Set Up a New PC

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Wlpncp asked the Desktops forum for advice on setting up a new Windows 7 PC.

Congratulations. You now own a new PC. But keep your old computer accessible as you prepare the new one. That way you can still work and play on one computer while the other is installing programs, updating itself, and backing up. Also, before the transition is over, you'll want both computers to be able to access each other over your network.

First, make a list of all the programs on your current PC that you want on the new one. If you bought those programs in physical form, find the discs. If you downloaded them, you can download them again. Make sure you have all of your license numbers.

When you turn your new toy on for the first time, a wizard will walk you through some basic setup. You'll get to create your administrator user account (use the same name as on the old PC), and name the computer itself (don't use the same name; you can change it later, after you've removed the old PC from the network). It will also get you on the network. But where do you go from there?

First, get rid of all the unwanted junk that the manufacturer installed before the machine left the factory. (I use the word junk because PC World would object to my preferred noun.) The vast majority of these "free" programs are just marketing tools. If you're not sure what a particular program does, search for it on the Web before you make your decision.

How should you remove them? Can you simply trust the uninstallers that come with the programs? Or Control Panel's Programs and Features applet? No. That's why I recommend you use either Revo Uninstaller or Total Uninstall to remove unwanted programs. For more on this issue, and these two excellent uninstallers, see Do Uninstallers Uninstall? or my Total Uninstall review.

Once everything is cleared up, install your own software. Start with your preferred security programs--antivirus and a firewall (unless you want to risk using Windows 7's firewall). Then go on with everything else.

After you've installed a program, check for updates and make sure you have the current version. If an installation asks you to reboot, reboot.

You won't need to install drivers for anything built into the PC, like the video card or optical drive. But you will need to do so for peripherals like your printer and scanner. You may be able to use the disc that came with your device; if it's lost or outdated, find a driver online.

With everything installed, make the computer your own. Pin your favorite programs to the Taskbar or the Start Menu, pick your wallpaper, and generally set things up the way you want them. Also, if you had more than one user account on your old PC, create additional ones, with the same names, on this one.

Now you've got everything you need except your data. But before you transfer that, create an image backup of your hard drive. Why? Your PC came with a recovery tool that will allow you, should disaster strike, to return the hard drive to the way Microsoft and the manufacturer want it. An image backup will allow you to return it to the way you want it.

I suggest backing up to an external hard drive. Windows 7 has its own image backup program, and it works, but I recommend either Macrium Reflect Free or EASEUS Todo Backup. Both are free, and they work better.

Now you're ready to move your documents, photos, and other data files from the old PC to the new one. See Migrate to a New PC for details.

Keep the old PC around and unharmed for a couple of months. You never know when you'll realize that you're missing an important file.

Read the original forum discussion.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum.

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