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Securing Your Holiday Tech Gifts - Windows Guide

18 Dec 2012

Your Computer’s First Date

Although your computer may be shiny and new, it is quite possible that it was sitting in the store for a while before you received it, and in a warehouse before that.

That means there may already be updates to the operating system and pre-installed software. Also, it is not uncommon for the operating system, device drivers, applications and other software ready-installed on a computer – what manufacturers call the software preload – to be updated soon after their initial release.

Sometimes these updates are to fix errors (a.k.a. bugs) in the software, but they may also be to add new features, improve the performance or reliability of the computer, or to fix a vulnerability to prevent it from being exploited.

Before you begin surfing the Internet on your computer, you should first update its software. Generally speaking, this falls into two categories:

1. Updating Microsoft Windows.

2. Updating all of the other software provided by the computer manufacturer.

Updating Microsoft Windows is easy: Press the Windows and the R keys ("Winkey+R") together to bring up the Run dialog, type in "WUAPP.EXE" and press the Enter key. The Windows Update program will appear and from there you can check for updates. Depending upon when the software preload was created for your computer, you may have tens, or even hundreds, of megabytes to download. You may also need to restart the computer several times and re-run Windows Update until no further updates are offered.

For updating all of the other software installed, look for a program named “{Manufacturer} Software Update” where {Manufacturer} is the name of the computer’s manufacturer, such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and so forth. If the computer was self-assembled or assembled by a computer store, it might be the name of the motherboard manufacturer, such as Asus, Gigabyte, MSI and so forth.

The amount and large size of this first series of updates is a reason we recommend using a wired network connection when setting up a new computer. Even if it is a notebook, slate or tablet that will be used primarily with a wireless connection, you will want to perform all of the major updates on the fastest connection available in order to get them out of the way.

Are We There Yet?

You’ve unpacked your computer, created—and maybe even tested—its recovery media and performed several rounds of updates. By this time you are no doubt quite ready to begin using your new computer on the Internet. So, there is only one thing left to do, and that is to secure it.

It is possible your computer already has some anti-malware software preinstalled, however, it is likely to be a trial version with a short active lifetime (and possibly with limited functionality). If your new computer is running Windows 8 you will be pleased to know that Windows 8’s security features are quite good out of the box, but by no means do they provide absolute security. Be sure to look into an additional security suite to cover all your bases and keep you protected. Which package you choose will depend on your specific usage habits and requirements.

Regardless of which anti-malware software you choose to secure your system, such programs update themselves automatically, and Windows itself will notify you via the Action Center if the signatures for your chosen software are out-of-date. Be sure to keep up-to-date for maximum protection and stress-free enjoyment of your new PC.

Aryeh Goretsky, MVP, ZCSE, Distinguished Researcher

Click here for the next story in this series about securing your Android device from ESET.