Before you start running your new computer it’s a good idea to take a few simple steps to secure it… and here’s how.
When you buy a new laptop or computer it’s tempting to whip it out of the box, plug it in and fire it up immediately. Of course, you just want to see how good, fun and fast it is.
That said there’s a few things you should do first, just to make sure you’re safe and secure before you begin cruising the internet, shop or chat online or start using online banking.
We’ve got a few top tips below that will help you keep everything watertight. And we’re assuming that your computer will be running at least Windows 8 given that just about every new computer does, or more likely Windows 8.1.
These tips also apply to other versions of Windows but the specific actions will be different according to which operating system you are using.
A point to note; if your computer comes with the older Windows 8 you should take advantage of the free download to Windows 8.1, it has significant improvements over Windows 8.
1. Run Windows update
Windows updates are usually applied automatically and are essential in keeping the operating system secure.
But because it’s a new computer you shouldn’t assume the security fixes and updates will take care of themselves.
To run the updates you need to open the Charms bar by moving the mouse cursor to the top-right of the screen and click the Search option.
A point to note, if you’re not familiar with it the Charms bar is essentially a tool bar that has been revamped and redesigned. It certainly has a different look and feel to the tool bars you may have used to, but it basically does the same thing.
- Once you’ve opened up the Search box type in ‘windows update’ and select Check for Updates from the list of results that appear the right of the screen
- When Windows Update opens, click the Check button and wait while Windows checks what updates are available
- When the check has finished, click View details
- Tick the box for Select all Important Updates
- Click the Install button
You may need to restart your laptop after this round of updates, but you should repeat the update process until you are satisfied that you have not missed any important updates.
2. Turn on Windows Defender
Windows 8 and 8.1 come with Windows Defender, Microsoft’s anti-malware application. It’s a useful tool to have but not as effective or full-featured as say, BullGuard Internet Security. That said it’s useful to have until you implement more fully-featured protection software.
- Go to the Search tool and type in ‘windows defender.’
- Select Windows Defender from the list of results on the right of the screen.
- When Windows Defender opens on the desktop click the Settings tab.
- Then click Real-Time protection on the left of the window and tick the box to turn it on.
- You just then need to click the Save Changes button.
To update Windows Defender you just need click the Update button to download any updates.
You can carry out a scan by clicking the Home tab and then click the Scan button to scan for malware.
Your computer may be fresh out of the factory but that doesn’t mean it isn’t malware free. As bizarre as it sounds hackers have been known to insert malware into computers still in the factory.
3. Installing a different web browser
Microsoft may have got a lot of things right but browsers isn’t one of them. Because the software behemoth is no longer required to offer a choice of web browsers with its operating systems you’ll undoubtedly end up with Internet Explorer. Unfortunately Explorer has a reputation for being ridden with bugs.
You can download any browser you prefer whether it’s the open source, fully featured, Mozilla Firefox or the ubiquitous Chrome, or any other.
4. Set up user accounts and parental controls
If you’re going to be the only person using your shiny new computer there’s no need to set up user accounts or parental controls. But if you’re not then it’s good to create separate user accounts.
Unless you’re the only person who’ll be using your laptop, we strongly recommend setting up different user accounts for everyone else.
- On the Start screen, type ‘user accounts’ and select Add, Delete, and Manage other user accounts from the list of results at the right of the screen.
- Click the Add an Account option to create and configure another user account.
- Windows will ask for the other person’s email address, so that it can save their settings and use them on other Windows 8 PCs. This is optional.
However, you can click Sign In without a Microsoft account at the bottom of the screen to create a ‘local’ account that is unique to your computer.
5. Child’s account
When you’re going through the process for setting up user’s accounts you’ll also see an option for Add a Child’s account.
- Click this and you can enable parental controls for any children that use your laptop.
- These include blocking which web sites they can access and controlling when they’re allowed to use the computer.
You can check our blog for further tips on how to set up parental controls in Windows 8.
6. Switching to Desktop mode
The thing about software designers is that they can get carried away with their design and actually forget about functionality for users. To use a car analogy most people just want to get in a drive without marvelling about the engine’s cylinder head design,
And Microsoft is no different. When Windows 8 was launched it was criticised for making the Start screen view the default when you booted up the computer. Most people wanted, and quite rightly so, the more-useful Desktop mode which can be accessed with a keyboard shortcut.
Windows 8.1 changes this and lets you boot straight to the Desktop, if that is your preference. To do this:
- Press Windows + D to switch to Desktop mode
- Right-click the Taskbar and select Properties.
- Click the Navigation tab on the dialog box that opens and tick the box for When I Sign In
- Click the OK button
You can now click the Start button on the Desktop, or press the Windows key to return to the Start screen at any time.
7. Uninstall unwanted software
Computer and laptop manufacturers are paid to install software from third parties. Is it any wonder that your new computer comes loaded with software that isn’t useful? Of course, some of it is, but most of it serves little useful purpose. It can eat up hard drive space, slow a computer down and cause conflicts with applications that you might want to install.
If in doubt, ditch it.
- On the Start screen, type in ‘uninstall’ and select Uninstall a Program from the results on the right of the screen.
- The Programs and Features dialog box will open on the Desktop
- Select the applications from the list and click the Uninstall button to remove them.
If deleting the unwanted junk leaves your laptop without much else installed, check our blog on useful free software. You’ll definitely find it useful.