PC Build Part 4: Set Up

Set up desktop station.

Do not install the computer anywhere it is susceptible to inadequate airflow, dust, excessive temperatures (direct sunlight), high humidity, electro-magnetic interference (aka EMI; this includes powerful heating and air-conditioning fans or microwaves).

Some people say not to put a PC on carpet, though it seems that the danger of doing so may be hyped.

Moving your computer while it’s powered on can damage your hard drive so, once you choose a location, don’t move the PC unless everything is powered off. Leave the computer off for the next couple steps.

Plug in the monitor.

For now, you can plug the monitor into the chassis’ IO panel.

Plug in the keyboard and mouse and any other peripherals.

As previously mentioned, you’ll need a USB-connected keyboard to set up. You don’t need drivers for a keyboard, so this will be functional right away.

You can also plug in other peripheral devices like the speakers, webcam, microphone, printer, and scanner. These can also wait.

Install operating system.

Just insert the USB while the PC is powered off. When you power back on, Windows will walk you through the installation process.

Install drivers.

These might come on a disk with your motherboard, which you can save to a USB. You can also go to “Device Manager” and update drivers from there, or go to the manufacturer’s website to download drivers.

Check running temperature.

Power the computer on and be ready to follow screen instructions for accessing the BIOS — likely, you’ll press Delete or F2. Once you’re in the BIOS, check that the running temperature is somewhere in the 30C range. If anything is overheating, you want to catch it right away.

Plug monitor into GPU.

I’ve been told that, once the graphics card driver is properly installed, the optical inputs (HDMI and VGA) on the IO pane will be defunct and you’ll need to plug the monitor(s) directly into the graphics card. The IO ports never quit for me. (I confirmed the GPU drivers were installed.) Nevertheless, you want to move the cables to get a direct line to the strong graphic capabilities in the GPU. If you’re plugged into the IO, you’ll be utilizing only any integrated graphics that the CPU might have built-in, which are extremely weak compared to most graphics cards.

Verify installation and initialize HDD D: hard drive.

To verify installation, open the device manager. You can simply type “device manager” into the task bar’s search box. The device manager shows all the hardware that was found during installation. If there was a problem installing a device, you’ll see a yellow or red icon. One of the most common issues is that a driver was not found for the device. In that case, right click on the device and run “Update driver software”.

To initialize the hard drive, navigate to Computer Management. One way is to type “compmgmt” in the Start menu search bar. Select “Storage”. Select “Disk Management”. Initialize hard drive. There were some selections related to partitioning — I selected GPT (GUID Partition Table) rather than MBR (Master Boot Record).

Organize hard drives.

The operating system goes on C: on the SSD. This is because the OS will always boot from C. (Note: A and B are skipped; they were the floppy drives on older computers.) Do not store anything else on the C: except perhaps some most-used programs. Reasons: 1) speed up the OS, 2) make it easier to reinstall the OS in the future, 3) preserve the SSD — SSDs have one major weakness and that’s the number of write cycles before degradation set in. By moving files and folders that are constantly changing to the mechanical D:, you can reduce the number of write cycles, thereby lengthening the SSDs lifespan.

Keep the C:\Users folder on C: — there are too many unintended and disastrous consequences from moving the User Account folder to another drive. But relocate Documents, Pictures, Videos, Downloads to D: on the HDD. Save all your user data on D: to the HDD. This includes games, photos, music. This keeps it of C: and also makes it easier to backup.

E:/F:/G: is the Optical Drive/Flash Card Readers/USB HDD(s)

Organize accounts.

Go to Control Panel\User Accounts\User Accounts\Manage Accounts. You will have three accounts.

Add a user account. Change Account Type to Administrator. You will not use the Administator accounts, but will need the password in order to do tasks that require administrative rights.

Click your personal account and change account type from Administrator to Standard. Viruses usually depend on access given by administrator rights; removing this access makes you more secure.

Create a Guest User account, Standard, for guests. Be aware that documents saved in D: rather than C:\Users will be accessible to guests, so consider keeping private information in C:\Users.

Connect to the internet.

Plug in the ethernet cable or connect to wifi as you normally would. Open a trustworthy website to check the connection. You can also right click on the network icon (task bar, far right) and click “Open Network and Sharing Center”. If you can’t connect, start by verifying the obvious: network cable plugged in, router running, other devices connecting? If it doesn’t work, you can check your IP configuration. To check your IP configuration, open the command prompt and type ipconfig (Windows) or ifconfig (Linux). This will show you your IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway.To learn about fixing a failed IP assignment as well as other wireless connection troubleshooting, here’s a good video.

Once connected, run a speedtest to check the connection.

Only go to known safe websites, and minimally, since you haven’t yet secured your computer.

Secure computer.

It is extremely dangerous to browse websites without having antimalware protection on your computer, especially if you’re running Windows. Now that you’re connected to the internet, malicious actors can attack your computer. Once you’ve verified that you have internet connectivity, your immediate priority should be making your system secure.

Make sure the firewall is turned on.

Microsoft 10 comes with security software (called Windows Defender) already installed. Or you can download a free antivirus like Sophos Home.

Update BIOS.

Explore your BIOS — you’ll find explanations by searching your motherboard model.

Just opening your BIOS will make you feel like you work for NASA.

Go to your motherboard’s website for updates. But only install an update if it’s needed. You can do this later, as well.

ASUS Prime Z370-A BIOS Overview

Update the OS.

Type “update” into the task bar search box. In Advanced, there’s an option to automatically install new updates. Updates often have security improvements, but can be buggy so some people say to wait a few weeks for the problems to sift out before updating. But usually updates are security patches required to keep your PC safe, so it’s probably best to always update as soon as possible.

Update the operating system to prevent security compromises

Set up backups.

Got to Settings → Update & Security → Backup. Select a drive to back up to and frequency of backup. I selected my removeable USB thumb drive (aka flash drive aka jump drive) and “weekly”. This automatically created a folder called “FileHistory” on my thumb drive.

If you have the option for verification, select it. Every time a backup is done, the backup program compares what it has backed up to the original files to make sure the backup proceeded correctly and without corruption.

It’s a good idea to choose a backup location that is not another internal hard disk within the computer, since whatever could damage the main disk could also damage the backup disk. Occasionally, you should create a backup to a drive which can be stored in a separate location off-site (in case of fire, theft or other premise-wide threats). This off-site location could be the cloud. If you’re using Microsoft, OneDrive backs up to the cloud, but only the data you specify. It also replicates data to every other computer on the Microsoft account. Just make sure all important data is stored on OneDrive.

Now there are three copies of your data: the original on an internal hard disk, an on-site copy on the attached external disk, and an off-site copy in the cloud.

Periodically, you should go through the restore process (to understand how it works but also to make sure the restore process works before you need it). One way to test the restore process is to restore the backup to a new file and compare to original files. You can just delete this test folder after.

How to Use All of Windows 10’s Backup and Recovery Tools

Basic Backup Concepts

Install hardware monitor.

I downloaded Open Hardware Monitor. The Task Manager will also give you information about how your system is operating, including temperatures (without having to restart and go into the BIOS). It’s a good idea to check this often as you get started, especially if you’re pushing the PC’s capabilities.

Customize OS.

Familiarize with keyboard shortcuts and make your own; personalize visual settings (Settings → Personalization) to change background and color theme; configure power options (Settings → System → Power and sleep); create multiple virtual desktops; change the screen lighting, and anything else. Comment with other cool customizations — I’d like to know.

Install apps.

The Verge’s Grayson Blackmon reports that whenever he’s starting over on a Windows build he always uses Ninite to jumpstart the process for all the essentials. It packages everything as one downloader/installer and installs it onto your new PC. The 10 best apps for your new Windows PC

f.lux mellows screen lighting.

Continue to PC Build Part 5: Maintain