Setting Up a Computer From Scratch – Part 1 – The Operating System

February 21, 2012

About a month ago, I told you about My Computer Setup and Rebuilding After Hard Drive Failure. Several loyal readers have asked me to document the process I use when I setup a computer. My process assumes a blank hard drive and starting from scratch. Today I will cover the first step, installing the operating system on the computer. I will cover the rest of the process in later tutorials.

Before you start installing Windows, you need to collect everything you are going to need. At the top of the list is the Windows disc and the serial number. If there are drivers that need to be downloaded, do this in advance and put those files on a disc (USB thumb drive, CD or whatever works for you). You’ll also want to make sure to have your security software of choice available along with the serial number for it. It is quite possible you are going to forget to put everything needed on the disc so it is helpful to have another computer handy that can be used to download anything necessary.

Do not have your network cable plugged in to the computer. Insert the Windows disc. Part of the install process will let you partition and format the hard drives on your system. I always make sure to first have a partition just for Windows. It is my C drive. I don’t have to worry about the other partitions until after Windows has been installed. The size you need for the Windows partition varies on the version of Windows you install and how much other software will go on the machine. At an absolute minimum, I would make the Windows partition 100 GB. Twice that would be an extremely safe size.

Complete the installation of Windows. Once Windows has been installed, immediately install your security software. I put all software on the D drive so you may need to create and format this partition before installing the security software. The size needed for the D partition also varies based on how much software will be installed on your computer. I would suggest 100-200 GB is a safe size for this partition. We’re going to need to go online to download updates and we don’t want to do that until we are protected. After you have the security software installed, plug in your network cable and get on the Internet. Download all updates for the security software. This could require a reboot or two. After you have the security software updated, run the Windows Update (or Microsoft Update depending on your Windows version) and install all updates. You’ll probably have to repeat this process several times until there are no more updates to install. You may also need to install your drivers at this point and check to make sure there are no updates to the drivers.

The process described here can take several hours due to all of waiting during installs and the time to download the various updates. While the computer is busy doing this, you can certainly get other things done. Once you’ve got the operating system installed and updated, it is time to start installing your applications. I’ll cover that in the next part of this series.

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