How to Configure Desktop Computers
By J.E. Myers
Setting up a new or a restored desktop computer provides the chance to configure the machine to function for you, in a customized manner. There are many devices and software programs on the computer that can be "tweaked" or adjusted to meet your needs. Most popular "tweaks" do not require a lot of technical knowledge about computers or Windows, so you should not be afraid to configure your computer yourself.
Trim your software package. New computers often come loaded with "trial-ware" or "bloat-ware" products that don't offer any useful service. Trial versions of Microsoft Office are a good example: the 30-day trial package will be useless in just a month. If you want MS Office, purchase it or install it now from disks you already own. These trial-ware products often consume a lot of hard drive space and can slow down your computer needlessly. Remove these programs using a free tool called Revo Uninstaller (Resources) and then install your own favorite software.
Dump bulky, useless "security" programs. Experts in computer repair and maintenance, like MajorGeeks.com, and BleepingComputer.com, know a secret you are not aware of: Norton and McAfee products have excellent advertising but anemic "protection" value. They will also slow down a computer dramatically. A much more effective software combination is Avast Antivirus, Malwarebytes, and SuperAntiSpyware (Resources). What is more, all these programs are free.
Turn off unnecessary "start up" items. Download a free utility called C-Cleaner (Resources). Click on Tools and then Start Up. Disable all programs except your security software and any entries that appear to manage graphics and sound cards. Just about anything else does not need to "start up" when you boot to Windows. Start up "junk" will slow your computer down, especially "bloat-ware" for HP printers.
Set your graphics and display performance. Go to Start/Control Panel/Display. Configure your screen resolution to achieve the crispest setting that meets your visual needs. Set up any desktop wallpaper and screen saver program. Turn off "Hibernation." Many computers have trouble "coming out of hibernation, " especially Vista machines. Turn Hibernation off in the Control Panel/Power folder. Adjust any power "plans" to "Never." Tweak your sound card. Many advanced sound cards allow you to adjust speaker performance and effects.
Establish a reliable Back Up system now, not "later." Attach an external hard drive to your desktop, preferably one that comes with some kind of automatic "management" program. For even more reliability purchase Carbonite (Resources). Carbonite automatically backs up priceless computer files to a server "on the cloud" on a schedule you set.
Create and install secure passwords for your User Account. Use ten-character codes that are a combination of letters and numbers and that represent something entirely imaginary in your mind. Don't base passwords on real data in your life. If you have WinXP, set up an Administrator password for the entire computer in your BIOS: WinXP password protection can be defeated by using Safe Mode. To access BIOS, press F2 of DEL when you first turn on your computer.
A writer and entrepreneur for over 40 years, J.E. Myers has a broad and eclectic range of expertise in personal computer maintenance and design, home improvement and design, and visual and performing arts. Myers is a self-taught computer expert and owned a computer sales and service company for five years. She currently serves as Director of Elections for McLean County, Illinois government.