Setup New Computer System

It’s important to prepare the space where you’ll be putting your new PC. Obviously, the space has to be big enough to hold all the components—though you don’t have to keep all the components together.

You can, for example, spread out your left and right speakers, place your subwoofer on the floor, and separate the printer from the system unit. Just don’t put anything so far away that the cables don’t reach. (And make sure you have a spare power outlet—or even better, a multi-outlet power strip—nearby.)

You also should consider the ergonomics of your setup. You want your keyboard at or slightly below normal desktop height, and you want your monitor at or slightly below eye level. Make sure your chair is adjusted for a straight and firm sitting position with your feet flat on the floor, and then place all the pieces of your system in relation to that.

Wherever you put your system, you should make sure that it’s in a well-ventilated location free of excess dust and smoke. (The moving parts in your computer don’t like dust and dirt or any other such contaminants that can muck up the way they work.)

Because your computer generates heat when it operates, you must leave enough room around the system unit for the heat to dissipate. Never place your computer in a confined, poorly ventilated space; your PC can overheat and shut down if it isn’t sufficiently ventilated.

For extra protection to your computer, connect the power cable on your system unit to a surge suppressor rather than directly into an electrical outlet. A surge suppressor—which looks like a power strip, but with an on/off switch and a circuit breaker button—protects your PC from power-line surges that could damage its delicate internal parts.

When a power surge temporarily spikes your line voltage (causes the voltage to momentarily increase above normal levels), a surge suppressor helps to keep the level of the electric current as steady as possible. Most surge suppressors also include circuit breakers to shut down power to your system in the event of a severe power spike.

Connecting the Cables

Now it’s time to get connected. Position your system unit so that you easily can access all the connections on the back, and carefully run the cables from each of the other components so that they’re hanging loose at the rear of the system unit. It’s important that you connect the cables in a particular order.

To make sure that the most critical devices are connected first, follow this instructions:

Connect your mouse to the mouse connector— or, if you have a USB mouse, connect to an open USB port.
Connect your keyboard to the keyboard connector—or, if you have a USB keyboard, connect to an open USB port.
Connect your video monitor to the video connector. Most monitors connect via a standard VGA connector; some LCD monitors have the option of a higher-quality digital connection via a DVI connector—if your computer offers DVI output.
If your printer uses a USB connection, connect to an open USB port on your PC. If your printer uses a parallel cable, connect to your PC’s parallel connector (sometimes labeled “printer” or “LPT1”).
If you’re using a dial-up Internet connection, connect a cable from your telephone line to the “line in” connector on your modem or modem board; then connect another cable from the “line out” connector on your modem to your telephone. (You can skip this step if you’re using a cable or DSL modem; wait until you have the rest of your system up and running, and then follow the instructions you were given by your Internet service provider to connect the broadband modem.)
Connect the phono jack from your speaker system to the “audio out” or “sound out” connector. Run the necessary cables between your right and left speakers and your subwoofer, as directed by the manufacturer.
Connect any external devices to the appropriate USB, FireWire, parallel, or Ethernet connector. (If you have a wired home network, this is the time to connect the network’s Ethernet cable; if you have a wireless network, connect the USB WiFi adapter, instead.)
Plug the power cable of your video monitor into a power outlet.
If your system includes powered speakers, plug them into a power outlet.
Plug any other powered external component into a power outlet.
Plug the power cable of your system unit into a power outlet.

Connecting a Notebook PC

One nice thing about notebook PCs is that you don’t have nearly as many pieces to connect. Because the monitor, speakers, keyboard, mouse, and WiFi adapter are all built into the notebook unit, the only things you might have to connect are a printer and a power cable. Then you just press the “power” button. Aren’t notebooks great?

Turn On and Setup

Now that you have everything connected, sit back and rest for a minute. Next up is the big step—turning it all on. It’s important that you turn on things in the proper order. Follow these steps:

  1. Turn on your video monitor.
  2. Turn on your speaker system—but make sure the speaker volume knob is turned down (toward the left).
  3. Turn on any other system components that are connected to your system unit—such as your printer, scanner, external modem, and so on. (If your PC is connected to an Ethernet network, make sure that the network router is turned on.)
  4. Turn on your system unit.

Note that your system unit is the last thing you turn on. That’s because when it powers on, it has to sense the other components of your system—which it can do only if the other components are plugged in and turned on.

Powering On for the First Time

The first time you turn on your PC is a unique experience. A brand-new, out-of-the-box system will have to perform some basic configuration operations, which include asking you to input some key information. This first-time startup operation differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, but typically includes some or all of the following steps:

  • Windows Product Activation—You may be asked to input the long and nonsensical product code found on the label attached to the rear of your PC (or on your Windows installation CD, if you received one).

Your system then phones into the Microsoft mother ship (via the Internet), registers your system information, and unlocks Windows for you to use. (Note that some manufacturers “pre-activate” Windows at the factory, so you might not have to go through this process.)

  • Windows Registration—A slightly different process from product activation, registration requires you to input your name and other personal information, along with the Windows product code. This information then is phoned into the Microsoft mother ship (again, via the Internet) to register your copy of Windows with the company, for warranty purposes.
  • Windows Configuration—During this process Windows asks a series of questions about your location, the current time and date, and other essential information. You also might be asked to create a username and password.
  • System Configuration—This is where Windows tries to figure out all the different components that are part of your system, such as your printer, scanner, and so on. Enter the appropriate information when prompted; if asked to insert a component’s installation CD, do so.

Many computer manufacturers supplement these configuration operations with setup procedures of their own. It’s impossible to describe all the different options that might be presented by all the different manufacturers, so watch the screen carefully and follow all the onscreen instructions. After you have everything configured, Windows finally starts, and then you can start using your system.

Powering On Normally

After everything is installed and configured, starting your computer is a much simpler affair. When you turn on your computer, you’ll notice a series of text messages flash across your screen. These messages are there to let you know what’s going on as your computer boots up.

After a few seconds (during which your system unit beeps and whirrs a little bit), the Windows Welcome screen appears. All registered users are listed on this screen. Click your username or picture, enter your password (if necessary), and then press the Enter key or click the right-arrow button.

After you’re past the Welcome screen, you’re taken directly to the Windows desktop, and your system is ready to run.