New Computer for a New Year

A new year is a great time to rework your computer system, or configure a new one. If you are a long-time Windows user, you know that the wear and tear of virtual work means that your system takes a beating. If you just purchased a new tax deduction, errr… computer system… then you should take this opportunity to tweak it for the type of work you do and the way you work.

That said, let’s give your system a tune-up!

If you have an old system you should save all your essential data on CDs, DVDs or an external drive. Now, wipe it. Reformat the disk and start with a clean canvas.

If you are going to partition your drives, do it now. I highly recommend that you have at least two partitions, preferably three if your drive is large enough to support it. One is for the C drive with the operating system and program files, one for your data (I like using the “d” disk for this), and a third – if you have the space – for doing system backups in between offsite backups.

Now, you can take your current (and freshly reformatted) system and use the manufacturer’s CDs to restore factory settings. Once that’s done, the rest of the steps are the same for an old computer and a new one.

Remove any third party software that comes “standard,” including ISP offers and any additional “bonus” software you never plan to use.

NOTE: Keep your system running smoothly by assessing your software needs carefully before installing anything. If you don’t need it, don’t install it. Keep your system organized and clean. When installing programs, be sure to do custom installs and store all data on the D drive. Also remember to reboot your computer between any uninstalls and installs.

I recently set up a new computer, and kept a few notes that I’ll share here. Once the operating system is installed you need to do the following:

  • Get Internet working
  • Download windows upgrades, register, and activate
  • Install office programs (word processor, spreadsheet, desktop publishing program, office suite package, etc)
  • Download updates for office programs
  • Install AntiVirus software
  • Get updates, reboot between each session and continue to run them until you are told no more updates are available
  • Run a full system AV scan
  • Install a firewall (I prefer Sygate)
  • Set firewall rules to enable regular use of Internet and email
  • Install the IM (Instant Messenger) of your choice
  • Install Ad-Aware, get updates and run a full system scan
  • Install Spybot Search and Destroy, get updates and run a full system scan
  • Install all hardware devices (printer, scanner, external drives, etc)
  • Get all updated drivers for your hardware and peripherals
  • Now you can begin installing the extras (the following are my picks):
    • XP Powertools and Tweaks
    • FTP Program (I use WS_FTP LE)
    • MS Baseline Security Analyzer (and run it)
    • Install PDF Program (Adobe Acrobat Full Version)
    • Graphic Manipulation Program (Paint Shop Pro)
    • Timer Program of your Choice (I use QB timer and “Time to Time” on my PDA)
    • Install an accounting program (Quick Books Pro)
    • Install all the software for your PDA (if you use one)

Do a full system backup of your new fully-loaded, clean machine. Keep this backup along with a copy of all the CDs you need for this system in a dedicated CD holder – and store it for easy access. Record a restore point on your computer.

Begin restoring your data from CD, DVD or external drive backups. Don’t forget your “my documents” information, your favorites, your setup files for your e-mail handler, and all of your particular data for special programs.

Do a full system scan using your AV program, Ad-Aware, and Spybot to double-check your imported data for any problems.

Once you have the system back up with all your data stored on the D drive and all the programs pointing to the correct spot, you need to do another full system backup to CD, DVD, or external drive. This backup should be stored offsite.

Now, you can begin working!

Sidebar: If you are restoring your email files from a previous operating system or another computer, now is a good time to archive anything you don’t need. Since it’s the first of the year, archive all of your 2004 e-mails on a DVD or CD and tuck the archive away in case you need to reference it in the future. Keeping your software properly archived makes load time quicker and helps it to run smoother. It’s also easier to find things quickly if you don’t have three years of e-mails just sitting there. I archive copies of my e-mails to and from clients in my client data folders as well. Thus, if I need an e-mail I sent to the ABC company in October 2002 — I go to the archived emails folder under that client’s data for that month and can pull it up quickly. As you may have guessed, I do these archives monthly. Maintaining active filters on your email program sorts the e-mails as they arrive, making the archive process quicker and easier.

ANOTHER SIDEBAR: If you are having an issue with spam, now may be the time to change your e-mail addresses — dedicate one like “” to be used for all registrations of software, etc — select another to be used as a disposable e-mail (consider a freebie yahoo or msn account for this purpose) Use only this address when you don’t want to give out your primary addresses and to avoid junkmail. When it becomes overrun with spam, sign up for a new account and abandon the old one. Protect your primary email and don’t post it on the web in a format that robots can harvest. I use a graphic for mine so that clients can see it, but robots can’t.

© Copyright 2005 by Angela Allen Parker of Wicked Wordcraft

This article first appeared in the January 2005 issue of the IVAACast – official newsletter of the International Virtual Assistants Association.