General Computer Setup

General Computer Setup
Difficulty: Easy
Description: The all-around guide for whipping your computer into tip top shape, that even your mom will understand!
Author: Dante; Date Added: 2009-09-06; Views: 8479
Disclaimer: Though I doubt you can use the information here to severely damage your computer, on the software side, or otherwise, people have always found ways to amaze me and circumvent my idiot-proof ways; you know how it is, there's always the one idiot to prove anyone wrong. As such, I am providing this information as a collection of thoughts, and a list of software I use and has worked for me, and I don't particularly recommend mucking around if you're unfamiliar with what you're doing. I and/or Gamexe.net, and related gimps are in no way liable in case you manage to turn your computer into a campfire. (highly unlikely, but anything is possible, right?)

The purpose: Basically, what you need to install after formatting to ensure you don't get headache scanning for viruses, or spyware, or dealing with unnecessary slow downs, chugs, and so forth. Once more -- this is my way of doing things.


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Requirements:
Bare minimum
* Device drivers for your sound card, video card, whatever peripherials
* Spybot Search and Destroy
* avast! antivirus
* various programs such as: Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, WinAmp
* K-lite Codec Pack, Full
* IrfanView
* your favorite browser (Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome are my suggestions)
* WinRAR

Time savers
* SnagIt
* TweetDeck (for twitter freaks)
* Daemon Tools Lite
* Total Audio Converter
* Sony Sound Forge

I trust that covers software; this is again very basic, as I can't possibly cover everyone's needs; you're gonna have to use your own head for the rest. Feel free to add Photoshop, Flash, Dreamweaver, 3ds max, Maya or whatever else you require.


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Points of interest: (i.e. breaking the list down, motivating the choices, some screenshots, and of course, some points of interest)


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* Device drivers for your sound card, video card, whatever peripherials - an obvious choice. You should be up to date with your drivers, to avoid problems with new games, so forth. Don't forget about DirectX; also don't forget that Vista can support both DirectX 9 and 10, at the same time. A little trick that nobody had told me, for Vista.
*** Bear in mind that if your computer is rather old, it's not always the best idea to install the latest drivers. I've had various issues on my old rig (1,8 Ghz, 1 GB RAM, 256 MB video) installing drivers even a year after buying a computer can sometimes lead to headaches.
*** The latest games seem to require the installation of nVidia PhysX, which in my experience is very annoying. Terminator: Salvation, and Helldorado both crashed at first, even though I had the latest version of PhysX installed. The fix was installing the PhysX setup provided on the game DVD. While not the latest, it did fix the crash. [pretty sure this is only for nVidia GPUs]


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* Spybot Search and Destroy (free software!) - the big daddy of anti-spyware, and a whole load of other problems.

*** A simple, unassuming piece of software, that has 2 key functions.
#1: Search and Destroy, to clean your computer of various potential malware; although I very much doubt you'll use it more than 2, 3 times, because of function #2
#2: Immunize: A vaccine against a bunch of problems. As far as I can tell, it's pretty good, because it blocks the websites that would otherwise sneak various nasty things through the back door of your computer.
Generally, immunize, scan once to be sure, and you're all set. Be sure to update from time to time, there's various additions to the immunization database.


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* avast! antivirus - another great piece of software. Available in free, or paid versions. It's absolutely magnificent, easy to use, it has a ton of shields, it's basically a mini-fortress.

*** Again, not exactly building nukes. But ease of usage is what good software is about. If you have virus problems, just bump a scan, boil a pot of coffee, and watch something on the telly. If there's a virus loaded in the active memory, and a stubborn one at that, it'll ask you to restart the computer, whereupon it'll start a scan before windows loads -- a GREAT feature, that works wonders. I've had real pains with stubborn viruses loaded at the startup, that other antiviruses were too arse-backwards to repair.


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* various programs such as: Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, WinAmp - I guess it's sort of... odd that I'd mention these, but whatever. I imagine you need some sort of document editing program suite for school work, assignments, essays, and so forth. A point I find myself making over and over -- the Microsoft Office 2007 suite, complete with the file formats that end in x (i.e. .docx, .pptx) and so forth are a pain in the ass. There are so many versions of this suite of programs around that most likely someone somewhere will be unable to convert the new word format to his own, because only a few versions of Office know where to download file converters from. Ain't that a joy... Anyway, try finding a copy of Microsoft Office 2003, or perhaps even earlier, and google something like file converters if the program won't ask you for them. Should work like a charm
on both new and old file formats.
*** Adobe Reader? .pdf is a great format, I have to say. Magazines, portfolios, or just plain storing guitar pro tabs like I do whenever I go somewhere where Guitar Pro is unavailable. You need to be able to open .pdf files, because at some point, you're gonna need one. Just a reminder, basically.
*** WinAmp? It's my favorite player. I guess I'm just used to it. There's a bunch of other players you may want to use, but I prefer Winamp. You need something to play your music that isn't as terrible as Windows Media Pro, and that has codecs for opening a variety of files (including .flac files - the best musical quality format available). Feel free to use something else, but I'd suggest winamp. Just install it, and everything just works. Do NOT use it for seeing movies, or whatever, it's terrible.


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* K-lite Codec Pack, Full - best codec pack I've ever seen. Extremely versatile, it can play pretty much anything; comes equipped with the lightest player I've ever used in terms of memory - Media Player Classic. It's great, it can open DVDs, it can open a variety of formats; enough said. Not really easy on the eyes, but it has this handy little feature that I absolutely love for DVD, HD, or Bluray playback:

*** See the little navigate bar there? If your DVD, HD, or Bluray movie or whatever has additional subtitles, or audio, or even video tracks (I've seen bluray movies carry whole documentaries about the production embedded in the movie, albeit in another video stream), you can switch 'em here with no problems. It's an incredible feature which I've come to love.
*** Lightweight free application, and it's 10 times better than anything I've ever seen so far.
*** Stay away from the 64bit version of the codecs; it may cause tearing or weird pixellation on some HD movies. I have the entire Star Wars collection in HD, and it looks gruesome.
*** Another important point: there's basically 2 versions of Media Player Classic --- there's Media Player Classic, and Media Player Classic Homecinema. I find the latter to be the probable cause of said pixellation in my HD movies, as I've recently updated to the 64bit version myself, and it came with Homecinema, rather than the basic version. How do you tell the difference? It says so in the title bar, just in case you're confused.
*** For those of you who are like me and don't wanna troll for the icon to access the program, just hit the Windows Key + R (the shortcut for Start -> Run) and type mplayerc to start it up.


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* IrfanView (free software!) - my favorite image viewer, since a few years ago. Loads pretty much anything at the blink of an eye.

*** A silly picture, but it illustrates the simple, and intuitive interface. A gaze at the bottom of the image will reveal a multitude of information about the file.
*** A few quick tricks: Ctrl + R resizes an image, S saves it;
* the absolute best way to optimize an image without noticeable quality loss is to save it in Photoshop as a PNG (which as you know, is losless), and to save it as a JPG in IrfanView, at between 90-100 quality. There's a slider present with some options; the difference in size is STAGGERING.
* to crop an image, merely drag a selection box, just as if you were selecting something on your desktop, Ctrl + X to cut it out, the area you cut out will become black, Ctrl + V to paste, IrfanView will automatically create a new file with only the cut portion. S to save, and you're all set. Saves a ton of time making avatars and stuff.



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* your favorite browser (Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome are my suggestions) - on that note, both will do just fine. Firefox tends to chugg a bit when there's too many tabs open. Eats memory like a black hole.
*** Start -> Run -> type firefox and hit enter for easy access to it. Or use WinKey + R like everyone else.
*** Also, type about: robots instead of a website link for a fun page.


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* WinRAR - kick ass archive programs, what more is there to say? It only got better with time. I think the latest versions can open up .7z files as well. Pretty sure it's the most used format available.


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* TweetDeck (for twitter freaks) - sweet little program, if you follow people on twitter - delivers updates right on your doorstep. Quick, reliable, pleasant-looking. It's really cool. Check it out if you're a twitter freak, you can tweet from it and everything. Below is a really long screenshot of the thing.
http://www.gamexe.net/tutorials/gencomp/SNAG-0128.png


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* SnagIt - the absolute best program for capturing "the moment". The screenshot presents the features. available. They're all highly customizable. Pretty much the only piece of software I know of that can take a huge long picture of a scrolling webpage.

*** Tasty features, as you can see from the image. You can also save directly to file, add a trendy border, highly customizable (like those lovely 1px borders that are so "all the rage" right now); I still maintain scrollable webpage screenshots as the best feature.


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* Daemon Tools Lite - for all your virtual imaging needs, it kicks the arse off Daemon Tools Pro - double click an image to mount it, easy peasy. Tasty features, loads in a second.


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* Total Audio Converter - if you ever get a .flac format album and want to transfer it to your phone, to listen to it or whatever, you pretty much require a more acceptable format, like *.mp3, or *.wav, or *.ogg. Pretty much all you'd use it for; or perhaps you want to scale down your file by a few megs, like from 320 kbps to 256 kbps. (i.e. resampling; at least I think it's called resampling).
SCREENSHOT



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* Sony Sound Forge - if you need a ringtone from a song, this is the way to go. Slice 'em up, save 'em, and boom!

*** So here's the skinny. The scroll button is much like zooming in or out of the wave thing the program generates. You click around, look for the part you like, press space to play the song from the part where the cursor's blinking; zoom in, make sure you select the beginning of the section, i.e. no weird drum beat before the solo, or something like that, then select the entire section you want, Ctrl + X, Ctrl + A, Ctrl + V, SAVE IN A DIFFERENT FOLDER, OTHERWISE IT'LL OVERWRITE YOUR ORIGINAL, and you're all set.



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The final tip I can offer is a little tricky. It requires a bit of common sense, and observational skills so you don't disable the wrong things.
*** Start -> Run -> type msconfig and hit enter
*** whereupon you will be greeted by a window. Go to the startup tab, and something similar to the picture will present itself

*** This is the list of programs that start up when windows starts up. For the most part, you only need about half of these; as a general rule of thumb however, it would perhaps be best to disable things like Windows Messenger, Yahoo messenger, Windows Defender (it's useless, and you don't really need it), Skype, if you don't use it constantly, Adobe Gamma Loader (as I recall, it's a thing that installs with Photoshop), Nero BackItUp, and so forth. Just offering a general idea of what is rather useless.
*** The things you want on the list are usually the antivirus, the anti-spyware (spybot detects system changes), the display and sound driver, and whatever else you actively use and need continously. Bare minimum, or your spaceship computer will lag like hell starting up.
*** Especially of import if you're using Windows Vista to remove unneeded software, as Vista already chews on your RAM like a piece of squid sushi.
*** If you're really touchy about available memory, and don't really care about cosmetics, you could change the theme to Windows Classic. Free a few megs of memory.

Less memory used ergo more memory available for stuff like system performance. A simple step, but vital nonetheless, especially for laptops.