Guide to Setting Up a New Computer… More Quickly
Just bought a new Windows PC or laptop? How do you get going with as little fuss as possible and turn it into a fully usable computer? That’s what I’m here to help you with, and to do this I’m going to introduce you to two excellent (and free) programs. Both have a single job, and they do it very well.
The first is called Ninite. Put simply, using this software allows you to install multiple programs with just a few clicks of the mouse – very handy.
The second program has a name that is as unusual as it is colourful, being known as The PC Decrapifier. Don’t let the name put you off, though, as this tool is great at easily removing any unwanted junk from your new computer – and there can be plenty of it, as we’ll discuss later.
Okay, so you’ve unboxed your shiny new computer, turned it on, answered Microsoft’s (seemingly endless) questions, created an online (or offline) account with which to log on, and now you’re staring at that lovely empty desktop wondering what to do next.
You may figure your job’s done. Sure, you could just dive right in and try to start using it, but you’ll quickly find that something’s missing; a little tool to do this, or larger program to do that. And what about those annoying pop-ups? Programs pestering you to try them, or to buy the full version.
It’s definitely worth spending a little extra time up front to get things working properly. You’ll save a whole heap of time in the long run.
NB. Everything covered in this article should work just as well on a laptop as a desktop PC.
This guide will be split into the following main sections.
Feel free to click on any of these if you’d like to jump straight to that part.
The “dreaded” Windows update
Tone’s Tip. Tempting though it may be to head into Settings to check Windows 10 is up to date, I would strongly advise against it. There was a time I used to do this, as like pulling a bad tooth, I just wanted to get it over with. I also found it more convenient to apply the updates at a time that suited me, rather than wait for when Windows decided to foist them upon me – which isn’t always at the most convenient moment.
Unfortunately Microsoft has changed the way Windows Update works. These days, if you manually go searching for updates, you may be given them earlier than they would otherwise automatically install. The problem is that these updates aren’t always ready for prime time. This has led to some people experiencing problems with their computers; everything from deleted files to Windows actually breaking.
For this reason, I would recommend that you NEVER click the “Check for Updates” button in Windows Update.
Windows 10 isn’t shy about updating itself, so don’t worry about having to wait too long before it starts installing any updates.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
A change of scenery (optional)
Okay, this step is optional, but one of the first things I like to do when setting up a new computer is change the wallpaper (this is the name given to the background picture on your desktop). Apparently Microsoft were very proud of their new image of a lovely blue window when Windows 10 was first released, but that doesn’t mean we have to spend each and every day staring at it!
So let’s change it. To do so, right click on the desktop and select “Personalize” from the menu that pops up. Either choose one of the available pictures, or add one of your own by putting a photo on a memory stick and then clicking “Browse” to select it.
Time for tool number one
Let’s go download Ninite. We’re going to use Microsoft’s Edge browser to do this. Yeah, I’m not a fan of Edge either, but, don’t worry, we won’t be using it for long. Click on the blue “e” on the taskbar to open it.
Hang on a minute, I hear you cry. We’re going on the internet and we haven’t even installed any antivirus software yet – have you completely lost your marbles! Fair point, but bear with me. Windows 10 has Windows Defender built in. Not the best antivirus software in the world, I’ll grant you, but more than enough for our short term needs. We’re only going to visit one website and we’ll get some better antivirus software there (also, the site in question is secure and encrypted and trusted by millions). If you’re really not happy about this, or if you’ve already got your own anti-virus software that you’d rather install, you can always do that first.
For the purpose of this article, and because I’ve used it on my own Windows machines for years, we’ll be using the free version of Avast’s antivirus. So feel free to do the same when you get to that step.
To begin, open Edge and enter the following website address (or if you’re viewing this article on your new computer – you’ll be fine visiting tonestechtips.com without upgrading your antivirus – simply click the following link).
Ninite has been around for a number of years. It enables you to install lots of your favourite (free) Windows software all in one go. This saves bags of time as you don’t need to visit each program’s website, then download and install every piece of software one at a time. Among other things, Ninite’s website tells us that it…
* Doesn’t bother you with installation options for each piece of software
* Installs apps to their default locations
* Doesn’t install toolbars or extra junk
* Automatically opts for 64-bit programs on 64-bit machines
* Automatically selects the correct language
* Installs your chosen software quietly in the background
* Gets the latest stable version of each program
* Downloads the software from its official website
* Verifies digital signatures (for security) before installing anything
Ninite is free for home use, although there is also a paid-for Pro version available. Here we’ll be using the free one, which will do us just fine.
Right, enough chat, time for action.
Step 1. Pick the apps you want
What programs should I install on my new computer?
This is very much an individual choice. Most people have certain tools that they like to use for particular jobs. For example, LibreOffice for wordprocessing and spreadsheets, VLC for playing media (If you’d like to see the programs I use, scroll to the Recommended Software section further down the page or click here).
Ninite enables you to get many of the popular free programs with the minimum of fuss. To do this it groups programs into categories, such as Web Browsers and Documents. Each should be fairly self explanatory, and you may have heard of some of the program names (or even used them already). Simply select the software you want to install on your computer. In the screenshot below you’ll see the programs I most often use are selected.
As illustrated, I’m going with the following (if you’d like to know more about any of them, click on its name to go to the official website).
Step 2. Download your package
Now we move on to the second step. Here you click “Get Your Ninite” to grab the package that will start installing your chosen software.
Click “Run” to start the process. By default, Windows has a system called User Account Control (or UAC for short). You’ve no doubt come across it before. It’s just a security precaution to ensure you’re happy to run the software. Click “yes” to continue. Ninite will begin downloading and installing the programs you selected. Click on “Show details” if you’d like to see more of what’s happening.
As you can see in the following screenshot, it automatically downloads the next program while its installing the one before (saving even more time).
As each program installs, it will usually create a Desktop shortcut.
Depending on how much software you’ve opted to install, the procedure may take a while. Perhaps it’s time for a coffee? However long it takes, consider how much longer it would take to hunt down and install each program individually.
Tone’s Tip. If, once it’s completed, any of the programs failed to install, just click the “retry” option.
When the program has finished, click the “close” button.
A couple more tips
Tip number 1
The first is to do with antivirus software, although it actually has more to do with Windows 10 than Ninite. Remember I mentioned earlier that Windows 10 comes with its own antivirus built-in? We need to make sure that our chosen protection is doing this job instead (It’s never a good idea to have two antivirus programs running at the same time. They can end up fighting with one another and grinding your computer to a halt in the process).
In our case, to check Avast is working correctly (and Windows Defender is no longer active), click the notification area on the taskbar. You should notice a message informing you that Windows is already aware of an antivirus change *. Click “Check virus protection” (shown in the image on the right).
* If Windows doesn’t autodetect the change of antivirus software, open Settings and go to Update & Security, then open Windows Security, and lastly Virus & threat protection.
In the window that opens, check that Avast Antivirus is turned on, and that Windows Defender Antivirus is turned off (as in the following screenshot).
Tip number 2
The second tip is regarding Google’s Chrome web browser, if you installed it (or any other web browser, come to that).
Double-click on Chrome to launch it. You should see an option to “Make Chrome your default browser” with a down-pointing arrow to the right of it. Click the down arrow and select “Open Windows Settings”.
In the Choose an app window that opens, select “Google Chrome” (or any other browser you would sooner use than Edge).
Microsoft will try and convince you to stay with Edge. Since we REALLY don’t want to, click “Switch anyway”.
Now let’s put Chrome on our taskbar. For this, right-click the Chrome icon currently sitting in your taskbar and click “Pin to taskbar”. Next, do the same thing for Microsoft Edge (the blue “e”), only this time click “Unpin” from taskbar.
Time for tool number two
Great, now it’s time for the second program; the one with the more “unusual” name. Here we have The PC Decrapifier. Nice to see developers still have a sense of humour, although I wasn’t sure whether to smile or cringe when I saw the toilet roll logo.
New Windows computers are renowned for containing unwanted software that’s been included by the manufacturer. It’s such a well-known occurrence that it’s even gained a name: bloatware. And that’s exactly what PC Decrapifier is designed to combat.
So let’s go download it. Open Google Chrome (or your browser of choice), if it’s not already. This time navigate to The PC Decrapifier’s website (or click the following link).
Click “Download” on the menu bar and select the free version to download it.
Locate the downloaded file (if you’re not sure where it is, check your “Downloads” folder).
Double-click on it to run, and then click “Yes” to allow UAC (like we did for the last program). In the window that opens, click “Analyze”.
This will search your pc for unwanted… let’s call it junk, rather than the more colourful term used by the software itself. Depending on how much junk there is, this may take a few minutes. I was quite surprised to discover that the program found nothing questionable on my Windows 10 install. That being said, I did carry out a fresh install using a Windows 10 image downloaded directly from Microsoft.
A brand new computer that you’ve just purchased will likely have been setup by the manufacturer (with Windows pre-installed). They are quite often paid by other companies to preload their computers with “useful” additional software. Very occasionally, something in these “additional” bundled programs may actually be of use, but unfortunately most of the time it’s just “free” trials and ads. In short, The PC Decrapifier will usually find something worth removing, if not lots of things.
You probably noticed that the program displays its “Recommended” tab by default. You should rid yourself of anything that appears in here by clicking on the “Remove Selected” button. Once it’s finished, close the program.
Don’t forget to backup
Now we have things just as we want them, I would advise you to backup your new computer. This can be a time consuming step, but, as we’re no longer provided with restore media (remember those backup discs that used to come with your new PC?), we need to create our own. While you can skip this step, I strongly advise you don’t.
There is lots of software out there that will accomplish this task, but I’d recommend EaseUS Todo Backup. There is a Free version (for home users), which is more than suitable for our needs. You can get it here.
This allows you to create a full system clone (a complete image of your working system). This means that, should tragedy strike, you can recover everything exactly as it is right now – programs, settings, the lot. So you won’t even have to go through this setup process again, should you need to start over.
Important. Remember to save your image to external storage (like a USB hard drive) and not the computer itself.
Your new computer is now almost ready for action, and we’ve even got a recovery image if the worst happens, but before I finish this article I’d just like to cover a frequently asked question.
How do I transfer my stuff from the old computer to the new one?
There is software that will handle this; moving files, folders, settings and even programs. Personally, I don’t use it. We’ve already set up a bunch of our most commonly used software, and, at the end of the day, the only thing that’s really important is your data. Any other programs you absolutely can’t live without can be re-installed, settings can be reset. So long as your data is safe and secure, everything else is secondary.
For this reason, I recommend backing up, and then transferring, your files and folders (it’s good practice to get into the habit of regularly backing up your data anyway). While, technically, you could back it up as part of a complete system image, I would always advise backing up your data separately (it will take up less storage space than an image, and it’s easier to perform regular backups).
Unless you’ve been specifically saving things to another location, by default Windows puts all your data in C:\Users\youraccountname. So, in my case, this would be C:\Users\Tone. On your old computer, click on the Start Menu and go to “Computer”, double-click “Local Disk (C:)”, then double-click “Users”, and finally double-click “youraccountname”.
In the folder that opens you will see quite a few subfolders. The important ones are listed below (and highlighted in green in the above screenshot).
You may also want to backup the following (highlighted in blue in the screenshot).
All you need to do is copy these folders and paste them to an external storage device (a USB hard drive, for example). Then copy them back to your new computer in the same way, overwriting the existing folders in C:\Users\youraccountname – this is perfectly safe as the new computer doesn’t contain your data yet.
Tone’s Tip. Hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard as you single-click on each folder to highlight them all before you copy and paste.
And that’s it. Congratulations, we’re done. Now go and enjoy your new purchase.