So you got a new computer!
What to do with the new machine?

How to print this page

First, do not throw away the boxes. Many places have a return policy that requires the original packaging. If you do decide to dispose of the boxes later, remove the list of components and file it with the machine records.

After setting it up and verifying that it works, there are a number of things that should be done.

New instructions added 3-29-01 & revised 5-4-07

First, check that you have a set of Restore or Recovery CD's. All name brands come with them. Exception: new HP's & Compaq's have the recovery files on the hard drive. These should be copied to CD or DVD as instructed when you first turn it on. If you did not do this & are using the computer, you can still do it. Read your instruction book for details on the procedure. In the event you can't (like a dead machine!), you can order a set from HP. Lotsa luck. Check out my rant on HP.


Find out how to use them and test them. This will reinstall everything just as it is supposed to be from the factory. Let me digress for a discussion of why I added this step:

Some time ago a friend brought a new (1.5Ghz, 60MB, 128 MB RAM) HP over for me to look at. They had been having a lot of problems right out of the box. The CD's would not autoplay. Error messages and lockups happened frequently. This was the third replacement because 2 others did this before and they kept returning them.
I spent an entire day cleaning up the computer and removing unnecessary junk and taking it to the simplest possible configuration. It appeared to be working satisfactorily, except for the CD autostart and some games refused to work. We installed all the extra software they wanted and about 8 hours into the work, the whole thing took a dump. The USB mouse quit. PS2 mouse would not work, but an old serial would. I suspected a hardware failure or an overheat problem.
At that point, we decided to use the restore CD. We did and everything worked correctly. We reinstalled all the new software using the autostart and the games worked, etc. Now let me explain my theory.

When manufacturers build a computer, they do not use the restore CD to put programs on your hard drive. They use a master hard drive and copy hundreds of drives at once and install them in the computers being shipped. If the master has errors, those errors are copied. I have never seen a new computer where the hard drive had been defragged.
One customer reported that after restoring, she had an earlier version of Windows than was pre-installed. The computer was sold with 98SE and after restoring, she had the first edition.

Next, if your computer did not include a program called Go Back, go buy it and install it. It will save you hours of frustration. If your new machine has Windows Millennium or XP, it has a built in program called System Recovery which is some protection, but Go Back is much more useful. Click here to see notes about installing Go Back in XP

GoBack is no longer available. It has been replaced by Norton Ghost which is a backup program, not a recovery program.

Note, I just tried to install Go Back on a new 1.5Ghz HP and it would not work, so it does not always work, but if it does, it is worth it. (3-28-01)

What I've since discovered is that XP does not like CD Creator and having it installed tends to crash Go Back, both made by Roxio.

Second, you should perform a couple of tests to see if you got what you paid for. Right click on My Computer, choose Properties. In XP, My Computer is in the Start menu. Check the processor and RAM statements to see if they match your invoice and the paperwork on the box. The processor speed does not show here. It is harder to determine. Click the Device manager tab and make sure there are no conflicts shown by yellow or red circles.

Actually the best way to determine what you have is to download a program called Belarc Advisor and run it. It will tell you everything about your computer including the software key numbers to keep.

Run a program called Dxdiag.exe from the Start, Run line. The resulting window looks like this:

Note the Processor and it's speed. It is a good idea to copy this window and save it. It also shows the version of Windows installed. One client used the supplied restore CD and ended up with an earlier version than supplied on the preloaded hard drive and she had proof because she kept a copy.

To make a copy of the window, touch Alt-Print Screen. This places a copy in the clipboard and can be pasted into a program. Easiest is a wordprocessor. WordPad, Works or Word will do. Open the wordprocessor, start a new document and paste. (Using menu, keyboard or icon). Then print it for your records.

Next, click the next 3 tabs DirectX Files, DX Media Files, DirectX Drivers and look at the bottom window to make sure it says "No Problems Found".

Click the next tab, Display. Note the entries for the Device Name and memory (Video card) and the Monitor. This page should be copied into the records also.

Click the Sound tab and record it also.

Check the next 3 (Music, Input, Network) for No Problems Found.

Click the last tab, More Help. Click the MSInfo button to run the MSInfo program. This program may take a while to load. The window may say Refreshing System Information. Just wait until it is done loading. Copy the resulting page into your records. You can use File, Print rather than the copy/paste method. This program has a lot of technical help To learn what it does, read the help file.

After you finish with these windows, close them all.

Then in 95/98/Me, run Scandisk (Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools) in Thorough mode and check the Automatically fix errors box. XP does not have Scandisk. After the program runs and you get a report, you should not have any bad sectors listed. Compare the hard drive size to your invoice or paperwork.

Computer numbers are strange. If your numbers donít match, call me for an explanation before boxing it up and returning it.

Next, run Defrag (also in System Tools). If there are problems, it will notify you. This prepares the computer for further use. New drives do not come already defragged. They are copied by the hundreds with all the errors of the master.


Scandisk and Defrag should be run on a regular basis, daily, weekly or monthly depending on your usage. There are a couple of other maintenance operations that should be done regularly. Check my main web page for a link to the complete discussion and instructions.

Assuming all is still well, you need to investigate what programs came with your computer. It may have a manual or there may be a tutorial icon on the desktop or in the start menu. If you are not familiar with the operating system (Windows 98 or Me or heaven forbid, Mac), go buy a book and spend the time to become familiar with the operations it will do. Windows XP is so different that you really need a book to explain the operation. There are lots of books and magazines at CompUSA, Barnes and Noble and Borders. Our local stores are located in Henderson, Nevada on Stephanie between Sunset and Warm Springs close to the Sunset Station Casino. While there, look for additional software to suit your needs. For folks in other areas, look for your local stores.

Check for adult education classes at your local Community college or High school to see if they have computer programs that meet your needs. Here in Las Vegas, we have a great variety of classes at CCSN.

Our local campus in Boulder City has a special group of programs just for seniors.

Everyone wants to get on the Internet, right? If you didnít get Internet service with your computer. Many of the free services just went defunct in December 2000, but only 2 remain; Juno, NetZero both owned by Netzero. Check these pages for more info. 1 & 2

Whether you opt for a free ISP or a paid one, consider getting a Yahoo e-mail account. This can be your main one or a backup. Yahoo adds spell check & virus check for attachments.

If you plan to use the web more than a hour a day, you will want to consider cable modem or DSL fast access. They average $25 to $40/mo, but payback in stress relief. If you pay AOL and get a second phone line, youíll spend about the same amount for inferior service.

Any questions, e-mail me using the link below or surf my entire site for answers.

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