Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

How do I set up my computer – simply?

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.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

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
straightforward affair.

The Setting Up Series:

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Tech problem solving & safety tips & a weekly confidence boost in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow

Slow Computer?

Speed up with my special report: 10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow, now updated for Windows 10.

NOW: name your own price! You decide how much to pay -- and yes, that means you can get this report completely free if you so choose. Get your copy now!

15 comments on “How do I set up my computer – simply?”

  1. How can I make my D:\ hard drive into my default hard drive. The thing is I have two drives, but the one my pc uses is drive C:\ and it only has 16.00GB most of it is cluttered. I cant even defragment because I only have 1% free space. My other hard drive is drive D:\ and it has 69.00GB and its 98% clear. How can I transfer my files over to this hard drive? I had to buy a laptop to because my pc is really slow, please help Leo.
    Thank You.

  2. I don’t know if this is the correct avenue to go with my question but here it is…
    My documents that I would like to save go automatically to the server, and to access my documents they go their instead of being saved onto my computer. Can you tell me how to go about changing the defaults so that my information is saved onto my computer instead of automatically being saved on the server? I saw something similar regarding moving information from one drive to another but I don’t know it will help my problem.
    Thank you

  3. i have reinstalled windows Xp from the I362 winex.32 and in the process a few files were missing, this has made my computer very basic and as a result i cant access internet, itunes etc. how do i do a system restall and get the pc like it was when i first bought it

    , thank you

  4. i have just brought an acer aspire one notebook and havnt a clue where to start. what router do i have to buy to get online.please can you help

  5. How can I tell I have “word” on my computer? I want to set it up, I have micosoft XP windowns
    I need this to upload resumes to employeers

    Look for Microsoft Office in your Start menu. Word is part of Office and does not come with Windows – it’s a separate program. You can purchase it, or download OpenOffice for free, and use Open Office Writer, saving to Word format.

    – Leo
  6. i have this same problem.
    How can I make my D:\ hard drive into my default hard drive. The thing is I have two drives, but the one my pc uses is drive C:\ and it only has 16.00GB most of it is cluttered. I cant even defragment because I only have 1% free space. My other hard drive is drive D:\ and it has 69.00GB and its 98% clear. How can I transfer my files over to this hard drive?
    Will you give me step by step instructions? I really need help. Thank you so much

  7. i have set my laptop win7 64bit as offline and i could not brows internet how to i set it to online again?
    plz help

    Windows itself has no “offline” setting, so I’d have to know what offline setting you used. A guess: try the File Menu in Internet Explorer – look for “work online”.

  8. Okay, so i know a lot about computers and Internet but idk a thing about setting it up from when I first get it. Which cd do I need to install to be able to get on the Internet? Btw, thanks for the advice. Your like a wizard or something.

  9. @David,
    All you really need to get on the internet is an internet connection. Usually the folks who set you up with that offer support to get you online. You’ll probably get either a wireless modem (which you’ll connect to through the internet connection button already on your computer), or you’ll plug in with a line… and that will (should) just work.

    Most computers, these days, come internet ready with nothing else to install.


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.