I read your seven part series on how you set up your own
computer, but quite frankly … I got lost. I’m not a computer geek. All I want
to do have my computer set up for email, internet and maybe a little word
processing. How should I set up my computer for my simple
I didn’t really plan for How
should I set up my computer?, to turn into a seven part series. And while
it’s full of geeky goodness meant to give people lots of reminders and ideas,
it’s overkill for many.
The good news is that computers in our house follow a “trickle down” theory.
After my new laptop was up and running, it was time to rebuild my old one, a
Dell Inspiron 2100, for my wife.
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In this case I started from scratch. Rather than relying on the
pre-installed operating system, the intent was to start over and install
everything, including Windows.
Step one was to install Windows XP Pro itself. In this case I booted from
the CD-ROM, and let it walk me through the setup process. In most every case I
selected the default settings. The one thing to note, however, is that I did
instruct Windows setup to perform a clean install so that it would format and
overwrite everything on the hard disk.
I have a copy of SP2 on CD-ROM as well, so that was the next
Making sure to leave the Windows firewall on, I then installed my wireless
network card. Windows did its auto-detect magic, installed the appropriate
drivers, and notified me that there were wireless networks available. I
connected to my home network.
Once on my local network, I installed my anti-virus software, updated its
database, and ran a full scan.
As with my own machine, my next stop was Windows Update where I took a couple of updates that had been
released after SP2.
Since this was a new install of Windows XP, I walked through the wizard to
activate this copy of Windows. (In the future it sounds like this may be
required before visiting Windows Update.)
Installing Microsoft Office was next. Again, in almost all cases I simply
accepted the default settings.
As I mentioned in the previous series, I have a directory structure
containing several tools, scripts, and templates that I use on all my machines
as well as some environment settings and an installation of the Perl scripting
language. My wife actually doesn’t need any of this, but it’s a vital
part of how I maintain and backup all my machines. One side effect is that
these items include our Outlook .pst files. The result is that this step copied
my wife’s email folders onto this new machine.
This was followed by a few minutes configuring Outlook to access the correct
PST file instead of the default and configuring my wife’s email account. This
was perhaps the most complicated portion of the entire setup, and is generally
similar to the items I discussed in How should I setup Outlook?.
Finally I downloaded and installed the latest MSN Messenger as well as installing software specific to my wife’s
business, and it was done.
Besides the sheer amount of software installed, the biggest difference
between this much shorter setup and my own is the amount of customization. My
wife, like most average Windows users, runs with default settings for almost
everything. I, on the other hand, am very deliberate in how I set up my machine
and care very much about some of the details. I spend much more time on my
machine than my wife does, so it makes sense that I would invest more time and
energy into getting it exactly the way I want it.
But, clearly, it doesn’t have to be like that for most users, and rather
than a seven article (and accompanying multi-hour) process, setting up your
computer for basic email, web, and word processing can be fairly
The Setting Up Series: