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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 view.
  • 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 Computer, Advanced, Environment Variables. 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:

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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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