On Christmas morning, our children found a very special gift from Santa – they each received an HP laptop, pre-loaded with the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system.
They were thrilled to have their own shiny new computer, identical except for the Skinit laptop skin. Kayla, the impetuous near-teen, fired up her laptop immediately without a glance at the manual. Alex, the more cautious younger brother, turned to me for help setting up the computer.
This was fortunate for Kayla as otherwise she would have missed important steps in setting up the new computer that I pointed out as I set up her brother’s laptop.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a series on how we set up the computers to maximize fun and digital learning for our Networked Students.
Before Setting Up The New Computer
Long before they received these laptops, I insisted on having them sign Kim Komando’s 10 Commandments For Kids Online. This presents a good opportunity to discuss cybersafety, but nothing beats first-hand experience.
Generally, I believe it’s essential to surf the web together, gradually giving children more independence online as they demonstrate that they understand the benefits and the pitfalls.
Step One – Make Recovery Discs
The Quick Start guide, with its easy-to-follow illustrations, makes it easy to get your laptop running, but you can’t do much until you can get online. Not bothering with the manual, the first thing my daughter asked for was help getting online.
Of course, since she was asking for my help, I made sure that before we set up the network connection, we first created the recovery discs. Over the years, I’ve found them to be priceless when my computer crashes. A local computer repair company can get the computer running, but without the operating system saved on a recovery disc, that’s all you’ll do.
To create a Vista recovery disc (from the HP Notebook Essentials Manual):
- Number new discs (preferably DVD-R, as you’ll use much less than CD-R.)
- Ensure that computer is connect to AC power.
- Click Start, click All Programs, click Recovery Manager, and then click Recovery Manager.
- Click Advanced Options.
- Click Recovery disc creation, and then click Next.
- Follow the on-screen instructions.
Step Two – Get Connected Online
We have a Netgear Broadband Router set up in the house that provides a wireless connection for all the family computers and printer. Connecting the new laptops is as easy as:
- Clicking the double monitor icon on the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, and then clicking on Connect or Disconnect.
- Click on Set Up a Connection or Network.
- Click on the option that fits your home’s wireless plan, in our case it’s “Connect To The Internet – Set up a wireless, broadband, or dial-up connection to the Internet.”
- Follow the on-screen instructions.
Step Three – Keep Your Windows Current
To make sure that your computer stays up to date, enable automatic updates:
- Click Start, and then click on Control Panel on the right-hand sidebar.
- Click on Check For Updates, under Security.
- Click on Change Settings on the right-hand sidebar.
- Select Install Updates Automatically.
Step Four – Protect Your Computer
Our laptop came with a couple of protections: Windows Defender (anti-spyware) and Norton AntiVirus.
The version of Norton AntiVirus that is included with HP computers is great, but the subscription is only good for two months. Instead, I picked up a copy of Norton 360 v. 2, with its one year subscription, at Sam’s Club, and installed it on our three laptops (the maximum allowed with this license.)
This version of Norton provides AntiVirus protection, but it also provides diagnostic tools and PC Tuneup features that I use at least weekly to:
- Clean up temporary files.
- Optimize the Disc.
- Registry Cleanup
I find that running these frequently eliminates most of the computer slow-down problems that I see otherwise, especially when I use Internet Explorer.
Norton 360 v. 2 offers lots of other features, but the only other one that I find invaluable is the ability to easily automate backups.
Step Five – Back Up Often
I have yet to find the optimal back up system; however, my current system is working well enough.
Hooking up the Maxtor Central Axis to our wireless network, we’re now able to back up all of our laptops to this 1 TB hard drive. Supposedly, you can also organize your files using its “drag and drop” features. I haven’t done so yet, and probably won’t bother with this.
I just use the networked drive to store the back ups that are automatically generated by Norton 360 v. 2 from all the family computers.
It’s easy (well, it’s easy after a few hair-pulling days figuring out just how “easy” it is!)
Need more help setting up, or fine-tuning, a computer?
Getting Tech Help – Tech support sites online.
Norton PC Tune Up Service – Get online help diagnosing and fixing your computer.
The Homeschooling The Networked Student Series:
- Home Schooling The Networked Student
- Next: Selecting The Best Browser For Your Child’s Computer.
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