Congratulations! You must be reading this article because you’re the proud owner of a new or, preferably refurbished computer! Whether or not you bought a laptop or a desktop, this guide will teach you how to ensure you got what you paid for, how to keep your information safe and secure, and how to ensure that your computer will run smoothly for a long time to come. Read on to find the ultimate guide for setting up new or refurbished computers.
Check the box your computer was shipped in for obvious problems, such as dents, cuts, and blemishes. Be sure that the computer was packed securely and would not have likely been damaged during shipping. Open the computer. Read the directions for first time start, (many laptops require charging for a period of time before powering on for the first time, for example.)
Next, physically examine the computer. Look for any scratches on the case and screen. Ensure that the computer has not been dropped or damaged in shipping. Particularly if your computer is refurbished, ensure that every key on the keyboard physically functions, along with ensuring that the screen and other elements of the computer are properly physically attached. If there are any blemishes, be sure to note them, such as these case blemishes:
If your computer is refurbished, then minor case blemishes are normal. Be sure to take photos of any imperfections anyway, however. If your computer is new, you can likely contact the seller if you find imperfections and, using these photos, get yourself a replacement, a refund, or some money back into your pocket, whichever you’d prefer. Next, follow the instructions included and boot your computer. Again, if you encounter any issues entering into the operating system, document them and use them as leverage for your return/refund/other course of action.
Cleanly installing your operating system
Put your privacy first. Regardless of whether or not you bought refurbished (or, especially if you bought refurbished), you’re going to want a clean operating system install. The reasons for this are as follows:
- The pre-installed OS likely has bloatware from the manufacturer or the refurbisher on it.
- If the computer is refurbished or used, you never know who used it before or what could be on it!
- You’ll have peace of mind that noone has accessed the operating system of the computer but you, which increases your security and privacy.
- You will ensure that your PC has the latest operating system.
If your PC has the Windows Operating System installed that you want (for example, Windows 10):
- Open Settings
- Select “Update & Security”
- Select “Recovery”
- Click “Get started” under “Reset this PC”
- Select “Remove Everything” to fully reset and remove any pre-installed programs
Congratulations! Sit back and relax while your mind is put at ease knowing that you have full control of your Operating System from the start.
If your PC did not have the OS you wanted, or had a previous version of Windows, follow the next section. If not, disregard it.
Does your PC not have the Windows Operating System installed that you want? No Problem, you can get Windows 10 for free, courtesy of Microsoft!
You might think that reinstalling your operating system is a massive task that requires lots of technical knowledge. This is far from the truth, however! This guide will focus on Windows, but the same idea certainly applies with Linux, and potentially with Mac as well.
Navigate to this page. This is the official Microsoft Windows 10 Installation tool. Download and run it on your new computer. You will see this page:
Simply select upgrade this PC now. When prompted, keep nothing in the upgrade installation. You have no personal files or software on this PC, and, unless you paid for extra paid software to be installed, you have nothing to lose when selecting to keep nothing in the installation. If you have paid software on this computer, you’re probably best re-downloading it and using the keys that you should have for the paid software to reinstall it. If not, you can keep personal software if you are concerned. Keeping nothing is your best bet in terms of privacy though, especially if your computer is used or refurbished.
It is a little known fact that, as long as you have a legitimate copy of Windows 7 or 8 on your computer, you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free from Microsoft using this tool!
Alternatively, if you already have Windows 10 installed, in order to reset your Windows installation, simply navigate to Settings, then Recovery. Simply select “Reset this PC”, and follow the same instructions as you would with the aforementioned tool.
After you set up the upgrade, sit back and relax and follow the Windows prompts to get yourself the most standardized and up-to-date version of your operating system you can, for free. After upgrading, be sure to enter into the Windows Update center and make sure your copy of Windows is indeed up-to-date.
Verifying you computer’s specs
You’re going to want to be absolutely sure that your computer is exactly what you purchased. First, go to the listing that you purchased your computer from and open up the list of specifications. Perform the following tests and checks:
- Right click on the desktop and select display settings. Your maximum display output should be the listed maximum resolution in the listing (eg. 1920×1080).
- Download the software HWinfo and run it. You will see a comprehensive list of hardware detected by your system. Comb through this list and ensure that everything matches the specs in your listing. Things to look for: RAM (size and number of chips), CPU, CPU speed, GPU, GPU memory, Storage (hard disk drive or solid state drive)
- Download Novabench. Run it and take a look at what your PC scored. Check out some others’ scores online by googling “novabench [computer type]”. Make sure your scores seem reasonable based on your specs and their specs. If Novabench crashes or you get very inconsistent scores, you may have a hardware or software problem.
- Visit this website and go through the LCD monitor tests. Read through the tests and be mindful of issues that could mean that you have a bad display, like dead pixels or color issues.
If any of these tests yield unsatisfactory results or results inconsistent with the product’s listing page, contact the seller and inquire as to why. Likely you will get a refund, some cash back, or a replacement.
Installing Useful Software
Now, after verifying that your computer is operational and up-to-par, you will want to protect it and make it even more useful with software. This list of software will descend in order of most important to least important, in my opinion. In any case, check out these software picks:
- Search for your make and model pc + “drivers” in your favorite search engine. Find a page like this one and be sure you navigate to the proper drivers for your machine’s model. Download every driver and install it. Especially install bios, firmware, and graphics/video drivers.
If you value the privacy of your data and browsing habits, you will want to encrypt your traffic end-to-end with AES256 encryption, and route your traffic through a cheap, reputable VPN provider. My choice is NordVPN. Their software is easy to use and secure. It is definitely recommended for any sensitive tasks on the internet in this day and age. Feel free to check them out. Doing so will also benefit this website.
- Malwarebytes anti malware is an incredible free and premium scanning and protection tool to keep your new PC malware-free. In combination with Windows defender, Malwarebytes will be all you need, and it’s free.
- A modern, fast browser like Chrome or Firefox. You’ll want to get the most out of the web and browse in style, knowing you’ll always see webpages how they’re intended. Chrome is run by the company Google, and Firefox is run by an open-source free internet company called Mozilla, for what it’s worth.
- A word processor or self-contained set of office tools, like Microsoft Office or Libre Office. You may have to buy Microsoft office, which comes in yearly subscriptions and single purchase packages. (Note: that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
- A password wallet, such as KeePass or LastPass. Switching your passwords over to these will ensure that you will never be vulnerable to password attacks involving websites’ databases being compromised, such as if you used the same password for multiple websites.
- HWmonitor. Keep track of your computer’s temperatures and voltages.
- 7-Zip. An awesome tool for compressing and decompressing files of any compression format. You’ll thank yourself later when you can elegantly decompress files and software that you download.
- VLC Media Player. The greatest video player of all time.
- f.lux. This software will alter the color and brightness of your monitor according to when you will go to sleep, which can really help when working at night and trying to go to bed afterwards.
- A chat and collaboration tool such as Discord or Slack. Great for keeping up with your friends personally and/or your coworkers professionally. It’s likely that they use one of these tools.
- For professionals: Your favorite IDEs, such as Intellij’s collection. In addition, for other professional uses, brainstorm what software you might need on your new computer, such as video/photo editing tools and other development tools, like Git Kraken.
- For gamers: Steam. Get your games on your new PC!
If you’ve followed this guide, you should have an optimized version of your new computer that you can be sure is working correctly and is exactly what you ordered. Whether your computer is new or refurbished, I hope that you’ve found this ultimate setup guide for new or refurbished computers to be comprehensive and correct, and that it’s saved you time and money. If this has been helpful, be sure to check out some of my other guide and articles, and consider following my newsletter or leaving a comment to share your feelings.
If you’d like, check out some of these featured items! Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.