You’ve just surprised a loved one with the holiday gift of a new laptop or desktop. Use these computer setup tips to get your new machine up and running.
1. Add Security
Start by loading some security software onto your computer as soon as you’re online. Skip the programs that are often pre-loaded (and will cost you around $80 a year once the free trial ends) and grab one of the free options instead. We recommend Avira Free Antivirus 2015. In our tests, it did a very good job of protecting against most malware threats.
2. Transfer Files and Applications
Move your old files onto your new system by using either Apple Migration Assistant or Microsoft Windows Easy Transfer. (Both of these free tools are most likely already built into the operating system of your computer.) Each will also help you switch operating systems, if you’re moving from Mac to Windows or vice versa. For moving your iTunes library, you’ll want to take a look at Apple's detailed instructions for help.
For transferring applications, Apple Migration Assistant will do the work for you during computer setup. If you’re a Windows user, you’ll need to put in a little more effort. Easy Transfer will give you a list of applications that will work on the latest version of the operating system. You’ll have to reload the software yourself. Remember that if you have the programs on CD, you might need an external CD-ROM drive since most new computers aren't equipped with one. You should be able to find an external CD-ROM drive for around $20.
3. Back It Up
Once you’ve got all your files on the new computer, you’re going to want to back everything up. For that important computer setup step, you might want an external hard drive. You can pick up a Western Digital drive with 2TB of storage for around $75. Our guide to no-brainer computer backups will help you from there.
Don’t forget to pick up any necessary cords for connecting external drives—they're essential for a successful computer setup. If what you need isn’t included with the drive, just pick up the least expensive cords you can find—no need to buy the “fastest,” “latest,” or “coolest,” which is where salespeople generally direct you. If you have an older Mac and want to connect it to a new Mac to transfer files, you’ll need an adapter.
4. Upgrade Software
Depending on what software you’ve been using on your old computer, you might want to add an office suite or upgrade the one you’ve been using. Microsoft recently changed the pricing scheme for Office. If you have just one computer that requires Office, you’re best off sticking to Office Home & Student for $150. (Alternatively, you can subscribe to Office 365, which allows you to install the suite on more than one computer but will require an annual fee.) If you bought a Mac, you might want to consider programs like Pages and Numbers, which are free when you buy a new Mac computer.
5. Connect to the Cloud
This might also be a good time to set up a cloud service and use free productivity apps from Google, for example, which lets you store your documents online, work on them online, and access them from other devices. It’s a good option if you’re doing light word processing and similar work. Read about the best cloud storage services.
6. Improve Sound
Great sound is a low priority on most computers, and particularly on laptops. That’s a shame, because if you’re planning on accessing your music library from the computer, or streaming video, or even playing games, you’re going to want better speakers. Fortunately, there are lots of easy fixes to this problem—namely, wireless speakers. We like the Sonos Play:1 speaker, which costs about $200. It’s easy to set up and use, and it sounds great. You can add other speakers (they come in various sizes) and control them independently if you wish. They also offer direct access to services like Pandora, Spotify, and TuneIn Radio.
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