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Properly Setting Up A New PC - From a Security Standpoint

Written by:
Dave
5 Star Support Security Specialist

So, you just bought a new PC, and now you just cant wait to connect this new rocket to the Internet and see how it really performs. I know this is what you really bought it for, but PLEASE WAIT!! Before you connect to the Internet for the first time, there are a series of steps I strongly recommend you follow to ensure your new computer remains safe and you have an enjoyable experience. My experience and testing in this area shows that an improperly protected PC, especially if it is running Windows XP (any version), can and probably will be attacked in under 10 minutes after being connected to the Internet. The first attacks usually occur while you are connected to Microsoftís web site to get your first round of updates and patches. It usually happens in the background, and you are not even aware of it until it is too late. Please donít let this happen to you. You can avoid all the problems if you will first follow the steps I have outlined for you below. Then go ahead and have fun on the Internet.

You really donít want to begin your new computer experience by having to re-install Windows, so we well take the necessary steps to update, configure and patch your new PC. No matter how new it is, it will surely need the latest patches, and it will also need to be properly configured. That said, letís get to it.

  1. Make a CD-ROM to start loading your new computer that contains all the files you will need to use. (This step assumes you already have a computer and your new one will be replacing it. If this is not the case, and this is your only computer, you can skip this step). Burn a CD from your old computer that contains any and all security program installs, files, drivers for peripherals, and any updated drivers you might need. If you are not sure how new the drivers are, first go to the appropriate web site and get the latest updates first. Be sure to include drivers for video devices, game controllers, cameras, scanners, printers etc.
     
  2. Remove applications. After your new computer is running and you have gone through the initial setup process, Windows identifies the devices connected and asks you to register or activate the devices and register your copy of the Windows operating system. Wait on that and do it later. Instead you now want to remove any promotional and trial software included with your new machine that you will not be using. This includes items like AOL or Earthlink if you wonít need them. This is easiest done from the control panel under add & remove programs. Just scroll down the list and uninstall anything you wonít be using.
     
  3. Install a firewall. Yes, I said install. If you have Windows XP, it comes with a built in firewall that your computer urges you to turn on. I much prefer you install a very good third party firewall such as Zone Alarm from Zonelab. If you made your CD properly in step one, you already have it ready to go. Install it and turn it on.
     
  4. Install antivirus software. Now you will install the antivirus software from your CD that you burned in step one. We will update the antivirus program later. Just get it installed for now. You might want to start a list at this point of everything installed that will need registration &/or updating later on when you connect to the Internet.
     
  5. Install anti-spyware program(s). This should also be ready to go from the CD you burned in step 1.
     
  6. Install printers and other peripheral devices. By installing your printer(s) now, you will be ready to print any important update or registration information after you connect to the Internet and begin registering and updating everything. By also connecting any other peripheral devices now, when you go to Windows Update, or Microsoft Update, Windows will see the devices and suggest any Microsoft tested updates if they are available for these devices.
     
  7. Set administrator password. Now is a good time to set a strong password for the administrator account. You might also think about renaming the account to disguise its real purpose and privileges. For more information on this, I recommend you read the tutorial on Hardening Windows elsewhere on the 5 Star Support site. If you intend to harden your operating system, now is the best possible time.
     
  8. Create new user account(s). Now you need to create the user accounts for yourself and any other users who will be operating the computer for general use. You will only be using the administrator account from now on to install or update programs. Be sure to password protect each account you create.
     
  9. Establish a restore point. In Windows XP, you can manually establish a system restore point that will take you back to this point should something catastrophic occur. To start this system utility, click Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | System restore and follow the steps in the System Restore Wizard.
     
  10. Install a router. This will probably sound like an unnecessary step to many users, especially if they are only using one computer. This is not the case. I am not trying to get you to spend more money for a toy. Even if you only have one computer, installing a router, especially one with a built in firewall, between your computer and your high speed modem. It provides an extra security layer between your computer and the Internet, and does not slow things down at all. It is even more beneficial if you are keeping your old computer as you will now be able to both network the two machines easily, and connect both to the Internet easily. You will need information from your IP as to the type of connection you will be using in order to properly configure the router. A good router with firewall can be had for as little as $80.00 if you are willing to shop a bit. The extra layer of security it provides is well worth several times that expenditure.
     
  11. Connect to the Internet. Now you are ready to connect to the Internet and begin registering and updating everything. This is easily done from the list you made in step 4. I recommend you update all security programs first, followed by Windows, and then any other software programs. Remember to also get the latest versions of Adobe Reader (http://www.adobe.com/), Flash Player, and Shockwave (www.macromedia.com).
     
  12. Turn off unnecessary services. I recommend a few for sure. Go to www.grc.com and get the ĎThree Musketeersí to turn off Windows Messenger, DCOM, and Plug & Play. You might also want to disable scripting in Windows Media Player (http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/wmpscriptingfix.html).

That should take care of setting up your new computer. If, for some reason, you decided not to harden your system from the Hardening Windows tutorial, I beg you to reconsider and do it, even if it means you will need to get some help. Trust me, you wonít be sorry. It is well worth the time and effort.

Enjoy your new computer! Until next time here on 5 Star Support.

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