Here's our Hardware Tip for.. December 8, 2006
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Make It Safe
New computers typically come with Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2, but they probably do not have the latest security updates. So when you first turn your machine on, leave it disconnected from your modem (cable or DSL) or your network router. Many systems come with a limited-time version of an antivirus program, usually McAfee Security Center or Symantec Internet Security. When you first run the system, the antivirus software will pop up a series of dialogs prompting you to activate the trial versions. Unless you have another security package ready to install, you should agree to switch on one of the trial versions, because you'll want to have security software running when you first connect to the Internet. (If you use one of the trial versions, you needn't feel obliged to buy an annual subscription when the trial runs out.) If you'd rather install other security software from a CD, do so now. When the software is fully installed (you'll probably need to reboot to complete the process), use the Start menu to open the Control Panel, then open the Security Center. Make sure that Firewall, Automatic Updates, and Virus Protection are all turned on. But don't connect to the Internet just yet.
Next insert a blank CD or DVD into the appropriate drive and then find and run the software on your system that lets you create a recovery disc, which will let you restore your system to its original state. Don't neglect this step: It's essential if rogue software or an overenthusiastic family member disrupts your system to the point where you need to return it to its out-of-the-box condition.
Now—and only now—plug in your network cable or connect to a wireless network. You don't need to turn off your machine before plugging in the cable. Windows should detect your network automatically. When you're connected, Windows' automatic updates service should start running automatically; notice the shield-like icon on the taskbar. If it doesn't start in a few minutes, run Windows Update from the Start menu. Also run any software-updating service that may be installed with your machine. On some systems, the updater will run automatically; others require you to launch a Software Installer or similarly named program. Either way, it's almost always wise to install any updates proposed by the updater.