Ah, the fresh smell of a new PC. For some, it doesn’t get any better than that. But for others, it’s an exercise in pure frustration to get that machine working up to snuff. First, there is all the software to install and the configurations to take care of. And if you’re on a domain… you can see where this leads. Suffice it to say, with a new PC comes a lot of work to get it how you want it. But users often neglect basic steps — or they just don’t know about them.

If you are an IT consultant, you should have this process down pat: getting a new PC out the door and to the client. If you’re inside a company (especially a larger company), you probably have stringent rules that must be applied to all PCs. Somewhere in between, however, lies the many users who can benefit from knowing what types of things to do when a new PC arrives. Here are five simple tasks that will improve that new PC — even before it gets its first day of work.

1: Remove the cruft

This generally applies only to machines purchased at big-box stores. You may want to jump in here and say, “Businesses don’t purchase machines at big-box stores!” But don’t kid yourself. I can’t tell you how many times we see clients attempt to save money by doing just that. In the end, however, the money they save winds up getting spent on support to resolve all the issues created by the extra stuff installed. You will find installation tools, trials, and worthless pieces of software galore on these machines. Get rid of it all! Most of it will never be used anyway and it’s just taking up space and (even worse) resources.

2: Immediately install antivirus and anti-malware

It’s shocking how many people neglect this. Viruses and malware outbreaks get worse and worse as time goes by, and most users don’t notice until their machines become unusable. This should always be one of the first things done after unboxing and plugging in a machine. (As soon as it has a network connection, it’s vulnerable.) And although this should go without saying, make sure there is only ONE antivirus solution on the machine.

3: Set up regular maintenance tasks

This applies to just about any Windows deployment you have. Make sure you have Disk Cleanup and Defragmenter set up to happen at regularly scheduled intervals. Do not depend upon your end users to take care of this task, because they won’t. Also, make sure you set up both antivirus and anti-malware for regularly scheduled scans and daily definition updates.

4: Disable unnecessary services

Windows machines have plenty of services that are simply not needed. Say, for instance, you never send or receive faxes through your PC. Why not make sure the fax service isn’t running? Naturally, this will depend on the user. But no matter what the PC is used for, you will find unnecessary services running. If you decide to undertake this task, make sure you know what a service is and does before you disable it. These resources provide that info:

You can disable services by issuing the command services.msc at the Run prompt to open the Services window.

5: Turn off Aero in Vista or Windows 7

If a machine is sluggish out of the gate, it could mean it barely has the resources to run everything necessary. You can give it a bit of a boost by turning off the Aero feature in either Vista or Windows 7. This will disable all of the fancier GUI elements of the OS but give you back some speed. To do this in Vista, right-click on the desktop, select Personalize, and then click Window Color And Appearance. Next, click Open Classic Appearance Properties For More Color Options. In the Appearance Settings dialog box, select Windows Vista Basic from the Color Scheme list. For Windows 7 just right-click the desktop, select Personalize, and then scroll down until you see Basic Themes. Select a basic theme and Aero will be disabled.

More improvements

There are, of course, plenty of other ways to improve a new PC — but these five are usually my go-to list of improving a newly unboxed PC. Do you have your own favorite ways to improve new PCs? If so, share it with your fellow TechRepublic readers.

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