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How should I set up my computer? (Part II)

In my first article
on setting up my new computer
, I walked through the steps I took to safely
connect my new machine to my local network and then the internet, after which I
immediately installed anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and made sure that
the operating system was up to date.

Now I’ll actually start customizing some aspects of Windows XP.

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My next step was to put a password on my login account. By default, Windows
XP setup does not force you to have a password, but it’s a good security
precaution, especially since I’ll be travelling with this laptop.

Control Panel, User Accounts, click on the
account to change, select Change My Password and set it to
something you’ll remember. I also typically take this opportunity to select
Change My Picture and change the default image shown on the
login screen.

Setting a password on this account also had an interesting side effect. All
of a sudden machines became visible in my network neighborhood. Why? Because
all those machines were in the same workgroup specified earlier, and had an
account on them with the same name and password.

One of the first things I do to Windows itself is to customize the way
Windows Explorer works. This includes displaying
details by default
as well as:

  • In Tools, Folder Options,
    General – selecting Windows classic
  • In Tools, Folder Options,
    View, Advanced Settings:
    • Select “Display contents of system folders”
    • Select “Display full path in title bar”
    • Select “Show hidden files and folders”
    • DeSelect “Hide extensions for known file types”
    • DeSelect “Hide protected operating system files”
    • Select “Show Control Panel in My Computer”
    • DeSelect “Use simple file sharing”

Then click Apply (at the bottom), and then Apply to
All Folders
(at the top).

Now it’s time for the command prompt. I harken from the days of MS-DOS (or
CP/M, for those of you that remember), and spend a lot of time in the command
prompt. After starting a command prompt:

  • Click the system menu (that’s the icon at the far left of the title bar and
    select properties.
  • Select QuickEdit mode. This allows me to quickly copy/paste to and from the
    command window.
  • In Font I select 14 point Lucida Console.
  • In Layout, I increase the width of both the buffer and the
    window to 132 characters wide. I make the window 60 lines high, and the
    scroll-back buffer 3000 lines long.

Finally, after clicking on OK and being asked, I have Windows “modify the
shortcut that started this window” to save the changes.

Because I have several machines, over time I’ve developed a directory tree
that is a collection of software, tools, documents and such that I copy to
every machine. I’ve also automated the way updates get copied, and it’s a big
part of my internal backup strategy. So, building outo a new machine, this
directory tree is one of the first things I copy onto the machine.

Now I also update my system environment. Right click on My
, Advanced, Environment
. In the System Variables, I update
Path to include several directories in that tree containing
tools I use regularly. This allows me to run programs therein without having to
specify a full path.

While I’m there, I also remove the per-user TMP and TEMP variables, and add
them both to System Variables to a single location on my system. This provides
a single location for temp files rather than several, which makes cleaning up
from time to time much easier.

An importand part of what I use on every machine is a collection of Perl
scripts that automate some of my common tasks, including the backup and
syncronization I mentioned earlier. So my next step is to install ActiveState Perl.

Next up: more system tweaks, including cleaning up several auto-start items.

The Setting Up Series:

Do this

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5 comments on “How should I set up my computer? (Part II)”

  1. I’ve got a new Dell pc coming. I’ve had my HP on the floor in my computer room. Is that a bad thing or not to have the pc on the floor? I thought about getting a plastic stand for it to sit on. What are your suggestions?

  2. hai, i hope u can help me.
    i made a program under VB 6.0, but when the user that logged on to the computer is a Restricted User, the program is not running..

    i have follow your instruction but still the program didnot running well.



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