“A computer is like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules and no mercy”

Friday, December 18

19. Installing Your Programs: Take stock of the situation

The first thing you need to do before beginning to install all your software on your shiny new computer is to do a basic software inventory before things get to complicated. There are a few steps to this, and this really only applies to Windows systems. Apple systems run pretty clean and lean, as do Linux systems. But Windows runs everything the factory tells it to, most of which you couldn't care less about.
In Windows, once your computer has booted and you are up and running, press Ctrl+Alt+Del (Control/Alt/Delete keys) and click Task Manager. Click on the tab for Processes. In the lower-left corner, it will give you a count of all the processes running. There will likely be a bunch. These are the kids hanging out in the hall doing a whole bunch of nothing most of the time, waiting on something to happen before they actually get to work. Necessary? Who knows, but this is how Windows works. I just say that you should get an idea of what is normal on your computer before you start dinking with it. If you're curious as to exactly what each of those programs are doing on your computer, I'll discuss exactly how to find that information in a later post.

Once you've got a good idea of what processes are running ordinarily, you can close the Task Manager.

Next, you should open the Control Panel. Usually, one goes to the Start button (or icon), and click Control Panel. Once you open it up, look for Add/Remove Programs or Vista/Windows 7 Programs & Features. Open this up and wait for it to populate. Once it finished filling up (and this may take a while, so be patient), you will have a good idea what comes with your computer. We'll come back later to see if we can pull anything off that list that isn't useful.

Your computer should come with a set of install CD's. If it does not, it likely comes with a service partition on the hard drive that is used to restore your computer to factory condition should something catastrophic occur. Personally I prefer the CD's, because if your hard drive fails, that service partition doesn't do you a bit of good. Most of the time, if they include a service partition, it will have a utility to allow you to create a set of CD's. I consider this as a definite must and it appears on my list of good ideas. Consult your manual*, or more likely, call your manufacturer to see which you should do. Be sure to salt those CD's away someplace easy to find, yet safe. Scratched or lost CD's are worthless if you have to rebuild later, and most manufacturers will charge you for replacements.

Once you have a good grasp of what came on your computer (and where you can get it if the computer needs to be rebuilt), we can move on to the next step.

* I consider consumer computer manuals to be one step below sales adds in the Sunday paper. At least you might find something good on sale in the sales add. The consumer computer manual is completely useless because you can't even spread it out to paint furniture on top of it in most cases. Kudos to those companies that do have the big spreadout ones. You know who you are.