Take the hassle out of getting started

Setting up a new PC

By Brittany Knight

Getting a new PC up and running can be a frustrating experience. It feels like you don't know where anything is, you're not sure what you need to do first, and the whole process seems to take forever. As my family's go-to tech expert, I've certainly seen my share of setup confusion.

Good news: Setting up a computer doesn't have to be this way. Windows 7 offers lots of ways to make the setup process easier so you spend less time tearing your hair out and more time having fun with your new PC.

I just finished setting up my own new PC running Windows 7, and I was surprised by how fast and simple the whole process was. Here are some of the things that I found especially helpful.

One-stop setup

Don't you hate it when you can't find things on a new PC? I've spent time browsing aimlessly on a new computer, hoping I'll find what I'm looking for. Luckily, in Windows 7, there's one central place to go when you're setting up a computer—it's called Getting Started. Getting Started is kind of like one-stop shopping for setting up a new PC. It features a list of common setup tasks, like transferring your files, creating user accounts, and setting up a home network. Plus there's a link to each task, so you can click the link and be on your way, no aimless browsing required.

Getting Started is easy to find, too—just click the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then point to Getting Started to see a list of setup tasks.
Picture of Getting Started
Getting Started

Let your files transfer themselves

One of the first things I want to do with a new computer is transfer all of my documents, pictures, music, and videos from my old computer to my new one. I used to do this with an external hard disk and a lot of copying and pasting, but a friend of mine convinced me there's an easier way: Windows Easy Transfer.

Windows Easy Transfer is a step-by-step guide for transferring files and settings from one computer running Windows to another. It helps you choose what to move to your new computer—such as documents, music, pictures, videos, user accounts, Internet favorites, and email. It also lets you decide which method to use to transfer your files, and then performs the transfer.

So when I got my new PC, I decided to give Windows Easy Transfer a try. And now that I have, I don't know why I didn't give up on copying and pasting my files sooner. I chose what I wanted to transfer, then sat back and let Windows do the heavy lifting for me. When the transfer was done, Windows Easy Transfer Reports showed me what was transferred and provided a list of programs I might want to install on my new computer, as well as links to other programs I might want to download.

For more information about Windows Easy Transfer, see Transferring files and settings: frequently asked questions and the Windows Easy Transfer feature page.

Get connected

Since I can't do without an Internet connection for long, next on my list was setting up a home network. I wanted a wireless network so that I could take my laptop anywhere in my apartment and still be able to access the Internet and use my printer. When I bought a new router, I made sure it displayed the Windows 7 logo, so that I could set it up automatically with Windows Connect Now (WCN). I turned on my router, then went to my PC and typed a code from a label on the router. With just a few more clicks, I had my secure wireless network ready to go. Then I connected my other computers and devices to the network, and I was done. Within minutes, I was sprawled on my sofa, happily browsing the Internet. For more information about the hardware you need and the steps to follow in setting up a wireless network, see Start here to set up a home network in Windows 7.

Share and share alike with a homegroup

If you have more than one PC, you might want to give HomeGroup a try. HomeGroup is a new feature in Windows 7 that makes sharing things like files and printers a lot easier. You choose the libraries—Music, Pictures, Videos, and Documents—that you want to share, and then you (or other people in your home) can access those libraries from any computer that belongs to the homegroup. You can also prevent specific files and folders within those libraries from being shared.

I love the fact that I can store things like music and photos on one PC, and then access them from any computer in my homegroup, no USB flash drive or external hard disk required. To find out more about HomeGroup, see What is a homegroup?

Picture of the Create a Homegroup dialog box
Choose what you share with your homegroup.

Make yourself at home

Now comes the part I like best about getting a new PC: making it feel like mine. In Windows 7, there are lots of ways to personalize your PC so that it's comfortable for you. You can change the size of the text on your screen, change the screen resolution, add gadgets to your desktop—the list goes on and on. See Personalizing your computer for more ideas.

My new favorite way to personalize my PC is themes. A theme is a combination of a desktop background, a window border color, sounds, and a screen saver. With a single click, you can change the appearance of your computer completely. The best part is that you aren't limited to just one desktop background picture anymore—you can have a slide show of pictures. Lots of the themes included with Windows 7 come with a desktop background slide show, and you can even create a theme with a slide show of your own pictures. Then you can save the theme and use it whenever you like. Check out Create a desktop background slide show and Create a theme to learn more.

Now that I have my new PC set up and ready to go, I have time to explore Windows 7 at my leisure. After seeing firsthand how much easier it is to set up a computer, I can't wait to find out what else has changed in Windows 7.

About the author

Picture of columnist Brittany Knight

Brittany Knight is a writer on the Windows team at Microsoft. Before joining the company in 2007, she studied Communication and International Relations at the University of Southern California. In addition to writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and skiing.

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