Building a New Computer - Part 5: Tweaking Your New Computer


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Now that we've put our computer together, setup the BIOS, and installed Windows, it's time to get down to the business of tweaking our new computer.

In the final installment of this guide, I'm going to cover the basic configuration and software tweaks that you should use to keep your computer safe, secure, and running at peak performance.

Note: that no configuration is right for everybody, these are general rules that will help you.

Keep Your Computer Patched and Protected.

If you've ever had to deal with your computer being infected with spyware or viruses, you know that keeping your computer protected is of immense importance. There's a couple of quick steps you can do to keep the hackers out and your data safe:

• Always use a Firewall - You don't have to buy any fancy firewall software unless you want to, the built-in Firewall in Windows will work just fine… as long as you make sure it's enabled.

• Keep Your System Patched - I'd recommend that you leave Windows Update set to update automatically, so you don't have to think about whether you have the latest patches installed.

• Keep Your Anti-Virus / Anti-Spyware Up to Date - What's the point of using a malware protection package if you aren't going to keep it up to date? For instance, if your trial version of some non-free package runs out, you are a lot less secure than if you simply used AVG Free with automatic updates enabled.

Windows Vista includes the Windows Security Center, which will tell you at a very quick glance how protected you are. You'll notice in the screenshot below that Windows detected that my Anti-Virus is turned off.


A quick setting change in the AVG panel, and now everything is enabled, and you'll notice the Update Manager component is active, so I'm receiving the latest updates as well.


I'm not necessarily endorsing AVG Anti-Virus over a paid solution, but it's a pretty good product that will keep you protected… and you can't beat the price of Free. Many of our great forum members both use and recommend it, and in my experience it doesn't cause too many issues.

Download AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition:

Keeping Your Computer Clean:

Other than being infected with spyware, the biggest cause of system slowdown is clutter and junk all over your drive. You have a number of options to combat this, (including not installing every piece of software you see), but at the very least you should make sure to run the Disk Cleanup utility on a regular basis:


If you want a more powerful solution, however, you should run the excellent CCleaner utility once every week or two, as it will clean out temporary files from not just Windows applications, but also Firefox and many other sources of file bloat.


Important Note: CCleaner comes bundled with the Yahoo! toolbar, which you should make sure to uncheck during the installation.


Download CCleaner from

Defragment Your Hard Drive Regularly (XP Users)


Over time, your hard drive builds up so many files that they end up becoming fragmented across your drive. This can happen because applications create temporary files, which then get deleted, leaving little chunks of free space everywhere. When new files are written, they end up needing to be split up into smaller chunks in order to fill in those small chunks of free space… which leads to a really disorganized hard drive. This is the reason why you defragment your drive, which re-organizes the files so that they are each in their own place.

Windows Vista has completely automatic defragmentation of your drives, and there's really no need to mess with it.

But If you would like to, then you can (see below:)

Set Automatic Defrag Options (Vista Users)

Launch Disk Defragmenter by typing dfrgui into the start menu search or run box (or you could just search for defrag in the start menu or control panel)

Once you are there, you will notice the new "Select volumes" button that wasn't there before Service Pack 1:


This will launch a dialog where you can choose which drives should be automatically defragmented at the scheduled time:


Of course, you can also use this same new feature to manually defragment all your drives at once.


Backup Your Computer.........


Backup Backup Backup Backup Backup Backup

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