Whether you've just bought a new PC, upgraded to Windows 7, or reinstalled your OS, a just-installed system is a great opportunity to make some helpful changes and fixes. Here are the things we recommend anyone tackle on a minty fresh Windows.
We've previously rounded up the bulk of our Windows 7 advice, from first installation to fine detail tweaking, in our complete guide to Windows 7, as well as packaged our favourite little utilities and customisation apps in a list of 10 booster apps. This guide, in contrast, doesn't include many downloads, and focuses on what you can do to fix up your system from the get-go, no separate app required.
10. Change Up Your Theme
Unlike its predecessors, Windows 7 offers a lot of non-hacker-ish ways in which you can change the entire look of your desktop, not just the wallpaper. We took an early tour of Windows 7's many free and legit themes, and noted that Microsoft checks in occasionally to provide more themes at its site. If you'd like to keep your wallpaper fresh, but don't want to hunt down the widescreen-friendly pics yourself, set up Bing's backgrounds as a auto-rotating wallpaper feed. (Original posts: more themes, Bing backgrounds)
9. Take Advantage Of The Better Printer Setups
When Vista came out, it broke a lot of printer compatibility. Now that most manufacturers have had time to update drivers (and users had time to replace old printers), we can get the most from Windows 7's better printing tools. You can, for example, make your computer change its default printer based on network connections, which can be a real boon to laptop warriors. You can also keep your XP systems connected on your network happily, as Windows 7 and XP can share printers, as explained by the How-To Geek's own site.
8. Extend Your Activation Period, If Necessary
You swear that you've never used this copy of Windows 7 before, or thought you'd deactivated the licence on the system you did use it on. For whatever reason your activation code isn't working, you can give yourself 120 days to purchase one or get your act together otherwise.
7. Set Up XP Mode and Make It More Convenient
If you've got apps that just don't play nice with a newer Windows, even with some compatibility mode tweaks, you'll want to set up XP Mode for free and learn how to make the most of it. If Microsoft's own virtualisation tools for Virtual XP don't impress you much, go ahead and run the XP Mode image in VirtualBox for full control over states, hardware usage and other variables.
6. Get Your Old "Show Desktop" Button Back
To preview or show the desktop in Windows 7, you need to hover or click on the little translucent bar—that tiny strip there, in the far bottom right. Missing the old puffy-corner icon and a taskbar button to click on? The Tweaking with Vishal blog shows us how to bring it back—kinda/sorta, actually, since you're really creating a small toolbar with just one button. Still, it's a popular tweak, and it helps ease the transition from Windows XP. (Original post)
5. Integrate Dropbox with Your System
On its own, Dropbox is a must-install app—it syncs your files, starting at 2GB, from a folder that just magically keeps itself up to date across all your systems and devices. But you can make it a more helpful part of your Windows system. You can sync folders outside your main Dropbox, for starters, then change the location if need be. There are plenty of other clever Dropbox uses, but in Windows 7, something as simple as adding Dropbox to your Start menu can pay off in long-term time savings.
4. Organize and Customise Your Libraries
Windows 7's Libraries are one of the OS' neatest, most helpful features, but they don't go out of their way to explain themselves. Luckily, writer Mysticgeek at the How-To Geek's own site wrote up a helpful Libraries how-to, detaling the adding and removing of files and folders and getting a grip on how to make them more convenient. If you'd rather handle your folders all by yourself, you can simply disable libraries, too.
3. Set Up a Dual-Boot System
When your Windows system's new and just-installed, that's when you want to set it up to run another system. In fact, you'll almost always install Windows first when you're dual-booting Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux. If you're adding Windows 7 in as a companion to XP, we've got a system for doing that, too. Finally, if you're running a Mac and want to add in Windows 7 as its own OS, you can get that done with Boot Camp.
2. Learn the Shortcuts
Windows 7 has not shortage of shortcuts, like its predecessors, but this newest version of MIcrosoft's operating system does a lot more to put control of the windows, the new Taskbar, and other really great features into the tips of your fingers. Here's the master list of new Windows 7 shortcuts. Read up, test them out, and learn them. Your fingers, hands, and emptying supply of free time will thank you.
1. Get Your Must-Have Apps Installed Quickly with Ninite (and the Lifehacker Pack)
You've probably got a set of free, downloadable apps you install on every system. Each of those apps has a licence agreement, a usually redundant series of options to click through, and a wait while the app installs. Ninite lets you pick out your apps from a web form, then download a customised installer that plugs all those apps into your system at once, no extra clicks needed. Which apps should you grab? We've got a Lifehacker Pack full of suggestions, and page at Ninite pre-loaded with those picks.
What's the first thing you do when you've got a fresh new system, or a re-installed OS? Share your checklists in the comments.