How to set up your new computer

How to set up your new computer

So you’ve got a new computer. Awesome! That humble metal box is the key to a wide world of potential. It can help you with everything from juggling your finances to keeping in touch with your family to blowing off some steam on, uh, Steam.

But a new PC isn’t like a new car; you can’t just turn a key and put the pedal to the metal. Okay, maybe you can—but you shouldn’t. Performing just a few simple activities when you first fire it up can help it be safer, faster, and better poised for the future. Here’s how to set up a new laptop or desktop computer the right way, step by step.

Run Windows Update on your new PC

The first step is by far the most tedious. You shouldn’t muck around on the web unless your copy of Windows is fully patched and up to date, period. Now for the bad news: Depending on how long your PC sat on the retail shelf, this could take minutes—or hours. Either way, it has to get done.

Microsoft releases new Windows 10 patches at least once per month. The most recent major feature upgrade for the operating system came in the form of the Windows 10 October 2020 Update; those larger “milestone” releases occur twice per year. If your computer isn’t fully patched, you could be missing key security fixes and notable new features.

windows update Brad Chacos/IDG

Keep updating Windows until it says you’re all caught up.

First, make sure your PC’s connected to the Internet. In Windows 10, open the Start menu and head to Settings Update and securityCheck for Updates. Your system will search for updates, and find some. Download and install them, then reboot your computer and do it again… and again… and again… until the update check fails to return new entries. Hopefully it won’t take too long, but in worst-case scenarios updating a new computer can take an hour or more.

On the bright side, Windows 10 will download and install new updates as they roll out in the future. You just have to get over this initial hump!

Install your favorite browser

Surfing the web in an unfamiliar browser is like trying to tango while you’re wearing someone else’s shoes. It can be done, but it ain’t pretty. Here are direct links for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera if Edge isn’t your thing.

Chrome has been our go-to pick for years, but the Chromium-based version of Microsoft’s Edge upset the long-time champion in our most recent round of web browser testing. Edge is the best browser you can use right now if you don’t mind breaking away from Chrome, and better yet, it’s Windows 10’s default. If your tastes lean more exotic, you could always dabble with one of these 10 obscure, highly specialized browsers, too.

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