and run the Backup and Restore center. Then do a whole drive backup to your new little disk and put it in your fire safe. Pull it out every 6 months and do a new backup. If you have space keep more than one copy and delete the oldest when you need to. Get one that is USB. Also order a cheap cable while you are at newegg. You can get one for $5 instead of $35 at best buy.
Advanced– If you have an esata connector and know what that is, get the esata connector. Backups will be way faster.
B. You need a Mozy account. It costs $5/month for unlimited drive space. Your data will be backed up in a bunker on earthquake rollers with gigglewatts of backup power and generators. It is encrypted before it leaves your computer and stored that way safe from any peeping Mozy employees so just forget about it. When your laptop is stolen, drowned, erased by aliens etc.. your data will be safe in Utah. Once this program is running, it just goes. It autoupdates and backs up multiple times a day. Mozy or carbonite are fine. My work pays about $500 a month to Mozy, we are a 2011 INC500 company who has never had a failed restore job.
Look at all the digital photos you have ever taken. Do you have them backed up right now? Every one of them? I do. Use that answer to determine if you really will go back them up to cd and put them in the safe. Or if you need something that automagically backs up every day for you. $5 a month is really cheap insurance for all your photos, docs, tax returns, music, and poems about wood chippers and larks. Please, I can’t stress this one enough, it is heartbreaking every time I find out someone has to send a hard drive to Ontrack for $1000 and still can’t get 10 years of their child’s photos back. Hard drives spin at insane speeds, they will die. SSDs do wierd stuff and die.
When your computer dies –
1.Pull the restore disk out of your safe, reinstall windows. If you can afford it, buy a new hard drive to rebuild on and keep the old one as it is.
2. Restore your programs and settings by using your external hard disk. This gets you back to 1-6months ago.
3. restore your documents/photos/music from Mozy. Getting everything back to normal could take a little while so be patient. The mozy restore will take a long time to download depending on how much stuff you have. But you will get it back. Otherwise you can troll your friends flicker and shutterfly accounts and repurchase everything off itunes. And imagine me cackling with evil glee while I think about how fun it would be to say “I told you so” before I feel bad for you and nicely say, aw stupid computer.
When your computer is stolen – You can try the restore disk on a new computer, it might not work because of the different hardware buy as a replacement. But you have your offsite mozy backup with all your current files. All your data is still safe after your laptop is lost by airport security! Make sure when you buy software you are adding the serial number to your little safe. Don’t worry about putting driver cds in there, you need to download the newest drivers instead of using the cd anything comes with.
More on stolen – If you want to be able to remote wipe or recover your computer and you have money, you may want to get lojack. Newer non-Mac computers have hardware that will reinstall lojack even if the thief replaces the hardware. If it is a laptop with an aircard it will send an sms to lojack a few times a day to ask if it has been stolen. If so you can lock the processor so the machine doesnt work, lock/recover files and then wait for the cops to find it. Most cop cars have lojack detectors built in, they will see it fly down the highway, call their buddies and move in on it just like a car.
Lojack isn’t as useful on desktops, but you have a chance.
Task 3 – Antivirus
Microsoft Security Essentials – fast, good free AV. Isn’t going to mess with any programs or break the OS. This has a lot more under the hood than an AV review will tell you. It is made to work quickly against new threats, not pass AV review site hypothetical tests. Or if you dont trust it-
Most people don’t realize their ISP gives a free AV/firewall solution away with your subscription. For example if you are a comcast user go to http://www.comcast.net/security and get your free copy of Norton. Sign up on your comcast account for multiple email addresses and you can grab a bunch of copies of Norton on them. Put it on all your home machines.
Or if you have Qwest I think you get the MS Live security suite. Call them right now if you forgot your password. Most ISPs have one is my point. Just call them and find out.
Give me a comment if you find out what other providers give you and what the link to it is. DON’T run a computer without antivirus. If your ISP doesn’t give you one, get the free version of Avira, or in a few months the free . Don’t ever let your antivirus subscription run out. You will get a virus. These days that means some Russian mafia guy is days from stealing all your credit card info and selling it to Chinese card printers. Or they are stealing enough information to build a credit card or mortgage in your name.
If you have a mac, you need antivirus… It already has a light lame version built in. The word antivirus should be changed to antimalware because mac guys will get all pissy about the word virus. Don’t challenge them unless you want a headache while they fill your head with BS.
If you have uttered the words “I don’t have anything someone would steal” you are very very wrong. Most people have a name, address and everything a bad guy needs to take your full available credit plus more. Good luck trying to clean that, it takes years.
Task4 – Windows updates
Your computer has been sitting in a box, not connected to the internet to update. Before you start surfing anywhere, you need your patches to be done. Don’t stray and get excited yet. You have to get these finished before surfing anywhere. If you have a mac, do the same thing please… Anyone can take over an unpatched windows/mac/linux box.
Put some X’s next to tasks 1-4 on your printed out copy that is on your fridge. It is on your fridge and you are following along right? You are pretty secure at this point. Now take a break.
Task5 – Driver and firmware updates
You need to learn how to install new drivers and firmware from your manufacturer. For example if you have a dell, you go to http://support.dell.com . Put in your service tag and grab the newest firmware and drivers. Put them in a folder and start running all of them. Keep that folder around so in a year you can compare what versions you have and get ready to update again. Firmware is important because sometimes they will include something like.. corrects a voltage regulation problem that could cause a fire.. Or speeds something up a lot. Or fixes spelling errors. Just keep up on them once in a while. See why you have a fire safe now? Computer/iphone batteries tend to light on fire just before they get recalled. If you don’t update and your house lights on fire, well you get the point.
Many manufacturers have a program loaded for you that will check to find and install your drivers and firmware for you. Use that.
More advanced -Always try to track down the video card driver from Nvidia, AMD or Intel for your card. You will get a newer version and better performance. This is a must if you are a gamer.
Task6 – Unload crapware
This may be a semi advanced step. Skip if you want until cousin nerd is over to help you with step 9. Your machine will come with a ton of crapware installed. You know, the stuff you didn’t ask for. It is tough to know what you don’t need sometimes.
First set a system restore point in cause you mess up. Next, go into the control panel>programs and features. Anything that says ‘toolbar’ is safe to get rid of. Dell puts in a program that redirects your mistyped web addresses to their site. Kill that sort of thing. I’ll try to come up with a good list next time I buy a new home machine for someone. Don’t use decrapifier.. mcafee says it has a virus right now.
Hit start> and type in Msconfig then hit enter. Go to the ‘startup items’ Take a screenshot or write down what is in there. Once you have everything else installed you can go back and start unchecking all the new crap that is added. You don’t need to have instant messengers, adobe etc load when you boot. You might as well start it when you need it so you don’t have to wait an hour for booting.
Dell, gateway etc will set your browser to send bad dns requests to their crappy ass search engine so they get the click $. Find that program and kill it.
You can try pcdecrapifier, don’t do it unless you have backups and a free weekend.
Task7 – extra protection
Install the hosts file from MVPS.org. This is a file that takes all the known bad web/ad pages out there and black holes them. It takes a little reading but it is worth it to get installed. It will get rid of 90% of the ads you will come across. You download their file, unzip it. Then right click on the .bat file there and select “run as administrator” It will copy your old file and rename it. Then you will have a list of websites like this in your hosts file:
127.0.0.1 stat.active24stats.nl #[Tracking.Cookie]
This means if an ad tries to find data at ad2games.com it will black hole that request and send it quickly to 127.0.0.1 which to you means nowhere. You will notice the majority of ads have now disappeared from the web pages you go to. And with it the surface area for an attacker has dropped significantly.
Install McAfee site advisor – enable ‘highlight search results’ disable the toolbar in the settings. This will highlight all your search results in green if the page is known to be safe, yellow if sketchy and red if they are known to be bad.
Test this bad boy out – Once you have it installed and highlighting your results google “cute puppy screensaver” and see how many evil red sites are out there trying to screw you for wanting a cute puppy screensaver. Think of some other things that sound innocent. See how evil the internet is?
Task 8 – standard apps
Zipping – I use 7zip from sourceforge. Zipping/unzipping should be free, it is really really old easy stuff. No need for winzip. Or use the built in windows one.
PDF files – update 5-2015 – Screw adobe. Just use Microsoft Word to read PDFs. Right click a pdf, choose default, select word.
Java – go to Sun’s page and download java straight from them… ALWAYS UPDATE JAVA when it asks. If you have a mac… good luck they make their own java and they are about 6 months slower than Microsoft or a linux flavor to patch. Apple doesn’t care about security. They care about high margins on blingy computers. Once again secunia psi will patch this for you.
Java is the #1 way attackers break into PCs today. Please please please keep java updated.
Adobe Flash – There is a version built in to chrome and IE. Don’t install the standalone version. EVER.
CD/DVD burning – Infrarecorder is a great free dvd/cd burner
Media Player – VLC is the best. VLC will play anything. You don’t have to go get quicktime, a dvd player, real player and all that junk. Just get open source VLC. If you see a pale star trek guy that lives in mom’s basement, don’t laugh, maybe buy him a soda because he may help write vlc for you. If you don’t appreciate him or point at him, he may steal your bank account.
Instant Messaging – If you want secure chat – go for skype. Microsoft has it locked down really well, we use it with a BAA for patient data.
Otherwise get Pidgin. Another open source one. It will open all of your instant message accounts. MSN, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook, Gmail etc… No need for 5 instant messenger programs when you can have one free one that doesn’t flash ads in your face and suck all your RAM. Pidgin just started supporting google video and voice chat.
advanced- get OTR plugin for pidgin. Better than nothing even though libpurple is a little weak.
Office – Just save yourself a lot of trouble and get an Office365 subscription for $100 a year. Full version of office for you and a few family members for that same 100.
If you don’t want to buy office, I highly recommend getting a free hotmail/outlook account just for free Office. Go into hotmail, look at the top bar and look for Skydrive. Skydrive will let you create any MS office doc you probably need. You can save a ton there and access it from anywhere. You don’t really need to buy office anymore.
Internet browser -update 5/2015 Firefox is a bloated old cow. Just use IE or chrome.
Task 9 – Set up your lifeline
Everyone has the little brother, niece, whoever fixes your computer. Please make their awkward nerdy life easier. Get them to set up a Logmein free edition app on your computer and both of you sit down and test it once. Its all about remote control.
When you need help they can get your logmein password and remote control your screen. You will be able to see what they are doing. They can either laser pointer over things to show you what to click or do it for you. If you are freaking out about your computer being broken, chill a bit before calling. You have remote control software to help them see instead of just explaining the problem louder in non tech words. Just let them log in and check it out. Ask them to show you so you learn.
Logmein will sit down next to your clock in the tray. Your job is to put a password on it. Right click the grey icon with 4 blue dots and hit ‘change password” When you call them for help, tell them the password.
When they are done remote controlling your machine change the password and write it down. If you forget, it doesn’t matter, just right click and reset it again when you need help. You have to change your password after every time someone remotes in to your machine because I said so. Keeps everyone honest without fault. No suspicion about your little brother getting on to your machine without your permission, and he wont be able to. ever. Tell them you will always watch any time anyone is on your computer, no exceptions. Or say the windowsnerd.com guy said so. This is easy, don’t skip it because it has a rule.
You will have longer term free tech support if you are willing to use a tool like logmein. If your nerd hasn’t used it, they become worth more money by knowing how, so buy them a star trek costume for comicon to encourage them. Your free support person will have an easy time helping you if you have this installed. If you make it hard on your free techie, they will not be your free techie for long. Do your backup, buy mozy.Put MVPS and siteadvisor on. Do this while your machine is operational. Don’t let your antivirus expire. Everything else is up to you and your level of cluefulness.
Task 10 – training yourself
If you were to look at the firewall logs of your cable modem, you would see automated processes attacking you every minute of the day. There are a lot of bad people on the web and it is very easy for them to cast a very large net. A person might be able to attack once every 10 minutes but his script can hit 1000 computers every minute. You won’t want to believe me but do some practice anyway if you want. Here are some exercises to train your brain:
1. New programs – Before you install any program, always google “Program name spyware” and then see if there are a lot of search results saying it has spyware in it. Right now go to google and look up “Digsby spyware” Sigh, click the link if you are lazy and I will google it for you with my magic power. This will show you what happens before your eyes. It’s fun try it.
Glance through the results. Now remember that. Don’t install digsby, limewire, kazaa, all that stuff. If you are going to pirate stuff, learn to do it right. If you are going to use an application your pals use, don’t trust their word, look it up. Ever wondered why their machine is slower than dirt? You can laugh because their machine is spamming viagra emails and serving french porn to africa. Don’t have money for MS Office so you figure you will just grab a torrent? It has a rootkit built in that you can’t clean. You are not the owner of your computer anymore.
Any time you have a question. Google it. just type it in… If you don’t believe a word I say, google it. There are many ways. Or try youtube. Go there and ask “how do I download free books to my kindle fire” Many people already shot a video to teach you.
2. Facebook – Don’t accept gifts, install apps etc. Facebook is the easiest way to steal info these days.. I feel guilty not accepting the virtual beer my friends send. But I value my real dollars more than their virtual beer. Real dollars buy real beer. If I (evil hypothetical I) want your bank account, I find you on facebook and socially engineer my way to it to buy more beer. long winded example you can skip-
There are many ways for me to get around finding your friends on facebook, myspace, linkedin, your company web page. Then I find your friend Patsy’s email address. I easily forge an email from Patsy’s address and attach a picture that says “old photo I forgot to send you.” something creative.. You gave me experiences on facebook to comment on to make it sound real. Attached to that file is an alternate NTFS data stream that hides my trojan jumping on your computer. That trojan alerts me when you are on a bank website. Then I take over the cookie on your website, keep your session open, write down your password and account info, open a loan, credit card in your name and drain your bank account. Easy peasy. Any idiot can learn to do this from a 7 minute youtube video. Just remember all these places you put your information are easy to get to and manipulate. People do it every minute of the day. Please take the time to set up your facebook privacy settings. The short version of this confusing paragraph- anyone creative can trick you into a trap using facebook bait provided by you. Minimize the damage by not sharing to the world.
3. Nothing on the internet is free – There is a cost with everything. Open source software has the best cost- it pays a developer who volunteers his time for his own warm fuzzys. Dropping nice comments to the writers of 7zip or Pidgin results in free labor for all of us. Think of it like you are giving work to an unemployed nuke scientist. You should be nice to them while they are on the good side of the fence. Buy them a 3 wolves howling at the moon tshirt from amazon.
Mcafee’s free siteadvisor gives them data to sell corporations about threats. You don’t have the money an antivirus company is after, you have digital threat data valuable to me at work. They provide you a free service so that I pay lots of money. That kind of tradeoff is good for you and me.
Toolbars earn money for its creator when you use it to search. They also sell your surfing habits. They take up screen real estate, advertise and suck ram. Mostly they suck. If you are a google fanboy, i think theirs is ok. I advise you to never install a toolbar. Set your homepage to google.
Freeware sometimes tracks what you do or installs spyware. Clicking on a website uses power and kills trees. Spam and forwarded email produce polution because they take electricity. If you don’t know for certain that ‘free’ software is open source, it is getting money from you somehow. Look for a GPL license meaning it is free for public distribution.
4. DO NOT OPEN ATTACHMENTS YOU AREN”T EXPECTING!!! You see this all the time but you don’t actually follow the advice right? Use your common sense and figure out if someone should be sending you that file before you open it to see what it is. When you get emails from your crazy aunt who spams all the time, google the subject and snopes.com. Chances are that you can read the same email online at snopes and at the same time find out if it is a hoax or not. An example google, “snopes.com needle gas pump handle” “snopes.com gum takes 7 years to digest” You will soon know the truth before you look like an idiot and hit forward. Myths were fun around a campfire, not when you send 30 a day to everyone you know. There is a setting for it, and it is not in email.
5. Don’t ever go to a bank site directly from an email. Banks shouldn’t be allowed to email you. If they do, don’t click the link in the email. Take a deep breath, close your email, open a browser window yourself and go to your bank site by yourself. It may take several seconds longer, but it is worth the trouble.
6.More on banking. Use a strong password for bank accounts and email. Where does your reset password go from a bank account website? Your email! Protect it. Get Keepass or lastpass and start using it. If you have a different password per website you will not remember it. If you back up according to the rules above, your keepass file will never be lost. So now you can’t forget your password and when Zappos loses all your information you don’t have to guess what websites share the same password and are about to be stolen and used against you.
Do banking in a browser window with no other tabs – this sounds crazy I know… But an ad on one tab can inject code to break in to your bank tab within the same browser instance. Hopefully your new MVPS hosts file and antivirus will pick these off. Take the effort to be safe when you do financial stuff. Close your browsers, open a new one and make that your happy banking mode. When you are done, log out of the bank site and close the browser. I hate helping people learn how to put a block on their credit.
7. Don’t reply to that stupid email about “things you don’t know about me” that ask you to list your dogs name, the street you grew up on, first boy you kissed and then forward it along with the info from the sap who sent it. Don’t do the one that shows you how to make your porn star name using your street address and dogs name. That is easier than taking candy from a baby, more like the baby emails you the candy without being asked. These dumb questions are a list of all your backup questions to bank accounts, email etc. and it will be forwarded on with your results until it reaches someone who automatically parses it and uses it against you. Your friend you send it on to probably hasn’t signed a nondisclosure agreement with you. They have? you are weird.
8. Build your decoy information. If your last name is jones, name it Jonez or JonesJr. Get a spare email account, a fake phone number and address. Use these for all free offers, rewards cards etc. Use the same one every time. Soon the Army will recruit your alterego. I’m not sure if you can legally make up a fake address. Nevermind. um don’t do that. Anyhow if you want a real phone number, magicjack is $20 a year. I’d pay $20 to avoid telemarketers. A spare email account is free. Figure out the address thing on your own.
Another new option for a free spare phone number is google voice. Start a google voice account, use it on every commercial site you go to. With google voice you can tell it to ignore phone calls like a spam filter.
Travelling – Pretend your name is Pam for a minute. Build an email address that matches your existing one but has an additional letter. Don’t say PamTravel because people know you are out of the house while using it. If they are close friends they know because you told them, not because you are using [email protected]. Now when you travel if you have to send email you have an address to do it from. If someone has a NEED to send you email while you travel, give them this address beforehand. You should not check your personal account with bank info and account registrations from any computer but your own. I can’t tell you how many hotels and library internet kiosks I’ve spotted nasty virus activity on. I’ve been to some really swanky places around the world and the one common theme is that public computers belong to some guy in the public but not really to everyone.
9.Remove the name tagging on your photos your friends posted at Facebook. Trust me on this one if you are in college. You will thank me when looking for a job later. Lock your facebook account down to friends only. Go to every settings page on facebook and read it. I have many friends who specialize in data mining, and you are making it way to easy. There are so many things to do with the info you put on the net for free. If only I had more time, and a missing morality bone, I would be rich. Photo recognition is just starting to work. Just wait until I can send my robots to surf your facebook page, identify if you like coke or pepsi based on all your photos and start sending you coupons to sway your opinon. Or, I’m your insurance company in 2022 now armed with 10 years of photos showing how much of a risk you are. Your credit card company already uses the products you buy to classify you into a credit score. You smoke? Hahahah you have a lower credit score than most because you will probably die sooner and default.
10. Last ranting but helpful comment- Any information you give to someone else no longer belongs to you. Look it up on Lexis Nexis for examples. If you write a racy love letter to your boyfriend on paper, it belongs to him. You transferred ownership when you mailed it and sent it as a gift. That is how a court will see it when he publishes the note. Keep that in mind when putting any data anywhere. You most likely don’t own it anymore. Facebook owns the content you put up there, you do not. A forum owns the post you just ranted on. Google owns rights to all the photos you view with Picasa. Unless you read the EULA and run it by your lawyer, your assumptions may be wrong and most likely have already been tried by some other person who was positive their ‘theory’ would hold up. The only exception to this appears to be naked selfies. Somehow those are protected by law even though you gave it away the same as a love letter from 1910.
Believe what you want about if people in the world are good at heart or you don’t have anything worth stealing. Just ignore that on the web. Google how much your SSN is worth on the black market, or what happens to you if a home loan is taken out in your name. Can you get a credit card? Then someone else can for you. If you err on the side of caution you won’t be putting blocks on your credit report or get turned down on a job over photos from that spring break trip. Basically you need a bullshit filter for everything you do. Train it up and practice. Be a skeptic.
Anything else? Leave comments to help me edit this doc.
If you feel like this list helped you, please donate some cash to the good people at:
If you read to here you get a star.
Surprisingly enough this page has broken the 1000 views mark. Please pass it on and tell me how to fix it. What is helpful, what is not. Too long? Need photos? Bad humor? Any comments, questions are helpful, just realize I don’t check very often so it might take me a little while to get back to you.