What am I missing here, to get this thing fired up and online?
July 4, 2010 9:29 PM   Subscribe

I bought a new laptop today, an inexpensive Compaq. I've not opened the box yet, don't want to run the thing without a decent anti-virus anti-malware etc and etc, on the machine and operative -- I figure I'll use my existing puter to download the latest AVG onto a USB stick and install it onto the Compaq before getting online. Also intend to run Decrapifer software and also CCleaner to get all the gunk off the machine that I can. Question: What else do I need to do to fire up this Windows 7 machine, if anything? Also -- once cleaned up, I'd like to image the drive to a USB drive I've got, that USB drive came with proprietary software and I'm sure that'd be fine, but do you have any preference as to what drive imaging (freeware) software to use?

Alternately, have any of you had any success contacting Compaq and buying the DVDs containing the OS and any/all drivers? Dell was real good about that, in fact they just gave them to me, overnighted them even, once when a Dell lappy died in action -- hard drive failure, life in the big city, yes? Cuz if I had the disks I'd not have to strip off all the junkware, be a fresh start, load only what I want.

What do I need to know about Windows 7? I stayed away from Vista so coming from XP, are there any tricks/tips/things you wish you'd known?

I'm not pressed for time, as I've got this puter I'm typing on, I need not *run run run* to get the new one set up. That said, I'm hopping on a train Friday morning, it'd be nice to take the new puter on my little trip to Chicago.

Open to suggestions, hive-mind greatnesses.
posted by dancestoblue to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'm using Panda Cloud antivirus as per earlier MeFi recommendations (after Webroot and Norton let a trojan in that required nuking from on high).

Windows 7 is great. You still need to tweak security setting to avoid the "are you sure you want to click that? Are you sure you're sure?" but other than that it is very smooth sailing.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:39 PM on July 4, 2010

You can just go online and download AVG. You won't get a virus as long as you don't start trailing around on bogus sites. Viruses don't come to you, you go to them. Your not going to get some boot sector virus by going on the web for a few minutes if you know where your going. Just letting you know :D

At work, (we fix computers) we use acronis to ghost hard drives. Its free and you can download from their site. Really easy to use. Also, your going to need quite a bit of room to take an image of your hard drive. Its not going to fit on a flash drive unless you got a jumbo sized one. A Windows 7 clean install alone is about 16 gigs. Then throw all the programs that you install and stuff. Your better off backing up to an external hard drive.

About getting a CD with drivers, Not worth it. If it comes down to having to do a clean reinstall, windows 7 has a really good knack of finding almost all of your drivers when you install. It great. Especially when you know where im coming from with XP installs. If it can't find some exotic driver, a quick visit to HPs site should get what you need.

About windows 7 in general, I came from XP and skipped Vista all together like you. I love it. Quick tip, don't you dare look around the internet on how to re-enable quick launch and put put words in the icons for programs that are launched in the task bar. XP is old shit. Learn to adapt for a change. Another random thing, i don't like the large icons. I like the small icons on the task bar. its in the properties tab when you right click on it.

Thats my sh-peal on the subject. Hope I was of some help to you :D
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 10:07 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Websites like Ninite let you download all the typical PC programs all at once.
posted by mullacc at 10:43 PM on July 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

Viruses don't come to you, you go to them.

This is not true, at all, and risky advice. Keep your machine off the Internet until you have downloaded an antivirus software installer from another workstation, and installed it on your new computer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:56 PM on July 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Windows 7 is great. You still need to tweak security setting to avoid the "are you sure you want to click that? Are you sure you're sure?" but other than that it is very smooth sailing.
Except, if you're worried about security, you might want to keep those.

Anyway, Microsoft Security Essentials anti-virus works great and is free.
This is not true, at all, and risky advice. Keep your machine off the Internet until you have downloaded an antivirus software installer from another workstation, and installed it on your new computer.
That might have been true in 2001 or something, but these days it's probably safe, so long as you have an updated browser and plug ins. If you don't go on the web, you're really unlikely to get hacked.
posted by delmoi at 12:19 AM on July 5, 2010

You can dink around on the internet for several hours and bad things aren't going to happen

This is bad advice. Have data backups and a Windows re-installation disc on hand if you're going to do this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:43 AM on July 5, 2010

Avira Antivir (free) performed great on a number of tests

I would also recommend Defraggler (great tool to defragment), Spybot S&D (antimalware), HD Tune (to check your hard disk health in case it seems to be failing), Battery Care (great tool to keep your battery at its best), Winpatrol (to disable some startup apps and services and thus start your computer faster)
posted by volpe at 3:24 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Microsoft Security Essentials.
posted by crunchland at 7:36 AM on July 5, 2010

I third Microsoft Security Essentials, it's free and really good. Just make sure you got good backups of your pictures/music/etc and you'll be fine - especially if you download from shady areas of the internet.
posted by glenno86 at 8:55 AM on July 5, 2010

Free drive imaging software? You want Clonezilla. Use it to take a gzip or bzip2 compressed backup of the entire system including its recovery partitions before you mess with it. Works with fat32 formatted external hard drives, USB drives, samba shares, etc.
posted by thewalrus at 9:02 AM on July 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: First off, it is possible to safely run a Windows 7 PC on the internet without antivirus/anitmalware. The key is to use it in a way that only runs software you have reason to trust (a.k.a. using a whitelist), at least until you are able to install your choice of AV software. And many savvy users can run Windows, on the internet, for years without AV or at least without real-time AV by the continuous application of that principle. Personally, I run AV now because Microsoft's newish Security Essentials is both very good and very lightweight, unlike many other programs, even very well-known ones, but in the past I've run my personal PC's on the net without real-time AV, without running any AV for months at a time, only bothering to update and use on-demand scanning for new software I considered risky. During all that time, I never once got infected. How would I know? Because I would inevitably end up scanning at some point, and it was always clean, with AV and malware detection showing nothing more threatening than tracking cookies, which I don't get too excited about.

Of course, the flip side to all that is that many people aren't savvy enough to reliably operate with the mindset that requires. And worse, some will think they can when they can't. But I'd say someone that cares enough to ask this question can muster the requisite discipline to be safe during a finite setup period.

As for what I would do, about AV and your broader setup question, it's a lot like this:

These first Windows tweaks may be done before connecting to the net.

Windows tweaks:

Taskbar on left side (Windows 7 handles taskbars on either side VERY well, and I prefer to maximise the available vertical screen real estate on a widescreen laptop. The left side felt slightly more natural to me given the way menus cascade.)

desktop icon shrink (right-click on empty desktop, view, small icons)
autorun off (tap and release ("tap" from here on out, as opposed to holding a key to chord it with another key) the windows key, type "autorun", click the top option, unclick "use autoplay for blah...")
Windows Explorer settings (Windows Explorer, not Internet Explorer)
*Details view (tap the alt key, view, details)
*Change the my computer view to "content"
*"Automatically expand to current folder" in explorer

tune cleartype FOR MAX CONTRAST

Windows Update: Set to Notify Only (This is for people like me that want maximum control over what runs on their PC. I set my wife's and mom's to automatically install the updates, and it's been fine for them.)

Does your PC support hibernation? I'm guessing it does since PCs have for years, but yours could be an exception. Google around to find out, and if it does, I recommend using my hibernation settings.

fix hibernation file and turn on hibernation from an elevated cmd session: (tap windows key, type "cmd", RIGHT click on cmd.exe, choose run as administrator, then precisely enter the following on the command line:
powercfg.exe -h -size 100

After that command completes (I think it pops up a windows dialog upon completion, outside the command line session.), quit the session by entering the "exit" command at the prompt and hitting enter.

fix power options for lid closing, hard drive, etc.
tap windows key, type "power options", select choose what closing the lid does and set it to hibernate.
go back to power options.
choose when to turn off the display.
on battery: 10 minutes, 15 minutes, never (we'll set up hibernation instead of sleep, so don't worry about that "never")
plugged in: 1 hour, 2 hours, never (same, hibernate instead of sleep)
from that display turn-off screen, choose Change advanced power settings. (be ready to expand the tree (hitting the +'s) to find the settings)
*hard disk turn off: 10 minutes for battery, never for plugged in.
*Sleep, hibernate after, 20 minutes battery, never plugged in
*Battery, critical battery action: on battery hibernate.
Back on the main power options screen, turn on password challenge on wake up

plug in a USB drive, then
*move "safely remove" to main sys tray (means to take it out of the collapsed extra system tray area, which hides behind the little triangle on the system tray)
*move "new updates" to main sys tray

unpin Media Player from Taskbar
Set Media Player privacy options

If you can and wish to be paranoid very cautious, this would be a great time to image your disk with a tool like Clonezilla. For that I would follow this sequence, all before connecting to the net:

full on/off power cycle reboot, pause, full power cycle reboot, pause, shutdown, image.


This is basically your collection of chosen (whitelisted) software to first install. Installing these will be your first tasks upon connecting to the net.

Once you get to Firefox, only use that to visit the listed URLs and get software. Before then, use IE *only* for the first two locations:

Microsoft Security Essentials
replaces Avast and AdAware

Once you've finished installing that, your covered for AV, but you know that doesn't mean much to me. I consider getting Firefox installed with adblock and noscript to be at least as important to security as AV software. So then...

turn off download manager window
always ask where to save
small icon-only buttons
one layer interface, with google
tab changes (set these in about:config)
*set browser.tabs.tabminWidth to 0
*set browser.tabs.closeButtons to 3
state saving change (minimizing video hiccups, about:config)
*set browser.sessionstore.interval to 300000

create firefox taskbar searching shortcuts:







Firefox Extensions
*easylist and easyprivacy adblock subscriptions:
*clean out the whitelist of unknown items
*turn off noscript notifications in FF
Auto Context
*turn off it's own popup
*add to firefox's context menu
*only allow copy as plain text and treat as URL
*turn off status bar icon

Turn on firefox's master password
replace IE with FF on the task bar
delete desktop FF icon

From here on, I would only use Firefox, unless some odd thing required some other browser.

Thunderbird, if you use desktop email (in contrast to webmail like gmail)
Tools - Options - Advanced - General - Open new message in:
*A new message window
View -> layout -> wide view
train spam filter on new mail
delete mails and compact folders

foxit reader has been getting hinky with lots of opt-out toolbars, etc., but Adobe Acrobat is such a huge security target these days that I guess I'll still recommend it:
run Foxit as admin to update
Do not allow Foxit to install any of it's two(!) toolbars, and disable its firefox plugin. Just use foxit as an external app for firefox.

plus the encryption plug-in

pdf creator
WAIT!!! toolbars! see warnings:
Install latest version VERY carefully. 2 toolbars to turn off on separate pages.

7-zip, better open source winzip replacement. Handles one brazillion different file formats.

Proceed despite Windows' warnings. Or feel free to skip this altogether if don't want VNC. It is a remote desktop control package.

XnView (file viewer, lossless jpeg transform and crop, also has Linux
(I installed this, and it's fine, but I really never use it much)

Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI), which check that your software is all up to date.

Adobe Flash
Watch out for Adobe's ridiculous download manger. grr.

I tried alternatives to Quicktime, and they all suck worse than quicktime, so just get that. Don't let Apple install any of their other stuff unless you have a specific need for it. No iTunes, no Safari, etc.

I've never bothered with the Windows Live stuff. The gallery program looks like it might be nice (face recognition for easier photo tagging once you train it), but I just haven't bothered yet. I certainly wouldn't install their IM client; Pidgin has you covered for that.


And that's about it. That's adapted from a log of my own setup, and I used that on some other folks' with happy outcomes. Sorry for the ugly formatting. If any of it is confusing, let me know and I'll clarify.
posted by NortonDC at 9:30 AM on July 5, 2010 [34 favorites]

Great list, NortonDC!
posted by omnidrew at 9:43 AM on July 5, 2010

I forgot to mention this: all the software I linked is free.

omnidrew, thanks!
posted by NortonDC at 10:40 AM on July 5, 2010

NortonDC, I would like to add to your list... but I can't.
Excellent job.

Except for a slight confusion point:
Where you specify -
Windows Explorer settings (Windows Explorer, not Internet Explorer)
*Details view (tap the alt key, view, details)
*Change the my computer view to "content"

I am not sure I understand the *Change the computer view to "content"

I also like seeing the file extensions, no tricks like seeing '.jpg' and not seeing the missing '.exe' at the end.
posted by Drasher at 3:16 PM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

That's an excellent suggestion, Drasher. I do that, too.

For the "content" business: in Windows Explorer, right click on a blank spot in the right pane of the top-level view, select View, then Content.

The "Details" view is my default for every folder but that top one.
posted by NortonDC at 5:20 PM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: I mostly don't like to give "Best Answers" because so many of the answers I get here are just great. But I'd have to say that NortonDC really did the deal here -- what a show! Thank you so much.

Big hanks to everyone who answered here. This is the best community on the internet, and the most knowledgeable.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:49 PM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: um, big thanks, too...
posted by dancestoblue at 5:50 PM on July 5, 2010

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