With a new or recently restored Windows computer, there are some essential setup steps that can ensure smooth reliable operation. This document describes a standard initial setup. The term “Click” will be used in this document to mean left click once, or for touch displays this would mean tap once. Otherwise, double-click, right click, and similar terms will be used when applicable.
This document has a section for Basic Computer Setup and a section for Additional Setup Options.
Windows Version – Home or Pro
The Home version of Windows 10 requires a Microsoft account during setup. The Pro version allows for the creation of a local account during setup. If you are setting up a computer with the Home version of Windows you may want to setup a Microsoft account before getting started. This is described next.
If you have an email address ending in hotmail.com or outlook.com it can serve as your Microsoft account. Otherwise, you can setup a Microsoft account for free with your existing email address. If you need to setup a Microsoft account, it can be helpful to signup for a free outlook.com email address. To do so, go to outlook.com and request a free account. You can use that email account exclusively for Microsoft related tasks, or use it more broadly for email communications.
Basic Computer Setup
Below are the basic steps and considerations for setting up a new computer.
If you have Windows 10 Home version, your Microsoft account password will be used to login. So, whenever you change your Microsoft account password, the password to login on your computer will change. Regardless of your login password, you may wish to setup an easy 4-digit PIN to login on your computer. To do so, go to the Start Menu > Settings (gear icon) > Accounts > Sign-in Options > Windows Hello PIN > click Add > enter your computer login password > provide a PIN number for login. In the future you’ll be able to switch between login methods (PIN or Password) whenever you login.
Anyone using this pin to login will need to have physical access to your computer. In other words, it’s not like a website login password with unlimited login attempts. Presumably there is limited physical access to your computer. The only person sitting at the computer logging in will be you. So, you could use a simple pin like your birth year, street address, or last four digits of your phone number. It’s probably best not to use the same PIN you use for any other service.
It can be helpful to capture screenshots of work you do on a computer. It’s a record of what updates were installed and what options you selected in the process. The Snipping Tool or Snip and Sketch software will let you capture and save screenshots. If you have these as a record, it can help when you need technical support. Some people will prefer not taking any screenshots or having any notes of the work they do because it take some extra time. So, this is a matter of personal preference.
New computers or recently restored computers typically need many Windows updates to be installed. For security, speed, and stability, it is best to do these before getting started with the rest of the setup tasks. Some programs mentioned later in this document, such as Snip & Sketch will not be available until you have updated to the latest release of Windows.
Follow these steps to update Windows:
- Left click once on the Start Menu icon.
- Click the gear icon to open Windows Settings.
- From the available Settings options, choose Update & Security.
- You will probably see a notification stating, “You’re up to date” even if you are not up to date.
- Click on “Advanced options” toward the bottom.
- On the Advanced options page, turn on “Receive updates for other Microsoft products when you update Windows” and also turn on “Show a notification when your PC requires a restart to finish updating.”
- In the top left corner, click on the left pointing arrow to confirm these new settings and return to the Update & Security page.
- Click the “check for updates” button.
- Install available updates.
- You may see that some updates state “Requires Restart” and you will see a Restart button. Do not click it.
- Wait until all updates are done downloading and installing.
- At some point, when all updates are installed, and nothing else is in the process of downloading or installing, it will be okay to restart the computer.
- When the computer restarts you will return to step one above.
- At some point, you will check for updates and there will not be any. However, there may be a message indicating that Optional updates are available. Click on the link to reveal the optional updates. These will typically be updates for hardware specific to your computer.
When you are done with updates, continue with the icon organization phase of system setup.
Original Software List
Before making a lot of changes to your computer, it is a good idea to take a screenshot or photo of your originally installed programs. These are found by going to Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a program. This is where you’ll find a list of software installed.
It is important to have a copy of this list is because you can refer back to it if you later see an unfamiliar program in the list. It helps for identifying possible malware or undesirable software not originally included with the computer.
Dell SupportAssist and HP Support Assistant
If your computer is a Dell or HP, you can install the Dell SupportAssist or HP Support Assistant software. These are helpful for installing additional updates for your computer and getting other support information. These programs will make it easy to get your computer model and serial number recorded in a single screenshot for later reference.
Organize Desktop, Start Menu, Taskbar, and System Tray
Having an efficiently organized Desktop, Start Menu, Taskbar, and System Tray will ensure the computer is organized and efficient. This should be done first to make navigation faster for the other steps.
- DESKTOP. The Desktop would ideally be as clean and simple as possible. The order of desktop icons depends on each person’s regular tasks.
- THIS PC. One icon you will probably want on the desktop is the This PC icon. In the past it was called My Computer. This is the go-to icon for many regular tasks. By default it is not on the desktop. To place it on the desktop, go to Windows Settings (the gear icon found in the Start Menu). In Settings go to Personalization > Themes (in left column) > and select Desktop Icon Settings which is a link on the right side of the screen. This will bring up the option to show “Computer” on the desktop which will be called This PC.
- START MENU. The Start Menu in Windows 10 will initially display many programs you don’t want or need. You can right click and choose the option to remove those items from the Start Menu or have them Uninstalled. This is important to do before continuing to the next step.
- TASKBAR. At the bottom of your computer screen you will find a row of icons. This area is the Taskbar. It’s a good idea to remove any icons for programs you don’t regularly use. You can right click and choose Unpin to remove the shortcut. The program remains installed on your computer.
- SEARCH. On the Taskbar, there will be a wide white rectangular search box that takes up a lot of room. You can change this to be displayed as a magnifying glass, and it will take up less room. To do this, right click on the task bar and from the Search options click on “Show search icon” to select that option. The rectangle will become a magnifying glass icon and you’ll have more space in your taskbar.
- MICROSOFT STORE. There will be a shopping bag icon for the Microsoft Store. You will rarely if ever need this icon. You can right click and unpin that icon.
- MAIL. To the right of the Microsoft Store icon will be an envelope icon for Windows Mail. You probably won’t use the Windows Mail software frequently. So, you can right click and unpin that icon.
- SNIP & SKETCH. A common task is to capture or grab a copy something on the computer screen or the entire screen. This is done with the Snip & Sketch program. You will want to have this available on the Taskbar and possibly in the Start Menu. To do so, click on the Start Menu, and when the Start Menu pops up begin typing the word Sketch. This will result in the Snip & Sketch program icon showing up. You could also just scroll down the list of applications to find Snip & Sketch. When you see the Snip and Sketch icon, right click and select “Pin to Start” and also under More choose “Pin to Taskbar” to have the icon put in the Taskbar area.
- SETTINGS. Some people regularly go into Windows Settings. To make this convenient, click on the Start Menu. Point to the gear icon in the lower left area of the Start Menu. Right click and select “Pin to Start” and also under More choose “Pin to Taskbar” to have the icon put in the Taskbar area.
- CONTROL PANEL. Although Windows Settings will provide most of what you need, you may still need to go to Control Panel occasionally. Click on the Start Menu and begin typing Control. You should see the Control Panel show up. Right click and select “Pin to Start” and also under More choose “Pin to Taskbar” to have the icon put in the Taskbar area.
- OTHER PROGRAMS. As you add programs, you will want to include them in the Start Menu and Taskbar using the same method described here. This will make all your regularly used programs easy to find and launch.
- SYSTEM TRAY. The System Tray is the area on the task bar at the far right on the bottom of your screen where the date and time are displayed. Unfortunately, the default configuration for the System Tray shows unnecessary icons and hides the critical and important icons like Windows Security. To correct this, go to Windows Settings > Personalization > Taskbar (on the left side of the screen at the bottom of the column) > and scroll down to “Select which icons appear in the taskbar.”
- MEET NOW. The Meet Now program icon visibility will be turned on. You can turn it off.
- WINDOWS SECURITY. The “Windows Security Notification Icon” will be turned off. You should turn it on.
- OTHER. The other icons you can set according to your preference. If you have room to spare on the bottom of your screen along the task bar, you could flip the switch at the top of list to enable all icons to be visible when active. This can help bring attention to unexpected program icons such as those created by malware and undesirable programs.
Additional Setup Options
The additional setup options below can be completed as desired.
Microsoft Office and Account Setup
You will want to have a Microsoft account which will provide backup and synchronization of some Windows settings, such as your preferred desktop image and Edge browser bookmarks. A basic account comes with 5,000 megabytes of OneDrive cloud storage (5GB) and free access to the web version of Microsoft software such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
If you have a subscription for Microsoft Office, you can install it now by going to the Office.com website and logging in. You should see an “Install Office” option. Free alternatives to Office are also available. [Learn More]
If you and some family members or friends use Microsoft Office you may want to consider sharing the 6-user annual license to save some money.
Software for remote tech support can be very useful if you need computer help from a friend or tech consultant. TeamViewer is free for non-commercial use or when getting help from someone else. Any software for remote access should be used with caution and only with people you actually know and trust. You can download TeamViewer form the TeamViewer.com website. Click on the Download for Free option. When installing TeamViewer, choose the default installation. When prompted choose the option for “free version for personal use.” You will be provided with an ID number for your computer. The password is random and will change each time you run the software. After the initial installation, choose Exit TeamViewer from the Connection menu.
Some computers offer a High Performance mode. If your computer goes into sleep mode too frequently it can be inconvenient.
Some computers do not wake from sleep mode properly, and if there is a power outage the computer can be left in a vulnerable state or end up with corrupted files. To adjust power settings, go to the Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options > and expand the “Show additional plans” to select the High Performance option.
Under the “Choose when to turn off the display” option (in the left column) you can set the display to go into power save mode at a more convenient interval. You can also set the computer to never enter the sleep mode which may help prevent problems. You can always manually use sleep mode, or shut the computer down if not in use.
The Windows Security settings page may have an alert suggesting that you turn on App & Browser control. Turn it on as suggested.
For additional security protections, consider Malwarebytes security software. Your support consultant may provide you with a recurring license for the software. So, check with your support person before paying for antivirus software.
Alternate User Accounts
As an extra measure of security, you can setup a Maintenance user account with administrative rights, and set your own daily use account to be a Standard account. In this way, any virus or hacker in your account would not have administrative control over your computer.
You could also setup a Visitor user account with Standard account access, so that if a guest or family member is using your computer, they can’t accidentally allow malware to install or cause some other problem.
Computer and Workgroup Name
It is not an essential task, but having a custom name for your computer can make it easier to identify on the network and when managing your network devices. Otherwise your computer name will show up as probably an unrecognizable series of numbers and letters.
The Workgroup name for Windows helps establish the network name for connected devices. For example, if you are sharing folders from one computer to others on the network, the people accessing those folders would type in something like \\PCName\folder-name where PC Name is the name of your computer and folder-name is the name of the shared folder.
If you only have one computer and aren’t using your network for sharing of files then you can probably skip the naming of your computer and workgroup.
Some computers come with the ability to create recovery media. This process involves creating a bootable recovery USB flash drive for reinstalling Windows and original software. If your computer has this option, you should create the recovery media and store it in a safe place. You may want to have two copies of the recovery media.
Windows 10 has the ability to quickly identify and use any printer discovered on the local network. The default software from Microsoft provides for printing, scanning, and basic operation. You will most likely want the full-featured software from the printer manufacturer’s website. This will give you access to all printer functions including the ability to better check ink levels and clean the print heads (if applicable).
Adobe Acrobat Reader DC
Microsoft Windows comes with the ability to view and create PDF files. So, Adobe Acrobat is not required for basic operation. However, some advanced features are available if you have Adobe Acrobat Reader DC installed. [Get Program]
It helps to have an additional browser in case the primary default browser stops working for some reason or becomes infected. If you are a regular user of Google Chrome, and synchronize with your Google account, then Chrome can import and sync your bookmarks, plugins, history, passwords, and other details.
Firefox is known for having great stability, security, and privacy features to protect your data. If you are a regular user of Firefox, and use the sync feature, then you can import and sync your bookmarks, plugins, history, passwords, and other details.
Remove Unnecessary Software
Some computers come with a lot of extra software. Some of the software may be a trial version that expires after a period of time. There may also be games installed. You may want to remove any software not considered to be useful or important. Extra programs can introduce additional security vulnerabilities, use up CPU power if running, and cause incompatibilities with other software which slow down or crash your computer.
Software can be remove by going to Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a program. Be careful when removing programs and make sure you don’t remove any software essential for operation. You may need assistance with this.
You will need to have your files, bookmarks, contacts, and other data backed up. There are a variety of ways to do this. The easiest is using a cloud synchronization service like Microsoft OneDrive. The paid subscription to Microsoft Office gives you 1TB of cloud storage. This is sufficient for most people to have all their current year’s data backed up in the cloud. Your older files can be archived on an external hard drive drive.
A computer can benefit from ongoing maintenance at regular intervals. Some tasks can be done weekly, others monthly, quarterly, or annually. When first setting up a computer, it is a good idea to go through the entire list to set a baseline. [Learn More]