Setting up a Home Computer

I’ve been working with computers since the nineties. Over these past two years alone, I have had to upgrade or setup more than 6 laptops or PCs for folks at home. Each time a new computer enters our household, I end up following a number of steps to ensure they are optimized and onboarded in a smooth manner. I thought it useful to share my process with you.

Of course, you could always just boot up your new device and start working. This post is written in a context where everything is not quite as advertised, and the support available is less than “genius” level. It is also meant to help you optimize your device for a faster, smoother working experience.

Just a couple of considerations to keep in mind, before we get started:

  • All my computers are Windows based (Windows 11 as of now)
  • I only use official, licensed software on all my machines
  • I use Microsoft Office (various desktop versions) for productivity, and Google for Mail, Calendar, etc.
  • I save every thing using cloud-based services, and don’t store anything on local hard drives
  • Me (and family members) use Microsoft accounts to login to any and all Windows device(s)
  • We sync-up our profiles and bookmarks via Microsoft Edge browser on all our devices (including respective mobile phones)

So, here’s what I do to get going:

  1. Boot the device and connect to the home WiFi
  2. Check Windows and Office licenses for activations, if any came with the device purchase
  3. Check that all the ports and connectors are working as intended
  4. Add your own Microsoft account to users, and change account type to Administrator
  5. Enable all other Microsoft family accounts that will need to sign-in to the device
  6. Restart the device, verify self login, then disable any default admin/user accounts
  7. Uninstall any trial versions of Office 365 (or other software) that the device came with
  8. Rename the new device so that your (linked) Microsoft account reflects the right name

Additionally, there are a few more technical steps I follow. You can Google for more on these, but proceed with caution (or seek help) if you don’t know what you’re doing. Home users can regard all of these (except Step 10) as optional:

  1. Check Disk Management to ensure the main partition has adequate space (>100 GB)
  2. Extend the main disk volume by expanding allocation (Caution!)
  3. Setup disk protection on the main disk by allocating at least 4% space
  4. Rename the main disk volume to Main, and disable indexing (personal preference)
  5. Review Windows Security settings, enable all protection and run a Quick Scan
  6. Update Windows and Office via system updates, and modify active hours as needed
  7. Disable any unwanted startup apps, unwanted software (bloatware?), and create a restore point called ‘AllSystemsGo’ for Windows recovery (if needed)
  8. Delete any temporary files, and reboot the device to ensure all is well
  9. For laptops, also edit the Power Plan settings to suit power vs performance needs, including what ‘closing the lid’ does and how the device should behave on battery vs plugged-in power
  10. Activate warranty on the device (if any) after a couple of days of usage

Your mileage may vary. However, this protocol really works well for me, and has resulted in fast, optimal machines that run trouble-free for a long time.