Good Computer Housekeeping

Things to do before your computer dies

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Ideally, you will see this essay before you start using a new computer. But even if it is too late for your current computer, there are things here that I believe will give you a happier computing experience. And you'll know better for another time. There are also things, like the information on how to do a system image, which are useful in isolation. (Aka "disk image",)

The table of contents should give you a good idea of what is covered in this essay. You don't need to read every section to learn from selected sections.

Some of the specifics in this essay, especially in respect of Windows itself, are dated. But I think many of the suggestions, and the suggested sequence for bringing a new machine into use remain valuable.

We would all rather "play" with a new toy... but the steps below really are worth the time and trouble, and need to be taken before you reward yourself with some play!

Best wishes for a new machine which is faster, more reliable, less prone to crash, etc, etc than your old one was. All the "stuff" below is a pain. May you have lots of gain. And enjoy the "honeymoon".

In what follows, I will discuss some of the things I do with a new machine. You will have to adapt my procedures to suit your needs and inclinations. I hope the essay has some useful ideas for you.

Table of contents....

=== Inventory

In theory, before I even turn a new computer on, I record it in my inventory system.

Part of the joy of my inventory system is that it gives each piece of equipment a unique short identifier.

For PCs, I also assign a unique short "nick-name".

Probably a good idea in general but especially important if you will be using the eSet anti-malware package: Even before you install your anti-malware software, change your computer's "name". (Other than that, I would do as little as possible before having your anti-malware in place!)

You want to do the rename before you install the software because if you do, the license you are using will be registered in your web account with them will be assigned to a name that means something to you.

The dialog for renaming your computer is getting hard to find. (some time ago, and in Oct 20, Windows 10, I went into settings, searched. Knowing the right dialog used to share the "rename workgroup" task, I went into settings, used its search for "change workgroup name", and gave me a link to open the right dialog... which after the recent major update, 3 Feb 20, gave me the old "Systems Properties" dialog. By all means fill in "description", too, but that's not what we need for eSet. After you do "description", use the "To rename this computer or..." button. (Oct 20, Win 10, the "new" Settings app offered "Rename computer" on the "System- About" page, too.)

I also like to change the workgroup, which you might as well do now, if you want to. (All the PCs on a given LAN have to use the same workgroup name. This is not a trivial decision! I use a non-standard workgroup name as an addional stumbling block for those who would hack my system. Probably a small hassle for them, but, who knows, maybe one hassle too many?) (Again- hard to find... Oct 20, search for "change workgroup" from the Settings app.)

Going back to inventorying your equipment- Having these IDs is very useful. (If you are confident that there's nothing you want to know about why and how to keep track of your equipment inventory, you can skip to the next section.)

Every piece of equipment I have has a short, unique identifier. This greatly assists me in record keeping. (In practice, I am human too, and often fall to the temptation to play first, work later... but I always regret rushing ahead with other things, and doing the record keeping "later". While I might defer the record keeping, I always actually do most of other the things described below before other "play". If something goes wrong before your anti-malware software is in place, you may not be able to do the things you should have done. Your system may have incurred permanent impairment.)

Something like a mouse was supplied with the computer typically gets its own ID. My latest computer is ICH04a, the mouse that came with it is IMS035. Things like thumbdrives, printers, etc, also each get their own ID.

In my list of IDs assigned, I record things like "IMS035 came with ICH04a", and under ICH04a's entry, there is a cross reference. Also under ICH04a's entry is a list of the CDs (they are given ID numbers, too), manuals, etc. supplied with the computer. This may seem extreme, but trust me: The day will come when you are glad of a simple way to resolve "Which is the CD that goes with this piece of equipment?". And record the purchase price, date and serial number. If you have to make an insurance claim, having those details will impress the adjustor, and dampen his hopes of denying your claim.

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=== First Power Up: Get your security suite in place. (And during that...)

Once the inventory records are made, I fire up the computer, but not connected to my LAN or the internet, at first.

You may be pestered to do Windows Activation or Windows Updates... for now, try to avail yourself of a "later" option, if one is presented.

Sigh. Remember "the good old days", when we could turn off automatic Windows Updates? At 10/21, Windows 10, at least we can still pause updates for 7 days. (And un-pause them sooner, if we wish.)

I write these things as much for myself as for you. At least someone uses them! Note to self, and others who use eSet's excellent anti-malware (or other software that also does the excellent thing I am about to come to): Be sure to rename the computer even before you install the security suite. (See above.) The name assigned to the computer will be picked up by eSet, and used in the records at their end, so they can be in step with the names you use for your machines. (eSet can cope, if you fail to do this... but the name they use may not be as useful as your name for the machine.)

Besides renaming the computer, I am often not happy with the user name that is on the default account.

October 2021, I don't think I am alone in resenting Microsoft's ever tighter chokehold. At 10/21, with Windows 10, you could still change the name on a user account, but it wasn't easy....

Use Win Key+ R (and enter "control"), or the taskbar search box to get into the old Control Panel. Go to User Accounts. From there it is quite easy to rename the user.

But, say the original name was "Lenovo", and I've made it "XYZ". Now "XYZ" is presented in superficial contexts, but, internally, that user's folder in C:\Users is still "Lenovo"!

There are pages on the web telling you ways to change that. But to me, they all carried risks I didn't wish to run. So I put text file in C:\Users called "UserXyzUsesFolderLenovo.txt".

Even that wasn't easy. Windows wouldn't let me create a file in that folder. So I created it elsewhere, and then used copy/paste to put it in C:\Users. Bah.

I think I am on the trail of a proper solution to this matter. Watch this space! (There are some "on your head be it" notes in the comments embedded here. Use View Source, if you are feeling reckless/ ambitious/ curious.)

Moving on...

If a new machine comes with a free trial of some internet security suite, before you accept the offer of the trial, ask yourself "Is this the product I want to use on this machine forever?" ("Security suite": Anti-virus, etc software.) I think it is a false economy to start off with one security suite if you intend to switch to another later.

Either by activating a trial, or, in the olden days, by installing from a CD or thumbdrive, getting the security suite up and running as soon as possible is a top priority. These days, the easy route is to go online "naked" briefly. You will have to go online eventually, but depending upon how hard you want to struggle, you can put that off for a bit. (In "the good old days", I prefered to install from a CD or thumbdrive because it was usually faster and easier. It also avoided having to go online before at least some protection is in place. 10/21: I've been doning online installs for some time. The alternative is just too much hassle.)

When you have your anti-malware in place, check for updates. Several times, if necessary, until you get "no updates available" when you check.

Then do a comprehensive scan of the whole computer. (eSet embarks on one for you, as soon as it can.) (Anti-malware software is best thought of as a "bouncer" on the door of a nightclub. He/she checks stuff as it arrives, but once it is inside, the anti-malware software has a slimmer chance of detecting bad behavior.

When you do finally connect the PC to your LAN, you will probably be asked "Do you want to allow your PC to be discoverable?" This is another place where I'd like to say "no", but that leads to a lot of hassles if you want to share things... e.g. files and printers... across you LAN. (Note to self: 5 Jan 21, pcW2021, I said "okay".(And Oct 20, pcMillie))



Basically- Micrsoft has screwed things up for us again. I've used sharing folders across the LAN for a multitude of things since at least the early 90s. "Thanks" Microsoft.

I had a lot of material here. It will need to be re-written. At least other parts of the page are still good... for now. Until the next (no choice) Windows update. Well, there is a choice: Linux. When I find a Linux Pegasus, Shortkeys and Textpad... I'M OUTTA HE'A!

=== Windows Updates... groan.

Before we start on the topic of Windows updates: a small matter. If you haven't done it already, it is safe to do the Windows Activation at the next chance you get. (If you get asked to do it. No longer involves a dialog at 1/21, as I recall.)


Now you need to do your Windows updates. (So far you may only have done the security suite updates.)

If you are really sure that you know all the essentials, and don't care about some frills, regarding Windows Update, you can skip this section.

Doing the Windows updates is quite like doing the updates for your security suite. As with that, when all seems well, re-boot your PC and do one more Windows Update. If it says "no critical updates required at this time", then you are, at last, where you need to be before going on. Don't be surprised if it takes several passes through the update cycle to get to "fully up to date."

Damned if you do (they sometimes mess the machine up), but probably more likely damned if you don't...

At this stage, I would certainly restrict myself to the critical updates. You can be selective if you use the "custom" option. Don't be beguiled by the prompts current as I write this (5/10) saying that the "Express" update process is the recommended route, and it gives you the high priority updates. The "Custom" option gives you the high priority updates just as easily, and it tells you what's going on, as well. I tend, especially at this stage, to skip the updates which move you on to new versions of Internet Explorer and Media Player. (I rarely use either, why have the clutter of the overlays?)

Don't be fooled, at least at this stage, into opting into Microsoft updates. That tries to update everything Microsoft on your computer, e.g. it extends the update process to Microsoft Office, if you happen to have that installed. For now, stick to Windows update, and update the other Microsoft applications when and as you begin to use them. Maybe someday Microsoft Update will be right for you, but it probably isn't, at this early stage.

Again, like the security suite updates, you may have to repeat the update process several times to get to the point when no new updates are recommended.

If you decide you don't want one of the updates in the list of proposed updates, you can "hide" it for future Windows Update sessions... there will even be a clear message to the effect that you have hidden some updates, and an easy "un-hide" (restore to suggestions list) option. To hide a proposed update, click on the "+" sign in front of it, That should give rise to details of the proposed update. At the bottom of that, there should be a grayed-out "Don't show this update again" box. Once you untick the update as one to be made, the "Don't show..." box becomes tick-able. I usually use "don't show" for offers to upgrade (not patch) my Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. I rarely use either, and if when I do I get problems (or if it has been a while) I "un-hide" the updates, do them.

There are "High priority" updates, which I generally do, apart from the things noted already. And there are "Software, optional" and "Hardware, optional" updates. I tend to be much more relaxed, conservative, (reactionary?!) about these. Especially before I've done my first full system/ disk image. Microsoft means well, but if your computer, unbeknownst to you or Microsoft has a bit of slightly eccentric hardware, and you've installed an "upgrade" which leaves your hardware not working, do you want to start into the "joys" of system restore? I don't take the chance of having to go there. Okay- traffic on my LAN may travel a little slower. But if it is WORKING....?

(Skip this paragraph if you like!) (It was written a while ago, but the points it make remain valid.) By the way- On the admittedly bought- a- while- ago, brought- into- use- today machine I am going through initial setup on as I write this for you, I have had to do four (I think it is) Windows Updates to get to the point where there are no "new" updates for my system. In the first update, as I remember things, I installed (among other things) .NET 1.0. The next update applied a patch to that. The next time I think that I had .NET 1.1 (The updater hadn't proposed putting 1.1 on the first time because 1.0 wasn't present). And then the next time (as I remember and interpret things), the updater said "Oh! You have the basic .NET 1.1 framework (which you didn't have before). You need the security patch that came out a while after 1.1 first came out." All of this just to illustrate for you the fact that you have to do update again and again, as often as you can stand to take the time, to be sure you are fully updated. As I said in regard to security suite updating: Sometimes you are at "A", the world is at "C", and you have to go to "B" to get ready to go to "C". Sigh.

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=== First Applications, First Settings

I next install Firefox. It has always (for me) been a quick and easy install. I think it is more secure than the Microsoft alternative, and it is the browser I like. There's a lot of web work ahead; you might as well do it with the best browser... whichever one you deem that to be!


So far so good. If you are unlucky, and the supplier of your PC has taken money from various people to push ads at you, you may have encountered any number of "try this!", "try that!" pop-ups already.

I use the "later" option as often as possible. I tend at this stage to avoid entirely deleting anything... that will come later, if my early inclinations seem sound after I have slept on them. I don't like the fact that extra things have been installed on my computer, but I want to get to know it a bit more before deleting anything. While I will often move things out from "in front of my face", I am generally reluctant to fully delete things. They may have been put on your machine for a good, or even critical, reason.


The machine will probably not be set up as you want it. For the moment, resist doing the little tweaks that we all know and love... but, as I indicated earlier, I would, at least for the moment, turn off the automatic Windows updates. (I'd probably turn them on again after the initial set up work has been done on the machine.)

Before very long, you may want to do a full image of your disk(s) / system's software. If you have this, when your computer fails, you will be in a much better place than you will be without it. Note I said "when...", not "if your computer fails.

My advice, "Do an image" has a history that amuses me: It was in the page long ago. Then it was downgraded, prefaced "Left in, to raise a chuckle from those who remember the days:". But now, 10/21, I am reinstating the advice, because affordable hard disks with huge capacities, and high transfer speeds, have become available.

While it is tedious, it used not to be the end of the world if your hard disk failed, which is a relatively common cause of computers dying. If you've made the full disk image, you take that and your computer to your local computer shop, they copy your image to a new hard drive (not hard), fit that into your computer (not hard), and you're back to where ever you were when you did the full disk image.I would keep this "first disk image" someplace safe, to make it easier to get back to where you started. If you rebuild a machine from the first image, you will of course have to reload the documents and data that arose later.... you do keep backups, don't you?... but the process of getting back to a "new" machine is much, much harder if the image hasn't been done by the owner. (The process of a rebuild is explained more fully later.)

If you are a bit timid, or uncertain of your skills, now is not too soon to do this full image. I must admit, I used to do a few more basic "getting started" things before I did my first full disk image, so I will mention some of those early tidies here, and then go into the details of creating the full disk image.

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=== Windows "Recovery Disk"- Old Skool

In the "olden time" (at 10/21) Some machines allow you to burn a "Windows recovery disk". Maybe that's still possible? (Maybe consider looking for that option?) But I think "making an image" is better. (I will try to explain that in a moment.) Sometimes, you even got a recovery disk with a new machine! Whether you make your own, or have one supplied by the computer distributor, don't put too much faith in it... I've too often seen discrepancies between what was on the machine and the state the "recovery disk" created. There are good reasons for this. Even if the supplier is trying hard to give you a good recovery disk, the task is formidable. And don't imagine that any recovery disk is going to put things back the way you had them. A good one... if you haven't misplaced it before you need it... will only put the PC back to the state it was in when you took the PC out of the box.

If you are going to take my advice and make a disk image or two, then maybe the recovery disk isn't as critical as it was.

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=== Recovery Partition

Some machines have a "recovery disk" on a hidden partition of the hard drive. Using this to "restore" a system may save the day for you after a serious virus infestation or similar, but in addition to the caveats above about recovery disks, be aware of the extra complications that a recovery partition entail. And be reluctant to hit the "recover my system" panic button for the same reasons that I hope will make you reluctant to use a recovery disk.

Note that the word "restore" has many uses in the world of computers. In this section I am not, for instance, talking about the system built into Windows for rolling your system back to a previous "restore point". (While we're briefly on that subject, though, if you've heard of it and wonder how to create "restore points", let me explain: Under XP (and others) if you click "Start"/"Help and Support", one of your choices will be "Undo changes... with System Restore". You can click on that without undoing changes or doing anything else! Once you have clicked on it, one of your choices is "Create a Restore Point". I guess if we are willing to click "Start" when we want to stop the computer, we should be able to manage the above. So... back to one of the OTHER "restore"s....

In either case, remember that the type of restore we were talking about before my one paragraph digression, if it works will wipe all of your data, and applications you installed. It will (try to) put your PC back to how it came from the store. And not every restore disk will do even that. You are depending on the manufacturer keeping the restore disks they send out up to date, keeping them consistent with what the manufacturer is sending out on the day your PC was shipped. This is an almost impossible task for the manufacturers, and I have seen customers of "big name" manufacturers badly disappointed when trying to use restore disks. In any case... the restore disk won't have some of the Windows updates which you will have on your disk image if you follow the advice above,

One last point regarding restore partitions: If your computer dies, it will probably be down to...

If it is a dead disk, how can you use the restore partition? The only thing that the restore partition may fix for you is a computer that has been hit by a nasty bit of malware, or hit by operator error. If you are ignorant enough to delete critical system files, are you knowledgeable enough to successfully execute a restore from the hidden part ion?

Having said all of those negative things, I should add that back in Windows 98 days, when CD copies of the OS were routinely supplied with new systems, the "repair install" option worked well for me a number of times. If you have the OS disk, and things have gone south, the "repair install" option (whatever it is called) may do Good Things without creating havoc along the way.

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=== Create a System Image (aka Disk Image)

Sigh. Could Microsoft let us keep tried and tested tools we can rely on?

I'm happy to tell you that at least at 2 Nov 21 there is one such tool which they haven't replaced with an "improved" answer, at least in Windows 10, for as long as they allow us to use that.

Furthermore, should the native tools disappear, I'd look into what Paragon were currently offering. I used many of their backup/ restroe/ etc tools over the years, and they were good. In March 2012 I installed their free (for personal use) Backup and Recovery, which was a splendid tool, offering the disk imaging I want, AND various backup tools, which can be used in simple modes, or more subtly.

When I embarked on the following approach to backing up my system in October 21, it was the the firt time I'd used this precise approach.

Be advised: The excellent guide at www.windowscentral.com/how-make-full-backup-windows-10 said "The System Image Backup tool for Windows 10 is no longer a maintained feature, but you can still use it for the foreseeable future. The instructions outlined in this guide are meant to create a temporary full backup while the feature is still available."

This process will "capture" everything. That's both good and bad!

Do it on a very new system, and put this "early state" image someplace safe "forever". As you add apps, documents and data, the size of the image will grow. An image holds "everything" remember.

Now... I said this was my first time. I've certainly used system images before now! This is simply my first time of making one with the OS's native tool.

My thanks to the UK magazine "Computer Active for one of their small panels reminding me of this option, and encouraging me with the idea that, compared to the benefits and the job done, the chore really isn't so very onerous. It was that which prompted me to go looking and find the more detailed Windows Central guide.

You may want to do more full images later, with your accumulated documetns, etc... but the day may come when you want to get back to your machine "as it started out". If you've kept the image, you'll be able to do that! (I'll talk about rebuilding a system from an image later.)

The bad news

After spending about two hours on this, I've managed to create the system image. That went well. I think. Not "tested"... but I'm fairly confident that I have a good system image.

What I hadn't realized as soon as I would have wished is that I need not only the image, but also a "a bootable USB flash drive".

It's not a deal breaker. But it is extra work that I can't face just now.

As I understand things, the Bootable Flash Drive can be used to start a system with an empty hard disk. I suspect it would also work on a system with a corrupted hard disk.

You start the system from the Bootable Flash Drive, and THEN you can use your system image to fill your hard drive with what was on it when you made the image.

Fair enough, I guess. I apologise for not doing everything to explain how you get that Bootable Flash Drive at this time... but I CAN tell you that www.windowscentral.com/how-make-full-backup-windows-10 seems to give a very clear, very believable set of instrustions for what is needed. Sorry.

Returning to "how to make a system image"...

You're going to need someplace to PUT the image. I would suggest a large external USB hard drive.

My "guide", here, is shamelessly lifted from the one at the site mentioned. You might want to use that alongside this.

Turn your PC on. Do a Windows Update... you might as well have an "up-to-date" system before you take the image!


Don't be freaked out! From the "Backup" page, you want "Looking for older backup?"... even though you are looking to make a backup, not find one!

And the next thing that might cause worry: Now...

Click on "Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7)".

Yes! We are going to use an OLD tool! "Old" because it has stood the test of time!

Connect the USB hard drive, if you haven't done so already. I used an empty one. I'll try to remember to talk about whether that was necessary in a moment. For a machine with an October 2021 Windows 10 on it, and just a few "main apps" (eSet Internet Security, Firefox and Libre Office), the backup tool said I might need 40 gig of space. A FAST disk, over a fast interface will be helpful, too. Go on... buy a new drive for this! On the one hand, it is a "waste", as you hope you never need the backup. But on the other hand, if you DO need it, you will really, really want the process to go without any hiccup.

Click on "Create a system image", and then elect "on a hard drive", and, if several are in the list that arises, choose the one youy want to use.

I hope you are finding it all very sensible and intuitive? Seemed that way to me, but the guide was useful to "steer" my path. I might not, for instance, have gone down the "Looking for older backup?" without help.

After you click "Next", you may be surprised to find that the tool is proposing to back up more than just "Windows (C:) (System)" Some PCs are supplied with "Recovery" or "System" (or other) partitions. if in doubt, include each of the "drives" in the list. (A single hard disk can hold several "drives" in the sense the word is being used here.)

Click "Next", click "Start backup"... and then go away and mow the lawn. It WILL take time. Lots of time. Many tens of minutes, even for a system with "just the basics on it", one like the one I described as the one I was backing up.

"Do you want to create a System Repair disk?"... you should say No!!! This is because the "repair disk" would be a DVD... and, or course, (to quote the guide) "...most devices no longer include an optical drive, you can skip [creating the repair disk]."

??? So how then, will we restore the machine, if the need arises? We will use a USB installation media to access the recovery enviroment. (Details to come.)

After you say "No, don't create a repair disk", you should be looking at a message saying "The backup completed successfully".

Don't worry! You'll have what you need... on the hard drive you sent the image to.

You can click the "close" button, to get rid of the message. And you can close the various windows left open from getting to the Backup tool.

Have a look at what's on the hard drive.

If your experience goes as mine did, in the root of the hard drive, there will be a folder called "WindowsImageBackup". The name assigned (see above!) to the computer I was backing up was pcMsMoss, and that was used as the name for a folder inside "WindowsImageBackup".

Don't mess with stuff in "WindowsImageBackup". Leave it alone. It is for Windows to "play with", and it must not be disturbed. That's why, I suspect, that when we try even to look inside the folder, Windows says we have to say we really, really want to. It's okay to look. Just don't touch.

Do you have to use a separate hard drive for each system image? No! (Whew). And as long as you stay out of the WindowsImageBackup folder, you can put other things on the drive.

But I'd save it for important backups. I'd avoid using it very often.

And so, disconnect the hard drive, put it someplace safe. Perhaps at your neighbor's house? Let's hope you never have a fire... but...

As always, use "Safely remove" to remove the USB hard drive.

So! We have a backup! And if we need to use it???...

I'm sorry... I ran out of time, energy at this point. Remember at the top of this section, I spoke about the Bootable Flash Drive? And gave you a link to instructions for creating one?

I will try to get back to this one day, give you what is needed. Sorry. For now... onward!

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=== File system folders. Also: Sort Order

Where do you save things on your hard disk.? Intelligent use of folders is absolutely essential to a happy and productive relationship with your computer.

If you ask ten users how files should be organized, you will get ten answers. Fair enough.

But have a system, have a plan.

When it comes to installing big things, it doesn't pay to "fight" with Windows and with the creators of, say, Firefox. Or Libre Office. Etc, etc.

But try to keep your documents separate. Try to put small applications in a place chose by you.

I try, as much as I can, when it comes to my documents (etc) and small applications to keep them all "under" "Documents". It makes doing backups easier.

I use "aa" and "z" very sparingly to put a few folders at the top or bottom of alphabetical lists of the folders at any level. For example, my "Text" folder is one I go to often, so it is named "aaText". And I rarely visit "Static", so it is "zStatic". (zStatic is where I put things that rarely change, for instance the "install" files for things I have put on my machine. This lets me skip frequent backing ups of that folder... which is especially beneficial, as the files there tend to be large.)

It is also helpful to use... extensively... folders within folders.

Apart from the "Documents" folder, I tend to avoid the weird "system" folders, like "Downloads" and "Pictures" as far as I can.

Sort Order

In "the good old days", Windows didn't try to be "clever". It sorted things, for instance, the names of files, as displayed by the File Explorer, in a simple, logical, geek friendly manner. If you have noticed anything odd about how Windows sorts things, have a read of my page http://wywtk.com/hh/hh6sort-order.htm for more details... and a cure!

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=== Small Applications

So... we've got our security suite installed. We've had it do a full system scan as early as possible... to be sure that nothing already in your system is already being flagged as worrisome. The sooner you do that full scan (after finishing the security suite updates) the greater your chances of avoiding the very tiresome question: "Was that always present in my system, or did I "catch" something when I visited one of the sites I've been to?"

If you are very timid or inexperienced, this might be the time for the full disk image. But that's not a trivial exercise, and you're going to need to do it again shortly if you do it now, because the next thing is to do the Windows updates.

If there are some small applications that you know and love, that you want on every machine you have, this might be the time to install them. I always have Irfan on all of my machines, for instance. I would put off installing big things like Open Office.

Of course, your machine may have come from the supplier with some large applications installed. This can be a pain, but you just have to bear that. (I say it can be a pain because even your first disk images are going to contain more than the core operating system files.)

If you are confident that you know what you are doing, you might want to tidy up the shortcuts on your desktop and the structure and contents of start menu, in particular the "All Programs" section. I usually create a "StartUp- Ex" folder. I put unwanted shortcuts from the "StartUp" folder. Then, if I've removed something I should not have removed, it is easy to move it back to the "StartUp" folder.

I try to do my first drive image quite early on... before I mess anything up!... and while the machine still doesn't have "much" on it. (An XP machine I recently set up has "only" about 71,000 files. I have put a few applications on it, but most (probably at least 95%) of those are the "core", "essential" files of Windows... and we wonder why it is unstable. Bah.

I then try to install all of the small applications which I like to have on every machine... All of these are available in free "lite" versions, if they aren't free even in the "full" version....

FTP client: If you need an FTP tool, I recommend Filezilla. (I once recommended Terrapin FTP, but that doesn't seem to be available any more. I've used Filezilla since at least 2013, but I still I miss the friendly little noises Terrapin used to generate to indicate success (or otherwise!) of an upload.)

Their FTP server has worked well for me, too.

Beware: With Filezilla, it is easy to accidentally upload something to a subfolder of the folder you meant to put it in. A minor pain- but the power is useful when you want it. It is what put this file on the server you've fetched it from! (And the page was created with Textpad. Shortkeys used every time I start a new paragraph. Most illustrations on my site: Irfan.)... but I digress. Sorry.

Zip archive management: 7-zip was recommended by a source I like. The advantage of 7-Zip is that you can (when you wish) create .zip files with a password to lock them from unauthorized eyes. Use for sending sensitive things by email. But I had a little trouble with using it... it seemed to "manage" the zips created a bit too comprehensively for my liking. I didn't fight with it... I probably just made a mistake.)

Easy, free, OCR: Another little app I love, but which not everyone will feel a need for is Capture2Text from it's SourceForge page. It can be a bit fiddly to get it set up, but after you have succeeded, you can have text on the screen, be it in an image, or on a webpage that doesn't "play nicely" with select/copy/paste, converted remarkably accurately usually to text. (Another niggle- I sometimes have to start it by hand. But none of the "problems" come close to outweighing its usefulness... to me, anyway.

(See my guide to Windows freeware and shareware for more recommendations.)

I leave installing my email software (I don't use web-browser-based email) until later because it is not a small application.

I get rid of unwanted (most of them!) desktop shortcuts.

I set up my Quick Launch bar.

I used to configure my menus, back in the days when you could... and didn't have the discouraging knowledge that just about when you have things how you want them, Microsoft will force an "update" down your throat and blow things out of the water... again.

(Return to Table of Contents)

=== File sharing

Despite being what some people call paranoid about "security", for many years, each of my computers have had a folder which the other computers on my LAN can read from... but not write to.

Here my security concern is in respect of restricting access to my computers, to the files on them. Never forget that protecting yourself from the loss of your documents and data due to equimpment failure... or theft, or fire... is another important branch of "security".

Do I worry too much about security? Just because someone is paranoid doesn't mean they are wrong, remember.

The shared folder is tremendously useful for passing documents or data from machine to machine. (If you don't have shared folders, don't forget you can email yourself, and send them as attachments. Or just use a "good old" USB memory stick. Was there life before memory sticks?

That's the good news. And it can be done! I have several machines set up with folders like that!

But, today, as I work on this to tidy it up, along the way of setting up a new machine for myself, it is being remarkably recalcitrant. I will have to come back to this later for you.

Beware! It is quite easy to share a folder. But sometimes when you do, you in advertently put EVERYTHING up "shared". Not clever, probably!

Whether you want a shared folder or not, I would recommend at least changing your "workgroup name", if your machine will be on a LAN. This is not something to be done casually... all of the machines on a given LAN have to be using the same workgroup name, if they are to play together nicely.

Under Windows 10, to change the workgroup name...

The box for entering a new workgroup name is on the "Change computer name" dialog, which the above should have opened for you.

Things work best when all of the computers on a LAN are set to be members of the same workgroup. I do workgroup names all in upper case letters, as you can only enter upper case in some workgroup edit boxes.

Restart your computer after changing the workgroup name.

(Return to Table of Contents)

=== Printer! For local use, and for other machines on the LAN

While I moan about the changes the past 30 years have seen, I will admit that USB is a Good Think, and that moving on from having to manually install drivers is probably a good thing too.

Getting a printer on your machine these days is, usually, easy. Believe it or not I can't feel the need to say a lot about that.Just now, 2 Nov 21, this is what "setting up my printer" took...

(My reward for the morning's dogged struggles?)

So! Basic printing in place.

My printer also has a scanner. No problem. It wasn't yet available. I'm not complaining- I am no fan of too many things happening "automatically", behind the scenes.

Went to the Brother website.

Of course, the machine you are setting up may not need its own printer. It may use one on some other machine on the LAN.

If you do put a printer on the machine you are setting you, once you have your printer connected and working, you might want to make it available to other computers on the LAN.

Even that... I hope you'll find... isn't terribly difficult.

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=== Large applications and further settings changes.

Finally, I install any remaining large software packages I need... Libre Office, email client, etc. After this, doing disk images becomes a slower process, eating up much bigger chunks of storage. One of the joys of Libfre Office is that you really don't need to back up that system software. I might keep a copy of the setup file, in case I don't like a future release of the suite, but it installs quickly and easily. If you are using Microsoft's "Office", and have to rebuild your system on a new drive after a disk crash, even if you have a Microsoft-supplied CD with the setup software on it, you may encounter difficulties.

In some cases you will also want to put old documents and other data (photos, databases, etc) on your machine, and this is the time to do it.

Indulge me? A few notes to myself here. (I actually use what is on this page when setting up my own systems: Delphi 4 on CD6057(UK), 6059(US). Kith&Kin on CD563... or online? (Note: ICS comes in versions for 1-6, and for 7 up.)

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=== The Big Question

  The Big Question is....

    Will Your Bakcup Do Its Job, if the day comes???

The question arises not only if you have created a drive image as per my suggestions, but in general with all forms of backup and restore options.

Backup? What backup? Oh yes! I remember! The one discussed a long time ago, at the start of this page.

I hope you won't be asking "Will it work?" any time soon. But the day may come. A discussion that may be useful to you follows...

As an illustration of the problems that I'm worrying about, let's say you've built a hotel. You've fitted it with sprinklers, in case there is a fire. How do you test them? Not easy!

And so it is with backups. It is a major pain to test some of the options you have available to you.... but better to have them, than to not have them. They might work!

(Probably dated... it may, October 2021, Windows 10, not be this simple... but there WILL BE a way... of you have the disk image!)

As I said before: If your system dies, if you made a disk (system) image, you will use your it as follows.

(I admit that this is sketchy. It is also untested, 10/21... several more pressing issues are taking DAYS in this "simple update" of this page. But I have a high degree of confidence that this is at least close, and do-able. And at the very worst, no harm will have been done by making the system image. Unless it made you over-confident. NEVER trust a computer, no matter how many learned tutorials you have worked hard to fully master.)

If, as I started to say, your system completely dies, you will need three things...

The third element is the one I can help you with least, here, now.

BTSTs are commonly a little (8k might do!) USB memory stick/ thumbdrive. You "do things" to the BIOS, if necessary, and then tell the system to reboot. If your BTST is what is needed, you then arrive at the Windows Setup dialog. The really, really low level Windows Setup dialog. You may never have seen it. This is a whole different thing than the Windows Settings page.

You connect the hard drive with the system image, say "go", and go away and mow the lawn or something. And when you come back, in theory, your computer is nearly ready to go!

What is the BTST and where did you get it?

If you funk making one, as I have, for now, I suspect that any competent computer repair shop will have one, can do the system restore for you. (This will include whatever was on the hard drive(s) when you made the image.. the system software, apps, your documents and data. See why the not inconsiderable work is worth the time and effort?!)

In a perfect world, in case there are small things to make a nuisance of themselves, you will, before your system dies, make your own BTST. The nice people who created the guide I created this from also created a guide to making your BTST. They use it's proper name: "Media Creation Tool". The Media Creation Tool is a USB flash drive/ memory stick/ thumbdrive with some data and programs on it. See www.windowscentral.com/how-create-windows-10-usb-bootable-media-uefi-support#create_windows10_uefi_mct for all the gory details. Or join me in just praying that someone will be able to help you when the day comes. (I AM trying to go off, study that page, but there are ten other things in line ahead of that.)

Wrapping this up...

It sounds like a lot of work, and it is. But it will often beat the alternative: Starting from scratch with a new computer. That's not to say that there is never a case for just starting from scratch... Sometimes it just isn't cost effective to try to rebuild a sick machine. It depends on your faith in the idea that the rest of the machine is okay, and on how heavily customized the system was for your wants and needs.

I hope you will never need your disk images! But if you want the option of considering doing a "restore from image", the above may have been enough to give you that option. Feedback always welcome (Contact details at end.)

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=== Ongoing backups... especially documents and data

Is making disk images the way forward for your backup needs once a machine is up and running?

What do you want from your backup routines? Full disk images will become more tedious as the material on your PC expands.

There is no one "right way". You will have to educate yourself as to the options, and set up your own "system", your own way of working. A way that gives you a good balance between protection and workload.

I think the best way to protect yourself from losing documents and data in the event of a crash... or loss to theft/ catastrophe... is to be very methodical about where you put things, and keep second copies either on thumbdrives or other hard drives. Those drives might be connected from time to time via USB, or they might be elsewhere on a LAN, or even out in cyberspace.

When you are thinking about a backup policy, consider syncing software as well as backup software. ("Syncing" is perhaps a simpler concept.)

Besides backing up the obvious things... your documents, pictures, databases, etc., consider things like your email address book, browser bookmarks.

A decent essay on backup would be longer than all of what I have written here about good steps to take during the initial set up of a new machine. I'll try to write such an essay one day. In the meantime, be careful. Ask yourself what you would lose if a thief stole your PC today... and find a way to protect yourself from the consequence of such loses!

It is a tremendously important subject. I am sure there are many good essays about it on the internet. Do at least think about the subject. What you need will be subtly different from what another user needs. You will have to adapt any advice you find to your own use of the computer.

(Return to Table of Contents)

=== In conclusion

Once again, one of my essays ends rather abruptly. Sorry! I hope your time was rewarded by at least a few interesting, useful ideas. For a review of what is here, return to Table of Contents)?

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