After a fresh installation of an operating system there are a few things you should always do. This article will mostly relate to Windows, but really most of this goes for other OS’es as well.
The very first thing you want to do is to run Windows Update. Don’t even bother looking for graphics drivers etc first even though your screen is confined to 640×480 or something like that.
With newer versions of Windows (and other OS’es as well) chances are that the automatic updater will be able to determine which drivers are needed to complete the install.
If you’re using a laptop and the wireless connection is not working, simply connect by cable this first time. Chances are that your normal wired network will work fine… and after the update your wireless will work as well.
If you’re still unable to get online you’ll have to install drivers for your network first. Often this will require you to download it on another pc and transfer it to the pc you’re installing. A USB stick is the easiest way to do this. Unfortunately not much more help can be given on this since it all depends on your hardware.
Protecting the machine
The second thing you want to do is to protect your machine using some anti-virus system. There are several free options for this:
Microsoft Security Essentials – This suite will protect you from virus, Spyware and Malware. Its “free” as in that requires you to have a legal Windows Licence. In my humble opion Microsoft Security Essentials is the best tool for the job. Its built by the same company that makes your OS, so they have easy access to all the features of how Windows handles networking etc. It also fits nicely into the usual Windows look, and does not provide a completely new and fancy interface. Microsoft Security Essentials will keep a low profile when things are alright, but it will signal you once in a while if you don’t scan your pc on a regular basis.
AVG free is a great antivirus and anti spyware package that I used to use before Microsoft Security Essentials showed up. Its simple, has automatic updates in the background, and basically minds its own business as long as everything is alright. AVG will usually work for a year or so until a new version shows up. At that point it will remind you with a huge popup to buy their full solution or continue with a new version of the free edition.
Avast is yet another free anti virus solution. I’ve used this once in a while, but I don’t really like it. For example it tells you, using the built in speech synthesis, when ever it has updated the virus database. It sounds completely rediculous. On top of that Avast has some sort of annoying registration process that you have to renew once in a while. I never really understood the idea of registering for something thats free. To me thats just an annoyance.
Serveral other solutions exist but you will have to reseach those for yourself. One thing is for sure though, you want some sort of antivirus solution. Some people say “I just surf the web resposibly and don’t need antivirus.” and claim never to have been infected. They are clearly not living in this century. In the later years we’ve had virus infections coming from all sorts of places. Even though flash enabled advertisements on well known sites. Sites don’t always choose themselves which ads are shown, so you can never be sure if the code that is executed on your machine is safe.
Install missing drivers
With Windows Vista and Windows 7 Microsoft switched to a driver model that requires makers of hardware to provide certified drivers for all hardware. This means that Windows Vista and Windows 7 will know pretty much any hardware in existance. However, you might still run into a few things that require you to install something manually.
Take a look in the Device Manager. It can be found in the control panel, or on newer versions of Windows you can simply press the windows key, and type “Device Manager”.
Devices that don’t have a driver installed will show up as an unknown device with a yellow question mark. To figure out what they really are you need to know your hardware. An experienced user will know which part of his machine is not working, and simply install the drivers for it.
The easiest is to simply not bother installing drivers. Because later, when you notice something not working, it will often be pretty clear whats missing.
If you want to research it right away then navigate to the properties of the device and look for Hardware ID. Then do a Google search for whats mentioned along with the text “unknown device”. Usually you will find forums posts with people wondering about the same thing as you are. In my example the unknown device has a Hardware ID: ACPIABIT2005
A quick Google search reveals that this is the Abit Guru chip on my mainboard. Its a fancy temperature sensor and fan controller. I pretty much never bother to install the Windows software for it because all its most useful settings can be done set in the BIOS instead.
Install drivers that are not missing
Even though Windows finds most of your drivers you might want to install other ones anyway. Two typical examples of these are:
Newer drivers for your graphics card
The Microsoft versions of the Nivida display drivers are simple versions of the official drivers. They work perfectly, but the NVidia control panel that enables you to set advanced options for the graphics card does not come with the Microsoft version of the driver.
By going directly to Nvidia and downloading their driver you will be able to use more features on your card. Also the official Microsoft versions are often a version or two behind the newest drivers.
Drivers for sound devices
Many onboard sound devices are not detected fully by Windows. For example the Realtek HD audio device that is present on many mainboards only shows up in Windows as a Digital Audio S/PDIF. The real sound device, and microphone, does not work until you install the full driver package from Realtek.
Install “must have” stuff
Adobe Flash: Pretty soon your browser is going to complain that it does not have flash installed. So head over to Adobe and get the flash player. Tip: Remeber to UNcheck the field with the annoying McAffee toolbar/scanner or whatever crap they are trying to bundle with the download.
Java Runtime: The easiest is to get this from java.com which is SUNs java site for people who just know that that want Java, but really does not care what it is or why they need it 🙂
Set the desktop background
The final easy but important step is to select your desktop background. You don’t want the standard Windows background… especially not if its XPs green fields. Having a standard desktop background is like wearing a sign on your back that says: “I’m so computer illiterate that I can’t even figure out how to change the background.” And if you’re on XP you’re wearing a sign below that that says “I’m so lazy that it doesn’t bother me that I have been looking at the same green field for the last 9 years.”
Noone that has just completed an install of an operating system wants to be called computer illiterate or lazy… so you’ll want to do a quick image search, find something you like, and then put it as your desktop wallpaper 😉