5 Steps to Setting Up New Laptops and Tablets

A few key tips to help you start using your device today

A picture of a laptop.
A laptop. Getty images

Whether you're new to computers and tablets or if you’ve been using them for a while, when you start fresh with a new device, it helps to have a checklist to get you started.

After you take the device out of the box, be sure it's charged or plug it in. Then, turn it on. After that, here's basically what you need to do when setting up a laptop or a new tablet:

  1. Sign in with the appropriate account. That might be your Microsoft account, Google Account, or Apple ID.
  2. Connect to a network to access the internet.
  3. Install essential apps and programs, and get rid of what you don’t need.
  4. Add or download your personal data including pictures, documents, music, videos, and so on.
  5. Respond to prompts to secure the device.

 

01
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Sign in with the Appropriate Account

A picture of the Microsoft sign in prompt.
The Microsoft sign in prompt. Microsoft

The first time you turn on a new laptop or tablet you’ll be prompted to configure a few settings. You’ll be asked what language to use, what network you want to connect to, and if you want to turn on location services, among other things.

A wizard takes you through this a step at a time. During the process you’ll be asked to log in with an account (or create one).

Windows-based laptops and tablets allow you to log on with a local account. However, you won’t get the most from your device if you do. Instead, on Windows devices, log in with a Microsoft Account.

It’s okay if you don’t have one, you’ll be prompted to create one during the setup process. Other operating systems have similar account requirements. For Android-based devices you'll need a Google account. For Apple laptops and tablets, an Apple ID.

After you’ve logged in, you can opt to let the new device sync your existing data and settings, should that data exist, or you can choose to set up the device without syncing. Data that can by synced may include but is not limited to email and email accounts, calendar events, memos and notes, reminders, program settings, app data, and even your Desktop background or screensaver.

02
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Connect to a Network

A picture of network options in Windows 10.
Connect to a network from the Taskbar. joli ballew

During the setup process you’ll be offered a list of nearby wireless networks and asked to choose one. It’s important to connect to a network so that you can get operating system updates, install apps, and download saved data (if it exists) from the cloud  and it's best to do that on day one. Windows needs to go online to get activated too.

The network you connect to, at least during this process, should be one you trust like a network at your home or office. You’ll have to type the password to connect, so you'll need to locate that. It might be on your wireless router.

If you can’t connect to a network during the setup process, on a Windows-based device after the fact:

  1. Move your mouse to the bottom right corner of the screen click the wireless network icon.
  2. Click the network to connect to.
  3. Leave Connect Automatically selected and click Connect.
  4. Type the password.
  5. Opt to trust the network when prompted
03
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Personalize Apps and Programs

A picture of the Microsoft Store.
The Microsoft Store. joli ballew

New computers, laptops, and tablets come preinstalled with all sorts of apps and programs. This configuration may suit your need exactly, but it’s more likely the list needs tweaking.

What should you download on a new laptop? What’s unnecessary? Here are some tips for getting it just right:

  • Get the apps you are missing from the Store. Click the Store icon on the Taskbar. Then, search for what you want and click Buy and/or Install. Only get apps you know you’ll use right now; you can experiment with others later.
  • Get the programs you need from manufacturer’s web sites. You can purchase and install software like Microsoft Office at www.Microsoft.com and Apple iTunes from www.apple.com. Get the programs you know you need as well as those you’ve already paid for.
  • Get rid of apps you don’t need. From the Start menu, right-click any unwanted app and click Uninstall. Consider items you know you’ll never use including games, productivity apps, and third-party media players.
  • Get rid of programs you don’t need. From Control Panel, click Uninstall a Program. Select the program from the list and click Uninstall. Consider items like “Get Office”, trial versions of programs you know you’ll never use, and games you won’t play.

Note: Never uninstall an item you don’t recognize. Some programs are necessary for the computer or tablet to function properly, such as .Net Framework and device drivers; others might come in handy later like manufacturer’s troubleshooting or help applications. 

04
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Add Personal Data

A picture of OneDrive in File Explorer.
Microsoft OneDrive. joli ballew

Personal data includes documents, pictures, music, videos, presentations, and more, and most of the time you’ll want that data to be available to you from your new computer or tablet. The way you make the data available depends on where it is stored right now:

  • If data is on another computer, consider copying what you want to a USB stick or backup drive, then use that device to copy the data to the new device.
  • If the data is on OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, or other online storage area, do what’s required to sync that data to your new machine. If you’ve logged on to your new Windows 10 device with a Microsoft account, simply click on OneDrive in File Explorer to get started.
  • If the data you need is stored in a backup file from another device, run the restore program on your Windows 10 machine to reconstruct it. Search inside the Taskbar for File History to get started. 
05
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Secure the Device

A picture of Windows Defender enabled.
Windows Defender. joli ballew

 As you continue to use your new device, perhaps by personalizing the Start menu, changing the Desktop background, and so on, you’ll begin to see prompts that suggest you do certain things. Try to resolve these prompts as soon as you can.

Here’s what to do on a laptop or tablet:

  • Enable Windows Defender and the Firewall to protect against malware and viruses.
  • Charge the battery when a prompt informs you its low.
  • Set up a backup plan to protect data in case of a computer failure.
  • Update software such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Reader to keep applications running smoothly.
  • Update apps to keep up with new features.
  • Store passwords for ease of use and to secure them.
  • Set up Find My Device so that you can locate it should it go missing.
  • Perform various security and maintenance tasks to keep the computer healthy.