First 10 things I do to a new computer

If you’re like me, anytime you get your hands on a new computer there are a handful of things you do to it. That could be if the computer is for your use or for someone else. Here is my top 10 things I do:

  1. If there is trialware software, I remove it – especially if it is anti-virus software! Clean up all of the unneeded software
  2. Run Microsoft Updates to ensure the operating system is fully patched. Even newly shipped computers can need 10’s to over 100 updates!
  3. Visit the hardware manufacture’s website such as the Dell Support Website and check for updates to the BIOS and other hardware. As with #2 above, the vast majority of computer shipped directly from the manufacture is running old software such as BIOS and firmware.
  4. Install a web browser of choice – for me I install both Chrome and Firefox.
  5. Install a handful of standard apps every user needs:
    1. Adobe Acrobat Reader
    2. Java for Desktop Computers
    3. Adobe Flash Player (but you’ll need to do this for each browser you use)
    4. Adobe Shockwave Player (old, but some sites still require it)
    5. Adobe AIR Player (used on some sites)
    6. VLC (plays just about any media)
    7. Open Office (if you don’t own a copy of Microsoft Office)
    8. Virtual Drive Clone (lets you mount ISO as if they were CDs)
  6. Install any purchased or commercial software
  7. Download and CCleaner, and run the registry cleanup utility – during the install, I uncheck virtually all of the install options. I like this tool hidden, not actively running, and not even viewable on the start menu. I will execute it from the “Program Files” directory manually. I prefer an un-cluttered Start menu, so many utilities, especially for other people, I keep un-linked in the start menu.
  8. Install Anti-virus software:
    1. I prefer commercial Anti-virus software, and never recommend a consumer grade AV software for anyone
    2. If you don’t have access to a commercial/business AV software, choose Microsoft Security Essentials – a lightweight, free, non-ad driven Anti-virus software
  9. Run a disk defragmentation software, either Microsoft’s built in utility, or Diskkeeper (highly recommend)
  10. Setup a non-administrative user account. If this is a domain based workstation, then this is likely already taken care of but for small work groups, friends or family personal computers, I always setup two accounts. Their “user” account and their “adminsitator account”. Both have passwords, typically the same password to make it easy for them. I have them always use the “user account”. And if appropraite setup the computer to auto login to that account.

In the next article I will discuss some of the software tools I install on my own workstations as an administrator and power user.


Install/Uninstall within Windows Safe Mode

3d human with big negative symbolEver have to start Windows in Safe Mode and install some software to troubleshoot or correct the problem? Or uninstall the application that was causing the problem? Good luck: Safe Mode disables Windows Installer. Sigh. Try and you’ll get a “This service cannot be started in Safe Mode” error. But what if you really want to? Trick Windows.

Trick number one: Tell Windows that Windows Installer is a “safe” service. Get into the command line and run:

REG ADD “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\SafeBoot\
Minimal\MSIServer” /VE /T REG_SZ /D “Service” net start msiserver

Long, I know, but it’ll list the Windows Installer Service as legitimate for Safe Mode. You can actually do this trick for any service, but don’t overdo it: Safe Mode is supposed to be minimal to make sure Windows can start.

Trick number two: Run SafeMSI.exe (link included below). It’ll start the service in Safe Mode. Wow, that was easy. Bravo to Harry Bates, its author: Download SafeMSI.exe

I like the second trick better because it leaves the Windows Installer service disabled normally, but it lets you run it if you absolutely need to do so in order to uninstall something from within Safe Mode. In the event that Windows Installer was causing the problem that forced you into Safe Mode to begin with (unlikely, but that’s why the service isn’t on the safe list by default), the second trick will still allow Safe Mode to get you going in a minimal configuration.

(Thanks to Martin Herbener for pointing out a problem with the registry key which was fixed in the article on 3/1/2010; Sometime after the article was published JSI, which hosted SafeMSI.exe was folded into the WindowITPro family, and the link was updated on 3/27/2010)

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