The Geek’s Guide To Having A New Computer by GF Willmetts

or The List And Reasons For Doing Certain Things With Your Computer



Periodically, we all have to change our computer. Whether its by mechanical failure or, as in my case, attack by malware and just economic to get a replacement. Anyway, it suddenly dawned on me that not all of you are aware of some things that can make the transition easier or some things that make your computer use easier. I’m not going to do everything here, just hit on the things that I rarely see mentioned elsewhere. This isn’t really aimed at the experts amongst you but more for the ones who use as is and want to look like you’re doing the right things for the right reasons.

As I’ve got to do this for myself anyway, it made sense to kill two digital birds with one digital stone. As such, I thought it would make an appropriate guideline and if you have any other tips then you can add them in the comments column below. You don’t have to follow everything too religiously but it might help overcome particular problems that you might encounter. More so, when I was checking on the Net, some of the simplest things weren’t even covered and when it came to some complicated things, some directions to software that had already been compromised by malware replacements which gave me a shudder. Any links noted should be seen as examples of what to look for, not necessarily that you have to buy from them.

Read everything before doing anything and a couple times before you do anything.


Saving Data

Just because a computer dies on you doesn’t mean you can’t get your data off the hard drive, assuming this wasn’t what caused it to crash in the first place. Hard drives are pretty resilient these days. I would trust most of you make back-up copies of your important files and pictures periodically but no one can anticipate when a computer breaks down so you’re still likely to lose your most up-to-date files or so you would think. You’re also likely to lose your Favourites (or Favorites if you live across the pond) and other such directories because these aren’t generally amongst the files you save back-ups of. I hope at some point you note what is important like them, note where they are and ensure they also get a regular back-up.

Even better, one of the simplest ways would be to connect your original hard drive(s) into your replacement computer, making sure the pin is adjusted to making it a slave drive. The instruction for that is always on the drive. That way you can not only copy and paste into your new hard drive but you even have a second hard drive as well. It’s also a lot faster to do. That is, of course, assuming you have a SATA and not the old IDE but there are adaptors even for them if you look around on the net. You can see examples on:

This doesn’t stop with desktop computers as if you own a laptop, a USB caddy for a laptop hard drive is actually very cheap and you still have a spare hard drive

This is not an avocation not to make back-ups but it is a means to get things back when you didn’t make them right up to the last day. The one thing the most speediest computer can’t do is change the time it takes to copy a large number of files so would suggest to do this a few directories at a time whichever way you do it. 60gB of directories/files can take anything up to an hour or more whether by wire connection or even wi-fi. The former is a lot faster.

Warning: One thing I should say is don’t see this as a means to move your Windows over to a new computer, mostly because it wasn’t set up to recognise the hardware and such on a new computer and will cause more grief than not thinking you can do that.


Files That Suddenly Vanish

Incidentally, when I got malwared in late May, the main directory holding my Doc files vanished except for the directory name. The files weren’t in the Recycle Bin so I knew they had to be there somewhere and I found by running Disk Check through the Properties/Tools through the directories and files reappeared. Look up for details.

I tell you, that was the biggest relief I had and didn’t have to import some software to find them. For those who want to know how it works, Disk Check essentially checks for file errors and resolves them. Basically the filenames were corrupted NOT the data so although this is similar to how files are normally deleted, except thankfully it didn’t destroy all the data. I immediately backed up everything important to an auxiliary hard drive and to my back-up computer so I could still type and use them. I might have risked copying the malware but without it being activated through Windows, it did stay passive.

Beware PC Cleaner and PC SlimCleaner as they appeared a couple days after I had a Microsoft techie thinking he resolved why files couldn’t be save to my laptop’s partitions by changing them from ex-FAT to NFTL, although I only kept them that way for easier access should Windows crash. I suspect reassigning the partition just sorted out the first malware invasion but I was never entirely convinced that was the entire problem. Although that was a remedy, a couple days later, the malware revealed itself and started making it impossible to go on the Net and not much good to get technical help. Not all of you have back-up computers but it’s a sure way to stop you looking for solutions.

Incidentally, although I deleted the directories containing those programs they kept resurfacing, even more so after going back to earlier Restore points which shouldn’t have had them. Reinstallation of Windows wasn’t helped by the fact that the manufacturer specific drivers wouldn’t re-link but more on that in a while. My laptop was eight years old so it time for a replacement and use some of its re-sale value to get something a little more modern and lived three years longer than my previous one before that. With the files copied on the back-up computer, I started this article there and finished it on the new laptop. Anti-virus software, in my case Norton, will detect some malware but its far more murkier to spot if it’s a trojan waiting to do damage before it can be spotted.

According to what I’ve read on the Net, both PC Cleaner and PC SlimCleaner had had versions malwared and slipped into other program selections you might unknowingly download and snucked in that way which probably explains how I got them. There really need to be some way to have sanctioned proof that anything we download is safe and, like medicine, have a listing that everyone can understand what it will do to your computer and anything that could potentially become bad effects that can’t be resolved.

Anyway, we all have different reasons to change our computer although it looks like, for some manufacturers, that colour is no longer an issue as it was in their promotions a few years back. Shame really as I like black. What’s wrong with black? It goes with anything. Mind you, my replacement has a black interior which is always a blessing.


An Important Thing To Remember When Buying A New Computer; Memory Or RAM Rules

Just in case you are contemplating a new computer right now, especially if you didn’t get the flag up about being able to install W10, here’s something to think about. Logic always dictates that if you want a computer to last as long as possible, to choose one as up-to-date as possible within the budget you can afford.

You should always consider what you are going to use it for and what you need than simply buy because it’s on offer. If you’re only going to Net surf and/or play games then that will dictate certain choices and anything else is a bonus. If you’re involved in or want to do digital painting, then don’t go for an integrated graphics card but something with a video card with a bit more memory or RAM of its own so it won’t drain the main memory.

Eight years ago when I bought my last laptop, I thought 4gb RAM was far too little for anything but basic use although combined with a 2gb RAM video card levelled things out a bit. I guess there are a lot more light users than heavy users out there but, even so, I still think 8gb is more effective, simply because a large chunk of it is employed by the operating system, then programs and what’s left over for manipulating it. That opinion hasn’t changed but unlike then, the cost for more memory is a lot cheaper these days.

In the end, I opted for 12gB RAM and a 4gb RAM video card at a good price and looked like it was a good choice especially when I found my digital pen could finally do soft lines.

From the start, the more RAM or Random Access Memory you have the better and I would rather choose that than an ever faster CPU. After all, if it hasn’t got the space to do its calculations and/or graphics it isn’t going to be any faster. Most programs run a lot faster when there is a lot more RAM, especially games and graphics software, and load up times are faster. Generally, though, it just reduces the swap file system being used so much when the memory is full, although I would still ensure there is space for that in one of your partitions. Right now, my laptop currently uses a third of the space, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

One thing I pointed out in the editorial was some emphasis on the Microsoft website for the transition to Windows 10 is to have some understanding and use of partitions. If you’ve ever had to reinstall Windows and found it wipes out anything else on your computer, you suddenly realise the importance of making back-ups.

Fortunately, with W7 partitioning was included in its software and you no longer had to hunt down that particular partitioning software on-line. If your computer is new, then it’s something that can be done quite quickly. You need to defragment your hard drive to ensure all the files are together and then use Disk Management to partition. More details of that further down.

I’m not here to direct you towards any particular manufacturer because you’ll have your own preferences but you do get better deals going to their own sites to buy. I did have a serious think and decided to say where I got mine from but not which model. My own choice came from Dell, mostly because I was familiar with it, they did the largest 17 inch screen laptops and their higher specs were cheaper. It was a bonus that I not only pulled a 10% discount but free postage as well, which enabled me to get that little extra RAM. You can always get bargains to match the specs you feel you need but look before your computer dies as by then you could be in a panic looking for the right one.

Whatever your choice, decide based on what you need rather than what you think you need and where there’s a choice of options, pay more attention to what is different between similar models than what they have as the same. Chances are, you probably don’t need that extra whistle it can do and save a little money.


Little Extras That Help

For those of you who type a lot and likely to wear your laptop keyboard out, consider getting an auxiliary keyboard. I can wear out a standard keyboard’s keys out in a year but I’ve had a games keyboard for seven years now and although the vowel keys show a bit of wear, its still going strong and more than paid back its higher price.

If you don’t get on with the laptop mouse-pad, using a separate mouse makes things easier as well although I doubt if it will scrunch the windows on the screen. Oddly, optical mice which are active on a USB mouse pad are harder to come by these days but they don’t have a tail and no expensive battery replacements. If you can find one, treat it like gold although I’m amazed they aren’t in production any more. Even so, a separate mouse does make things easier.

In case you haven’t got one, a powered USB hub should also be on your shopping list. Everything USB connected drains power from your computer. You won’t notice it with a tower but it’s pretty damning for a laptop, even if its plugged into the mains, especially if you also use a scanner as well. I find mine a godsend necessity.


Computer Log

Keeping a computer diary or notebook is something I’ve done since I owned my first PC. Having something on paper is useful to refer to than a computer file if the computer breaks down. It allows you to keep track of when and where you locate your programs on your computer and the various activation codes which is handy if you can’t find the original packaging several years down the line. If you have to check back on installations or other activity, this is a lot better than relying on your memory. Can you remember what you installed 6 months ago?

Although passwords have to get a little more complex to keep ahead of hackers, if you use words, you might consider using those that have duplicate letters so you can either cap or in some cases change them to numbers or punctuation. I doubt if any of you reading here will deny you have a written copy somewhere but like a needle in a haystack, only you will know the variation in cap and lowercase and which ones are real.



The first thing you should do after booting up your new computer and had a lot at what’s different compared to your previous one is to use Explorer (or the silly re-named Edge when you install W10) and look at the hard drive. If it isn’t partitioned, then this is the first thing you should do or you’ll have to defragment before you can do so.

The partitioning turns your hard drive into several hard drives, that you can divide your programs across for different tasks so you know where to look to find them.

First, there is a matter of defragmenting the hard drive to ensure all the bits of the programs and other files are all lumped together and not have a stray section in the wrong part of the hard drive. If they aren’t, you could lose something. With a new computer and current speeds, there are few files to move. You can do this later but defragging does take a lot longer to do, so be prepared to watch a good film while your computer is busy.

If you’re using W7, the ‘Search Programs’ type in ‘defragment’ or ‘optimize drives’ and run the software that presents itself. This isn’t done automatically on W8 but as you’re likely to be in W10 in a while, you can double-check then.

The thing I was most surprised when I did this to my new laptop was having to use W8’s ‘Search Programs’ or Help for find using the words ‘Disk Management’ or ‘Partitions’ to find it rather than in ‘My Computer’. The second was that it would only allow me to partition half the hard drive. With 1tB or tetra-byte hard drive, I would have thought a quarter or even a third would have been enough but I guess Microsoft know what they are doing.

Under Disk 0, click the mouse in the OS (C:) section to view ‘Properties’ and tell it to ‘shrink the volume’. You’ll only be able do this half-way, giving the C:\ its maximum of 463.62gB. All of this depends on the numbers you put in from now on and I think this is what confuses people the most because they are big numbers. I tend to round the numbers up bring about 2 or 3gB over the amount but when you consider that Windows uses this for keeping tabs on the files, things even out. One partition is just going to have a little less space.

The numbers work out something like this. If you round them up a little, you’ll get a little more or less. Basically, I use the 100gb as my template for dividing them into the other numbers and even they can be slightly out so don’t panic if they aren’t exact. Like the universe, I doubt if the computer will worry on that.

50gb                           55,144,085,504gb                  actually 55gb

100gb                          110,288,171,008gb                 actually 102gb

200gb                          220,576,3420,16gb                 actually 204gb

Easy when you know how. Work out on paper how you want to divide the amount of free space up before starting. You’ll have to format each partition but I’m assuming you aren’t a complete novice. For File System, select ‘NTFS’ and give each partition as you make it a letter, other than C, and even an identifying name as to what should be in there, like Games and so forth. Once you’re happy, give each partition a ‘quick format’ so you can put files into them. At this stage, if you make a mistake, you can always ‘Extend’ that partition and try again, just don’t re-merge it with the C:\ partition or with any files in them.

Generally, a combination of those I gave above should give you all you need. Stash all your important pictures, datafiles and other material here than in the Windows partition. If you ever have to re-install Windows, there is a tendency to have anything you have there wiped, so make sure you have a copy of your Internet Favourites (or Favorites for those across the pond) – found under in the Users directory under your own name and where you should have combined those from an earlier computer. If you keep Word files and such saved to the My Documents directory, create a directory in one of the other partitions and use its software to store there instead. Using Word as the example, there’s a section in ‘Save’ where you can move the default setting to one of the partitions and create a directory there to store them in.

If you haven’t made any rescue disks and have to use the original supplied disks, always make back-ups of your files to either USB flash drive, auxiliary hard drive or even CD or DVD. I know the Zoostorm version of Windows 7 will wipe the entire hard drive than do a repair, as I found when setting up my second-hand back-up computer, so never take unnecessary chances.



The next task is go on-line. If you aren’t using the anti-virus software that came with your computer, then get yours installed. Then get all the Windows updates. I know with Windows 7 that it is currently about three hours download and 40 minutes install time, although that is now done in smaller chunks. Window 8.1 didn’t take long but considering that there was less to install, that would explain it.

Although I can’t speak for other anti-virus software, I do know that Norton Securities can share your protected password file with other computers you own and that definitely saves time having to re-enter them all on each computer. Take advice from your anti-virus software manufacturer.


Windows 10

Something we’re all waiting for at the moment depending on where you are on their download schedule. Even so, I reckon we’re in for a wait before it starts downloading. Bearing in mind that W8.1 is some 25gB large and W10 must be somewhere in the same order. I would estimate that it would take a couple continuous days to download, allowing for your own use and busy times of day when Net speeds slow down, on even the fastest computer so it’s no wonder that its being done in chunks and you’ll be able to choose when you want to install and have a free hour or two to watch over it and any possible reinstalls. At least by that time, others will have done it before you so keeping an eye on the Net, you should be able to find out about any pitfalls or things you might want to have at hand. Although I might not use it, I’ve already splashed out on a cheap microphone this weekend in case I want to try out that new Cortana reminder thing.


Rescue Disks

Undoubtedly, you’ve made rescue disks for your previous Windows. W8.1 took 3 DVDs which would be a lot of CDs. As that worked out to be about nearly 15gB of space, I decided I would do at least one copy on to a USB flash drive. The smallest for these are 32gB, unless you’re planning to use multiple smaller sized flash drives. It is possible to get them at a reasonable price, although I suspect after this article, they’ll sell quickly for a while. When you consider W10 is a download and no supplied disks, let alone rescue disks, having at least two copies in different formats doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

All we have to do now is hope W10 is as good as they say it is.

I’m scheduled to be reviewing Wiley’s ‘Windows 10 For Dummies’ in August 2015 and although I do have an intuitive knack for understanding things (I found a menu shell for W8.1 within a day of going on-line), I appreciate some of you will be hunting for a physical book on the subject. Watch out for the review in case you need a copy.


Hope some of the information above will be of use to you.

Geoff Willmetts

August 2015

updates will happen when I install W10 myself

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