How to set up a new Computer

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Congratulations! You're the proud owner of a brand-new desktop computer. But before you can enjoy your new machine, you need to take the time to set it up in the safest and most productive manner. Rushing to rip your new "baby" out of the box and jumping in without knowing what you're doing is not just counterproductive -- it could be fatal to your new purchase.

  • Prepare your desk space. A typical keyboard, mouse, and larger LCD "flat screen" monitor will require a space at least 24 inches wide and 18 inches deep on a desktop. The computer tower itself will need a space no smaller than 9 inches wide and 18 inches deep if it is a "stand-up" tower, and 18 inches wide by 18 inches deep if it is a machine designed to "lie down."

  • Open all packaging carefully and save all packing materials for at least two weeks in case a return is necessary. Be especially careful when cutting open a box that may contain an LCD monitor. Set aside any paperwork. Plan to lift all components out of the boxes with both hands, do not "pour" them out onto the floor or desktop.

  • Position the tower first. Place it within easy reach while sitting in your desk chair. There is nothing more inconvenient than having to bend over to reach the CD drawer, power button, or cables on the back of the machine. Towers need to be well-ventilated, so avoid placing the tower inside a closed computer desk "hutch." Towers also need to be positioned off the floor, particularly in homes with pets.

  • Connect your monitor. Don't tighten the monitor thumbscrews until you're sure you have found the best position for your computer setup. Connect your mouse and keyboard. If they are of the USB type, connect them to the lowest or most out-of-the-way USB ports available on the back of your tower. (You'll want the more convenient USB ports free for other uses.)

  • Test cable lengths and connections for the power cord and any Ethernet cable. If the cables won't reach, reposition your tower or get longer cables. Don't risk damaging these cables by stretching or overextending them.

  • Connect any other external devices, such as a hard drive or webcam, to the remaining USB ports at the back of the machine. Reserve any front USB ports for devices you are likely to connect to and disconnect from the machine frequently, such as an iPod transfer cable or flash drive. Do not connect your printer just yet; many newer printers require drivers to be installed before the printer is connected.

  • Start up your computer for the first time. Check your mouse and keyboard for proper function. Check your Internet connection. Solve any problems with these devices or functions now. Install any complex external devices, such as printers, that may have their own software. Begin systematically installing any new software.

Tips & Warnings

  • Read the setup instructions provided before turning on your new machine. Set aside one hour in the next 24-hour period to actually read any owner's manual and send in any warranty registrations.
  • Connect your tower's power cord and monitor to a proper surge protector. A generic, inexpensive "power strip" will not protect your machine from dangerous power spikes.

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