What to do before you use that new PCThere’s a time for work and there’s a time for play, particularly when you are getting paid. Last Friday I combined both occasions into one for my end-of-the-work-week article — it was a special occasion, after all, and I thought a look at Second Life might provide a welcome relief from the reality of our everyday lives. Today is Monday, however, and that means it’s back to the grind for most of us. There’s little time for fun and games. That said, anything that can make even the most mundane of tasks easier has the potential of inserting a bit of fun (or at least, relief) into your workday — unless, of course, you prefer to make life more challenging for yourself.

This weekend I finally decided to make my work life a little easier: I purchased a new personal computer. It’s been a while since I’ve purchased a new PC; most of the time I opt for replacing components I need to keep my old machine(s) running. Recently I brought home a motherboard and CPU I found at a place called Unclaimed Baggage Center (a store which sells exactly what is described in its name). The combination replaced my old Pentium 4 and brought my PC well into the 21st century. Unfortunately I was only able to use it for a few months before it began behaving erratically a few weeks ago. I’m in the process of troubleshooting that monstrosity (One of my colleagues, LockerGnome editor Bob Fogarty, has referred to me as “Dr. Frankenputer”), but in the meantime I’ve decided to pitch a few hundred dollars into a brand new, packaged PC rather than continue pouring time and money into the home-built one. I need something reliable and dependable right now, not something I have to troubleshoot.

So I went out to a big box retailer and bought myself a new PC. I bought one of the inexpensive ones in a price range that would be extremely difficult to beat if I was assembling the computer from its components myself. It’s been so long since I’ve purchased a new PC in this manner that I’ve forgotten what to do with it first. Do I just jump in and start driving this baby, or should I wax and polish her first? Do I need to put her on my insurance policy? Do I hand out cigars to all my friends to celebrate the occasion?

There’s really not a whole lot I can think of doing before placing my new computer on the launch pad, but I’ll note the few tasks I find essential for using a new computer.

Clean Your Work Space

This may seem obvious but how many of us actually do it? Cleaning your work area before bringing just about any new component into the mix — a new chair, a desktop computer, a fish bowl — should be the first thing we do. Not only is there potential for dust to immediately begin clogging up the insides of your desktop computer, but even a cluttered workspace can cause immediate problems. Have you ever placed a computer or speakers underneath your desk, only to find yourself accidentally kicking the side of the box or potentially damaging your speaker’s woofers? I have. I don’t know about you but I like to keep my new toys shiny for as long as I can. My 2005 iPod hadn’t even lost much of its luster until I hastily took it apart to install a new battery, scratching it up a bit in the process. And if you tend not to go in for the retailer’s service plan, you don’t want to kick around your computer too much. So I intend to vacuum and organize the space where I’ll rest my new PC before I plug it in and fire it up.

Install All Updates and Service Packs

Now, this may also seem obvious, but there are too many of us out there who immediately begin the surfing the web on our new computers without properly protecting it. When we first turn on our computers and connect them to the Internet, we should always immediately download all of the operating system’s updates and service packs so as to make certain our systems are fully securitized and now vulnerable to security threats. Even the most expensive Ultrabooks are more vulnerable to catching a virus or being hacked than a PC which is equipped with all the proper armor the updates and security packs will provide.

Remove Bloatware

All pre-built PCs include software that can (and in some cases, should) be removed right away. I’m going to remove all “trial” software from my system before I even connect to the Internet to download all the operating system’s updates. Some people prefer to run their systems for awhile before they remove the bloatware (that is, the extra software that can tend to affect a system’s performance); they may find they do in fact wish to utilize the software, regardless of its affect on system performance. I intend to remove any of Microsoft’s trial software if I already own a recent version of the same software, and any software that appears to inject its hooks into my system in order to provide a “better” experience. For example, Toshiba Satellite laptops usually provide some configuration tools intended to make it easier for us to connect to the Internet and monitor our network connections; I prefer to remove all those utilities and instead use Windows’ built-in tools.

Clone Your Drive

Once I’m done installing and removing everything I desire, and once I’ve installed a few other things I’m certain I’ll need for my system (such as my favorite web browser and drivers for peripherals I use), I’ll make a clone of my drive so that I’ll be able to easily restore it in the future (should I ever need to). Once that’s done, I may test the clone — perhaps on another PC, or to an external drive connected to my new computer — to ensure the integrity of the image. If everything is copacetic, it may be time for me to start working (and playing) with my new computer.

What are some things I’m forgetting about in this article? What do you do whenever you bring home a new personal computer? Let me know as soon as you can so that I can put into practice your idea(s) before it’s too late!

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives.