New PC Setup: A Nerd’s Checklist

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The feeling of powering up a brand new PC for the first time is quite satisfying.  All the new features, the fresh pixels, and that new computer smell are certain to coax a smile from the users mouth.  The process of a new PC setup is something that should not be taken lightly.  What began as completing an initial charge has turned into a process of signing up for software and features that few PC users never actually use.  In order for a new PC to function at a higher capacity, there are a few steps that can be taken.

Get Rid of Junk Programs

With any PC bought off-the-shelf, there will be a plethora of junk programs that come pre-installed.  Us nerds like to call these programs bloatware; programs that you will never used and are only on there because the manufacturer got paid to put them there.  These programs take up space, slow down your system, and compromise performance.  Not to mention, those constant pop-ups get annoying very fast and are rarely helpful.  To get rid of this bloatware, there are two approaches that can be taken during a new PC setup.  The path taken by most tech professionals is to install a fresh version of the operating system, but without experience it can be a challenge to ensure that functionality is not affected due to the drivers that may or may not be included with the OS.  For those with less experience who still want a quality new PC setup, a program called PC Decrapifier can be easily downloaded and will automatically sweep your system to identify and remove junk programs that come pre-installed.  Once your new PC setup is junk free, the next step is to prepare for any emergencies that may affect your PC’s memory or performance.

pc DEcrap

Create A Recovery Disk

In the past, new computers came with back up disks containing the software installed on your machine.  If there was ever an issue with the system, it was as simple as popping in the disk and installing the software to start fresh.  These days, it is rare to receive a disk with your machine, as most manufacturers create a recovery partition on your hard drive; this can cause major issues if the hard drive fails.  During a new PC setup, it is important to create a recovery disk with your OS and necessary drivers on a DVD or USB drive.  Both Mac and Windows OS have the function to create a system image and a restore disk.  If you are having trouble finding where to look for these, check our Lifehacker, Toms Hardware, or Youtube for tutorials.  Creating a recovery disk may help you prepare for a hardware or software emergency, but what about physical damage?

Safeguard Your Investment

Now that we have covered how to get the best function from your PC, and how to prepare for a software emergency, the next step in new PC setup is to take records of the serial number and Windows registration code.  If you ever need to reinstall Windows, you will need the registration code.  Recording the serial number is important in the event of a lost, damaged, or stolen computer.  The serial number can be used for warranty work and for placing a claim if the computer is lost or damaged.  You should also call your insurance company to see if you should schedule the new system on your personal property policy;  with the amount of technology and information that goes into creating new PC’s, they are a valuable asset to any person or family.  Most PC’s do come with a limited warranty, but being prepared for longer down the road is likely to pay off.

Prepare For The End Of Warranty Protection

Most systems will inform you of your warranty details the first time the computer is booted up.  This is a great time to record the expiration date of your warranty, in the event that there is an issue later down the line, you can be aware of a timeline to get the problem fixed for free rather than pay for repairs outside of you warranty coverage.  By staying on top of your warranty expiration date, small problems or bugs can be easily addressed at no cost to you.  Not only is it important to be sure your PC is protected, but the surrounding technology as well.

Upgrade Your Surge Protector

It is important to use a surge protector, not just a regular power strip for delivering electricity to your PC.  A surge of electricity could effectively render your new computer useless and leave you with nothing to do about it.  Most people use the same surge protector for decades and allow it to gather dust in a hidden corner under a desk.  It is important to replace your surge protector because they do lose their effectiveness over time.  Even though it is not directly related to new PC setup, upgrading your surge protector can definitely not hurt and is a good protective measure to take.

About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.

Video Transcript

Keba: It’s just for back to school or just for fun, a new computer or laptop, it’s exciting, right? Before you plug it in, there are something you have to keep in mind. Joining us this morning, Ryan Eldridge, co-founder of Nerds On Call, good morning to you.

Ryan: Hi.

Keba: All right, so you get it home, you’re so excited. You plug it in and you start going. Stop, right?

Ryan: There is almost no greater day in a nerd’s life than a new PC.

Keba: Right.

Ryan: We freaking love it. It’s so cool but it’s about a seven hour process. When you hand a new PC to someone, there’s all kinds of junk programs on there, little pop-ups and dings and register this and do that, and most of the stuff you’re never going to use.

Keba: Okay, what do we do first then while we’re seeing all of this, click here, do this, do you want that.

Ryan: If you’re a nerd like me, the first thing you’re going to do is format and re-install that computer and start fresh.

Keba: Okay.

Ryan: But if you’re not a nerd and you need some help, there’s a great program online called “PC Decrapifier.” You can go to . . .

Keba: Okay, hold on.

Ryan: PCDecrapifier.com.

Keba: Really?

Ryan: Yes.

Keba: Okay.

Ryan: And you know when you run this program it will go through your whole system and look for all of that junkware. We call it bloatware.

Keba: Okay.

Ryan: And it will remove it for you or ask you, “Hey, this looks like bloatware to us. Do you want to keep this or do you want to remove it?” And you click yes, and it cleans it all for you.

Keba: And will it kind of tell you, “This is used for this, you don’t need it?” Maybe make suggestions?

Ryan: Yeah, it will.

Keba: Or it will give you an idea?

Ryan: It will. And you’ll get an anti-virus program that will have a 30 day trial and things like that. Remove all of that stuff and get some of the free stuff like MSE, Microsoft Security Essentials.

Keba: Okay, so PCDecrapifier.com.

Ryan: Yes.

Keba: I just wanted to say that. Is that a free service? Do we need to pay?

Ryan: It is free and it’s super cool. We recommend it to everybody that it isn’t really computer savvy.

Keba: All right. What about the old fashionede that you really need this, a recovery disk?

Ryan: Yeah, in the old days we would get a nice little box with our PC that had the disks and a little manual and all those kind of stuffs. Well, none of that comes in the PC anymore and you usually portion off a part of the hard drive to put all that recovery software on it now. But if your hard drive dies, you’re messed up. And so the first thing you want to do is after you turn it on make a recovery disk. Both Windows and Mac have programs built into the PC to build and do that. And if you have trouble and you’re not sure how to do that, go to Lifehacker.com.

Keba: Okay.

Ryan: Or YouTube and watch some videos and they will show you how to do it.

Keba: Okay, so most of us, this is a big purchase right here. You’re spending quite a bit of money on this. So we want to be able to protect this investment. What are some other things we need to do?

Ryan: Well, if you spend anywhere from $500 or more for a PC or if you buy a new Mac you’re spending thousands of dollars on a new Mac. First thing is call your insurance company and see if you can add it to your personal property policy in case it gets stolen or lost.

Keba: Wow, just for items that are in your home?

Ryan: Yeah.

Keba: Okay.

Ryan: That way if it gets lost or stolen, you can get it replaced. Another thing to do is take pictures of the Windows key which will be on the back side and the serial number on your phone. So that way if those wear off, you’ve still got them or if you need to re-install Windows you can re-install it using the product key. Without it you’re going to spend another hundred or $200 just to replace Windows.

Keba: So basically document included in short. All right, let’s talk about registering. You always get that prompt, register now, I’ll do it later.

Ryan: Yeah and we always skip it.

Keba: Yes.

Ryan: But the thing is if you register it, it will also set a timer for your warranty. And so take your phone or a calendar somewhere and take two weeks off of that warranty period and put a little reminder on there. We always have little annoyances that we’re dealing with the PC. Oh, this key is a little loose or it doesn’t . . . this USB port sometimes doesn’t work.

Keba: Right.

Ryan: Two weeks before your warranty runs out if it’s on your calendar you can contact the manufacturer and get it repaired before your warranty runs out.

Keba: Okay and lastly, but what about accessories? So do you just kind of do them like you did with your old computer, or is it something new that we should do?

Ryan: Well, the first thing we do, when we get home with that new PC we plug it in to a surge protector that’s probably 10 years old.

Keba: Yes.

Ryan: And the thing is this, especially in Sacramento when we get those great thunderstorms we just had, one of those thunderstorms can fry your computer and there’s a thousand dollars down the drain. And so just go to Frys or go to Best Buy or some local retailer and spend $10 or $20 to get a surge protector and make sure it says that it’s a surge protector not just a power strip.

Keba: So that’s the key right there because they’re not all created equal.

Ryan: Exactly.

Keba: You need to know what you’re buying, right?

Ryan: Exactly. If you’re spending $12 on it, it’s probably not going to protect your PC.

Keba: Okay.

Ryan: So go ahead and just go for it. Go for $20, $25. Yeah, just spend it and that’ll protect your PC. That way if something’s goes wrong, you get a surge on your house and a breaker pops, you won’t lose your PC. You don’t have to spend all kinds of money in getting it repaired or replaced.

Keba: Okay, good advice.

Ryan: Thanks.

Keba: There’s a lot that you need to know before you plug in that PC. Ryan Eldridge co-founder of Nerds On Call, thank you.

Ryan: You’re welcome.

Keba: All right. Rob, you heard that? He was talking about thunderstorms. Actually we’re going to send it to Dan. Dan, did you hear that?

Dan: Well, it’s not often that I can correct Ryan, but I’m going to correct him on this. The one thing I would do if I got a new computer, call Nerds On Call. Yeah, that’s what I will do.

Ryan: That’s a great idea.

Keba: Been there, done that.

Ryan: Everyone should do that. Yes.

Dan: Thank you, Ryan.