Well, my replacement computer arrived and it appears to be working nicely. In fact, I’m writing this article using it right now. Kudos to Dell for getting it right – the second time – and for their customer service folks help along the way.
Now the hard work begins.
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This time it worked.
While leaving the machine plugged in only to power, and not to my network, I:
- Reset the administrator password – This isn’t the account I just created, this is a separate account called “administrator”. Setting or changing its password is always a good idea, because the administrator account has all privileges an account can have. So anyone who can log in as administrator can do anything they like to your computer.Right click on My Computer, select Manage, in the resulting application expand Local Users and Groups, select Users, right click on Administrator, and select Set Password.
- Set the Network Workgroup – Even though Windows Setup may have asked for something like this earlier, it did not actually set the Workgroup name, and that may make it difficult to see other computers on your LAN later.Right click on My Computer, select Properties, click on the Computer Name tab, update your Computer Description if you like, and then click on the Change… button. Here you can update the Computer name, as well as selecting the Workgroup your computer belongs to. Select the same Workgroup name here for all your computers you want to be able to see in your Network Neighborhood.
At this point I’m ready to connect to my LAN. I first verify that my firewall is on, even though I’m behind my router, mostly because this new machine has no protection other than coming with Windows Service Pack 2. There are a couple of ways to do this, so we’ll go to Control Panel, Security Center, Manage the Security Settings for Windows Firewall, and select On.
I plug in my network cable, and I’m connected to my LAN. I like to see what’s going on, especially at this stage in the game, so I also turn on the notification area icon for each network connection: Control Panel, Network Connections, right click on Local Area Connection, Properties and make sure Show icon in notification area when connected is checked.
Now I can connect to another server on my LAN that has some of the first software I’ll install. I use a command prompt to connect and enter NET USE * \\COMPUTERNAME\SHARE followed by Enter (where COMPUTERNAME and SHARE are the name and shared folder I’m connecting to). In this case Windows doesn’t really know who I am yet, so I’m required to enter a user name and password that will work on the remote computer in order to connect.
My first install: anti-virus software – Computer Associates eTrust AntiVirus. After a reboot, my very first step is to run eTrust and have it download the latest virus signatures. I then run a virus scan, which comes up clean.
My second install: anti-spyware software – Spybot Search and Destroy. Among other things I select “no desktop items” (I hate a messy desktop), and choose not to have quick launch items (I use the quick launch area for things I run more frequently). I have Spybot install IE protection and system settings protection.
I run Spybot, let it take a registry backup, and immediately search for and download all available updates, including the latest spyware database. In Spybot’s Advanced mode, I select tools, IE tweaks and select both lock hosts file and lock IE start page to prevent some of the more common spyware tricks. I also select the Immunize option which protects against a wide variety of other issues. Finally, it’s time to actually run a spyware scan by selecting Search and Destroy. Not to surprisingly, it identifies DSO exploit, which I let it fix.
Now it’s time keep Windows itself updated. I turn on automatic updates: Control Panel, Security Center, Manage the Security Settings for Automatic Updates. Personally, I like to control when things actually get installed on my machine, so I select Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them.
Even though I’ve turned on automatic updates, visiting Windows Update isn’t a bad idea either; not only to get the critical updates now, but any other updates, including some hardware drivers, that may have been released since my computer’s disk was imaged.
At Windows Update, I select Custom Install, which once again allows me to see and control the various steps in the process. However, while I’m doing this, Automatic Updates pops up and notifies me that it the critical updates have already been downloaded and are ready to install. I let it install and reboot.
Back to Windows Update, the following non-critical updates were available to me:
- Windows Media Connect – I elect to hide (not install) this.
- Windows Media Player 10 – I select this to be installed.
- Windows Journal Viewer – I hide.
- XP HighMAT Support – I hide.
- SmartCartBus Reader Update – a driver update that I select to be installed.
I hit install. Along the way Spybot warned me that registry changes are being requested, and would I like to allow or deny the changes? Since this is in response to an update that I’ve explicitly initiated, I allow each change.
I’m up to date, I have virus and spyware scanning software installed and ready.
Since I’m behind a NAT router, at this point I feel it’s safe to turn off the Windows Firewall. Control Panel, Security Center, Manage the Security Settings for Windows Firewall, and select Off. At this point I also want to stop the security center from nagging me about not having a firewall. So in the Security Center I select Recommendations within the Firewall section, and then check I have a firewall solution that I’ll monitor myself.
So far all I’ve really done is made it safe to connect to the internet. Incredibly important, but not very exciting. The next installment, I’ll start customizing some of the aspects of Windows XP itself.
The Setting Up Series: